An Unexpected Treat

An Unexpected Treat

We weren’t expecting to be able to avail of a therapeutic short break for bereaved families at Daisy Lodge this Summer. We had the privilege of being there for Mother’s Day earlier this year. We also had the opportunity of a short break there the past two summers. We felt that now that it’s been over two years since Leah died, that maybe it was time for us to step back and let other more newly bereaved families benefit from this amazing facility.

Then last Wednesday, out of the blue, we got a call to say that there had been a cancellation and they were offering us the option of going there at the weekend, if we were available.

My heart leapt with excitement. I quickly scanned both my work calendar and my personal calendar. Thankfully any commitments we had were ones that could easily be rescheduled. Simon unfortunately was unable to accompany us and Rachel couldn’t stay the entire Friday until Tuesday, due to her work commitments. Other than that we were good to go.

I couldn’t stop smiling for the remainder of the week, eagerly anticipating this most unexpected treat. When we first went to Daisy Lodge in 2014 I found it a very emotional experience. I probably cried for most of our first stay. Just being there was such a stark reminder of the journey that we were now on, one that I definitely didn’t want to be on.

However I now primarily look on Daisy Lodge as a place of healing for me and my family. A place where each of us is helped to relax and to heal, a place where we are encouraged to have fun interacting with each other, to feel like a family again, after the trauma of witnessing Leah endure such gruesome treatments and then eventually die. Daisy Lodge is a place where we feel supported, both by the compassionate staff who are on duty 24/7 and by our interactions with the other families who all walk a similar road. A place where no explanations are ever necessary.

Daisy Lodge.jpgI know from talking to other bereaved parents on private forums, that the devastation of child loss often results in the fragmentation of family relationships. A therapeutic short stay at Daisy Lodge goes a long way towards the healing and rebuilding of these fragmented relationships.

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On one of the days during our stay this past weekend, we went into Newcastle to the Pleasure Lands Amusement Park (Rachel’s boyfriend Matt also joined us that day). Horace’s face was a study as he and the ‘kids’ spun wildly on the Waltzers. It was his turn to laugh at my facial expressions when I went on the Roller Coaster with Rachel and Matt.

Amusements

Despite all the spinning around, our stomachs were settled enough to indulge in some award winning Maud’s ice cream while we were in Newcastle.

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That night there was a “Photo Booth” back at Daisy Lodge, where Horace and I were ‘swallowed by a big fish’!

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On Monday morning Horace and I enjoyed a trip to the nearby Burrendale Hotel swimming pool and spa. I tried to compensate for all the wonderful food I’d been eating all weekend by swimming 22 lengths of the pool, but before you start thinking that’s really impressive I need to tell you that it’s quite a small pool, not an Olympic sized one!

Monday afternoon saw Horace and I engaging in archery – the last time I recall shooting with a bow and arrow was while staying with my cousins in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, when I was about ten years old. We used to make our own bows and arrows in those days, then climb trees and shoot. The ones at Daisy Lodge weren’t homemade of course. I was so engrossed in competing against my husband during the archery session that I forgot to take any photographs, but he beat me anyway!

Monday evening the four of us participated in a craft activity and worked together to produce these:

Craft Activity

Tuesday morning it was time for the four of us to say a fond goodbye to the staff and the other families. We were by now well rested, well fed, refreshed and ready to face the world again. Thank you to the Cancer Fund for Children for once again refuelling us on this most difficult of journeys.

God on Mute

 

A Haze, a Daze and a Maze

A Haze, a Daze and a Maze

My husband says that the past two years since Leah took ill and died, have been like a haze, a daze and a maze.

This weekend we’re having a family break, along with other bereaved families, at Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, Co. Down. I write here about our first visit to Daisy Lodge, last year.

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What is the purpose of a therapeutic short break at Daisy Lodge?

According to the N.I. Cancer Fund for Children website:
“At Daisy Lodge we aim to restore a family life that’s been uprooted by cancer. Short breaks provide exhausted families with the chance to spend quality time together after many months spent in isolation or on the hospital ward. They will be able to recharge their batteries, increase their sense of well-being and gain support from the charity’s Therapeutic Specialist. They will also get the chance to meet and gain support from other families in a similar situation.”

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After lunch today Horace suggested that we went to Castlewellan Forest Park to check out their Maze.

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It sounded like a fun idea ………. until we became hopelessly lost and it suddenly started raining very heavily.

We found that we were going around in circles and facing a lot of dead ends.

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Life’s like that sometimes – lots of going around in circles with lots of dead ends and the downpours just keep on coming.

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At one stage, we thought we’d found an exit, but it wasn’t the right one, it was locked, there was no escape – from the maze or the rain (or the camera)!

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When Leah was diagnosed, she said that we “had to see the bigger picture” but sometimes it’s very hard to see the bigger picture. Depending on what difficulties we are going through, all we see is sadness, frustration and no hope.

It can be so incredibly difficult at times to remember about that bigger picture.

In my Bible reading this morning I was struck by this verse in Romans 14:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Sometimes in this world there is very little hope and joy.

I thought about that this week too as I stood sobbing at Leah’s grave, two nights in a row, gazing at one of her favourite Bible verses on the kneeling plate there:

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I try so very hard to cling to hope, joy and peace, but sometimes I feel utterly defeated by life’s circumstances.

Eventually today, we got out of the maze, the rain stopped and the sun shone.

We climbed up to the viewing bridge and how different everything looked.

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It occurred to me that maybe that’s what God sees when he looks at our lives – not just a bunch of crazy, random “happenings“, but a “bigger picture” that He is working together in us for a greater purpose. (Romans 8:28)

A bigger picture that will one day all make sense, probably not in this life, but when we meet Him face to face.

Then, before the rain made it’s inevitable reappearance, we explored a little bit more of this magnificent estate.

I loved the children’s adventure playground, with it’s natural colours, carved animals and a refreshing deficit of brightly coloured plastic.

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After this we headed to the lake. The walk right round it is just over two miles, but by now the sky behind us was getting dark again and we had only just dried off so we didn’t fancy another soaking.

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On our way back to our car, we noticed a quaint looking café and the prices seemed reasonable, but we are so well fed at Daisy Lodge that stopping, even for a snack, was out of the question!

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We are blessed to have this time out together as a family, kindly provided for us by the N.I. Cancer Fund for Children and the many people who fundraise for them.