Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sister Teresa Duerr's Final Journey

The sisters in our community are both grieving and celebrating the final journey of Sister Teresa Duerr who died on Monday, January 11, 2010. Just ten and a half months before that, on February 25, Teresa received her pancreatic cancer diagnosis – a date that happened to be Ash Wednesday. As she found out that her cancer was inoperable and experienced that chemo treatments were extremely difficult for her, she made a brave decision. She wrote a letter to all of us in the community telling us she did not wish to do anything more to prolong her life. In the letter she asked us to accompany her on her final journey with our love and our prayers. It was difficult for all of us to see this happening. She was only 73 years old and still very active. In our community 73 is considered a young age. S. Teresa had been a delightful friend to many of us and all of us knew her as a faithful Benedictine monastic. We were not at all ready to think of having her leave us.

S. Teresa was able to carry on life here at our monastery until some time in August, 2009. At that point she again wrote a letter to all of us telling us that she had come to a place where she felt she needed the support of a nursing staff and would be moving to St. Scholastica (our nursing and retirement house). I recall that the handwriting on this note was small and spidery – the handwriting of someone whose trembling hand makes writing difficult. As the months went by we saw her becoming weak and fragile. Teresa died early in the morning on January 11. Many Sisters in our community had been taking turns keeping watch with her during the two weeks before she died.

S. Teresa’s loving acceptance of her death was a gift to all of us. Her invitation to us to accompany her on the stages of her journey was both a challenge and a privilege. We are relieved that her suffering is over and she has completed her journey home to God, but we miss her deeply.

For S. Teresa's obituary on the monastery Web site, click here.

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