Last week, Traci and I traveled to Ashland, OR, to visit her parents. Her mother, Chris, was going through her first chemotherapy treatment for a new diagnosis of lymphoma. Chris is a wonderful mother-in-law. We share a deep love and admiration for her daughter, interest in international development, working for justice and peace in a damaged world, prayer, and the healing arts.
She has been a leading light in the development of a Threshold Choir and herself sings regularly at the bedsides of those who are struggling with living, dying, and other life transitions.
She also participates in a healing touch group in her church.
She and Jack (Traci's dad) are phenomenal grandparents to our two daughters, Rebecca and Grace.
So we just wanted to be there, to be a listening ear, and a practical help during what turned out to be the first week of recovery after her first chemo infusion. (Just a note. Chris has encouraged me to write this post and it is good to know that her cancer has been caught very early, is very localized, and slow growing. The doctors and the family are all grateful and encouraged while trying not to be unrealistic or over confident.)
The week before we left -- not wanting to push, but needing to make sure I was prepared -- I quietly inquired if Chris would be interested in receiving some Breema while I was there. If so, I wondered whether they had materials to make a mat on the floor or if I should bring my own mat with me. Traci and Jack both thought me a bit ridiculous even to ask, certain as they were that Chris would jump at the offer. I just wanted to be respectful and prepared. I was quite relieved, both when Chris herself eagerly said yes, and when we figured out that we could easily generate a firm, soft padding with materials on hand so that I did not need to carry the bulk and weight of a Breema mat all the way across the country.
Our time together was sweet and tender (except for arriving the day before the election with the resultant distraction of a discouraged nation mindlessly voting into office a host of backward looking defenders of the rich and the corporate -- but that is another story for another blog that I don't think I'll spend my time and energy with today.)
It was wonderful to have the opportunity to shop, cook, and wash dishes for Chris and Jack for a week. To wake up slowly, to hear what Chris' ideas and plans were for the day and to figure out how we might support those ideas. To be two extra pairs of listening ears that allowed for additional conversations and moments to take out and examine different feelings and emotions.
We spent a good bit of time watching Traci and my newest, favorite, British TV series, William and Mary, available on Netflix, but not (not yet, I hope) to watch by instant download. After the first half of the second episode, Chris was hooked! Jack is less vocal about such things, but his non-verbals communicated the same thing.
Traci and I were able to get away for daily walks, many in Lithia Park -- stunning fall beauty, a mix of dark conifers and brilliant reds and golds, a beautiful creek bed tumbling down from the steep hillside above the city center. We also saw evidence of beaver activity in the small park across the street from Jack and Chris' house.
But for me, the core blessing was my first ever opportunity to work intensively with one person over a number of days. It is like learning the intimate colloquialisms of a local dialect, the tender opportunity to sink into the work, to get to know the other person and yourself in relationship to them. To give and receive feedback.
To be nurtured by and to support their life energy.
As we worked, we often listened to one of Chris' favorite meditation CD's, Returning by Jennifer Berezan. It is not usually the custom to listen to music while doing Breema, but for this work it was perfect.
As I worked on Chris's belly, I could feel the powerful rhythmic pumping of life flowing through her and I was filled.
The fourth day, as we worked, the local deer came to nest outside the window in the yard between us and the neighbors.
On the fifth and last day I was there, Chris went for an early morning walk. She had three ideas, two about a shopping trip we could do together and one to invite a dear friend and semi-professional photographer, Lee Bowman, to come document our work together. The photos on this page are part of that gift. To see more, check out the gallery on my facebook page.
Lee, I am grateful.
It was hard to leave and come back home. After a wonderful weekend with my brother in San Francisco experiencing the very best of Balinese gamelan music, and a private tour from the curator of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, (thanks Charley, it was a wonderful time) I returned to Philly on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Chris called. She had been to see the doctor. Her white blood cell count was amazingly strong. She attributed it to our Breema work together. I attribute it to the natural healing wisdom of her own body, perhaps nurtured by the Breema.
But for it all, I am grateful.