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  • On the way to the city to stay overnight with relatives and go to the wedding celebration of the daughter of my first cousin Emily the following day, the cortege of Sr Celestine appeared on the lanes going in the opposite direction.

    I watched the black vehicle go by. Then the air-conditioned light green and white bus with the sisters inside.

    Walking by the sparsely leaved Chinese Hibiscus, I had been thinking about telling you about Sr Celestine.

    How she had made me think about birds. Over 15 years ago, I went with a few companions to visit her at her convent just below the Bishop's house. (The Bishop is now Archbishop.)

    She said once she was driving down her driveway and the Bishop was driving down his driveway and they came out to the road at the same time. The Bishop shook a finger at her in mock disapproval. She raised her own index finger and shook it at His Grace.

    I enjoyed this tale of the camaraderie the Bishop shared with the religious.

    In the convent, Sr Celestine had a mynah bird in a cage. It was not able to fly anymore. I watched it peck at the papaya Sister had put before it.

    Some days later, I was at my Uncle K and Aunt L's place. Their grandchildren had placed a bird and a bat together. Perhaps to eat. (My mother craved the punai when she was expecting me and my father went out and bagged two of these pigeon-sized birds to satisfy her craving. When she described me as a grown girl, she said, "She eats like a bird." She means I eat very little. I read recently that pigeon is on the menu in London.)

    Perhaps Sr Celestine would like to take care of the bird, I thought. So I bought it from the children for about one US dollar.

    The only cage-like thing I could find was a bamboo fish trap. (I know. First of all, it is a trap. Second, it smells of fish. How can I apologise to this bird for causing it to spend a night in this fashion.) The next morning, I washed the bamboo cage, preparatory to giving Sr Celestine her new bird friend.

    Out of the cage, the bird sang and sang and sang. What a long melodious bird song! Alas, I had to put it back into the cage. It refused.

    What are we to do. It hopped away, unable to fly. (Otherwise I would have sent it off to the tree-tops.) I tried to put it in the cage, and as I did so, I saw the cage with the eyes of the bird: definitely not a place to be anywhere near. My brave avian coach was going to just go from here: it hopped off the verandah and, landing on the grass, was promptly eaten by a cat.

    This bird was a state all in itself. For the motto of the state we resided in was: Live Free or Die.

    This was a non-story, I thought, until I saw Sr Celestine's cortege going by. Now nobody will mind it being a story because it may be that even as you read about Sr Celestine and her love for all things avian (just to highlight it for a minute from her abiding love for God and His Creation), she may be meeting the brave bird, at last, in eternity.


    P.S. On Sunday, the celebrant was Fr Matthew Carpenter MHM from China. As he ended Mass, he remembered The Good Sister Who Just Passed Away. I knew someone who said after she died she would like to be known as a good person. So does this place Sr Celestine in the catbird seat. Final tribute from the seat of the bishopric, Sacred Heart Cathedral.


    Photo: On our "honeymoon," to hold the wedding reception at the bride's residence, to meet everybody, my husband remarked of the birds here: You can hear them, but you can't see them. They're all in the trees.

    Feed the birds sung by Julie Andrews. To me, that was the song of Sr Celestine.
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