Who are you traveling with?

A number of fellow travelers accompanied me through this week. And I’m pretty sure—based on the therapeutic sheer pleasure of hanging out with them—I’m much healthier than when the week began.

There was the cancer-kicking, wilderness-hiking posse at our season opener: Six gentle miles along the Metolius River.


Photo credit: Mike Gibson


And then there was the Walking for Wellness gang—also cancer-kicking—who I was seen in public with along the Deschutes River out past First Street Rapids Park.


Photo credit: Cliff Hahn


And don’t forget the Monday evening knitting crew. Oh, and a friend I hadn’t seen in a few months, which meant a catch-up over coffee and Chai tea this week. Traveling companions, all.

Toward the end of the week, a friend and I led a walk along the river for some of the residents of Shepherd’s House Women’s & Children’s Center, stopping at park benches in the bold April sunshine to allow time for journaling.

Another of my volunteer jobs is with the local hospice care team, and my most recent assignment was to sit with a patient at home while her caregiver ran errands.

And speaking of running, I was part of the cheerleading squad for a friend who did a half marathon today. When you’re cheering on a long-distance runner, you stuff as many people as possible into a vehicle and try to rendezvous with the runner at several locations. This is what that looks like.


Photo credit: Michelle Poirot


So many of these people were part of the impregnable fortress that surrounded my husband, Gary, and me through cancer. And into widowhood. I have no family in town, but these are courageous boisterous astonishing almost-kinfolk who would drop what they’re doing and come to my rescue.

Others are traveling a rather arduous road themselves: The women from Shepherd’s House, hospice patients and their caregivers, half marathoners. I want to drop what I’m doing and run toward them when needed.

Which brings us to a couple questions:

What does a good support team look like?

It looks an awful lot like the Walking-and-Coffee-Drinking-for-Wellness troupe. Like the wilderness hike-and-snowshoe team. And the friends who are responsible for my affordable housing here in Bend.

It looks like my girlfriend I hadn’t seen in a few months; like fellow book-lovers, and Bible study group members, and fellow gardening enthusiasts … or fellow cycling, cooking, photography, extreme sport, yarn or classic movie enthusiasts.

It looks like clan members and comrades with their encouragement, assistance, reinforcement; who comfort, cheer on, advocate for.

So, if I want to give back, what does being supportive look like?

It looks like offering respite care so a caregiver can have a break, or sitting with a cancer patient through a chemo infusion. It looks like listening well along a trail, or over Chai tea.

It looks like hand-delivered meals, a custom-made photo album of hiking memories, designer beverages left on front porches.

It looks like being in service: Helping clean out garages, stacking firewood, replanting bird feeders so the guy dying of cancer can see the activity from his hospital bed in the living room.

Being supportive displays itself in 1,001 creative astonishing preposterous heart-thrumming ways.

This from the inside of a card:

In life, it’s not where you go; it’s who you travel with.


Photo credit: Marlys Johnson


How blessed were Hubby and I—and how blessed am I, as widow—to travel with some of the most exuberant fierce loyal people on the planet.

Which begs the question: Who are you making the journey with?

P.S. If you know of someone who could use a traveling companion, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Wendy Archer

    Marlys, I’m envious of you. How strange does that sound? To be envious of someone who has lost her soulmate to cancer? I’m envious of how you find sunshine in the darkest of days. I’m envious of the way you can take sadness and grief and turn it inside out, study it, and find ways to smile through it all. I’m envious of the joy you have in your heart and the happiness you dispense like little seeds in a garden. You are truly an inspiration.

    • Beautifully written, Wendy: “… take sadness and grief and turn it inside out, study it, and find ways to smile through it all.” Thank you!

  2. Marlene Alexander

    Lovely, Marlys.

  3. Tracey

    This was so encouraging and inspirational, Marlys. You have had this beautiful spirit throughout the 30 years I’ve known you whether you’re walking in blessings or trials. You’ve learned the secret to contentment. You have found His love with you in all things. Your solutions were so simply put. Love others when needed and receive others love when needed. Thank you for being His love always.

    • I love how you simply and beautifully summed up this blog, Tracey: “Love others when needed and receive others love when needed.” Thank you!

  4. Peggy Carey

    I love your pure, good news Marlys.

  5. Cheryl Carter

    Marylis, you are a true inspiration. His love shines through you as you use your gifts of compassion and hospitality to reach out to those who are hurting and give them hope and encouragement.

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