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Healing Space Design
by Robert F. Esterley III
Editor's Note from Sue O'Callahan: I love the idea of creating an Angel Room or other sacred spaces in the home. Just the thought of it soothes my soul. Robert Esterley designs with the sacred and spiritual in mind. In this article he shares the story of a dear friend's request to create an angel room in her home while bravely confronting breast cancer. Robert beautifully illuminates the powerful healing effect of the process and of allowing the divine to hold us in that space, no matter where we are.
My name is Robert F. Esterley III. My friend, Sherri Eberhart, allowed me the opportunity to create a healing space for her during the final months of her battle against breast cancer. Here’s our story.
We grew up in the same home town of Kansas City, Mo., and knew each other during high school, but it wasn't until our 20th year reunion that I learned of her diagnosis with cancer and it was then that our friendship would forever change and deepen beyond anything I have ever known. Sherri was to me the bravest woman I have ever known and though this experience became one of the greatest loves of my life!
During the next 5 years I would come face to face with just how devastating breast cancer is emotionally, physically and spiritually with ongoing cycles of chemo and radiation treatments as the disease ebbed and flowed eventually spreading to her lungs. On one particular visit after returning from a treatment with her I asked if I could offer her a gift, to design a special space in her home that would be all hers. I thought that having a room to ease her suffering and provide ongoing comfort was the best way to show my love and support. She responded without hesitation stating, "I want an Angel Room" as if she knew already what would help her.
Sherri was not an overly religious woman; she was spiritual by nature but held a very deep devotion to her Christian faith so Angels were the perfect theme! In fact, as we began to talk about how we could create such a space she shared with me that from the time of her diagnosis she had received dozens of Angels of every kind from family, friends and loved ones which had grown into a beautiful collection. And it was upon this very idea that I soon visualized what an Angel Room could look like in her modest home.
We embarked on laying out the space in a spare bedroom which included a comfortable daybed, overstuffed leather chair and ottoman, an ivory sheep skin rug and repurposed an old French Provincial china cabinet turning it into the perfect display case for all her beautiful Angels. The room was painted her favorite shades of lavender and purple. Special artwork, notes, cards and photos were placed around the space and we finished off the room with her favorite scented candles and fresh cut seasonal flowers. I recall her sharing how wonderful it was to just lay or nap on her daybed with her dog Sassy under the sunlit lace curtains her mother had lovingly sewn and swaged back with streaming ribbons and bows. This was Sherri's answer to a sacred place where she felt the presence of God as she faced her greatest fears and painstakingly put all her affairs in order in preparation for her transition.
I vividly recall conversations in that wonderful room where we shared memories from our youth, happy times and sad times as only best friends do, all the time knowing that they would be some of our last. To me, Sherri was the embodiment of courage, strength, faith and hope all rolled into one powerful woman. We talked about the freedom she would soon have from the pain and suffering she had endured for 6 long years and what a relief it was going to be.
Sherri gradually overcame her fear of dying and decided instead to face it head on. For many who witnessed this that came to say their goodbyes I suspect they left thinking differently about the experience as one that was not to feared but instead something as holy as birth. Some even claimed they felt a powerful yet calming energy. And towards the end, I recall how the room even glowed with the warmth of the healing light that streamed in reflecting off the crystals creating a prism of color that danced around the room....perhaps she even saw them as Angels!
I was honored to be with her those last few days and witnessed just how powerful one human being can be that was prepared for her transition. Over 200 friends, relatives and Co-workers came through that small room to say their goodbyes, an experience everyone cherished. Then finally on her last day hospice arrived and as she lay peacefully in her bed with her husband and family at her side the Angels came to take her home. It was indeed a miraculous experience for us all!
Sherri and I discussed just how special this experience was to her asking me to always share the story of her angel room so that others would know just how special the experience can truly be!
I invite you to view the Angel Room at www.sacredliving.com by clicking on Sherri's picture and be sure to read the letter from her mother.
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About the Author
Robert Esterley is an ASID award winning interior designer, recognized for excellence in his residential work in Orange County. Robert has a holistic approach to design and is well known for creating healing spaces in homes for those who are suffering from emotional or physical loss.
Founded in 1989, Esterley Designs has over 20 years of interior design experience in Orange County. Robert enjoys multi-generational client relationships and services a diverse client base of single executives, young couples, established families and fortune 500 executives. www.esterleydesigns.com