Monday, July 19, 2010

Walk to Remember

It was Sunday morning, July 4, 2010. I woke up bright and early at 5:45am. Got picked up shortly after and headed down to Arlington, Va.

I was about to participate in my first Compassionate Friends Walk to Remember.

The 33rd TCF National Conference took place in our old neck of the woods this year, just a stone throw from D.C. While making a trip to Md to visit with friends and family I was able to participate in this very special part of the conference.

The 11th annual walk to remember was participated by an estimated 1400+ people this year. It was humbling to be among them.

Far as you could see down the 2 miles stretch there were a stream of white shirts... hundreds of people gathered together to participate.

One of my most special lifelong friends came along to be by my side as we walked in memory of those lost too soon. Sarah and I have been through many tough moments together. We've shared many laughs, and many tears. Through thick and thin she is one of the few I know I can call and count on for anything. Though miles now seperate us, and time lapses between visits, Sarah is one of those friends that you just pick right back up where you left off. I can't imagine having anyone else with me for this event and I am so thankful she was there.

The walk is a 2 mile walk for bereaved parents, grandparents, friends and relatives to remember those children who were taken from us far too soon. It is a place where we all share such an amazing common bond and feel like a unique type of family. Not many words need to be spoken and no questions are asked when things may seem odd. Tears are welcomed and expected yet there is joy and laughter in the midst of the sadness.

Many carried signs from their local Compassionate Friends chapter with photos of all their children, lost too soon. Volunteers also carried names of children for those who could not physically attend the walk. An estimated 10,000 names were carried in memory.

A lovely "cheese" self portrait as we stopped by a beautiful fountain for a short break.

As I walked, I carried my cuddly blue "Brayden Bear" with me, which brought me such comfort as it always does. Though it hurt to see his name written on paper, I wore it on my back proudly. Its a special feeling to validate his life. There's nothing more important to a bereaved parent then knowing their child is being remembered, and their life being celebrated.

One of the highlights from the weekend was a very special meeting. After months of contact via email and online chat, I was able to meet a good friend Janet. It was great to finally give her a hug and be able to speak face to face. She is the amazingly creative woman who began Joe's Memory Bears and created my incredible, well loved Brayden Bears!
Janet, who also lost her son to a drowning accident, has been a big encouragement to me over the months and years since loosing Brayden. I am so thankful for the special part she plays in my life! Thank you Janet for everything!

Me, My favorite Brayden Bear, Janet, and her husband Dave

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lost Love.. Reclaimed

I love to swim. Always have. Pools, Beaches, Lakes, swim teams, water parks... they were all a big part of my childhood. Swimming laps is by far my choice and favorite form of excersize. We overjoyed to move 30 minutes from the beach. The chance to raise our children and grow up around the water was almost a dream come true.
...Until that dream, that love was shattered.
I convinced myself that I would never be able to enjoy swimming again. I felt robbed and cheated of something I love so much. It has been 2 years since I have been in a pool.

Over the 4th of July Holiday we made a trip up to Md to see my inlaws, lots of family and friends. It was a very nice time of visiting, relaxing, and catching up. On Monday, we were invited to go out to my sister-in-law's house so all the kids could play. My brother-in-law's uncle lives close by to them and has a really nice in-ground pool. We were invited to join them in going swimming.

...on a beautiful peice of property with a gorgeous view I might add!

At first I was very apprehensive about the idea and wasen't sure if we should. Yet, both the kids just finished their self-rescue swimming lessons with ISR, which I knew would give me some confidence and more peace of mind. We have talked about going swimming together, as a family for months (possible a year) Yet it has not happened.

This past Mother's Day, along with our friends from small group, we went swimming at a community pool. The kids has not taken lessons yet, and it was to be the first time in a "big pool!" I was a nervous wreck about it and could not get myself to get in. So behind the lens of my camera I hid myself, using that as my excuse for not getting in. It was hard to see them swimming, yet I was so thankful they were having such a good time.

Back to Md... I knew I needed to make the plunge. I knew it was time. I wanted to swim, I needed to swim, and this was to be a huge positive healing step for my family. So, I said yes, and we went.

We swam, we laughed, we photographed, and we genuinly had a really good time.

Thanie was such a little fish!! He had a blast and absolutely loved the pool.. and making big splashes jumping in over, and over, ...

Ellie loved it too after playing on the steps for a bit. Especially loved this big raft!

I had a great time.

We swam, in a pool, together, ... and enjoyed ourselves.


God is good.

Though I can't say that I didn't have thoughts, that the guilt didn't creep into my mind. I couldn't help but question how we could possibly be having fun doing something that is so closely related to the death of my precious baby boy. Was it wrong to find joy in something so painful?

Yet by HIS strength, I was put at peace. The story was not finished yet... and my God, the God of all Comfort is in the business of overcoming fears, offering Hope, and giving beauty for ashes.


Thanie showing off his new skills (;

"Cheese!" Lil Miss doing a lil sun bathing like her aunt Jessica !

We have not "arrived." We will never be "over it." But we are moving forward a step at a time, making strides and continuing through the journey. Reclaiming the love of swimming that always meant so much to me. Being made whole and receiving healing beyond what we could have ever imagined.

"Those who sow in tears, will reap Joy."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God's Timing

This past week has been a bit ...surreal.
It all started with an email I got notifying me of a contact through the Because of B.R.A.Y.D.E.N. website. I have gotten a few of those and most are spam or advertisers looking for money so I expected this would be just another one to disregard. The message simply stated, Call me asap with a phone number. I thought it was awfully strange. I looked at the name and the email address. It was a Post and Courier email.... and I began to think. Wow, Could this really be someone from our Charleston Newspaper?!? Is someone contacting me to write a story? It was a bit overwhelming and emotional and I didn't know what to think.
I received the message over the Holiday weekend so I was not surprised to get a voicemail when I called the number. Sure enough it was a reporter from our newspaper. I left a message and gave my number, hoping to hear back soon. On Tuesday I got the call again. It was David. He indeed wanted to know if we would be willing to share our story for an article he was writing on water safety. We talked for quite awhile and I had the opportunity not only to share our story, but to share about Because of B.R.A.Y.D.E.N. and all the exciting things that were happening.
It was almost too good to be true.
We didn't ask for this. We didn't go seeking out anyone. The opportunity just fell into our lap. An amazing opportunity to share our story and spread the word about water safety and the Water Safety Day just a month away.
The article came out yesterday, in the Your Health section of the Post and Courier Charleston paper. CLICK HERE to read the article! I am so incredible pleased at how well it was written. When I picked up the paper and read it in black and white, it hit hard. I was filled with emotions as the raw truth and pain of what we went through was in front of me. It was like reliving that day all over again. It was like putting my mistakes, my faults out there...Printed for all to see. Yet there was hope, beauty from Ashes portrayed as the story unfolded. Now, two years after such a tragic event, we are here. Starting a non profit, advocating for water safety, sharing our story of healing and restoration to bring others hope, planning our first event, and even swimming again.
My prayer is that it blesses someone else. My hearts desire is that even one life might be saved by hearing our story. I am in awe and humbled by the whole thing.
God's Timing never ceases to amaze me.
He truly does have all things worked out for the good, and I am believing more and more that the rest of our story is going to be more than we could ever ask or imagine.
It is not about me. It is not even about Brayden.
It is about the healing work that God has done through us and the opportunity that has been placed in front of us.
It just takes a step of faith.
It takes obedience.
It takes strength that only comes from above.
And I am so thankful.
Thankful for the lives that will be touched.
Thankful for the doors that are being opened.
Thankful for God's Timing.

"And now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us. To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. "
Ephesians 3:20-21