It was good.
It was sad.
It was a bittersweet reunion of a community I love so much and feel so passionate about.
I sat at the registration desk.
And a man came up with tired eyes and an orange bracelet that said he was a parent.
I greeted him with a cheery smile. "Hi! Do you mind signing in?"
"I heard I could get some food here."
"Oh yeah, go all the way to the back."
He looked at me with helpless eyes, "It looks like a carnival back there."
"Oh no." I went on, "It's about family centered care day. As a parent, you can provide some great insight as to what's working and what isn't."
The pen dropped onto the sign-in sheet....a thud onto our family centered care day.
"I just want something to eat."
I back-pedaled, "And you can get that, just go to the back. You don't have to say a word to anyone," I gave him my best smile, "I promise."
"No, thanks. I'll just go down stairs." He sighed, a sad, frustrated sigh.
And I watched tired-eyes walk down the hall. I resisted the urge to run down the hall and tackle him in a bear hug and say, I know what you're going through! You feel beaten and out of control. It will be okay! For the love of God let me make you a fruit and cheese plate!!! It is the least I can do!!!
Instead I watched him walk away. Chicken, I said to myself, You totally should have tackled him.
After Family Centered Care Day, I joined my lovely friend Maria and we hung the rest of my Ben's Bells. We stood over by the cafeteria.
"I love this place," Maria said. "When Jacob was really sick, Sarah and her Grandpa used to play hide and seek out here."
I looked up at this place. This place of hope, despair, loss, life and love, and I hung my bells.
And I cried.
And I hung my bells. My favorite is over by the mama and baby bear.
At this time, our friend Tracey showed up, saw my teared-stained face and grabbed my hand. "I love you," she said.
I could only cry.
The three of us went out to dinner. Three moms, two have lost their children, one whose child has a fatal disease.
Three daughters, two have lost their moms.
Good Lord and the crazy odds.
And we cried, we laughed, we embraced. And I felt grateful for where my life has taken me and the good friends who can talk about life and death while eating nachos.
Back in the car, I still had three bells so I drove back to University Hospital and hung them in the garden where I used to walk when Samantha was sick.
The ER at University Hospital is packed at 9:30 at night.
And I watched these people. I watched them process their pain, their new diagnosis, and as I hung these bells and I thought, I cannot turn away from someone else's pain
I will never say I cannot imagine....
I will not tell my friend who has stage 4 breast cancer, I can't imagine what it is like to loose your breasts.....
I won't tell my friend who lost her mom, I can't imagine what it is like to lose their mom.
I will not tell my friend whose son is austic that I cannot imagine what life is like when he bangs his head into the wall.
Because to say I cannot imagine is to say I will not imagine, I will not put myself in your shoes.
It is to turn away......
So I will listen.
And I will embrace.
And I will imagine.
And I have to say, there is a glorious, amazing strength, to embrace and recognize each other's pain.
And I will celebrate who you have become because of what you have endured....and maybe...just maybe make you a fruit and cheese plate