I’ll never forget the first time I saw it. I was absentmindedly scrolling through my Facebook feed and there it was. A picture with their names. All three of them. I remember my thumb freezing mid-air as I stared at my phone screen. I had never seen their names together before. Sure, I had said their names aloud more times that one could count, but never had I seen them written. The picture was from Outback in the Ozarks, a race that a fellow loss mom had just completed. Team Mercy is an incredible nonprofit that provides connections to resources for families facing the death of a child, specifically siblings. Read more about Team Mercy at the bottom of this post. I had been following Allison’s running all weekend as she ran in memory of children and in honor of their siblings. I admire her greatly for many reasons, one of them being that she is an incredible athlete, one thing that I am not. I can’t run to the mailbox let alone compete in a marathon or participate in a 200 mile relay which is what Outback in the Ozarks is. The photo is simple. The names are written on the window of what looks to be a 15 passenger van. But to me, this photo means everything. It will always be a gift I will treasure because someone recognized that my family has three children. I was so surprised and touched that she was running in memory of my son Max and in honor of my two daughters.
I was surprised because I have only met Allison once. A high school friend told me about someone that she went to college with named Allison and her daughter Mercy a year ago, during a visit at Christmas. I wrote her name down and added her to my list of people to contact. After A Memory Grows was launched Allison actually reached out to me. We met for lunch one day and talked and talked and talked. And, the next thing I knew, she was running a race hundreds of miles away remembering my Max and thinking of our entire family.
It is a bond like no other. When you put two people in a room that are complete strangers but share this journey of out-living their children an immediate bond and connection is formed. You may have known one another for 10 minutes but you feel like you’ve known each other for a lifetime. Finally, someone understands what you mean when you say certain things. It’s safe to laugh one second and cry the next. It is okay to say things that the rest of the world cannot handle to hear or ask questions that no one should ever have to verbalize. To be able to just sit and be who you are in that moment is the most freeing and liberating thing. To be able to tell your story and your child’s story and say their name over and over and over again and not have someone tell you that you need to stop or be over it or ask if you are okay is the greatest gift. That is the bond that is like no other.
Thankfully, I have been fortunate to have this bond happen over and over, usually in the most random of places. In Starbucks, online, in Chick-fil-A, at the zoo, in the middle of a garden, at a support group meeting, on a retreat, in line at a store and even over the phone. If it were not for these bonds that turned into friendships I do not know where I would be.
A Memory Grows is here to facilitate these connections and bonds. This is a lonely journey but you do not ever have to face it alone. Our retreats and special events are safe spaces to get away from the world and connect with others who understand. We all could use a friend who ‘gets it’ on this journey. Another way that love carries on and our children continue to live is through the bonds that we form with one another. We hope to connect with you soon!
On the journey with you,
TeamMercy.org assists grieving families, specifically the siblings, through the one of life’s most difficult tragedies, by providing funding for an existing activity for those siblings through Mercy’s Gift: a grant providing funding for an existing extra-curricular, academic, or mental health related. Check out this incredible resource at teammercy.org.