Note: I heard this story years ago, but I’ve never found the origin. This is my retelling.
In a small but airy room in the abbey on the hill, Sister Teresa and several of the junior nuns were mending clothes. The low sun lit the work area with a warm soporific glow, and the nuns chatted softly while their hands danced upon the fabrics. But the gossip of monastic life is brief, and the pauses in conversation became long. A younger sister offered the group a more philosophical game.
“If you knew,” she posited, “that you were to die tomorrow, what would you do with your remaining hours?”
A circle of thoughtful faces ensued. Specks of dust hung in the slanted sunbeams, like tiny indoor constellations in graceful, lazy motion. There was the kind of silence that begs to be broken by the One Who Will Go First.
“I owe an apology.” Said one of the nuns. “I could not go to the grave without making an amends – even a small one.”
A round of nods. Teresa smiled approvingly to the sister. There was a shorter pause this time.
“I would write a letter,” began the nun on Teresa’s left, “to my mother. I’m afraid she never understood it when I left. I would explain the nature of my Calling – that it had nothing to do with her at all.”
Compassionate looks from everyone in the room, and a reassuring shoulder-hug from Teresa.
“I have unconfessed sins.” Admitted another woman. “I’ve kept them to myself for ages, but I know I must accept penance for them before it is too late.”
Introspective expressions this time, with a longer spell of silence. Somewhere in the abbey a clock chimed. The abbess would soon be leaving the offices and was likely stop in to check on the sisters.
“What about you, Sister Teresa? If you knew that this was your last day in the world, what would you choose to do?”
Teresa took a long glance out the window at the sunset, beaming its golden-pink love through the leafless oaks on the abbey hill. As if for the last time, she looked longingly at the face of each of the sisters. Then she lifted her work from her lap, and her hands resumed their task.
With a slight shrug, she said, “Me? I’d finish darning these socks.”