Wonderwell Day Three
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
MAY 04, 2017
As Cat Stevens has reminded us, "Morning has broken, like the first morning." When I am home, I never awaken with those words in my head and my heart. I have stood by the shore, watching the sun rise over the water, or in Africa, watching light come from the darkness of the savannahs, or on mountains where the early rays illuminate the world. Here it is not so dramatic, but the words and the feelings surround me. Like the first morning...
As I sit now to look out at the cloud-covered mountains and try to describe our experience, I hear laughter and love coming from the dining room. Donna has brought out apple-filled oatmeal and homemade bread for toast and yogurt and fruit and eggs. We eat and eat and eat, and I am counting on the past experiences of Wonderwell calories not counting. The best meal of the retreat, for me, is always Day #2 lunch when we feast on home-made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Yesterday that feast was topped by chocolate covered orange slices and a birthday cake for Amy.
In spite of my focus here, this really is not about the food. It is about the fellowship and the meaning we make. Yesterday, a wonderful yoga teacher joined us for two hours of gentle yoga and meditation. The whole thing was wonderful, but I especially loved being tucked in for 20 minutes of blissful rest at the end. The shared yoga experience always is important to our bonds. We talk and talk, but the the movement and the serenity bind us, too.
What do we discuss? It is too simple to answer Everything; it is somewhat more honest to say everything that is otherwise/in other places hard to talk about. We roam from families to friends to work to doctors and treatments and fear and grief and legal practicalities and EOL preferences and burial. One woman told us that she and her husband had bought burial plots many years ago, mainly to get rid of a pesky salesman. Over time, she said, they almost forgot about it, but it is now seeming real, and she is very worried that her husband has apparently changed his preference and wants to be buried near his parents in a different city. She wants no part of this new plan, and is worried that he will act on his wishes, not hers. Another woman here suggested that :" The Wonderwell women will come and dig you up and move you." Not too many friends would make that offer, but here it makes perfect sense.
I remember a retreat some years ago when Margaret worried about being alone for her dying, and Carol crossed the room to kneel in front of her, embrace her, and promise that she/that we would be there if she wanted. As it later turned out, that promise was kept.
We have this morning with a long mediation from Liz, the senior teacher, and then lunch, and then we will have to start home. Start back on our individual roads, but secure in the faith that we travel together. Like the animals in the Migration who slow their pace to match that of the oldest, youngest, sickest among them, thereby shielding them from the eyes of the predators nearby, we adjust our rhythms to one another. We may walk single file, as do the animals, but we walk as one.