Our daughter was diagnosed with Metastatic Ewing-like Sarcoma in December of 2016
We were invited to participate in Candlelighter’s Celebration of Life picnic in Spring of 2017. I must say that I was initially hesitant to attend as I did not want to add sadness, in any form, to our already crumbling world. Nevertheless, we packed up our mini-van and four children and headed over. I rationalized that, at bare minimum, our daughter would get to spend a day outdoors, as she had been quarantined since December 7, 2016 due to bouts of neutropenia.
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by Adis and Natasha and found ourselves surrounded with a host of smiling faces; children and adults alike. This was very comforting as our family has virtually no civilian connections (we are a Military family). Throughout the picnic, I watched my children participate in a host of games from sack races to balloon toss, and water balloon fights. It was during this time that I was realized my children were fulfilling their purpose. They were being children! They were laughing, running, and playing. I noticed the smile on my daughter’s face; a smile that I had not seen 5 months and it felt good. And it was infectious. I felt a more tangible load of being able to restore some sense of normalcy to their lives being lifted.
One of the most memorable parts of our experience was the butterfly release. This is a segment of the picnic where all attendees get to release butterflies in memories of the children who have transcended. I must admit, this part of the picnic was an internal struggle for me as I was forced to deal with the mortality of my child but when I say it could not have been more beautifully done…Natasha offered amazing words of comfort to, both, explain to the children the purpose of the release and offer words of love to the parents. But wait! This segment was by no means a downer, the children of Candlelighters were able to celebrate by sharing their years in remission which provided hope in spite of diagnosis and allowed parents to share their experiences.
Before the conclusion of the picnic, the children picked out medals that were donated by marathoners via the Medals 4 Mettle organization. This exchange was to award the children for their courageous battles with cancer. I thought this was not only awesome but very thoughtful as many may not consider ‘fighting for your life’ courageous. But more importantly, it gave the children a sense of self, being heard, and acknowledged. It was a definite confidence booster!
In closing, I would like to say that although our family encountered Candlelighters of Brevard during the most devastating times of lives, we are eternally grateful for the support they have provided and the events they host to restore normalcy and happiness into the Candlelighter families.
Shamika & Family