Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Today, I was witness to a "coining out" ceremony at St. Anne's Home - and an "angel walk". It was a beautiful ceremony - one that I had never witnessed or participated in, before today. It was moving and emotional, and there were more than a few tears from the more emotional woman that took part (i.e., me). I am a volunteer and board member for St. Anne's, so the whole house holds a special place in my heart - but today was more special than most.
At St. Anne's, most women stay for about three months, as they get their lives back in order and start their recovery and rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol. It is usually the bright spot of my week when I go there on Tuesdays for our weekly sessions. Getting to see the women slowly come out of their shells and start to feel more comfortable and happy in their sober skin brings me more joy than I can imagine.
The woman that coined out today actually chose to stay at the house for an additional two months in order to complete the therapy and recovery work that she knew was crucial to her long term success in remaining sober when she returned home to her family. Since I've gotten to know her pretty well over the past five months, she asked if I would come join them for her ceremony today.
It was called an "angel walk". The residents, staff, and invited volunteers lined up in two lines, tallest to shortest, facing each other at arm's length distance apart. Then, the woman that was coining out closed her eyes and stood at the back at the lines, and waited for the two women in the back to place their hands on her shoulders, right where her wings would attach. On a boombox, they played a very inspirational, musical version of the "Serenity Prayer" - which is a prayer near and dear to the recovery community. As we each placed our "wings" on her back, we leaned in to whisper a wish or good thought in her ear, and then, gently nudged her along to the next set of women, whose hands replaced ours, as her next set of wings.
This was repeated over and over, until she had about a dozen set of wings at her back - and dozens of kind wishes and words of love whispered in her ears. The women that participated in the ceremony were truly acting as angels for her as prepared to venture out in to the real world again.
I had goosebumps - watching this woman - who came to St. Anne's, convinced life would never, could never get any better - being lifted up, encouraged and loved on by all of the other women of the house, and the staff and volunteers. She emerged at the end of the line, joyful and proud - and we all felt uplifted by the experience.
I love the imagery of having our friends and loved ones as angels with their hands as the wings we need to fly. I am so grateful that I was able to be a small part of that incredible moment in her journey today, and I will never forget it. I hope she doesn't either.