This post is #195 in a series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during and following our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that period from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.
Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Brad and I returned home from the Respite Retreat still basking in the glow of the new relationships we'd formed, the things we'd learned from spending time with other bereaved parents, and a renewed hope that it was still possible to have joy in life in spite of our great loss.
We had a strong sense that God was calling us into a similar type ministry for those who had lost children, but we had no idea how to move forward with it. We talked about it a lot, and we sought God's direction, but we just didn't have any kind of catalyst to push us forward.
Then we met Larry and Janice Brown. Their son Adam, a member of Navy SEAL Team SIX, had been killed in action in Afghanistan just six months previously. We had attended the same church with them for a number of years but didn't really know them. Our church is fairly large, and we sit on opposite sides of the sanctuary ... and you know how it is ... you just don't move much outside of your comfort zone in the pews around you when it comes to meeting new people. Or maybe that's just me. They're also a little older than we are, so they were in a different Sunday School department and traveled in a different circle of friends. We just had never really had an occasion to get to know them.
But after Adam went to Heaven, we had a desire to get to know them. They were greeters at the back door of our church where we entered every Sunday morning, and one day, we invited them to go out for lunch with us. They agreed, and we made a plan to meet at a Mexican restaurant after church.
Janice freely admits that she really didn't want to go to lunch with us that day. She didn't think we would have anything in common. They had a 36-year-old son who died in war, we had a 17-year-old daughter who died of cancer ... our stories really couldn't be any more different. But she graciously agreed to go, and I'm so glad she did!
I remember exactly which booth we sat in that day, but I don't remember what we ordered to eat. We were so busy talking, I'm not sure we even ate what we ordered! Janice's concern that we would have nothing to talk about quickly dissolved as we discovered the common bond that every bereaved parent shares. Three hours flew by as we sat in that cramped little booth.
At some point that afternoon we shared with the Browns about the retreat we had recently attended and what an encouragement it had been to us. We told them how we felt that God was leading us to start a ministry like this in our area, adding that we just weren't quite sure how to get started.
And these dear folks, who we were meeting for the very first time, said, "Let's do it."
We were a little taken aback at first. Really? Let's do it? Are you serious?
So we started seriously discussing the idea. The first hurdle was determining a location where we could possibly host these retreats. We brainstormed a bit and thought of a Christian day camp in our area called Family Farm. We knew that the wonderful couple who run it had lost a son many years previously and we thought they might be open to hosting us. We decided that spring would be a great time of year to have our first retreat. We even tossed around some ideas for a name for this fledgling ministry.
We left the restaurant that day with a plan to contact the folks who run Family Farm and see if they would be willing to host a retreat for bereaved parents in the spring. Brad gave them a call that evening, and they didn't hesitate for a moment. Our first While We're Waiting Weekend for Bereaved Parents was scheduled for April 1-3, 2011.
It literally happened that quickly. When God said it was time, it was time.
To be continued ...