TEARS is a non-profit that provides financial support for newly bereaved parents who need help paying for their lost baby's funeral, cremation and/or headstone costs, and also offers emotional support through local support groups. Paul and I joined a support group last year after losing the twins and attend nearly every month. Being able to share space and time with other grieving parents who totally get and support where we're coming from is invaluable to our healing. We would be lost with our support groups.
I'd heard about the Rock & Walk early on, but hesitated getting involved or asking friends and family for donations for this cause. After a little encouragement - and one of our support group friends sharing a letter she sent out to her circle - I felt inspired and dipped my toe into the water, creating a donation page and learning that my family did indeed wish to participate. Two e-mails and a single Facebook post later, and the donations started rolling in, eventually blowing past my little $250 goal, and in the end, raising a total of $1,220 for TEARS. We were overjoyed, overwhelmed, humbled and grateful by the outpouring of support by so many.
Driving to the event, I thought about how peaceful I felt...I was in that part of grief...acceptance, serenity, a little hope for the future. I wasn't sure how the event would be, but I hadn't cried in a few days and didn't think I would.
And then we pulled into the parking lot...filled with cars of people who were there for the same reason...beloved and very much wanted babies who died way too soon.
I got choked up walking into the event, seeing all the light blue shirts, most custom-made with the name of the baby being walked for...just like ours were. We saw people we know, new friends we've made in our support group, and that helped. Still...overwhelming.
At 10:15, the opening ceremony started with short speeches by the founder of the non-profit, Sarah Slack, a guy from Ivar's Restaurants (a major sponsor of the event), who'd lost his first granddaughter, and a song. It was all touching and tearful. And this, while overlooking the baseball field...the whole warning track was lined every foot or so with a colorful butterfly stake, each hand-decorated and placed by volunteers, one for each baby being honored that day. The ticker screen continuously ran the names of the babies throughout the event, and the Jumbo-Tron screen featured pictures submitted by the families. (We didn't submit a picture this year, but probably will next.) It was all moving and beautiful.
Next, all the youngsters present who had lost a sibling were invited to run the bases with the Tacoma Rainiers' mascot, a moose. That was really moving and cute to watch...especially the three toddlers - maybe three-years old - who decided to keep running...and running...and stopping to look at the bases under their feet...and running. They were eventually ushered off the field so the real walk could begin. :)
When it was time to start walking, the families of the lost babies did the first lap...and when we finally got down to the track (people were walking slowly, it wasn't a race!), we looked back to the stands and realized almost EVERYONE was on the track...most everyone there was a family member of a lost baby. Powerful.
Paul and I walked slowly, looking at the names on each of the butterfly stakes, wondering where ours were. I worried that we'd missed them...but almost halfway around the track, I saw Aliya's from many feet away...seeing her name written in someone else's handwriting went straight to my heart. I felt like I had laser focus, and there it was! Bennett's was about 2/3 around...and then we found another Aliya and another Bennett! It turns out that someone mistakenly thought that "Paul" was our last name (I hadn't included our last name when I registered, not realizing it wouldn't show up on the ticker board or the butterflies), so we had "Aliya Amy Paul" and another "Bennett Paul." The first stakes we saw were correct, so those are "the ones," but in the end, we took all four home.
The event concluded with another song and a balloon release. It sounds like, in years past, only the parents did the balloon release, but this year entire families were invited. It was crowded but cool. The colorful balloons were pretty easy to spot in the gray sky, and provided some giggles as a big cargo plane from Joint Base Lewis-McChord flew overhead (we figured the pilots were probably saying, "What the hell is going on?!").
It was wonderful to have a short period of time to publically honor our babies and everyone else's, too. We will definitely participate next year...and maybe by then, we will be expecting our own little rainbow sibling for Aliya and Bennett.
|Our team shirts|
|Our babies' names in the ticker screen, with butterfly stakes below.|