Let me back up a bit to tell you how we got here.
It has been a whirlwind of a few days. We're in New York taking part in a retreat vacation provided by a wonderful organization, Inheritance of Hope. The trip started at 7:30 yesterday morning when we left our house to make our way to the train station. We took the train from Union Station in DC to Penn Station in NYC. It was so much easier getting through the train station than it would have been an airport. It was a bit difficult getting on the train itself with the walker, but we made it work. The train ride itself took about three and a half hours, with quite a few stops on the way.
When we arrived in New York, we were met at the train station by Hollis, one of the volunteers assigned to our family. From that point on, we didn't have to worry about anything. Everything was taken care of -- from transportation to the hotel, to meals, to activities, even making sure the boys were still with the group (I didn't have to turn around and check on them like moms do; Hollis and Annette did it for me). Our volunteers are amazing. They carry bags for us, they deliver breakfast to our room every morning, they make sure we were comfortable, and they take us everywhere we wanted to go (like the M&M's store on the walk back to the hotel one night).
Here it is, days after we've arrived home (the Monday after Thanksgiving), and I am just sitting down to finish typing this up. My intention was to journal as the events unfolded, but that turned out to be an impossible goal. Our morning sessions started at 9:00am, and we didn't get back to the hotel room until probably 9 or so each night. To say I was tired is an understatement. Any free time I had, I rested. I didn't even get much knitting done! 😉
The mornings were filled with group sessions. We split into small groups, as couples, while our children were split into groups according to age. We talked, we laughed, we cried. When someone was talking, there was at least one other person nodding their head in agreement, and everyone paid rapt attention. These people are going through similar experiences as us. We aren't alone in our feelings. We were comfortable with sharing with each other. We talked about difficult things. We supported each other. We formed bonds. It was a very rewarding experience.
The afternoons and evenings were filled with activities and group meals. In addition to seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, we had front row seats for the Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show debut. The link takes you to the YouTube video that Saks filmed. The show itself starts at about the 16:00 mark. It was spectacular. We also took a boat tour, seeing the Statue of Liberty and other sites. We went to the top of Rockefeller Center to see the view. The kids went ice skating in Central Park while the parents went out for a lunch date.
Before our lunch date, though, we were scheduled to do the thing that we came here for. The purpose of this retreat was not only to make wonderful memories with our families, but to learn how to leave a legacy for our children. So, Jimmy and I sat in front of a camera for about thirty minutes, talking to our boys. The people who run the retreat prepared us well. We had a list of questions to help prompt our memories and what we might want to say. We talked, we shed a few tears, we hope that the love we have for them shows through when they watch it. We have the video on thumb drives; the intent is to have the boys receive them after one or both of us is gone. That thirty minutes ... that filming of the legacy video ... was by far the hardest, and the most rewarding, thing I have ever done. Even if you aren't facing death the way I am, think about making one for your children and/or your grandchildren. As I was reading through the questions they gave us, I couldn't help but think that I would have loved to have known my parents like that. To me, they were mom and dad. I would love to know Tommy and Jo Ann, the people, not just the parents. I hope that with this video, Jimmy and I have done that for our boys.
Phenomenal doesn't seem strong enough of a word.
Note: Pictures are forthcoming. I will edit this blog entry when the pictures are sorted through and organized. In the meantime, please enjoy this slideshow put together by Inheritance of Hope.