Homily for the Celebration of the Life of Dr. Teresa Ann Grace Sievers- July 6 2015 Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Today over 450 people gathered to honor and celebrate the life of Dr.Teresa Ann Grace Sievers, 46, who died at the hand of an unknown assailant early on Monday June,29 2015. The large and beautiful Unity Church of Naples where the final Celebration was held was full to overflowing with love and respect for this very special woman who touched so many lives. No media was invited to this event at the wish of the family. This is the homily.
Pastor Judy’s Homily for The Celebration of Life of Dr. Teresa Sievers- July 6, 2015
We have come together today to celebrate the beautiful life of Dr. Teresa Sievers way too soon gone from our midst. I was Teresa’s Pastor, along with Pastor Judy Beaumont. She was also our Doctor, and she was our dear friend. Like many of you, we thought she’d tend our dying, not the other way around. We celebrate in the tradition of the Roman Catholic faith for that is the faith Teresa reclaimed and rekindled for herself as she chose to worship with us at our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and also on occasion with St. Leo’s along with her loving daughters Josey,11 and Carmie,8. Teresa with her characteristic foresight and courage embraced the existence of Roman Catholic Women Priests and was happy to spread the news to her daughters: now women can become priests. We are honored to preside today and Rev. Diane Scribner Clavenger,Senior Pastor of this lovely church will join with us in some of the prayers.
The faith of this wonderful family is great as we can see in the way Teresa and Mark and the girls ended the day together each day, including last Sunday, with the prayer, “Lord It Is Night”. Let this center us as we consider God’s words together. “Lord, it is night/ the night is for stillness/Let us be still in the presence of God.” The texts we’ve chosen today reflect who God is as Teresa knew God and who she was in her deep love of God in Christ. In Christ, who spoke the truth prophetically and for it suffered and died an unjust death as well. BUT, who rose again defeating even death, and lives, lives now, as Teresa does with him now.
Our first reading is from the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 6: 6-9. I am quoting here from the first verse (Is 6:1) that we did not read and from verse 8a directly from the Hebrew Masoretic text. “O Lord, thou art my God….” “(GOD) will destroy death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all the faces….” First the affirmation is one that Teresa made fully and completely. As her Pastor I heard it often from her lips and, moreover, I saw its reality in her life. Hear it now again: O Lord, You are my God”. “You are the God who destroys death as we live on with You. And You will wipe away all of the tears”. In what has happened to take Teresa from us there is plenty of reason to weep. Dear ones assembled, you can let your tears fall for God is with you in your mourning. Whether in the day or in the night God hears your crying and is gently brushing away your tears as a mother would, holding the child in her arms closely, and gently wiping away the tears. It will be a process over time, perhaps much time, and just when you think you may never stop crying, you will be able to go on with no more tears. Even as Teresa lives with God now and her death is destroyed, so God will be with us as we return to life as well. This is our loving God, the God of Dr. Teresa Sievers.
The Epistle chosen today is I Corinthians 13. It is often read at weddings more than times like this. But when a person has lived a life of love as Teresa has, it is right to read it today. And I also say here that the love established between Teresa and Mark in their marriage is the kind that fulfills this text and so it lives forever. Here, Paul is teaching the church at Corinth how to behave and what love really looks like when God is in it. Though we may do everything required of us “right” if we do not have love we are nothing and we have nothing. Here the adage “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it” almost holds true. It is both what you do for others, AND the way you do it that makes all the difference. And so many of us here have seen it, Teresa served others with genuine love and caring for the other person, and I will illustrate that when we discuss the Gospel. “In the end three things last: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. Teresa now is looking upon Love, she is with God who is Love. It is not easy to keep on loving in the face of this loss, but it is exactly this love that will live forever, if we but continue to exercise it. If there is a need here to scream, curse, vent anger and bitterness, do it. Do it, I’ll do it with you, but don’t let it consume you. Move back to love. Move on to love. Remember her love. She lived it, she lives now with Love and love lives forever.
And finally the Gospel chosen today (Matthew 25: 31-40 and 40a) is one of Teresa’s favorite teachings of Jesus, for she worked so hard to live it. The difference between “the sheep and the goats” is the difference between those that mouth words of care, compassion and love especially for “the least” in our greedy world where the top one percent holds most of the wealth and resources, and those who do something concrete to work for justice for each and every person. To feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to invite the stranger in, to clothe the down and out, to look after the sick and visit those in prison. In Teresa’s Catholic faith we call these the corporal works of mercy. Indeed, Teresa’s life and practice were devoted to the health of the body, mind and soul. But more than that, she reached out to those who had no access whatsoever to a Doctor with love and healing in a very concrete way. First, she worshipped and shared community with the poor and those who had no homes and knew hunger well. Then, she gave more than her professional skill, though that gift was considerable and the difference between life and death for many. She gave herself in love. She gave more than her material offerings, though she always came through for us, the last time being a few weeks ago when she sent a donation, saying “I wish it could be more, love ya”. She sent the gift of her heart.
Teresa saw many of our homeless and destitute people for free. They had no insurance of any type. She literally gave her service away to and for them. Often this had to be done on a day’s notice as the window of opportunity for accepting subsidized housing is very short and other Doctor’s would never respond in that time, let alone at all some of the time. Yet, they needed a Doctor’s assessment of their need for housing. The same for Disability benefits. She never complained, she, and her loving Nurse Sandy, made the time and fit them in. And she got the paperwork done that same day. At least thirty people can say they have a home because Dr. Sievers saw them and made the recommendation. And many more can say that her letters assisted judges in making decisions for their Disability Benefits. I can’t tell you how many called me from everywhere to remember her kindness that, as one woman said, “Changed my life”.
She would also see some for health reasons and make recommendations to Clinic doctors for them. She has saved the life of more than one of our uninsured brittle diabetics and other fragile people. Two are here with us today to represent the others in saying “thank you”. Many feel they owe their lives and well- being to her. In one truly terrible situation she saw a serially homeless woman, “Belle” who had profound and unpleasant physical and mental illness that got her evicted whenever she did have shelter. Seeing Teresa with this frightened and sick woman was reminiscent of Jesus touching the lepers and allowing the woman who was considered unclean as she was bleeding for twelve years to touch him. With ultimate gentleness Teresa examined Belle and assisted us with knowing what medical follow-up was needed. At the end of the examination and we talked about follow up with Belle, we all held hands with Belle and prayed with her for her healing. Belle cried and thanked Teresa from her heart. We were all moved to tears. Teresa was the face of Christ to Belle, and to many of our other people who had no one to attest to their needs for housing or benefits.
When I was operated on for a rare stomach cancer three and a half years ago Teresa did not have privileges at Health Park. So she came at night and not only saw me, giving me hope that I would be okay (and indeed I am as they got it all and I survived the difficult surgery) but in her role as friend she stayed the night, sleeping in a chair by the bed, and the next day as well and got me up and walking- and got me through it. (And I got a loan of a special kitty pillow from Josey and Carmie that stayed with me until I got home over a week later that helped a lot too). What kind of a Doctor does this, especially these days? What kind of a person does this?
This is what kind-the kind that lives Love, the kind that lives the Gospel, and the kind that now lives forever with God in Light and Love. Let us emulate her in living Love. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP-USA-East
Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Fort Myers, Florida July 6.2015
Dr. Teresa Ann Grace Sievers with her children Josey and Carmie at the Good Shepherd Community