Photos of Dying Nun, Smiling and Serene Despite a Devastating Cancer, Go Viral. Here’s Why

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 29, 2016   |   4:06PM   |   Washington, DC

A nun’s tragic, early death is serving as a reminder of how even the last moments of a person’s life have value and purpose.

Sister Cecilia Maria was a nun and a nurse who served through the Saints Teresa and Joseph Monastery in Argentina, the Catholic News Agency reports. The much-beloved sister died on June 22 at the age of 43 after losing a battle with lung cancer.

Before she died, Cecilia Maria wrote a note from her hospital bed and posted it along with smiling photos of herself on social media. Her note and the photos quickly took off online, gaining attention and prayers from thousands of people all across the world, according to CNA.

Cecilia Maria’s note, which is pictured in one of the posts, read: “I was thinking about how I would like my funeral to be. First, some intense prayer and then a great celebration for everyone. Don’t forget to pray but don’t forget to celebrate either!”

Here is more about her life from the report:

After graduating as a nurse at 26 years of age, Sister Cecilia Maria made her first vows as a discalced Carmelite. In 2003, she made her final profession. Six months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and the disease metastasized into her lungs.

In her time living at the monastery, she played the violin and was known for her sweetness and constant smile. In the final weeks of her illness, her condition worsened and she had to be hospitalized. From her bed she never stopped praying and offering up her sufferings with the certainty that her encounter with God was near.

During the last few months of her life, she was not able to talk, but she continued to communicate through gestures and notes, Aleteia reports. Everyone around Sister Cecilia Maria said she exhibited an attitude of serenity and joy until her death.

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Her joy-filled notes and the photos of her smiling and peaceful face, despite her physical suffering, have touched thousands of people through social media. Her example pushes back against the growing threat of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which tries to convince people that their lives are not worth living if they are suffering or near death.

Sister Cecilia Maria used her last days to pray and encourage others from her hospital bed, according to the accounts of family and friends. Her young nieces and nephews also found joy in encouraging her and distracting her from her physical pain, often sending messages and balloons to her hospital room, Aleteia reports.

In May, she wrote, “I am very content, astonished by the work of God through suffering, and by so many people who pray for me.”