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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
…until there is a cure..