North to Wonderwell
Shortly after finishing this blog, I will move my small suitcase to my car and head north to Wonderwell. My car is pretty full already with goodie bags (thanks to the wonderful people at Windows of Hope at BIDMC) for the participants, a large selection of appetizers to be heated for our cocktail hours, and some things to be dropped off at Good Will as I head out of town.
If you have read this blog before or know me, you understand the reference to Wonderwell http://www.wonderwellrefuge.org/. It is a marvelous retreat center in Springfield, NH where I go with a group of women who have advanced cancer. This is the 4th retreat I have led, and I hope that the tradition of spring and fall gatherings can continue.
This time, I was expecting 17 women and have been a little worried about the numbers. Although there are more than enough beds, the intimacy is important, and I have been concerned about preserving and encouraging the closeness among so many. Very honestly, I think that is likely unnecessary worry, as there is magic in our community. However, as I sadly suspected might happen, three women have had to drop out since Friday. Tracy, who has come twice, bringing her special gifts of humor and warmth and wisdom, is just not feeling well enough to make the trip. Since we knew the stairs there would be tough for her, we had already arranged for a bedroom on the first floor, but it is still too hard. Nancy, who would have been a first time participant, had to cancel for family reasons. And Deb called me, almost in tears, from the ER yesterday to report that she was at the hospital with a fever, feeling poorly, possibly to be admitted, and clearly not able to join us.Deb is an extraordinary women who hosted a Celebration Luau for herself last month. She invited all her friends from various parts of her life (her professional friends, kayaking buddies, neighbors, other women with cancer whom she has met at a previous retreat and our weekly group) and her family to dance and eat and tell stories about their friendships and joyfully, lovingly celebrate her life--while she could be present. Deb is especially aware of what lies ahead as she is being treated for the same cancer that killed her younger sister a few years ago. Deb was her sister's primary caretaker, and her courage and love are legendary.
As I type these words and feel myself moving towards the sacred space that Wonderwell makes possible, I remember those women who came to earlier retreats and have subsequently died. I especially think of Margaret--at our last retreat in April, we were led one morning in dance and gentle yoga. Margaret was not well enough to dance, but sat on a window seat in the large space to watch and move her body as she could. I looked over to see the teacher standing in front of her, arms around one another, swaying as one to the haunting music I think also of Grace and Michelle and Norma and Susanne and Amy and Marilyn--all beloved and all with us in our hearts over the next days.They were here at other retreats.
Our hearts will be overflowing.