We retreated there – Camp of the Woods in Speculator, New York – for a purpose, somewhat undefined, but much anticipated. Yes, there was a program, well thought out and welcome. But the little things that happened on the side were the ones I loved. For instance.
The big room just off the kitchen, loaded with sofas, chairs, lamps, was dim and quiet except for Jackie. She waved me over as I came in looking for a place to keep reading Terra Magica, a story Phyllis is working on and graciously allowed me a peek at.
“I want to borrow this book,” Jackie said, tapping her finger on my copy of Dinesh D’Sousa’s, Life After Death – the Evidence. I'd brought it along in case anyone was interested. So of course I had to sit beside her to discuss it. Our conversation drifted to the strange and wonderful experiences we’d each had with the dying. Jackie told me about knowing her late husband, Ken, is at her shoulder and I told of my Mom speaking with an unseen helper at the moment of her death.
Then Donna showed up. She enthused about her little grandson’s seeming ability to speak with his late grandpa – Donna’s husband.
Then Karen showed up. She brought to remembrance the time she and I visited a man mere hours from death and how reluctant he seemed to let go.
Incidental conversations like these are the best. Nothing scripted but – oh – do we learn about our sisters. Christi and Dawn posed for me in this picture taken during a hike.
At the kitchen table, so dense with snack food we could barely see the top, Barbara told a ‘true angel story.’ Jackie had gone to visit Barbara after knee surgery but found her fast asleep in her hospital bed. She sat quietly – watching. Though many would have jotted a quick note and left, ‘the angel’ waited. Good thing, too. When Barbara woke up Jackie noticed her inability to speak properly and called for help. Barbara had had a stroke.
This is not tough slogging, these moments of personal conversation. This is part of why we go on retreat. We bring along games and snacks, our hearts and our minds. We sing What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine and mean it because we know whose everlasting arms we're leaning on.
We crack jokes, try out the ‘bed of nails’ Nancie brought, seek out quiet corners for nurturing talks with a friend – old or new – and hike through brush and flowers to look at waterfalls. We read Bible verses in our study circle expounding and exploring. We take extra portions of the food in the dining hall because it’s so darned good. We make charming bookmarks or note cards for our ‘weekend friend’ using the vast array of craft supplies Beverly brought.
And in the end, this is what we’ve done.
The grief we’ve shared becomes half the grief and gobbled up along with the popcorn, M&M’s and trail mix that covered the dining room table.
The joys we’ve shared are twice the joy and evidenced in the words of love, friendship and praise written on the rocks we left near the altar.
Yeah - we had to go back home. But we did so, renewed, refreshed and rejoicing.
Now who wouldn’t love that?
Incidently - We're going again next year - wanna come?