When I thought about what to write this week, I came up with quite a few topics:
- Running in the heat (which I will get to – but probably next week)
- Breath tips for running (again, I’ll touch on this another time)
- Our families first year celebrating John’s life and birthday without him at the table
- Sophie completing The Gathering Place’s Animal Camp
However, during my long run today I got to thinking about the last two on that list.
(It wasn’t as hot out as last week so the first was only slightly out of my mind).
What would’ve been John’s 76th birthday has come and gone.
Very fitting, Sophie also completed animal camp* through The Gathering Place this week which concluded with a ceremony at the Berea Animal Rescue Friends Shelter.
*The Animal Camp is a program designed to help children cope when someone they love is diagnosed or has passed from cancer. Children are led through a variety of activities including reiki, yoga, swimming, rock climbing, animal interaction and more. The goal is to teach children the importance of dealing with their emotions and expand their communication skills. It also allows children to interact with peers who have also been impacted by cancer.
Both events this week caused a lot of emotion to come up for me. One morning, I woke up and I sat alone with Oscar and I cried. I had this idea in my head that admitting to crying, especially in the last few years, would somehow make me less respectable or weak.
But I did. I cried the type of cry where you are slightly uncontrollable, tears just coming out completely unwarranted without an ability to really control it. The ugly type of crying where your eyes swell and your nose is all clogged and you are basically a complete blubbering mess.
^^^ Yea. That was me.
But after I peeled myself out of bed, I took Oscar on a walk and I pulled myself together. I was obsessing over the “wont’s” that are inevitable when anyone dies. Which doesn’t do much good when they wouldn’t have done that themselves.
No, my mom and John will not be there if I ever marry. They won’t be there to sample if I ever successfully bake something from scratch. They won’t ever cook me Sunday dinner again – or let me do my laundry at their house. They just won’t – the list goes on and on.
But celebrating John’s birthday with my sisters also proved that just because they are gone, doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate their lives. Every holiday will get a little easier, every birthday less hard. It just takes time.
We celebrated John’s life exactly how he would’ve wanted – with pizza and cake. That’s all he wanted. Nothing fancy and we kept it just that way. Right down to the homemade cake that Sophie made him with Steelers colors.
It was her idea to celebrate and while I didn’t realize it when Vicky told me about the idea, it was EXACTLY what we all needed. Just time together to lighten the mood of the day.
Healing for all ages
Sophie’s first father figure was John. Her ‘Pap-Pap.’ He wasn’t the typical grandfather given the situation and he embraced the role as grandFATHER.
So when he passed, Sophie was impacted in a way I can’t even put into words.
This past week she was able to cope with some of that through the Gathering Place. She did yoga (which she already loves to do with me).
She also did reiki, mediated, rock climbed, etc. She even took care of a cat – Sunny.
During the camp, the kids all got to interact and bond with a cat to help teach them about caregiving. At the end of the camp, the kids got to write a letter to the potential owners of the cats and Sophie gave her “speech” with so much happiness and excitement. She really enjoyed it and I’m happy my sister was able to sign her up.
Not all of Sophie’s sadness or confusion was eliminated from the camp. Vicky, Jim and her all have a very open dialogue and it will be a continued work in progress as she grieves – but it was honestly beautiful to see her excited about helping animals and being a part of the camp this week.
It is programs like The Animal Camp that hit the nail on the head when it comes to how important the organization is in our community. If you or someone you know would benefit from their free services, reach out and get involved.
And my shameless plug this week: If you would like to give to The Gathering Place to support their free offerings, consider donating today!