Mimi Nelson Oliver is a healer and a seeker who for years searched for a spiritual home that would nurture her soul. Despite a solid early Jewish education, and a social work master’s degree from Yeshiva University, the Pennsylvania native yearned for more when she settled in Marblehead.
“My heart led me to temples within a 30-mile radius of Marblehead,” she said. She became a member of the Universalist Unitarian Church in Marblehead where she would share her Jewish traditions. But she continued searching and found B’nai Or, a Jewish renewal community in Watertown which she loved.
Then she met Devorah Feinbloom, a Marblehead chiropractor and a Jewish seeker with an open mind and heart.
“Devorah said, ‘You don’t have to drive all the way to Watertown,’ and she invited me to a 9 a.m. Saturday morning Renewal Service at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott.” It was 2007.
“I walked in and I never really left. I felt like I had come home,” said Oliver, who is a craniosacral and polarity therapist, social worker, and certified yoga instructor. “This is what I had been looking for.”
She quickly became part of the tight-knit group of women at the Conservative temple whose bonds “have deeply blossomed over time,” she said.
Despite the comfort and familiarity of life here, she moved to Ventura, California in 2015 where she found meaningful work as a yoga instructor, clinical social worker and psychotherapist. But she was not prepared for the depth of homesickness she would feel which was exacerbated by the sickness and eventual death of her mother in Pennsylvania. When her mother passed, Oliver had an epiphany. She knew she couldn’t fathom being away from her dear friends if the time came that they would need her. She returned to Marblehead in 2019.
So when Oliver, 66, suffered a rotator cuff injury and needed surgery last month, a miraculous thing happened. Her circle of friends from Cong. Shirat Hayam created an aura of support and love as the tendons and muscles in her shoulder began to mend from the surgery. The healer needed healing.
Living alone may be dreary but in this era of Covid-19 the isolation can be excruciating. It was not to be for Oliver, who is loved by many friends. Shirat Hayam’s Shir Chesed (song of loving kindness) Committee went into action. A group of friends, propelled by Feinbloom, put into motion a “meal train.” Feinbloom created a digital calendar whereby members of Shir Chesed and others prepared and delivered lunches and dinners to Oliver on selected days.
Before Oliver went in for the July surgery, she mentioned to her friend, and Shirat Hayam member Ruth Estrich, that she didn’t know how she’d care for her basic needs since the surgery was on her dominant arm. She would be unable to do most things until mid-September.
“So, you’ll stay with me. I’ll take care of you,” said Ruth Estrich simply, as though there was no question about it. Estrich drove Oliver to and from the hospital and then made her comfortable in Estrich’s Marblehead home on the waterfront overlooking Fort Sewall.
“I cooked, I bathed her, I removed the dressings, I gave her medications, I called her family after the surgery. I filled in for all the things that her family, who are out of state, couldn’t do,” said Estrich who cared for Oliver for two weeks.
“I woke up with the sun rising every morning,” said Oliver about her stay at Estrich’s. “I could see Fort Sewall, the lighthouse and I fell in love with the ducks and the cormorants spreading their wings! That became my healing vision.”
So, the two women who had met nine years ago during a Shirat Hayam trip to Israel became housemates in what is being called “a bubble” in these Covid times. “People came to visit and support us, but we kept our social distance,” said Oliver.
“I’m so well taken care of by the women from Shir Chesed and so many others from the community – all these incredible women, my soul sisters,” said Oliver.