Monday, March 29, 2010

Faith's Lodge

Our family was sponsored by a group of selfless individuals in Minnesota to spend the weekend at “Faith’s Lodge” in Northern Wisconsin. They had learned of our story through a friend and chose us as the first family they would like to help. What a selfless act from people we have never even met! A million thanks does not convey our gratitude enough.
Faith’s Lodge is a place for families who have lost a child or whose child is terminally ill. We were able to spend the weekend with other families in our same situation and had an immediate connection with them. What an amazing time it was!
The history of Faith’s Lodge as well as pictures can be found on the website, I could try to do it justice by describing it but I would fail. It was simply divine and no detail was left out. Please check out this amazing organization and keep them in mind if you learn of families that may benefit from attending ( or ever want to donate to a fantastic cause.
It was so wonderful for us to have the time to spend away from barking dogs, laundry, work, traffic et cetera. We spent lots of time in the kids play room (Kate’s favorite), doing arts and crafts, hiking, making s’mores by the campfire, and sharing our story and the story of JACK! with the other families.
We made a “Heart Stone” which involved choosing a stone and painting it in honor of your loved one to be placed along the “Path of Inspiration” at the lodge. When we arrived, we went hiking and picked out a large rock that we brought back to wash and paint. We were later told that we needed to return it because those were used for the retaining wall. If they had ever met Jack, they would know why we wanted a large rock instead of one that would fit in the palm of your hand. We painted Jack’s rock (a smaller one that we found) a bright sea blue and placed it next to a small pine tree that looked bright and effervescent amid the brown colors awaiting the coming of spring. Of course, while choosing the spot, placing it and taking a moment to take a few deep breaths, Kate kept busy picking up other rocks and moving them. The Heart Stone which came from Lake Superior is supposed to represent the journey of grief…sometimes there are rough waters, sometimes smooth but despite the tough journey from the bottom of the lake to the shore, it made it! Just like us! We’re making it…
In the center of the lodge was a table to place photos of your loved one. Of course I could not choose just one picture of the J-Boogie so I had an accordion style photo book with 16 pictures. Everyone commented on his smile when looking at his pictures and I loved having his picture on display in a place where people didn’t think it was “weird” or think “that poor family” or “that’s the boy that died.” We felt so bonded to the other families and I knew that to them, a piece of Jack was still alive, as the spirit of their children was to us. It was a place to feel connected to Jack while we enjoyed our new “norm” of our family being three (for 5 more months anyway!).
I realized while we were there that a weight lifted off my shoulders. When going to Faith’s Lodge and knowing we were going because of Jack, for whatever reason, I felt like I would relive everything. I realized as we were there that we never have to relive that awful evening or those tumultuous days that came after ever again. Each day that goes by puts me farther away from that awful time. The story does not change, it gets easier to tell and our “new norm” is more normal everyday. Everyday that goes by I am working through it and healing more. Some people may see it as “But you haven’t had him for so long.” I see it as “The more days I continue to survive after that time/trauma/devastating event that could have crushed me, my family, my marriage and my spirit and I didn’t allow it, the better! I choose to celebrate Jack and all our great memories!” (I like to think this makes Jack proud of his family.) I know that tragedy can strike our family at anytime but I will never lose Jack again. In realizing that, it has opened my heart and my head even more to embrace who Jack was, the memories we had with him and to be filled with love instead of sadness and grief. “That Night” (which is how I refer to that awful time) has lost so much power as I realized this. Yes! Of course the tears still come but not as frequent and not with the intensity as before. The power of the mind is an amazing thing and not something that I will ever take for granted.