Work: Foreign service officer, therapist, Spanish teacher
UH degree: Post baccalaureate certificate in secondary education ’04, Mānoa, earned online
Home: Kalāheo, Kauaʻi
Roots: Born in Ohio, spent childhood in England
Website: Coming Home
Ghostwriting letters from President Lyndon Johnson to parents of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War broke Deborah Duda’s heart. Working in other government positions and with Brazilian exiles petitioning the United Nations to end use of torture dislodged her faith in political solutions.
She was living in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Nepal, tortured by fear of death, when a visit to Mother Teresa in India set her on another course. Responding to Mother Teresa’s advice that she address suffering and sadness at home, Duda earned a master’s in psychology from Goddard College and spent the next three decades as a therapist for the terminally ill and their families.
Her experience is personal as well as professional—she lost a close friend to cancer and participating in the home deaths of both parents and another close friend.
When she decided share what she had learned, her terminally ill father helped edit her book to make sure it accurately represented the dying person’s point of view. The fourth edition of Coming Home: A Practical and Compassionate Guide to Caring for a Dying Loved One (Synergy Books) was released last October. The step-by-step guide to the physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of serving as a caregiver has been used to train hospice staff and volunteers, and Duda has traveled widely to speak on the topic.
She calls hospice work joyful, and the people providing Hospice care, more courageous than they think.
“Sitting beside the bed of someone, holding their hand is more expanding spiritually than all of the times I sat in monasteries and temples meditating,” she says. A founder of Kauaʻi Hospice, Duda also coordinated a FEMA mental health recovery program after Hurricane ʻIniki, volunteered in women’s correctional facilities and taught teenagers suffering with schizophrenia.
Her next book, Lighten Up: Seven Ways to Kick the Suffering Habit, is due out in fall 2011.