|Mrs. Kathleen Schuck, O.P., in 2007.|
Kathleen Schuck and her husband Jim were charter members of the Chapter of Lay Dominicans of Bl. Margaret of Castello, Boise, Idaho, Western Province of the Holy Name of Jesus, being among that first group to make their perpetual professions on the Vigil of the Assumption, 2004. Jim died less than a year later and was the second member to be buried in the chapter cemetery in Homedale. Determined to make merely temporary their separation after decades of married life, Kathleen had her own name inscribed on his headstone, and prepared for the day -- seven years minus 20 days thence -- when she would rejoin him.
But this was not a gloomy or dour preparation, as the photo above attests. That was what Kathleen looked like most of the time, even after losing her hair and much of her strength to chemotherapy. A master wood carver and maker of musical instruments -- particularly the mountain dulcimer -- Kathleen kept herself busy with her artistic pursuits; carving; teaching; traveling; her activities at her local parish and with the Dominicans, whom she served as our prioress, all of which she kept up until just days ago. And praying, which she never stopped doing: she had rosaries all over her house, next to any chair she might settle in. She greatly desired that everyone pray: her last phone call to me was a request that I find some good quality parts and make 100 rosaries for the Dominican mission in Mexicali.
Before I knew Kathleen, she had fought a battle with breast cancer, from which she emerged, not unscarred, but still strong and robust. Then, a few years ago, came the pain in her shoulder that could not be accounted for as an injury: the cancer was back, this time in her bones. She beat back this new assault forcefully, and kept up her activity as much as she could. The Cross of Remembrance Memorial Garden for the unborn dead, slowly but surely taking shape in Homedale, became her life's work. But although Kathleen enjoyed stretches of relative vigor, both the cancer and the side effects of its treatment gradually gained ground. By Thanksgiving, her hair -- which had never had more than a touch of gray, even though she was past 70 -- was gone. For some months before her death, she was on oxygen, and had to cut short her appearances at chapter and council meetings because of her fatigue. Her last appearance at a chapter meeting was in April, where she announced that for the first time, the doctors had given her a timetable for survival: twelve weeks to twelve months. To our sorrow, their low estimate has turned out to be off by about five weeks, proving once again that the practice of medicine is called "practice" for a reason.
And so today is Kathleen's birthday in eternity. In a little while this date will be memorialized on the headstone that already bears her name, and under which her mortal remains will be laid to rest alongside those of her beloved Jim, with whom, we trust, she was reunited this morning at 9 o'clock, together with her mother and father, her siblings, Bl. Margaret of Castello -- whose relic she had at her bedside when she died -- St. Dominic, Our Lady, and all the saints and angels, before the throne of the Trinity, Whose light she sought faithfully always to live in and reflect to others.
In matters of liturgy, Kathleen and I disagreed: she was for many years involved in the Charismatic Renewal and did not care for Mass in the Extraordinary Form, although she did tolerate it on those rare occasions when we could have it, if only for the sake of affectionately indulging the younger, traditionally-minded members of the chapter. I trust she will not mind my smiling a little at the thought of her newly-made discovery that, in fact, it really is Gregorian chant that most closely resembles the song of the angels before the Throne of the Most High. I trust too that, even though she was not a fan of Latin, she will not mind my saying for her, from the heart:
Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat ei. Requiéscat in pace. Amen.