On Sunday, Sept. 28 at the Orcas Island Senior Center, Barbara Urschel will be reading excerpts from her new book “From Grief to Grace: Journaling Through Bill’s Illness” and a special guest will read selected poems from Bill Urschel’s 2002 book “Orcas Smiles” starting at 3 p.m.
According to the event organizer, Ginni Stern, Barbara and her husband Bill created a remarkable marriage that by all accounts was unusually loving and inclusive of a wide circle of family and friends.
“Bill and Barbara Urschel moved to Orcas Island in 1982. Both were retired teachers and later school psychologists, who migrated here from Southern California where they returned to spend winters with their family of four children and their spouses, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Stern said.
“From Grief to Grace: Journaling Through Bill’s Illness” is inspired by a journal that Barbara kept while her husband was dying of pancreatic cancer. Stern says during his illness Barbara wrote poetry, drew, painted and sent regular newsletters to family and friends about the progress of Bill’s illness.
“The Orcas Island community rallied around them with visits to see Bill, bring food, bestow encouragement, and share original poetry. Touching poems arrived every day by many talented Orcas poets. Orcas community members provided tender and intimate caregiving in the last weeks of Bill’s life. People serenaded him. The Orcas Oddfellows entertained him with their wonderful singing group. Musical concerts and sing-a-longs spontaneously occurred at their home. Surprises and joys, as well as deep sadness, were daily parts of Barbara and Bill’s lives for the last weeks of his illness,” Stern says.
According to Stern, Barbara eventually felt that the blessing of her relationship with her husband and the spiritual values that came to her during and after Bill’s last days were worth sharing with others. That insight led to the creation of the book derived mostly from Barbara’s journal. “It is her tribute to a relationship that brought her deepened understanding of both the nature of suffering and of the many dimensions of love,” Stern says.
Barbara’s painting, “Diagnosis” has been reproduced on the front cover of the book. According to Stern it is the first of a series of five abstracts that she painted during Bill’s illness. The paintings will be on display during the afternoon reading.
“Please join us for what will be a intimate and touching afternoon,” said Stern.