Wonderwell with Couples Day Two

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JUNE 21, 2017

If I ever again am unable to trust the universe, please help me to remember this experience. I was concerned about this first retreat for couples living with advanced cancer, both because it is a first and because our numbers were smaller than anticipated. Turns out there was no need at all for even one moment's worry.

As I write this morning, looking out at the mountains, there is laughter coming from the dining room. People who didn't know each other 48 hours ago have become family. There is palpable love and concern and respect and gratitude for this time together. There are also many light-hearted remarks about the delight of coming downstairs to a breakfast spread of bread pudding and eggs and fruit and oatmeal and yogurt. For those who stomachs are not quite right, Donna has been quick to offer smoothies or miso soup.

But let me tell you about two parts of yesterday. In the afternoon, we broke into two groups: one with me for patients and one for spouses with my colleague, Frank. Frank and his group went out onto the porch, and we stayed in the beautiful worship/community room where one woman had found her spot of perfect comfort lying on a window seat. Almost immediately the heart-felt serious conversation began: burial plans and worry about children and spouses and fear of pain and belief or not in an afterlife. We cried, and we laughed, and no one felt alone. Frank reported later that the parallel discussion was equally important: how critical is it to be always optimistic, what will I do after my spouse dies, how can I possibly raise my children without her. What an incredible experience and gift to have the chance to think and talk about these things in community with others.

The day went on with some free time; I went for a walk and had a "conversation" with a small group of friendly cows. We gathered for wine and appetizers and a delicious dinner, and then had a real treat. Frank plays guitar, and we sang together and laughed and I, at least, wiped a few tears. I was done in by Roberta Flack's beautiful song: "Killing me Softly". Remember those words: "strumming my pain with his fingers..." With this group, this was an incredible and painful and perfect image.

Then we admired the sunset and headed upstairs.

This morning there will be meditation and more conversation and a slow gathering of belongings and memories as we head home after lunch. Wonderwell will be here, and we will carry its' blessings with us.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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