“I’m lucky to be alive,” says Sandra LaPerche. “Just before this all happened, I had been practicing gratitude and receptivity. So when I laid there in the van, looking at dying, I just kept focusing really hard on gratitude and receptivity.” Sandra cracks a smile, then adds, “Although I did tell God I thought it was a rather extreme way to get me to practice.”
This past September, Sandra and her husband were in a camper van in rural Maine, when she began to have a near-fatal heart attack. With a gentle sense of humor and a distinct Massachusetts accent, she credits being alive today to a few things: first, that her husband lept into action, racing the van to the nearest hospital, and second, the spiritual preparation she gained at Rolling Ridge. “It helped me survive the heart attack,” she says. “I said to myself, ‘My job is to breathe and stay calm and connected and not be afraid.’”
Sandra came to the Ridge on a life-long quest to understand the teachings of Jesus. “I am a person with tons of regret,” said Sandra. “A lot of times in church, people tell you, ‘Don’t feel guilt, don’t feel regret.’ They kind of brush that all away.” But at Rolling Ridge, Sandra found a community of people on the same spiritual wavelength as herself—people who accept her experiences without dismissing them. “That's what I love about Rolling Ridge,” she said. “They value being a community of contemplation. The leaders are very generous in affirming people where they are.”
One such leader is Mike Clark, who led a Day Apart event that Sandra attended at Rolling Ridge earlier this year. The retreat focus: the person of Jesus. As the day began, Mike played a song about the pain of regret. Sandra immediately felt she was with people who would recognize and value what she was going through. This helped as some of the ideas Mike presented were outside her normal frame of reference. Mike encouraged the group to look for ‘twins’ of Christ everywhere—to see embodiments of the universal Christ wherever they go.
During her heart attack—in the critical moments in the hospital, with the doctor hovering above her, and the nurses all around her operating table—Sandra believes she saw the face of Jesus. Extending beyond mere metaphor, Sandra says that Christ was present in the room with her. “It was very real to me,” said Sandra. “Whenever I start to explain it, it sounds crazy. Jesus had a job and the surgeon had a job.” Thinking back to her time in the hospital, “I wasn’t afraid,” she said. The surgery saved her life, and her vision of Christ forever changed it.
Sandra’s story embodies a Richard Rohr phrase we like here at Rolling Ridge: “A Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else.” Even in moments of great physical pain and emotional turmoil, Sandra put into practice the habits she had learned from our programs: deep breathing and a contemplative focus upon gratitude, with a quiet trust that Christ would go with her into the unknown. As Sandra continues to participate in the programs and emerging community here at the Ridge, she is learning to let go of lingering regrets, and to receive every day as a gift.
Just like Sandra, we at Rolling Ridge focus on gratitude and receptivity. With gratitude for you, our supporters, and receptive to what God can do, we’re launching our year-end “Community of Generosity” campaign. This month, we celebrate the moments of transformation, big and small, that take place in people’s lives through the ministries of the Ridge.
By giving a generous year-end donation to Rolling Ridge, you are making moments of transformation possible. You are investing in our future. Through financial gifts from people like you, we are expanding our ministries to meet the spiritual and personal needs of people like Sandra.
You can donate now by clicking the button above, or by sending your tax-deductible gift to 660 Great Pond Rd, North Andover, MA, 01845.
Thank you for your prayers, your gifts, and your stories.
And if you have a personal story of transformation, please send it to me. I love to hear the difference that Rolling Ridge is making in the lives of people.
Peace and all good,
Rev. Dr. Lawrence Jay