Day by day, the letters come. Dear Sister Trudy.
"I want to let you know how much I appreciate the loving care you provided for my family this week."
"How do I begin to thank you for all you did for us while my mother was ill and when she died."
-Messenger photo by Sandy Mickelson
Hospital volunteer Lloyd Schreier, of Manson, hugs Sister Trudy Keefe, Friday afternoon at Trinity Regional Medical Center. Sister Trudy, a chaplain at the hospital, is greeted by hospital workers, visitors and patients wherever she goes during her work day.
"Yours is such a critical, personal and important job as death coach."
Sister Trudy Keefe, chaplain at Trinity Regional Medical Center, lives her faith.
"To be with a person during illness, approaching the end stage of life, is sacred and one is standing on holy ground," she said. "When I leave the patient and family, I've done all I can at that point. I don't push my faith on them. I let them be who and what they are."
Sister Keefe, 78, will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee on April 18, with 9:30 a.m. Mass at Corpus Christi Catholic Church and a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. at the parish center, across the street from the church. She has given 60 years of service in mercy.
"I once thought about retiring in 2010," she said. "But I want to go to 2020 or as long as I can."
Suddenly hospital volunteer Lorraine Black stood beside Sister Keefe. She hugged the chaplain, grinned and said, "You can't believe a word she says." They both laughed.
Sister Keefe once told her third-grade teacher she wanted to be a nun when she grew up. Her classmates laughed because she already had sisters and brothers. It wasn't a Catholic school.
Two of her father's sisters were nuns, and there was a photo of them with their father hanging on the wall in her home. That may have been the impetus for her young child's mind, she said. But she's not sure. She is sure, however, that her desire to be a nun never waivered, and as she grew up in Crookston, Minn., she spent as much time as she could with the sisters of the Benedictine monastery.
It made her happy to be among them. Talking, listening, feeling the presence of God.
On Jan. 20, 1950, she entered the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids and was received into the community on Aug. 15 that year. On Aug. 15, 1952, she took her first vows, and on Aug. 15, 1955, took her final vows.
Hospital volunteer Harvey Schoon stopped beside Sister Keefe to shake her hand, grinning and saying, "Don't believe anything she tells you." They laugh about that and talk a bit. He was barely gone before volunteer Lloyd Schreier, of Manson, stopped to hug her, and they make small talk.
Sister Keefe, one of three hospital chaplains, won't pull back. She talks to all, offering comfort when it's needed. She prepares people for dying.
"Life has changed for them," she said. "It's not taken away. You try to bridge that gap. For the person with no faith, that has to be a black hole, yet God's love is there. There is no difference in the care I give."
Quiet for a few seconds, she said, "God works in funny ways through funny people. We serve. God heals."
Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org