Gathering in the difficult times can be just as important — if not more important — than in the good times.
We had a Circle of Comfort gathering at our home for Donna, who was about to undergo chemotherapy and radiation for an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Her girlfriends all donned pink and surrounded her with love. The evening was spiritual, moving and emotional. Because of Donna’s incredible sense of humor and positive spirit, it was also upbeat and full of hope.
Donna is in the front row (below), third from left, leaning toward me. We had happily raised our daughters together, and we walked this daunting journey together, too — side by side.
A friend will joyfully sing with you when you are on the mountaintop
and silently walk beside you through the valley.
Donna was showered with love, and the following:
A Blessings Box — a box of notes and cards sharing “what I like about you” words that she could read again and again at her down times. (Before the gathering, I asked everyone, including those who could not be there, to write out a card for the basket.)
During the gathering, we sat around the dining table while we read some of the cards to Donna, which were a touching balance of sentiment and humor.
It was wonderful for her to hear words she may never have heard before — all the things that made her so special and fun to be around. She was alternately moved to tears or laughing up a storm…and she left high as a kite on friendship.
A Basket of Comfort — a basket full of items to help her through the difficult times. (Everyone was asked ahead of time to bring one of Donna’s favorite things to help fill the basket). As you can see, we filled the basket to the brim and beyond with chocolate (her favorite), unscented lotions, paperbacks, inspirational books, crossword books, magazines, DVDs, gift cards for take-out, the pharmacy and book stores, cozy comforters, and even a beautiful gray silk robe from Neiman Marcus to make her feel like a princess.
A Pink Prayer Shawl, which she is wearing in the above photo and brought with her to chemo and radiation. It was knitted by women in the Prayer Shawl ministry at our church. The shawls are prayed over, blessed, and presented to each recipient with a special prayer for healing and comfort.
Most importantly, Donna was showered with a loving presence and lots of comforting hugs from a “Circle of Comfort” — family and friends — that would remain by her side straight through.
I cannot count the number of times I have been strengthened by
another woman’s heartfelt hug, appreciative note,
surprise gift, or caring questions.
–Dee Brestin (of Dee Brestin Ministries)
I’ll Be There for You
Everyone else left the gathering with:
Pink candy wrapped in pink netting and ribbon. Attached was a card with Donna’s chemo schedule and contact information so her friends could support her through her journey, cook meals for her family, send cards or emails, give her a call and offer rides.
A Pink Votive Candle. Attached to it was a special prayer for those dealing with breast cancer; so that everyone could use the candle and prayer when praying for Donna and countless others.
To “shout out” support, we had put touches of pink everywhere, including the swag on the entryway (right) to our kitchen, where Donna’s friends in pink are setting up; and the pink centerpiece (left), which Donna brought home.
Left, our beautiful Donna wrapped in her prayer shawl and holding her “D” wineglass filled with ginger ale.
Though it is hard to believe…..at the same time that Donna was undergoing treatment, four other friends in our circle of 22 girlfriends, the CIRCLE OF ANGELS, were diagnosed with various types of cancer.
We supported each of our five girlfriends as their bridge over troubled waters, prayer warriors and friends. Group emails kept everyone updated and praying.
During this time, two of my best friends from high school, Ann and Dave, were also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was surreal.
You’ve Got a Friend
I’d rather walk together with my friend in the dark
than walk alone in the light.
Jean, fifth from left and to my right, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor which had started to show signs of growth, requiring her to start chemo through a pill. We planned a weekday Circle of Comfort brunch for Jean at our home for those available during the day. They came running.
Being surrounded by loving friends — some who were like moms to her — brought her much-needed comfort, especially since she was single, lived alone and had already lost her parents. Beyond that, her three sisters, to whom she was close, each live out of state.
Note above that we all wore either gray tops or slacks (the color for brain cancer support), including Donna (second from left), who at the time wore a wig as she was still undergoing chemo for breast cancer.
Looking at the faces of Donna and Jean, you’d never know what they were going through. That’s love in a family dose.
Note the multi-generational facet of the Circle of Angels, which has been a gift in so many ways. Our Golden Girlfriends are great fun and we learn so much from their incredible example and wisdom.
Count On Me (like 1, 2, 3, I’ll be there)
At left, three Yellow Roses (faith, hope and love) in a vase was the centerpiece on our dining table. The yellow rose is special to our multi-generational group as it represents friendship.
That day, everyone went home with a yellow rose.
They also went home with a mini bucket (gray) filled with “Hershey’s Hugs”. The hugs were wrapped in a sheer favor bag (from the craft store) and tied with a ribbon.
The Bucket of Hugs was a reflection of the sweetness of friendship and a reminder to hug your girlfriends every time you can.
Note: The gray ribbon napkin ties above (silver and gold) and the gray ribbon bows on the candlesticks all shout out support for Jean.
Right: With my desktop software, I created a tag for the Bucket of Hugs with one of Jean’s favorite biblical quotes:
Corinthians 13:13 — And now these three remain, Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is love.
That’s What Friends Are For
The gathering meant so much to Jean that she later hosted a Circle of Comfort gathering for another of our Circle of Angel girlfriends who had been diagnosed with cancer.
Even with Jean’s own cancer struggles, while working full-time and going to school to finish her Master’s Degree, she reached out to someone else in need of comfort.
The Voice Within
It’s difficult to know the right thing to do in tough situations. If you’re not sure whether to plan a gathering in any given situation, listen to your heart. Just trust that voice within that drives you to do something kind for someone you love, and then just go for it. I’ve found this old heart of mine rarely steers me wrong, and yours won’t either.
Note: It is important to check with the person first. In all cases, we made sure that the guest of honor was “on board” with us hosting the gathering. Anyone who is uncomfortable in the spotlight may be the first to be there for someone else, but not be so inclined for herself. It also depends on the stage of the disease and the level of treatment at the time, of course. These gatherings were held shortly after the time of diagnosis to shore up their confidence, make them feel the special sisterhood of girlfriends, and to say: “We surround you now, and we’ll walk beside you straight through.”
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.
To follow YPTU on Pinterest, click on the Pinterest button below.