Maureen Gotch Vinton ‘78 is being honored at the Esprit de Corps Banquet being held on September 9th as the Alumna of the Year for 2021. She addressed the class of 2021 at the Senior Breakfast offering this reflection on the sentiment “be still.”

Her speech:

What “be still” meant for me personally was certainly unexpected. Shortly after Christmas in 2019, I found out I had cancer. The most unusual part is I was told I had squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue of all things. Thankfully, it was stage one, but it was cancer of the tongue. So bizarre- I never even had a cavity. My thoughts raced. I had no idea what I was about to face, but I could only imagine.

On January 23rd, 2020 rosary in hand, family at my side, I entered the doors of the Buffet Cancer Center for surgery. The surgeon, Dr. Shondra, and his associates that day performed miraculous work. As a result of this surgery, I lost one third of my tongue and my left tonsil. As a result, my tongue was repaired by a skin graft from my left thigh. I spent three days in the ICU and had angelic nurses at my side to get me through the tough stuff. Boy, did I find out firsthand what “be still” meant for me, both physically and spiritually. I could barely speak initially, nor could I eat any solid food for quite some time. When the Catholic ministers came to my room to bring me the communion host, I could only accept their spiritual blessing. I did not anticipate the sadness I would feel when I was unable to receive communion.

For the next several weeks, I had to “shelter in place” a term I was not using in January 2020, but a term all of us have come to know now. For whatever reason, I was chosen to experience a time of redemptive suffering. It wasn’t the first, nor will it likely be the last, but a time to be still to do some soul searching, praying, letting go, surrendering, a time of peace, and even a time of finding joy in the suffering. I am told they got all the cancer, I continue to attend speech therapy, and I am truly thankful I’m even able to speak with you today. Someday, 10 or 20 years from now, you’ll look back and discover that you’ve gone through and survived many trials and experienced many triumphs. It’s a journey to get closer to the Lord. I find myself working hard to become a better version of myself. In doing so, I’ve had to continually get out of my own way. I’ve had to let go and let God. You see, according to John 15:5, the Lord says, apart from me, you can do nothing. This pandemic has forced us to be still, simplify our lives. And in doing so, we’ve likely done some introspection, perhaps come to a deeper awareness of our faith, maybe now becoming an open and willing vessel for Jesus, a true character building experience. Find the grace filled moments in your time of being still, persevere, and God bless.