Releasing the Birds

By Linda Lee, Vice President, Cancer Service Line, Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center

Birds Linda Lee“Everyone has something they can release in life” were the words spoken by New Mexico artist and sculptor, Jill Shwaiko. I have been an admirer of Jill’s work for years, and last month, I had a chance to visit with her at her gallery in Madrid, New Mexico.

Jill’s art features images both in paintings and sculpture that depict Native American petroglyphs, most notably sheep, teepees and birds. Her art is very inspirational and thought provoking. Her comment about releasing things came while I was admiring one of her sculptures… two sheep lifting up and releasing birds. Jill was explaining that this particular piece and others similar to it were extremely popular and in demand. We had a nice discussion about why. She explained that she had heard from many of her patrons that the piece “spoke to them,” and deeply. “Everyone has something they can release in life,” Jill said. I have been thinking about that statement so much since our visit.

June was National Cancer Survivorship Month. Our lunch celebration with survivors was fantastic! The event was well attended, and the survivors were so generous in sharing stories about their personal journey with cancer. They spoke about their fears, courage and endurance, their deep faith and hope. I was so touched by their openness. I found myself reflecting about the survivorship luncheon after my time with Jill Shwaiko. I realized, for me, there seemed to be a connection. Our survivors so eloquently talked about the things they released during their personal journeys: fear, anger and resentment…and they described what came back in return…new relationships, a deeper perspective on life, a new outlook and a defined sense of purpose.

What do all of us have that we can release? What will come back to us when we do? Sending this meditative thought to you and dedicating it to our survivors. They are teaching us about these things.