Okizu again

Camp Okizu. What a gift this place is to families impacted by pediatric cancer. . From the child themselves to the parents to the siblings.. something individual and special for each and everyone.

As soon as I got back from Seattle it was time to jump ion the car and drive to our family bereavement camp. The kids were great on the drive and Tony and I did a great job working together to prep for it.

I get lost walking from my kitchen to the bathroom .. I have no sense of direction. But I remembered so much of this drive. We made it a year ago. So quickly after she died. On the drive this time I felt so much older, so much more seasoned in the world of child loss. Just a year.. Its still feels so new.. Yet it is engrained in me, a complete piece of me. .. A whole new me.

As we neared the Camp Okizu it started to rain. Just like last year. The staff knew us right away and but most importantly they knew our kids. They understood these 3 distinct different needs walking in the door. That is the comfort of walking into the door of a place that is versed in the multiple languages of pediatric cancer.

Charlotte is my first child to like coloring this young
Charlotte is my first child to like coloring this young

We got settled in our cabin that was at the complete end of the huge gorgeous campus. We all got situated and headed up to the lodge. The kids jumped in pretty quickly.. I am not sure if they remembered being there before or if it was just the comfort in knowing that everybody else in the place this weekend understood.. knew and was like them.

The boys loved ping pong
The boys loved ping pong

I realized how much I felt that way. I have a shadow with me always.. of my oldest child. that nobody else can see. I am a outward mother of 3 to most people.

But I am. I always will be a mother of 4 (or more). At camp though I was a outward mother of 4. ALWAYS. I knew she was seen as I saw their children. I didn’t know details at first for many of the families.. but I knew, I saw their shadow.

I always want to take a light.. shine it so others see her. I don’t think I realized how much pressure being a outward mother of 3.. but a true mother of more takes on me. The comfort in not having to do that was incredible.

and so hard to come back from

JENNIFER JENNIFER JENNIFER

Please know her. Please remember her. She was here. She is gone. But she is mine. She will always count. She will always have a presence not the way we want her to..

but she is mine.okizuagain7

Saturday the kids had time in their own groups and we had time in a parent group. Its so surreal at times to hear other parents talk.. and for a moment wonder how they survive.. Then remember.. we are too. I didn’t cry. I hate that sometimes. That I feel like I am so cold in those settings.. but it seems to just not be part of my genetic make-up. I am a crier. I am highly emotional. But I am also private. (I know I know but I share here, but somehow that is so different)

After that was family time, it was pouring rain but the boys wanted to go hike to the ropes course. Due to my “great preparation” of packing before my Seattle trip we had no rain gear. So we got a bit too soaked and the boys asked to turn around so we did.

Of course right as we got back the rain clouds cleared away! But we decided to go inside to play for a bit. Then we headed over to do archery. There are so many options at Camp!

Nicholas getting a little bit of help
Nicholas getting a little bit of help

The kids loved it and were actually pretty quick little learners. We were the only family there for most of the time so it worked out perfectly.

Jonathan on his own
Jonathan on his own

At night we did a campfire. Nicholas was up and dancing and trying his best to learn all the words to the songs. It was pretty adorable.

The next morning we got up and packed. We had to head out earlier than most families since we had such a long drive. But we got to participate in a beautiful and meaningful ceremony to honor each other and the children that brought us to camp. Tony and I were able to be present for it in part because one of the volunteers took Charlotte on a little walk for us. .. Those little things are part of what makes this place so amazing.

Charlotte is rarely a quiet or sedentary little girl
Charlotte is rarely a quiet or sedentary little girl

We made great time home and it felt so good to be back in my own bed that night.. But I know since then I have felt more aware of how different I feel than most people. How alone.. how sad.. how desperately I want people to see and know of my daughter.. Though you can’t see her I spend just as much time on her in a day as I do the 3 you can see. Jennifer is forever six and forever my child. A current and constant part of my life, my  time and my energy.

and you are still so very

worth it.

okizuagain9…until there is a cure..

15 Responses to “Okizu again”

  1. I truly love this beautiful little girl, that I only see once in the store, thank you Libby for sharing her with me <3<3<3

  2. Libby, I again don’t know what to say except that she matters. Jennifer, sweetie, you matter, and you are missed more than even your mom’s beautiful writing can express.

  3. I don’t know if this is the right thing to say, or if there’s ever a right thing to say, but Libby I want to thank you for allowing strangers like me to see and know your Jennifer through your writing. I feel terribly sad and guilty saying that, because I wish more than anything that you never had cause to write this blog, that Jennifer was still living and breathing. But I guess what I mean is in the face of unspeakable pain, you have found a way to honour anf celebrate your daughter in the most beautiful way I can think of, and it’s this that I admire and want to thank you for.

  4. Libby,
    Not one day has passed since hearing of Jennifer that I have not thought of her multiple times throughout the day. You and your family are in my thoughts always.

  5. What a beautiful, powerful post. I’m so glad that you all got to go to camp, and be around people that completely understand what you are going through. I know I speak for thousands of people when I say that Jennifer will NEVER be forgotten. She will always be remembered, and always be important. When I think of you, I think of you as a mother to 4.5 children. I say her name often, and spread her story to those I love, in hopes that someone else will learn the grim truth about pediatric cancer. She will be remembered.

  6. LIbby-I want you to know I don’t go a day without thinking of Jennifer. I not a big post-er, and I don’t think I’m the exception. I know so many people who know of, and think of, your beautiful Jennifer. She, you and the family, have made a significant difference in the lives of so many. Most of whom will not share with you that they hear your message, other than to hit the “like” button. They so, however, have the pediatric cancer conversation with their friends, family and anyone who will listen. I hope you truly know the impact your sharing of Jennifer’s story has had on myself and so many others. She will never be forgotten. Love for JLK forever.

  7. We will not forget her! I think of her often, and Sadie talks about her a lot too…we are trying to keep her memory alive in our home. I still pray for you every day. She was a special light to the world and will be remembered for always.

  8. Oh, no doubt, sweet, precious Jennifer is with each and everyone of us! Continued prayers for you beautiful family.

  9. Your beautiful Jennifer will never be forgotten. Never. I think about her everyday. She is a part of my heart forever and always. You all are. LOVE4JLK ♡

  10. Jonathan looks like a natural up there!

    I’ll always remember Jennifer and her story. And the way you’ve made me care about the battle so many children face.

  11. I know and love Okizu. I went ages 13-18 and it was a place that made me feel like I didn’t have to explain my cancer story because we ALL had cancer stories. I know the feeling you’re talking about, the lifted weight of not having to tell or explain what is constantly on your mind. “Yes, I had cancer. Yes I lost my leg and was bald and had chemo. You had something similar, but none of us care because we’re all here together, so let’s go find Tajar or shoot some arrows.”

    I hope Jennifer’s brothers and sister can go to SIBS camp and know the total joy that is OKIZU. It changed my life and I bet it will change theirs, too.

    Sending much love to you tonight, one Okizuite (is that right?) to another. 🙂
    Xoxo

  12. Thank God for Camp Okizu. I remember hearing ads for it on the radio when I lived in the Bay Area but it never truly penetrated what that camp meant.
    No one will ever forget Jennifer or stop thinking about her. She is with us, and we fight in her memory to change the fates of new families about to face what you faced. We’ll flutter, run, give 12, do anything we can for her. She was and IS important.

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