Written by Anna Chumbe

Teresa has been a part of our volunteer team in accompaniment for the past two and a half years. A discrete and serene person, what particularly interests her is working with people, which she has often done in both a teaching and nurturing position. Her life’s work bears evidence of this: after a career teaching English as a second language to high school students in Mont Tremblant, she moved back to Montreal upon retiring and now supervises student teachers at McGill Education. During the pandemic, she completed the End of Life Doula training, which places emphasis on the function of accompaniment in the process of dying. Teresa’s deep interest in caring for others in a direct and interpersonal manner extends to non-humans as well: she has a dearly beloved cat named Mushi, and her love for the animal can be seen throughout her house (including the cats on her cell phone case). “A little boy I babysat counted all the cat-related items in my house,” she laughs. “There were seventy-six!”

Teresa comes here twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, to help the orderlies and accompany the patients. Teresa has a particularly transcendent way of seeing life—death included. “We need to ask: how do you want to prepare?” she says. She believes that death has become too medicalized, separate from life. “We need to change that,” she asserts.

Talking with Teresa is a treat. She has a gentle yet powerful presence that radiates peace. She is very non judgemental. When asked to name someone she admires, she responded instantly, “My mother.” She is amazed by her mother’s capacity to love without judgment, to give without reservations. “When you have children, you have to love them to the end,” her mother told her once. What she admires is how her mother lives this out, true to her word. “We have to remove all traces of judgment, as much as we can,” Teresa says, “That’s the goal.”

Teresa seems to possess a rare sense of narrative that runs through everything she says and believes. She studied Creative Writing and Applied Linguistics, and she seems to capture the essential without putting it into so many words. What she loves the most about working here are the people, those living with an incurable illness. “You learn so much. Everyone is so kind.” Teresa shares the point of view of many volunteers that volunteering is, in a way, “selfish” because she gains so much from the work and the people and it makes her happy.

When asked what message she wanted to leave to you, the reader, she answered, “Look for the sublime in every day.” She mentioned German filmmaker Wim Wenders’ new film “Perfect Days” as a way to illustrate this. What stood out for her was when the protagonist, stepping out of his house in the early morning on his way to work, pauses to watch the first rays of sunlight resting on the trees. There is something unspeakably fulfilling in the act: for the moment, nothing else exists. That’s what I like about working with people, she says: everything else pales away – all the other stuff. There’s just love, always just that, in this moment.

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