In a week with lots of neat opportunities to commemorate our Doria, we started off with a quick trip to Des Moines for the Walk to Remember at Mercy Hospital. In a way that completely screamed grad school, we followed an old method that our family has used at key points of the semester both in seminary and now in the PhD program: Becky drove and I read. In a way that nicely summed up the awkward way things come together, I read about a serial killer at the Chicago World’s Fair during the drive, because nothing says ‘remembrance’ like reading about a historical serial killer.
We are so blessed in my department and our church to be surrounded by loving and caring people. That’s a wonderful help for a terrible situation. Still, it was refreshing in its own odd way to walk into this packed room of strangers and know that we all fit in. A lot of our conversations (ask the young folks who ran into us outside the football stadium yesterday) can instantly transform into a discussion centered on Doria and her death. Somehow, that makes ‘normal’ people feel awkward and look for the way out. Walking into this room, we knew that we didn’t know most of the people there, but that we also had something in common. If a conversation reached a point that could be awkward somewhere else, it would be normal there. We needed that. It’s important to have people that know exactly what you’re talking about.
My first impressions upon arriving: Mercy did a wonderful job! The helper at the front door seemed to recognize that special look of lostness that families in our scenario carry, and nicely said “Are you here for the Walk to Remember?” Her directions were spot-on and her demeanor was perfect. Great start!
Once we got downstairs, the first thing that really stood out was the huge crowd. A very good-sized auditorium was standing-room only. They were bringing in additional chairs, we were compressing rows, and they still ran out of room. That made me glad to see so many people choosing to remember their fallen children, but terribly sad to see so many people who had to. The Little Baby Death Angel needs to be unemployed, or at least find a very distracting hobby.
I mentioned earlier that it was nice to walk into a room where we were ‘normal.’ It was. It’s Sunday, so this really fits here. As a Bible College professor who loves to teach the book of Hebrews, it gave me kind of a Hebrews 10:24-25 kind of feeling. At that point, the anonymous author exhorts his readers to be careful in remembering to gather together in order to encourage one another to good works. In the church, we all gather together on equal ground because Jesus paid the price of entry, and dividing lines disappear. At the Walk to Remember, we all gathered together on equal ground because our children paid the dreadful price of entry. It didn’t matter what church people came from, who they might be voting for, or even if they were Hawkeyes or Cyclones. We shared tissue with a Hawkeye family, and nobody cared. There were no divisions, no shame in tears, no awkwardness. We all paid the same price of admission, and we’re all there for the same reason.
The event was beautiful. Great job by the choir. I heard some great Scriptural reminders that I had not thought of. Seeing that many people walk together almost required a drill sergeant, but it’s not a group that’s looking to cause trouble, so it wasn’t necessary. Upon reaching the Memory Garden, we placed pinwheels with the names of our child there, then went through a line where each set of parents (or children) said the name(s) of the child they were there to remember. It was a nice combination of somber and wonderful, which sums up all of this experience so far.
One other thing stood out to me. There is no such memory walk in Ames. There should be. Problem is, that would take someone who likes to ask uncomfortable questions, knows people who have been down this road, thinks that organizing new things is fun and exciting, and is too stupid to know that they don’t actually have the time to get it done.
Challenge accepted. Let’s do this, Ames!
P.S. Another good friend who has shared this experience is getting a tree planted by Project 52. Doria leaves another mark! 🙂