Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Volunteer Heroes

I’ve been struggling for days to decide what to write regarding my feelings about the tragedy that struck our community last week. In all honesty, I’ve been struggling to even verbalize my feelings about it and it takes a lot to make me speechless. It is so hard to grasp a tragedy like this, so hard to comprehend.
For those who read my blog and aren’t from Ontario or haven’t heard about the devastating news, last Thursday, March 17th, I opened my facebook page just after supper the read repeated messages from people in my local area who were thinking and praying for the volunteer firemen who’d lost their lives. I searched local media sources to find out more info and quickly learned that a fire in my municipality had broke out at a store, 6 different fire detachments were battling the blaze and it had resulted in the unbelievable loss of two volunteer firemen from the area. I desperately began to search for what detachment these 2 men were from, thinking of those firefighters from our community who I knew were there… our friends, Dad’s of our kids friends, members of our church, coaches of our kids sports teams, neighbours and fellow Kin family members and hoping that it wasn’t one of these people, not one of the North Perth Firemen, though I knew it didn’t really matter. When I learned the men were from Listowel and Atwood my heart sank and when I learned that one of them was, indeed, someone I knew of from Kin, I could feel the sting of tears.
It was a surreal experience the next day as I went to Listowel to carry on with the planned Kinsmen and Kinette event. Everywhere you looked there was media present, every corner I turned I came across barriers blocking roads, vehicles on normally empty streets and people watching for the crippling moment when the bodies of these firemen would be taken from the burnt out building.
All around me all weekend were reminders of how much these men impacted our community and how much a crisis like this affects everyone. Tears, hugs, and shocked looks seemed everywhere. How could this have happened to one of our own? How could this have happened to a volunteer fireman?
The media attention that this crisis produced was almost overwhelming. Everywhere you turned there were media vehicles, reporters, cameras, videographers. It felt so invasive and intrusive. I couldn’t believe how much I hated it and yet how much I wanted to watch the footage at home. I began to realize how much those who aren’t affected by crisis really don’t appreciate the pain that those who are experience when their lives become so public.
The other thing that became overwhelming to me was actually a good thing in a sense. It was a feeling of comradeship, of friendship and of belonging. I haven’t been in the family of Kin for a long time… 14 months or so. I haven’t participated as much as I would have liked until recently and suddenly I found myself with my Kin brothers and sisters in the midst of a crisis and knowing that we were helping each other to cope, to survive. I am so proud to call myself a member of Kin Canada.
This moment was first apparent to me as our group gathered together with our Paddyfest attire on, black bands on our arms and walked on to the stage at the dance as a family. The entire crowd, over 1200 people, were very quickly silent as we offered up a moment of silence for our fellow Kin Ray and his fellow fireman, Ken. It gave me hope for humanity and it also made me feel so connected to this group. The second time this became apparent was the following day as our Kin family once again joined together and walked the parade route in honour of Ray. It was a surreal experience….this quiet group of friends walking along as people on the streets looked on. Many had tears in their eyes as they grieved the loss of a member of their community, others had tears or looks of compassion as they watched our groups faces, very somber, many hurting. Hard moments for me came as people would clap for us as it made me realize just how much everyone respected this organization I belonged to, an organization known for supporting others, supporting their community and so in need of support right now. Harder moments though came as our group encountered firefighters openly weeping and harder yet, encountering Ray’s parents and family and finally his wife, Holly. It was at this moment that I first felt the need to cry and weep for all that our community had lost.
Later that day, at home, I did this. I cried for the loss of these good men and I cried for the loss of our innocence in a sense. We, humanity, is so na├»ve to the risks that volunteer firemen take each and every time they go out on a call. We seem to know the risks for police officers and soldiers and perhaps even for those professional firefighters who fight huge blazes in large urban centres. But most of us have never given a thought to those, mostly unpaid, volunteers who gather every few weeks to train to fight fires, who give their time and sadly their lives to keep us safe. I never really understood this risk, this sacrifice and I wish that I didn’t know it as closely as I do now…and I’m pretty sure all of the citizens protected by the firemen of North Perth would agree with me.
I can promise you that I will never forget it again and I will not forget to support them in the days, weeks and months ahead. Nor will I ever forget again to say thank you to these volunteer heroes.
Ray and Ken – you will be sadly missed and never forgotten for the ultimate sacrifice you made. This Irish blessing seems only fitting given the date of your passing…
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Parent’s Pain

I wasn’t really planning for a theme but it seems I have another blog post that ties into the first song on my playlist and my final thoughts about it. They came to me at a strange time after a long and tiring day. I have recently begun reading a magazine called Guildposts. It’s a Christian magazine with stories about regular people and famous ones too….and how they’ve found faith, found hope….found God. Admittedly it’s filled with too many ads and some features I could take or leave but last night I read an article that really spoke to me.
This women was writing about God speaking to her at various points in her life. She was being treated for breast cancer and during one of her treatments she began to feel very alone, isolated and full of fear and worry.
But she also began to feel God’s love in way that she never had before and through eyes that had never seen it this way before. She remembered times that she had seen her own children afraid and hurt and remembered the times she had worried about them. She remembered those experiences and the fierce love it have evoked in her for her children.
And then she began to realize that was what God felt for her, times infinity. She’d been told her whole life that she was a child of God but she didn’t really appreciate it fully until then and she knew that God would see her through.
So here I was reading this last night and suddenly I felt a connection that had never occurred to me before either. Both the one that the author realizes but also another one, a much more powerful one to me.
There have been many moments in my life when I have worried about my kids. When Zack was born and didn’t cry, wasn’t able to breathe much at all I worried. When the doctor thought he might have cystic fibrosis I worried. When Brycen’s heart rate dropped below mine during labour and I needed an emergency c-section the fear in my heart was overwhelming. When Cameron and Cole were diagnosed with TTTS at 23 weeks gestation and we were told they were not viable if born then and that without surgery there was 100% chance we would lose one and likely both I was beyond concerned, beyond anxious, beyond fearful. When we learned Cole’s heart was very sick, that he was very sick, I was stressed beyond belief and when we learned he had passed away I was devastated. I didn’t think I could be more afraid then I was for Cameron when we went through the treatments for his severe anemia, during the MRI done on his brain or in the days that followed both of these. But I was wrong…I was shattered when my water broke and we were prepared by the medical staff to welcome our very premature, very small for his gestational age and likely very sick son.
And of course the worries didn’t stop there…for any of my kids. I worried about how the time I spent away would affect my older boys, I worried for Cameron’s health. I was concerned for the lack of transition time that Brycen especially had from being the baby to being the big brother. To be honest, that worry is still very much apart of our lives as we watch how he interacts with Cameron (not so well would be the observation). I was very stressed about Cameron’s development…okay I am still worried about this at times. I worry about social interactions with my boys, I worry about how our, crappy at times, parenting will affect them… I think I could go on forever.
A parents worry never goes away. A very good friend, our old minister Theresa, spoke at Cameron's baptism about the worry that parents have when pregnancy doesn’t go as planned and when parenthood doesn’t go as planned. She spoke about turning those worries over to God because sometimes you worry so much that you miss out on what’s happening around you. And she’s so right…I definitely feel that way about the arrival of my twins. I was so full of worry about Cameron’s health and so full of stress concerning Cole’s body condition after 11 lifeless weeks inside of me that I could not appreciate the moment for what it was, could not bring myself to hug, kiss or even touch my precious son.
But this author and her words have made me realize something even more important. For as much as we worry about our children, God worries about us. For as much as we are fearful for the crisis that our children are in, God is fearful for the crisis we are in and what choices it may cause us to make.
For me, it comes back to my heartfelt belief, God does not want horrible things to happen, He does not wish us this pain, this worry, this fear. Our pain hurts Him too. But just as our children learn to lean on us when they are in pain, are afraid or are worried, so must we learn to lean on God when we are put in situations with our children and with other aspects of our life.
We are so truly blessed to have a Father that cares so much for us that He’s willing to endure the most horrible pain so that we won’t have to. All we have to do is lean on him and let him wrap us in His arms the way we wrap our own loved ones in ours.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I Won't Let Go

Over the last few days I’ve been hearing this song, I Won’t Let Go by Rascal Flatts every morning on my way to work. It’s a beautiful song…hopefully you can hear it on here and here are the lyrics.
I Won’t Let Go – Rascal Flatts
It’s like a storm
That cuts a path
It’s breaks your will
It feels like that
You think your lost
But you’re not lost on your own
You’re not alone
I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
If you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won’t let go
It hurts my heart
To see you cry
I know it’s dark
This part of life
Oh it finds us all
And we’re too small
To stop the rain
Oh but when it rains
I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
And you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won’t let you fall
Don’t be afraid to fall
I’m right here to catch you
I won’t let you down
It won’t get you down
Your gonna make it
Yea I know you can make it
Cause I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
And you can’t cope
And I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won’t let go
Oh I’m gonna hold you
And I won’t let go
Won’t let you go
No I won’t

It says exactly what I felt I had and have in some amazing people in my life and today I want to pay tribute to them and comment further on this song…. And forgive me…this is going to be a long post!!
I was and am so blessed to have some people in my life who have stood by me my whole life, in good times and bad, in happiness and sadness. The first who come to mind are my family… my parents, my brothers and their wives and kids. My parents are the perfect example of what I think all parents should be like. I’d like to think that everyone’s parents would support them through every part of their lives like mine have but I know that isn’t always the case, I know that I am truly blessed to have my awesome Mom and Dad. I know they don’t always agree with what I’ve done or do and sometimes I hear about it but most times they sit back and let me figure it out for myself. But more than that they have been there for me when my life became a crisis, when I couldn’t find my way up or down, when I needed someone to help me pick up the pieces and when I desperately needed to be held, have my tears wiped (and my forehead in the middle of a life saving procedure…thanks Dad!). I know that it hurt them to see me cry…and it still does….and I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t pretty teary right now. I am so very grateful for all they’ve done and all they continue to do for me, for my family.
I have so many wonderful friends that have held me up, dried my tears and been my rock. I am not going to mention them all and I apologize ahead of time if I didn’t include you on this post…there are so many and only so much room. My BFF, my dearest most wonderful friend who cyber held me, held me up over the phone and sent packages, money and love through the mail lives in Arizona. Charlotte and I have been the best of friends since the early 90’s and we’ve had a great many adventures together. She always knows the right thing to say to make me laugh and to make me cry. She knows when I need her and she knows just what to share and what to keep to herself. She has the most amazing faith and during our TTTS journey she sent many messages of that faith. At the time, I admit, it really was more than I could accept at times. I just wasn’t there yet, I just wasn’t ready. I’m still miles behind but I see the God she’s been telling about and I try so hard to live the way He wants me to and use her as a role model to do it. I love her like a sister…she really is the sister I never had.
I also have some dear friends in the community of Lucknow who I’ve come to cherish and hold dear. These girls and their families had become a part of our lives years before our crisis began and though we didn’t see each other often, we always seemed to be able to pick up right where we left off when we got together again. When our family crisis hit these girls amazed me. Denise had had a closer relationship with me than the others but I soon came to realize that I now had some of the most amazing friends in this little group. Kerry and Denise came to see me in the hospital, they brought and sent packages of food and treats, they called, they emailed, the commented on the blog and they were there for all of us. They came and cleaned my house, more than once (and Lucknow is almost an hour away!). They offered their help before and during our memorial service and gave us a wonderful gift to use in Cole’s garden. This group of friends is a newer one in my life, 8 years old or less (Denise and I met in triage when Zack was born) and yet I feel, and know, that I could and can count on them for anything! I feel close to them now and am so happy to have them holding me up as they do so often on my crappy days.
I am blessed with friends like this in our community too, friends who went above and beyond the call of duty when looking after my kids (as in the case of our amazing babysitter, Cheryl), friends who drove down to see me on a regular basis when I was in the hospital (Christine, Sue, Tracey, Cheryl to name a few) and friends throughout the community who remember when it is a special day or a memory day…or just a day where I look like I could use a hug.
And I am so blessed to have a huge group of cyber friends who offer support all the time. They are an amazing group of people who have struggled with TTTS, twin loss, baby loss or crisis and they have helped me get through some very dark and confusing times. Most especially I would like to pay tribute to my friends at Fetal Hope; Tammy and Lonnie, who called me, answered tough questions and did research for me and to Ali Morgan who was my first real cyber TTTS mommy friend who talked me through tough times at time when she struggled herself to come to grips with what had happened in her life. My friends Tara and Matt, parents of Cole’s namesake, Noah Cole and Jack Lawrence have no idea the magnitude of what they’ve done for me. They have allowed me to feel hope again in the TTTS world and helped me to overcome my feelings of anger and animosity towards those who were lucky enough to beat this dreadful disease. There are countless of these type of cyber friends….thanks for holding me, you have no idea what it means to me.
Really all over my life there are friends like this. I am so blessed to have people who won’t let me go, who hold me up, dry my tears, who hold me tight and fight my fight. I truly hope that I have and can continue to be that kind of person for someone else but I fear that I am selfish at times and don’t give back as much as I should. But I don’t do things for others for thanks or gratitude, I don’t offer support, hold them up or wipe away (mostly their cyber) tears for any other reason than I want to give it back. I will admit that I was touched when, in mentioning my blog post subject to Tara, she sent me this message when I said I’d write about how there are people who hold us up when we can’t stand anymore, who wipe our tears when we are too tired to do it ourselves….
… like you were doing with us! You were the one person who helped us the most out side of hospital. Even family were not as involved as you. You always said the right things. You were great!!! Matt says the same about you. Through it all, you were the one person we could be truthful with and who would be truthful back and who didnt just say 'stay positive' that and 'fingers crossed' I hated them phrases, drove me mad in the end; You listened and knew what we were going through. You were the only one who could be there 100% for that what we will always be grateful.... you didn't brush me off once. Cole lives in you still, you're both Angels.
And when I think of that way that makes me think of the words of this song from a different perspective…and that is exactly what came to me as I drove to work this morning. I was thinking of the first type of message I got from this song which lead me to think of Cole. And suddenly I just felt this strong urge to say thanks to God for holding me, for fighting my fight and holding me tight and drying my tears. I, suddenly, felt so close to Cole and felt like I was getting a message right from God. He will stand by you and help you through. When you’ve done all you can do and you can’t cope, He will dry your eyes, fight your fight and He will hold you tight. I am very certain that my little angel does these things for me too…for all of our family. We just need to open our minds to the possibilities, the places, the feelings that bring our little Cole to our minds..and that’s just where he might be.
I hope you all have someone in your life who can hold you tight and fight your fight because we all need those people in our lives..but know that you always have ‘someone’ there who does that for you…all you have to do is believe, and ask in the form of prayer. All it takes is faith.