Suddenly and greatly startled, Sarah O’Donnell called out, “For heaven’s sake, Liam, what’s the matter? I’ve never seen you in such a state. What happened at the bank?”
On that morning, as with most mornings, she had been relaxing in her favorite rocking chair at the rear of the shop. She kept an eye on the door and listened for the tinkle of the little bell that signaled that a customer had entered. She often reminded her two children of the old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” She practiced what she preached and that morning as she relaxed in her favorite rocker, she was getting an early start by sewing and decorating pure white dresses for next Easter’s Confirmation.
As he approached, she looked up and asked again, “Liam, what happened at the bank? You look like a terrible storm is raging inside of you. Your face is nearly as dark as your black coat. I’m troubled by your mood.”
The sight of his true love there in her rocking chair somehow assured him that all hope was not lost. Her tender loving softness began to fill him with hope and his rage began to recede. Carefully, he sat down next to her on an old wobbly chair. He said, “I must repair this old chair before it collapses under someone.” She put her sewing in her lap and reached out to him and touched his hand and a surge of energy traveled up her arm. She said, “You’re trembling all over.”
Sarah’s level-headed practicality was the perfect foil for Liam’s occasional impulsiveness. She demonstrated her unconditional love for Liam and the children with what many would describe as “small things” always accomplished in a gracious, loving manner. She cooked and cleaned and tended to the many details that keep a family safe, loved and balanced. But, most of all, she listened. She was every bit a full partner in the dry goods business and Liam depended on her quiet wisdom and consistency. She balanced the burdens of motherhood, marriage and looked after the shop with all the strength and good humor that made her a shining example to her family and all who knew her in the town. Who she was, who she had grown up to become, were not of her doing, she claimed. She was devoted to her faith and especially to the example set by the Virgin Mother of her Lord.
Sarah O’Donnell, nee Doherty, at age 15, entered the school at the convent of the Sisters of Mercy. She prayerfully considered joining the Sisters, but she decided that marriage and a family would be her true vocation.
Founded by Mary Catherine McAuley (Mother McAuley), the Sisters of Mercy had its humble beginning in Dublin in 1831 and eventually educated many children, provided care for homeless girls and visited the sick throughout Ireland. Despite sanctions, the Sisters of Mercy offered other services to the poor and displaced, and quietly continued visitation of the sick. Though no longer able to function openly in Donegal, the Sisters were still active in Letterkenny with a “hedge school” for Catholic children.
Sarah’s education in the faith was deep and profound. Sarah O’Donnell, strengthened by her faith, was well-equipped to deal with life’s challenges.
She wisely, lovingly and intuitively sensed her husband’s distress and gave him time to regain his usual calm demeanor.