RECLAIMING LIFE: After losing her husband at age 55, Donna Marie Todd created A Widow's Tale retreat to help other widows heal from the loss of a spouse. Photo courtesy of Donna Marie Todd

Widow’s Tale retreat leads to rediscover­y and recovery

When Donna Marie Todd’s husband died, she was 55. Bereavement counseling helped her begin to heal and understand her grief, but she found a lack of resources when she set out to rebuild her life. A professional storyteller, singer, writer, teaching artist and retreat leader from Black Mountain, she decided to create a one-day retreat for women — A Widow’s Tale.

Finding something lost: A sense of serenity and a connection to others are two of the things often lost in addiction, notes Craig White of First Step Farm. But those are also the very two things this farm-based recovery program seeks to grow.

Harvesting serenity: First Step Farms uses agricultur­e to overcome addiction

First Step Farms WNC is two farmsteads, both located on historic farmland in Candler. One site grows vegetable starts for small farms; the other grows flowers for weddings and school graduations. But the farms’ primary purpose goes beyond agriculture — the two sites are home to a substance abuse recovery program that uses farming to restore self-confidence in recovering addicts.

FRESH START: Claire Orenzow says she feels like a new woman after having valve-in-valve replacement surgery on her heart at Mission Hospital.

Mission offers new heart surgery option

When Claire Orenzow’s replacement heart valve failed eight years after it was surgically implanted, the symptoms were excruciating. But doctors at Mission Hospital were able to repair Orenzow’s heart with a new procedure called valve-in-valve replacement that offers significant benefits over traditional open-heart surgery, and Orenzow says she left the hospital a few days after the operation feeling like a new woman.

CALL ME HARLEY: After selling his house, most of his possessions and quitting his job, 58-year-old Henry Wasserman, under trail-name Harley, began his Appalachian journey on March 19. All photos courtesy of Wasserman.

Transforma­tive journey: Appalachia­n Trail thru-hiker reconsider­s his life path

On February 18, Xpress published “Tales from the Trail,” detailing the experiences of Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Gary Sizer. In the story, we met Henry Wasserman, who was seeking a transformative experience on the A.T. On March 19 Wasserman began his months-long trek north, trudging mile after mile through red Georgia clay.

Dying to Live Theatre at the Altamont

Third Messenger group explores the sacred art of being and dying

A growing movement in Asheville is seeking to make conversations about death more commonplace: Through an ever-evolving series of public art installments and performances that began in early 2014 , locally based Third Messenger has been offering Ashevilleans the chance to share their stories surrounding death and to contemplate their own mortality.

FINDING FRACE AND GOD: "Why do I argue with people who don't agree with me? Because when they go home at night, they've got to think about this stuff."

Straddling frontiers: Out to the Nations conference tries to reconcile Christian, LGBTQ community

It’s no secret that the Christian and LGBTQ communities have often found themselves at odds — each a thorn in the other’s side. But the Out to the Nations conference intends to reaches out to LGBTQ people in the Southeast who’ve felt ostracized or hurt by the church, offering them the possibility of finding a new path and personal connection with God.