Saturday, May 20, 2017
"Keep their spirit alive...by keeping it alive in yourself" (GenCure/STBTC Memorial Garden Dedication)
Today was an emotional roller coaster...
I think most of you know about Rowan's dream to add 1 million people to the national bone marrow registry, which came about even before he left for Seattle for his own transplants. Actually, he really hoped to find 1 million matches for others in his lifetime, not just add 1 million "potential" donors. Jon from GenCure (whom Rowan shared this dream with the day before he left for Seattle), myself, and Ian, Rowan's brother, among many others...have committed to continue working towards that life goal of Rowan's, even after his death. So Ian and I have continued to make up swab kits, work bone marrow donor registration events, spread the word, etc.
When Jon asked me to attend a memorial garden dedication ceremony in San Antonio today, at the GenCure/Be The Match/South Texas Blood & Tissue Center location, I of course was very excited to do so. I thought it was a great idea, planting a garden for those who lost their lives either while waiting for matches, or because their disease took over during or after transplant. What I did not know, was how meaningful and overwhelming profound this ceremony would actually end up being today.
When I arrived, there was a beautiful cake, tables with rocks and sharpies, and about 10 families there representing their lost loved ones.
The staff spoke about how this dream became a reality, and how they hoped it would be a place to honor those who have passed, be a place for those who are grieving their loss, but also a way to continue their legacy. One by one, members of the families shared why they were there, who they had lost, and told stories about their loved ones.
One mother, who lost her son just 15 days before Rowan this year, bravely told the story of his passing, and shared the beauty of his life. Then she shared this quote, which I loved...and actually felt closely reflected how I try to cope daily.
I spoke for a brief moment too, told Rowan's story, and shared how he was helping me continue on day by day.
Then we each chose a rock, wrote messages to our loved ones, and created the first of the rocks to go in this memorial garden.
Then, they took us all outside to unveil the garden, which they hope will grow, bloom, expand, and be filled with rocks with messages for loved ones for years to come.
I placed my rock with light orange flecks, with my orange sharpie message, next to a beautiful orange flowering plant.
(Where else would I have chosen:)
The children were invited to help water the plants...
The garden truly was so beautiful, and such a labor of love...
So many of us had shared our stories inside, that instant bonds were made. It's a club no one wants to join, we don't want to ever add members, or invite our friends to join, but once you become a member of this club...you have an immediate connection to others going through the same grief process. It is one of the beautiful parts of the profound sadness of losing a child or spouse...it brings you together in a way that is indescribable, unless you experience it for yourself. I was watching the kids as they were starting to unwrap some paper and ribbon off of something large in the garden, but my eyes, and heart, were drawn to something else...to one of the women, kneeling on the ground, touching the rock she made, crying alone.
I just couldn't resist going over to her. So I left the group, knelt down beside her and put my arms around her shoulders. She sunk into me, relaxed, and wept silently. I whispered some things in to her ear, hugged her, and prayed for her. It turns out that she lost her husband Ralph, on December 15th, 2016...the same exact day Rowan passed away. No wonder I was drawn to her. Only God could have orchestrated that.
After a few minutes with her, I got up and walked back towards where the rest of the group was standing in the center of the garden...and my eyes caught sight of what the children had unwrapped...what the crowd was staring at...what everyone was taking pictures of.
I nearly fell down, as I burst into tears.
I had no idea that they were planning to have this bench as the centerpiece of the memorial garden...none. Nothing could prepare me. It is so perfect. So meaningful. So powerful.
I turned around and found Jon and his wife Maria, and hugged them both. Thanking them profusely for this great honor.
Rowan's legacy continues. His message lives on, and I it was confirmed to me today, that it always will.
I cannot thank Jon, Maria, Susan, and everyone else involved at GenCure, Be The Match, and South Texas Blood and Tissue Center for creating this garden for us families, and for installing this bench in Rowan's honor and memory...one of my proudest moments since his passing...truly. Thank you!
And to each and every family that I hugged today, who also lost a child or a spouse or a parent, I am deeply sorry for your loss, but I was honored to share this day with you, and you will be in my prayers. I hope we run into each other when we go to visit this garden, and that we get to share more and more of our stories with one another. God bless each of you.
Don't ever lose hope.
and keep their spirit alive...by keeping it alive in yourself!
Thank you again, GenCure/Be The Match/South Texas Blood and Tissue Center,
for this amazing memorial garden, and the "Rowan" bench that I know I will visit often!