micki portrait M's New England Progress



A shot from back in March; Mom with joy-spreading great niece (photo: Nance).



  Mom and two princesses courageously confront a pirate visiting from Massachusetts (photo: Nance).



Mom with Godson's wife and son (God-grandson and God- daugher-in-law?) in April (photo: Edward).



  Mom, again with seven-week old Jackson (photo: Edward).



Mom sharing a small worship and communion at home with "Father Nancy" (photo: Blake).

  (An update from Erik - May 23, 1999)

In mid February Micki began to plan a late spring New England visit to longtime friends and family. We have just returned from two weeks midst the lilacs and dogwoods of that glorious Northeast journey. British history buffs will recall that when English monarchs and their staffs set out to visit nobility in the countryside, such a pageant-filled, triumphal trip was called a progress. Here's a brief report on Micki's recent progress.

The trip was divided into three hubs, each something of a familiar oasis where Micki could welcome friends in a relaxed setting under her control. Our first stop was Riverdale, New York where we stayed with Micki's mother and stepfather, Bob Birge. We were met at LaGuardia by a chauffeur wielding an ESSELSTYN sign and whisked to Independence Avenue with Micki resting on familiar pillows and a quilt her mother had pre-stashed in the limo.

The ivy-covered house in Riverdale, the Bingham family home for nearly fifty years, holds memories of courting, an engagement party, and twenty plus years of multi-generational Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings with the whole clan. Smith College classmates and a friend from New York Theological Seminary came by for a laugh-filled lunch that extended into late afternoon. As always, there was singing when Micki's brother Tim and his wife, Sue, came by the next day with music from some of Micki's favorites of Sue's chancel operas. Visits with Aunt Ellie Rossbach and a cousin, Cindy Stebbins, completed the light schedule of our stay that began on Monday afternoon and ended midday on Friday.

In a precedent that would extend through our entire trip, Micki and I were plied with lovingly prepared meals. In Riverdale I learned from Micki's mom how to make a non-curdling Hollandaise sauce. And Bob Birge shared an old family recipe for preparing the ultimate comfort food -- mashed potatoes. The night before we left a caring family friend gave Micki a full body massage, a woman to woman ritual that was repeated everywhere we stayed.

Friday afternoon, May 7th, took us to New Haven for a brief visit to Jody and Jeff's apartment and some ooh and aah time looking at the carved headboard that Jeff had created with its hidden drawers and shelves. Our oasis for the next three days - the welcoming two hundred year old house of Wendy and Bob Wheeler in nearby Northford.

New Hampshire friends of nearly fifty years, buddies from our New Haven days in the 1980's, my niece, Jane Esselstyn, her husband, Bryan, and eight month old Crile came by. Another body massage given by Jane to compliment Wendy's earlier bathing and massage of Micki. My nephew, Ted Esselstyn, his wife, Ann, and their wee ones Flinn, Gus, and Rose - tearful, laugh-filled check ins. Flinn (5) and Gus (4) focused for a time on massaging Micki's feet.

We will remember the irrepressible tears as Jody and Jeff read Mothers' Day cards to Micki. We will always have in our hearts the haunting sounds of the Dukes Men version of Ave Maria that we shared with the Wheelers. And - vitally important - Wendy and Bob rekindled Micki's and my love of Brighams Mocha Almond ice cream, the all-time favorite from our graduate school days in Cambridge.

Monday afternoon, May 10th - our destination the classic, shingle-sided Victorian rectory of Micki's sister, Sherry, and her husband, Downes, in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Micki's nephew, Todd Bland, his wife, Nancy, and little ones Nicholas, Maggie, and Emily came by that evening. More Brighams Mocha Almond. A longtime friend from Blue Hill, Maine spent the night and on Tuesday morning she gave another woman to woman massage. A Vermont friend, a fourth grade pal of Micki's, came to share some of her songs. Another Smith classmate, two longtime woman minister soulmates, more Maine friends, deep spiritual connections from the 1970's. Longtime Boston buddies from Harvard days. More singing and tears.

As we prepared to leave Chestnut Hill midday on Thursday, the 13th, Downes presided over a memorable communion in his study. A pair of twinkling candles, just enough wine and wafer to serve Downes, Sherry, Micki, Jody, and me. As each of us struggles for healing, for some sheltering context in this exhausting saga, spiritual beliefs constantly flood to the fore. Lasting closure and acceptance will come in our hearts, not in some measurable physical change. Downes's ending prayer, I believe, helped move each of us a bit closer to resolution, to some inner peace.

Thursday evening, May 13th, we welcomed another niece, Katherine Bingham Moorehead, her husband JD, and her eight month old son, Luke, to our room at the Bradley Airport Sheraton. Throughout our two week New England progress Micki was buoyed by babies and Luke was one more obliging performer. A room service dinner a quatre with Jody and Jeff and the chance to reflect on all those we had spent time with. [NB: I have named only our hostesses(hosts) and immediate family in this message. And Micki and I regret that her energy level meant we could not ask by many dear friends who wanted to say hello.]

A busy week following our return has refocused us on the task at hand - creating a pain free environment for joy and meaning in Micki's days. We were delighted to once again be near the capable hands of Susan Baldwin, a feisty, loving LPN who joins our household each day from 8:00 to 5:00. We are working with the local Hospice, using their expertise to help fine tune an effective blend of medications. An MRI this past Monday revealed that Micki's brain tumor has continued to grow.

We were welcomed home to Over The Bridge by Blake and Meredith, who had returned from Guatemala while we were away. Jody is with us for a five day weekend. And next week Micki's mom will be returning for a few days. These special family visitors help with a thousand bits of householdia and offer boundless loving support.

Your prayers and notes mean more than I can ever put into words. Thank you.

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