This is the first in a three day series about our Retreat. Beginning with lunch today, and concluding with lunch on Tuesday, I will be at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge ( http://wonderwellrefuge.org/welcome-to-wonderwell) with fifteen women who have advanced cancer. This idea grew out of my Monday morning group; During the fall, we lost two long time, very beloved group members, and we were all grieving and trying to imagine ways to support and help each other. One woman, Amy, had recently been at a Retreat at Kripalu and wondered whether we could plan something similar. We could and we have, and it begins today.
About half of the women who are coming are members of the Monday group; the others are mostly women whom I know, but who don't know anyone else. There are two women coming whom I have never met, and one whom I have met only very briefly. When we began to plan this, I "advertised" it to my colleagues, and several referred their patients to me. I am very impressed by these women who are coming without knowing others, especially the ones who don't even know me. For all of us, there is some uncertainty re how this will unfold, and it must be especially so for those three.
Our overall goal is time together in a beautiful place (do look at their website), time to talk about our lives, to truly resonate with one another, to reduce the inevitable sense of isolation that too often accompanies serious illness. This is not (as I promised one of the women whom I don't know) going to be a depressing few days. We will, I am sure, talk about the hard parts, but we will laugh a lot. We will drink tea together as we look at the mountains; we are taking wine and appetizers for cocktail hour before dinner (and the planned menu, thanks to Wonderwell's staff, looks terrific). We may go walking or snow shoeing; there will be gentle yoga, and guided meditation, and sessions with an art therapist. I am facilitating a number of group discussions, a few of them will be topic-guided (e.g. issues for couples and making decisions re working vs. retiring). There is a a cook and another staff person to help in the kitchen, but we have been told that we may be enlisted to be sous chefs. As we chop carrots or stir a batter, we will talk as women always do.
Three women from Monday's group made a site visit a few weeks ago. Their report is that the place is just as beautiful as its pictures, and they could look at the bedrooms and help us make informed decisions re room assignments (there are mostly singles, but a few women have graciously agreed to double up). One of the most enthusiastic planners of this retreat is not going to be able to join us. She is a PhD divinity student (and an "ex yuppie attorney") and must be in Colorado for unmovable meetings that pertain to her ordination. She is also an expert knitter and has loaned us three prayer shawls to take with us; she suggests that may keep someone warm and will bring comfort. She also is loaning us a prayer shawl in construction, and hopes that those who can knit will work on it over the next few days. She will most certainly be with us in heart and spirit. I am going to close her with her prayer that she includes when she makes and gifts a prayer shawl. And I will write an update later today or tomorrow.
Prayer for Comfort
As you wrap yourself in this shawl this day,
May you feel Mercy, Faithfulness, Compassion,
And all-encompassing Love.
May you find in it a refuge
From all that appears too much to bear at this moment,
From all that feels as if it might be the breaking point, and
From all that threatens your peace or wholeness.
May this shawl be
A shelter for times of overwhelming grief,
A shade in times of sorrow too deep for words, and
A shield from times of unimaginable loss.
May you be comforted
By the presence of those who love and support you,
Past, present and future,
By faith that you are a child of the Universe,
By the blessed assurance that all will be well, and
By the inestimable worth of all that you hold most dear.
May you be strengthened
In your daily comings and goings,
In your tentative new beginnings, and
In your unfolding dreams of what lies ahead.
Blessings be with you
And all you love,
Now and forevermore.