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ShareTheCaregiving: a program of the National Center for Civic Innovation

Sharon Groff: “The Swimmers”


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    Brian Ewert

    Brian Ewert

    (Sharon’s husband )
    “The Swimmers” and their experience


    The group’s name came from the song, “Swimming to the Other Side” by Pat Humphries .
    It communicates the communal nature of the journey we are all on.

    Share The Care™ allowed us to more easily walk the path of end stage breast cancer. Terminal illness in middle age presents it own unique challenges: the children are not yet raised and independent, the primary care giving partner needs to go to work, there are elderly parents of the patient who also have needs. Share The Care™ provided an excellent mechanism for meeting these challenges. When I needed to be at work there were volunteers to take Sharon to medical appointments. When the children needed rides chauffeurs quickly signed up. As Sharon’s strength decreased Share The Care™ members signed up for “Quiet Company.” Each day from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM a volunteer would be with Sharon. Their presence eased my anxiety of having her alone for extended periods of time while I was at work and children were at school.

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    As Sharon became more ill she became more spiritual and meditative. She developed an interest in labyrinths and meditative walks. As a family we decided to install a labyrinth in the back yard. We finished the labyrinth four months before her death.

    Share The Care™ provided transforming experiences for many of us. When we first started building the labyrinth one of my more religiously conservative friends asked, “What do you want to do that for?!” My response was that, “It is a religious symbol with vague antecedents.” As the labyrinth was nearing completion he was one of the volunteers who showed up to help. When Sharon was increasingly weak and more wheel chair confined that same friend had the “Quiet Company” duty one day. They spent their time together with him taking her around the labyrinth in the chair.

    Sharon had maintained a strong passion for charities that address hunger. As part of that commitment she had been involved with planning the Crop Walk in Marshfield. Her last Crop Walk was symbolic of the impact of the group. I was on call the weekend of the walk so was not available to be with her on the walk. I am still warmed by looking at the pictures of her in the wheel chair beaming with her escorts
    surrounding her. We had plenty of quality times in her last year. My absence on that day actually enhances the positive power of the day.

    Through the Share The Care™ group a Friday morning meditation session was held at our house. As Sharon became more spiritual in the last six months these gatherings were a source of strength and calmness. The organization of the group occurred completely independent of my input or approval. There were many wonderful events that occurred during that last year of her life for which I neither needed to plan nor sign off on. That was a gift (and a lesson) for me.

    At the time of her death Share The Care™ members gathered for meditation. She died at 3:00 PM on Thursday, October 16, 2003. By 5:15 PM 24 of us gathered around her body and Susan led us through the Phowa practice. At the bedside were Buddhists, Catholics, conservative evangelicals, liberal Protestants, agnostics, and atheists. None of that matter.

    “The Swimmers” were a phenomenal group. A lot of it happened in an almost imperceptible fashion. The apparent effortlessness of the endeavor was due to the model as well as the incredible organizational skill and compassion of Jean and Mindy, the co-captains.

    Mindy Gribble, a Parish Nurse and facilitator for Sharon’s Swimmers, is currently working in the Marshfield, WI. area to nurture “user friendly’ access for anyone considering starting a group. Through the local “Circle of Life Community Coalition” a free “Share The Care™ Station” has been started, providing the community with a well utilized lending library of Share The Care™ books and videos. The Coalition has also provided the community educational presentations on the model. Mindy hopes to honor the joy of being part of Sharon’s caregiving family by “building bridges” to help others move from contemplating Share The Care™ to actively experiencing it’s blessings.

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