Three Red Deer women continue to see the fruits of their engaging and compelling literary project – The Circle Club – A Journey of Hope and Healing.
Val Foerderer, Megan Kehoe and Sally Towers-Sybblis penned the book, released in 2012, which marks the journeys of the three – it expresses their trials through poetry, artwork and non-fiction prose.
The three came together through a series of circumstances, including the death of Foerderer’s son in 2009.
“I sent Val a little piece of art,” recalls Towers-Sybblis, an artist. “She and Megan had been talking, because Megan had been writing some poetry.” Eventually, the concept of all three contributing to a single book began to surface.
“It’s hard to do something on your own, but if you collaborate and pool your ideas together, it’s fun – and with bouncing ideas off of each other we also have the support of each other,” explains Foerderer, an educational assistant. “It’s been the most amazing journey.
“We feel, because of our experiences, bad things can happen. But it’s how you deal with them. Do we want to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves and not follow our dreams? In doing this, we are connecting with other people.”
Towers-Sybblis agreed. “The main reason for writing the book is that we want to collectively join women together that are suffering from grief and hardship. That’s the purpose of it – we want people to be able to share their stories on our facebook page and read the book – it’s really a gift of healing, is what the book is.”
Near the time of the book’s publication, Foerderer lost a daughter as well.
“I’ve got to be strong for my grandsons,” she said, reflecting on the last few years and the sense of coming to terms with losing two of her own children.
“Believe it or not, the more we go through this journey, the more amazing it becomes. We’ve met people who will tell us their stories that they’ve kept hidden. Everybody has a story, and we want people to know that it’s okay to share their stories.”
She also wants people to know there is hope. “That you can get up, go to work and have a life – I think we embody that.”
Towers-Sybblis’ father passed away after battling Alzheimer’s disease for 17 years. “I had to witness that and the grief that comes with that – the whole process is a slow dying of your loved one.”
In the book, she details part of what inspired her to share in the project.
“Out of my pain and suffering came a new understanding of life and the people around me. I asked myself: how am I going to honour my life and the gifts that I have received? The answer was clear. I have gifts and talents given to me by God and sharing these with others in the book was one way I could achieve that. Faith in God and belief in oneself does that.”
Foerderer noted, that, “It was as though the three of us were drawn together in one place, thereby creating this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When obstacles were put in our path and life felt like an uphill battle, we were encouraged by the fact that there is strength in numbers. It was comforting to walk with those who offered support along the way, as this is what friends do.”
Kehoe, a teacher, wrote that she believed, “During the agonizing times when we think we will not be able to emerge, we are sent special care packages: our circle clubs, loving family and friends, perhaps even strangers who see us through. Turn to the circle of which you are a vital part and you will endure. We are all growing in the garden; there will always be a new beginning.”
The journey from pain to a place of healing and redemption is also documented through garden imagery and the themes of history, growth, family, sacrifice, death, grief and peace, they said.
In the first chapter, ‘Seeds,’ the authors each write an introduction, explaining how the project came to be.
In ‘Roots’ the authors reflect on the top 10 memories of their youth.
‘Thorns’ is startling in its raw grief, poetry and non-fiction portraying loss, disease, abusive relationships and power struggles. The following chapter, ‘Pink Roses,’ reveals stories of hope following a diagnosis of cancer, the loss of a son, and the death of a parent. In the final chapter, ‘The Garden,’ each author reflects on the joy that can be reclaimed, and strategies for working through life’s most painful times, they point out.
“I think the book offers people healing and understanding that they are not alone in what they are going through,” said Towers-Sybblis. “I think that watching my dad die from Alzheimer’s really changed the perspective of my life – I totally changed the direction of my life during the time I was going through that – you gain an appreciation for life, and how precious it is. You think, what am I going to do with my life? How will I play this out? Do what you are dreaming of – that’s what it’s about. But you have to have the courage.”
Foerderer agreed. “It’s been an emotional journey, and it’s been amazing and happy as well,” she adds, reflecting. “If you focus on the steps and journey that lead you forward, you can have memories from the past but you don’t have to live in the past.
“I don’t want to waste a single moment going, ‘shoulda, coulda woulda’.”
For more information about the book, check out their facebook page ‘The Circle Club – a Journey of Hope and Healing’.