Adam Schmitz (Charlotte, NC November 2013)
Shannon and I meet many special people
in our work with survivors, but rarely as special and with as open a heart as
Adam's. When we talked he worried a lot
about not being "successful" enough - successful by other peoples
standards I guess. But when I look at
how deeply Adam touched the people he came in contact with I know that in many
ways he was one of the most successful men I've ever met. Successful at kindness and humility and
heart. Successful at being a good father
and a good human being. I feel blessed
to have met him and am changed forever.
Julie Kuhn, (Morganton, NC August 2013)
Julie has been a friend and member of the Wind River family since our second retreat, in 2008. Julie's love for her two sons and husband truly fueled her desire to beat the odds given her. This allowed her to see her oldest go to college and so much more. I enjoyed our continued friendship with Julie, including sharing our love of art (picture is of Julie painting at her favorite spot on Lake James, NC).
Her husband Jim shared a beautiful prayer that many of us said for Julie in her final week ... I wish to send out to her this last line one more time ... "god, we ask you to welcome Julie into your warm embrace of everlasting and infinite love."
Sue Drost, (High Point, NC August 2013)
Sue and I spoke for over 2 years before she was able to join us for a retreat in the fall of 2011. She gave me many intangible gifts, and one tangible gift that I turn to frequently. The latter is a book by survivor and poet Mark Nepo. Here is a quote from that book that I believe honors Sue and her life and faith:
“The further I wake into this life, the more I realize that
God is everywhere and the extraordinary is waiting quietly beneath the skin of
all that is ordinary. Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond, and
music is in both the flowing violin and the water dripping from the drainage
pipe. Yes, God is under the porch as well as on top of the mountain, and joy is
in both the front row and the bleachers, if we are willing to be where we are.”
― Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want
by Being Present to the Life You Have
Janet Owen, Winston-Salem, NC (July 17, 2013)
What a caring woman who always beautifully wrapped herself in her hand-knit clothes made from love. She was so full of life and ideas and opinions. But it is her sense of compassion that I will remember always! This picture is of the hope and friendship bracelet she made with her fellow retreat friends.
My heart is with you. Shannon
Dana Diperna Pillsbury, Davidson, NC (July 7, 2013)
A woman of such strength, beauty, compassion, love of life
and a heart of gold. May your wings spread wide over all of us in spirit as
they did in life!
And what others may not know is it was you Dana who inspired me to create a place for others to rejuvenate and reconnect with themselves and spirit. And for this, among many other gifts, I will forever be in your debt and gratitude.
Peace my friend, and always in love. Shannon
Sharon Lynch, Seneca, SC (June 24, 2013)
Sharon and I had many many private and powerful moments which I am so thankful for. But on this special post, I wish to share the words of Sharon's fellow retreat participant Adam ... it says it all!
"Through tears I write.
I am honored to have known you.
We spent less than four days together and yet I feel I've known you so
much longer. You are one of the funniest
people I know. You kept us all in
stitches the whole time at Wind River. You
had a profound effect on me and that attitude shift you help me find in myself
saved my life. Thanks to you and the way
you expressed to me that you were going to live cancer from a place of joy
rather than from fear changed my life forever.
God bless and always keep a joke and a smile handy. God loves laughter!"
, Waynesville, NC (June 2013)
Sharon who moved to the South from Washington (State) via and RV trip was a women of curiosity and adventure. I love too that she so enjoyed taking small naps on our benches ... so much so that she continued to find relaxing time in her home town parks on parks wherever she could!
Sharon also came to Wind River ready to try anything ... and was particularly taken by our drumming time.
To Sharon, I say DRUM ON! Hugs, love and peace. Shannon
Laura Powell, Lynn, SC (May 2013)
Laura had a wisdom about her that is difficult to describe, but was the kind that deeply touched those that sat down with her. She was a remarkable woman, full of strength and passion for
friends, family, God and her garden & nature.
I will forever be touched by her resilience,
acceptance and deep deep faith.
, Chapel Hill, NC (May 2013)
The word that comes to mind for Jo is perseverance and adventure!
I remember your plunge into the icy cold waters at the base of the waterfall like it was yesterday, and not 3 years ago. You and Jenn and Holly were all so daring on that adventure!
We know you are at peace and for that we are glad, but we do miss you and your smile.
, Chapel Hill, NC (April 2013)
IF NOT NOW, WHEN? Laura was a 20 year old woman of tremendous resilience and drive. Her speech at TEDx in Chapel Hill is inspiring and worth watching when you have a moment. Laura is a woman we became friends with long distance but unfortunately passed away the afternoon she was suppose to join our spring retreat. All the women of her retreat found some beautiful ways to honor her, and her brother and mother who survived her.
Leonard Pschirer, Northfield, NJ (January 15, 2013)
We will miss Dave's Dad greatly. And although he was on borrowed time, it was not expected. (He had health issues off and on for 12 years, as well as some really good quality of life during that time too!) The blessing is that Dad went very quickly and was able to live in his own home until the last day. Dave's one brother was with him at the hospital when he passed which of course bring us peace too.
From this experience, we are both reminded of the power of sharing stories and laughs with family, and telling them you love them as Dave had a chance to do! Love ya Dad!
Amy Patwa, Charlotte, NC (January 5, 2013)
Spirited! This young woman touched many lives but none as important as her little girl.
This video tells it all!
Emilie Marchant, Clinton, SC (January 7, 2013)
Emilie fought hard to conquer pancreatic cancer for over 6 years. We are proud of her efforts and stamina to beat this and to also live life. She was a huge advocate for other pancreatic survivors and I know many appreciate her work greatly! And Miss Emilie, I wish you much peace and relaxation!
Claudia Payten, Chicago, Il (August 16, 2012)
A woman of such strong character! When we first spoke, you shared how this cancer did not define you as a person. Yes, there were challenges like being single, but you looked far beyond those challenges. Please enjoy this video ... in her words: Chicago Tribune Video Gallery
I will always admire you for your commitment to heal, not just the cancer, but as a whole person. My heart is with you as you fly free and in peace. Shannon
Liz Thomas, July 24, 2012
Liz your fellow alum shared a beautiful image of dolphin's jumping in the water as the sunset colors blazed in the background as she learned of your passing. She imagined you going to heaven through this glorious scene. You gave so much inspiration to those of us still here .... I truly hope this visual is just the beginning of your transition from this earth. And THANK YOU for being a part of my story on this earth. Much love, Shannon
When Tom and I first spoke about our retreat, I was so touched by his first reason to attend. He knew how much stress and difficulty his health was having on his beautiful wife. He said, I just want to give her the gift of some space and time to herself. He loved his family so much. And he also was able to fulfill his other two wishes for his retreat experience, reconnect with nature and to connect and share with others on this cancer journey. Tom you were a man with much love for the people in your life, and you were one of a kind - I am so glad to have known you.
Naima - your strength through adversity is a model for us all. You love for your daughter and brother will be felt for years and years. Know they are filled with your presence and always will be. Thank you my love for your smile and strength. Be at Peace my beautiful woman!
Sofie Hosford, March 21, 2012
STRENGTH! This is the first word that comes to mind when I remember Sofie. She had such strength of mind and faith, and despite two different types of cancer, she continually focused on her physical strength too. During our retreat, she was training for a sit-up competition ... committing to do 100 sit ups for a month. But most of all, Sofie loved her husband and her children.
I also loved the memory of fellow retreat Alum Nina who said, "She was my INSPIRATION. She was so beautiful and I am sooo glad she was my roomie." Sofie, you and missed, and you are loved!
Mischa Sell, Winston-Salem, NC (January 2012)
Mischa, there are no good word to describe your courage and strength in your fight against cancer. We have been friends since 2008 and it is hard to say good-bye. Strong mother, wife, friend, and woman of faith, I know you are at peace and with several other amazing Wind River friends. Please give them our love and celebrate with the other Musketeers! My heart is with you.
Tawanna Padgett, Shelby, NC (October 2011)
Beautiful artist, beautiful woman. Tawanna, I miss our sharing and love of music. The night on the patio with live acoustic music was very powerful to me as I looked over at your smiling face -- few people are willing to show how deeply music can touch the soul. I know there are many windows in Heaven that you are designing another beautiful stain glass window for. Your color and vibrant energy is missed by many! Peace my friend, Shannon
Diana Layfield, Greenville, SC (October 2011)
Diana, I know you are drumming your heart away above us right now and sending us smiles and laughs, and reminding us to not take things too serious. My heart beats with you today and always!
Lisa Meloni, Charlotte, NC (September 13, 2011)
Too often I just want to say BUGGER .... Lisa was part of a special Wind River group called the Blue Heron Group. They have all remained close and are further supporting each other during this difficult loss. I especially appreciate the love and support of this group as Lisa and I were friends for over 15 years. She was an incredible woman and while her parents and friends will miss her terribly, I know she is walking in a better place. I am thankful for the opportunity to have seen her in her final days and to have received a huge hug from her with a big I LOVE YOU. Right back at ya my friend!!!!
Anabel Nunez, Raleigh, NC (September 2011)
Especial!!! Anabel first came to Wind River in the fall of 2008 and with 13 other amazing Latina women. She also came for a private retreat with her husband and beautiful 10 year old daughter and friends earlier this year for a special weekend of joy and laughter. It is hard for me to imagine her smile not with them each day for she had much love for her family. Optimism and always willing to do something for someone else are the first thoughts that come to mind when I think of her radiant heart. Love you Anabel!
Laura Vickers, Atlanta, GA, July 23, 2011
So full of life and love and generosity! In the words of her fellow Retreat alum, "... And while the tears are still streaming down my face, in the end I am happy for the time I had with Laura. She brought lots of light into my Life." Survived by two young children, she will forever be cherished by many of us!
Billy Bailey, Ocean City, NJ (and Boone NC) July 13, 2011
When I think of someone who fills a room with an inner brightness, a special sparkle, that was Billy. A five star chef who even cooked for Julia Childs' birthday one year, he brought a rich flavor to everything he touched. We were blessed last fall to numerous meals touched by Billy's culinary gifts. But even more special were the times we just sat quietly together, rocking in our red rocking chairs on the deck, and talking quietly about his passion --- giving a helping hand to the next person in need of a little hope. Billy, you are missed already! Your friend, Shannon
Thea Laydon, Winston-Salem, NC (July 2, 2011)
Thea was a true Advocate of Others. I love this shirt on her, it says Free to Breathe. I learned a lot about the judgment people have towards those with lung cancer - always blaming them. Not that it matters how one gets cancer, but did you know 20% of those with lung cancer never smoked!?! In Thea's honor, I try to educate others that cancer is not about fault, it is about compassion and being there for others. Thank you Thea for teaching me. Peace. Shannon
Clark Wang, Durham NC and Seattle Washington (March 29, 2011)
Music. Cello. Teacher. Student. Scientist. Fighter. Friend. and so much more. Clark was a man of many gifts and he shared those with all that were around him. For me, he helped bring my cello back into my life. Playing it on our deck each day brought tears to everyone at the retreat. I'll always remember and cherish listening to 'Some Where Over the Rainbow' as it filled the air around us and reached every nook of the property!
In honor of your passion for green burials, I post here your news story on what one is and what it meant to you. Hope it helps! Geeen Burial Story with Clark Wang, Sept. 2010
Eric Hansen, Missouri (January, 2011)
Free Spirit! This is the phrase that comes to mind when I picture Eric. His ability to stretch and grow over the 3 years I knew him was a gift to witness.
An engineer by background, he learned and embraced the beauty that comes with less structure. He focused on being present every day by expressing Gratitude for thirty minutes each morning (that and his favorite coffee made a great start to the day according to Eric!)
No more words, just sending you love Eric!
Joe Heaton, Huntersville, NC (October 20, 2010)
Team player. That is the Joe we so enjoyed! Whether gardening with Regina, doing Tai Chi with Mike or painting with the whole group, Joe was always present and always with a smile. It was Joe that first offered that others could paint (watercolors) on his stylish bald head, including a bicycle, a butterfly, sunflo
wer, and more! Then we move on to others. On a more serious note, his family was of the utmost importance to him. Thank you Joe for your love of everything!
Marty Seitz Pyhala, Soldotna, Alaska (October 15, 2010) - on the left
Marty was a strong willed fighter (in the black t-shirt). A 34 year old single mom from Alaska, she traveled over 15 hours to get to Wind River. But is was not the travel time that was so incredible to me. It was her willingness to explore her feelings about her disease (six years) and to truly look at what was most important to her and why. He fellow retreat participants were all right there to help her climb a set of stairs, but it was Marty too who was right thereto help them and listen to their stories.
Her body had been through so much, but her passion for her son, family, and the beauty of their family homestead in Alaska meant the world to her. Too short on this earth, I know she is at peace.
Cinda Cleckley-Parker, Charlotte, NC (August 27, 2010) (Cinda here with Shannon)
Cinda was a gifted woman in the art of helping others see their potential for goodness, and also embrace their imperfections. At least this is what I learned from this woman over our two year friendship.
Close to God, she walked a path of commitment, even during the most trying of circumstances. She will be missed by many friends and family members, including her Wind River family!!!
Nancy Capps, Raleigh, NC (August 11, 2010)
A thoughtful woman, I remember Nancy so enjoyed our Qi Gong and Tai Chi movement classes. Having had several years of chemo already, she found wonder and joy in being able to move her body in simple and restorative ways. She went home and continued this movement long after her Retreat experience.
Karen Carpenter, Columbus, Ohio (July 14, 2010) - Karen is on the right
An extraordinary woman that shared her commitment to finding inner peace and truly living "in the moment" with all that cam in contact with her. Her ability to teach others through leading by example was a true gift. Karen had a wonderful impact on others at the retreat, as they stayed in touch with one another and helped ground each other during difficult as well as good times.
One Retreat friend said this of Karen, “The little time we spent at the retreat surpassed the normal years it takes to develop a strong friendship & what I got was time with a dear, dear soul. You inspire me.” You will not be forgotten my friend...
Yaufung Olivia Chang, Planto, Texas (July 2, 2010)
Olivia was a bright, light-hearted woman who made EVERYONE laugh! Cooking one night, her timing was perfect when she exclaimed, "don't let (cancer) rip off your happiness!" Everyone got it immediately and nobody could stop laughing.
Olivia was too young at 47 --- but I know she made every moment count for her daughters, husband and friends!!!
Leslie Dauphine Brown, Charlotte, NC (African American woman on the left)
Pure JOY! If we could have bottled Leslie's infectious laugh and ability to make people smile it would sell for a million dollars a jar. But most of all, Leslie was a woman of Faith. She was about helping others and doing what was right. Last summer she had the opportunity to perform mission work in Eqypt - her first time out of the country, and it was again, to help others.
I know Leslie is greatly missed by her Wind River friends as well as all the people she has touched with her smile and big heart. Leslie returned to God June, 17 2010.
January 7, 2010 is when Lisa returned Home. A wife, mother and grandmother who faced cancer head on for over 14 years, she is someone who gave everything she had to give to her friends and family.
Last summer she wrote a beautiful poem called The Merry Go Round of Life. Here is a quote from that piece:
"That is what our life is...being who we are called to be, caring for others, reaching out to those we hardly know, being MINDFUL of the present moment." (Lisa, Summer 2009)
Much love goes out to her family and loved ones.
Susan Porter,Charlotte, NC, (on the left)
In late August 2009 Susan lost her two year battle to a brain tumor. She was artistic and creative ... definitely a free spirit of the 70's. We will miss her humor and curiosity!
Sonia Santos, Charlotte, NC (on the right)
On March 27, 2009, we lost one of our three musketeers ... A loving mother, a good friend and a US Army Veteran, Sonia had this rye smile that made you feel she was mischievously up to something (and usually was). She and Samantha would stay up late every night in their PJs and talk the night away!!! Quoting Sonia, 'May God Bless you in a million ways ....' con amor, Sonia
Susan Jones Mize, Fort Mill, SC (Susan is on the left)
What a burst of energy and adventure! Give her a pair of sneakers and Susan would leap into action, exploring our back trails and wooded areas. Susan lost her battle to small intestine cancer in July 2009 (Susan is on the left). Susan's love of the outdoors and her family will be missed by many.
Yvonne Jackson, Covington, GA (Yvonne is in Red on the Right)
Yvonne fought a long and feisty battle with Breast Cancer until May 2009. I remember her reflection after the retreat ... "I came in and felt the warmth of you and Dave and heard the wind chimes and KNEW God was in this place." Her exuberance will be missed my many but she is in Heaven for sure!
Echo Moore, Bowling Green, KY
I would like to share a beautiful story with a difficult ending. This summer we were honored to be called to Bowling Green,
Kentucky to the side of our friend (and alum) Echo Moore, and become part of this woman’s beautiful approach to her transition from this earth. Echo fought metastatic breast cancer for 9 years and passed away a week after her 38th birthday.
It was a Sunday when we received the call from her brother Devon that time was very short and Echo wanted to see the people who had been important to her to share in this part of her journey. We quickly packed and made the seven hour drive to arrive at her bedside that evening. When we arrived she was smiling…
It would have been easy for her to have withdrawn. The pain was, at times, intense, but instead she chose to minimized her use of pain medication so that she could remain “present” and share the love and appreciation in her heart with those that had been important in her life. As she put it, “I am just so thankful for all that others have given me in this life … and I want to thank them each personally”.
Each day she had me walk her through several guided meditations to help relieve the physical pain. Her courage was incredible, but not surprising. Echo’s life profession was as a psychiatrist. In her dedication to help others find “peace of mind”, it seemed fitting that before we left, she smiled and said, “Shannon, I have found my Joy … I am at Peace.”
Thank you Echo for showing us what a heart overflowing with Love looks like … Shannon
Maria Alvarez - una mujer hermosa con un gran corazón (Raleigh, NC)
Maria shared with us her heart through her smile. In a note to us, she thanked us for "the beautiful god-like weekend and said she was going to that this experience and keep it in her heart forever. "
In March 2009 we lost Maria to breast cancer BUT she is in our heart forever!!!
Devon Currie, Alpheretta, Ga
It is always devastating to lose a friend or loved one to cancer, but to experience it through the eyes of a young, gentle giant like Devon Currie is even harder.Devon returned to the Kingdom above on December 13, 2008 at the age of 20.
As seen in the picture here with another resilient participant (Annabelle is doing well with her family in Michigan last we spoke), you can almost feel his passion and huge heart leap off the page. Missed by many, but none more than his loving parents David and Mary, our hearts are with you.
The Amazing Grace of Kelly Kilpatrick, Dandridge, TN
On November 13, 2008 a beautiful angel from our first retreat passed from this earth to a finer place above. She was in incredible teacher of how to live each day to the fullest! Her grace and joy were truly infectious and she is already missed by many. But she is also still here, in all the good deeds and moments of laughter she gave to all of us!!!
"Your beautiful and inspirational setting is second only to your gracious friendship and hospitality.Your retreat facilitates immense feelings of joy, love and connection.I connected with ‘like-others’, an invaluable gift, and I connected with myself, the ultimate spiritual experience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!” - Love always, Kelly Kilpatrick, September 2007
Sam I AM - Samantha Gray Steffen, Winston-Salem, NC
(Sam is on the far right with her two wonderful musketeers, Misha is still fighting their battle with cancer). Samantha, who passed on September 21, 2008, was and IS a shining star... we are privileged to have known her and to have enjoyed her wonderful English sense of humor. When we visited her we were told "Elvis" had been in the building to see her! Her comment when asked if she liked Elvis: "do you know any Elton John?"
"Mustn't grumble" Sam would say... we promise you Sam, we won't. We would like to offer a special thank you to those visiting our site on behalf of Samantha Gray Steffen. "From the moment I walked into your home, I was met with hugs, big smiles, and caring support. I am SO glad I came to Wind River. You helped me focus on the things to be thankful for and enjoy life to the fullest. Thank you for being my two Angels."
- Samantha Gray Steffen, June 2008
" My name is Carla and I was a good friend of Susan Bello. The last time I saw her on June 29th, she had just returned from your Retreat and was glowing with enthusiasm and joy. The sad news is that she died VERY UNEXPECTEDLY on Saturday, July 5th, 2008. The cause was given as acute leukemia. I wanted to share what an amazing impact your Retreat had on her ...
On June 29th we met for lunch and when I arrived, Susan looked more radiant and glowing and healthy than I had ever seen her. She was just beaming. She was full of stories and enthusiasm about her experience at the Wind River Retreat, the people she met there, and the intimacy and kindness that they shared. I looked at her and realized that she had changed in some way. She was not struggling so hard, she had a softened look about her, and she exuded an air of hopeful acceptance. Her last words to me were, "Carla, I realize now how lucky I am. I am so very, very lucky."
... Each of us has our own speculation as to why the universe saw fit for Susan to have this opportunity just days before her untimely death. But what all of us can know is that her retreat experience was a wonderful gift, and one that she would keep." -- Carla
From you we have learned many things...
With love and respect we say "thank you" to these beautiful souls for sharing themselves with us and each other.