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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

274 Dec 15: Theresa Udall, our pearl of great price

Last night I got a note from Peter Schneider that Theresa Udall had passed peacefully at her daughter's home in Bennett Valley. Theresa was uniquely inspired to create "good trouble" wherever she went. She made her presence and her opinions felt from her first moments on the Peace and Justice Council of Resurrection Parish. She shared wisely and well with us at Emmaus and she shared her stories and perceptions during our shared homilies. She was willing to march, to connect and be present and to bring her vision of universal unity into reality through her own hard work.

Theresa was also humble and organized - collecting the name tags at Emmaus (she was not above grabbing me by the collar to remind me to give up my tag. I actually think she took delight in skewering me and many others - mostly men). She was truly a no-nonsense head nurse her whole life who brought skill and care to everyone she touched.

Her last battle for justice was over the fate of the residents of Journey's End, the mobile home park destroyed in the conflagration of 2017. She was a tireless advocate for the residents who were displaced and, she felt, forgotten.

She wrote letters, made calls, and got press attention for their cause - believing that the residents had been abandoned by city leaders, the owners of the park and the insurers who provided so little in the way of compensation. She simply wasn't going to allow the injustice to happen if she had anything to say about it.

Her love for Journey's End was palpable, a sentiment shared by many of the displaced. Said one of Theresa's friends: “I still get tears when I think about that retirement community being gone, because it was really awesome. People took care of each other, and it was beautiful.”

(Theresa Udall visits her now abandoned mobile home -- one of the few to survive the fire)

Theresa truly was a wise woman and a pearl of great price. We will miss her lilting voice and her thirst for justice. She loved her family and lived her last days at her daughter's home with her daughter, son in law and beloved grandson.

There is no better way to remember her than in this blessing written by Victoria MacDonald:

A Blessing that Burns

A Blessing for Theresa Udall

Our blessing begins this night

with soft whispered wishes,

in contrast to the thunderous winds

that roared through forested canyons and

tree lined avenues only just a year ago.

Without hesitation,

your quick assessment and

a nurse’s keen perception told you...

to go!

And so you did...into that fierce and fiery night

carrying nothing but the courage and strength

your heart has always held.

Into that swirling darkness you,

and thousands of others, fled;

much like the Israelites of old;

fleeing, yet also finding

refuge from the storm;

how tragedy births communities of welcome

and generosities of spirit.

And in that dark night, Theresa,

...from all that had been taken from you,

you chose to make for yourself a new way,

to forge a new home within the mansion of your being.

“I’m doing ok,” you’d say, only weeks after that night;

showing us, beyond all doubt,

that courage,

strength and acceptance

are your cornerstones.

May our every blessing this night

fuel you now in ways

far beyond the burning embers of that night.

May our hearts, burning with sacred presence,

surround you now with sacred assurance

that you are held,

safe and protected...

in our hearts...and

in the glow of the Holy One’s light.

With deep love and blessings to you, Theresa, this night and always!

Your Emmaus Community

Godspeed Theresa!

I'm sure Theresa Udall's daughter would love a card or note from us:

Celia Parkinson

2555 Bennett Ridge Road

Santa Rosa, CA 94504

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