A few months ago my sweet friend Anya called me and said that while she was working (she was living in Maui at the time) she met a woman who was putting together a non profit that sends parents that have lost children on a vacation to Kauai. Anya had told her about us and then passed on her information to me and I passed it onto Quinn. To be honest I thought that nothing would ever come from it but long story short Quinn and I were chosen to be a part of Ohana oasis's first parent trip.
I have struggled to write this post because there is in no way I will be able to adequately describe this trip and what it did for us. Heidi Low the founder of Ohana Oasis lost her daughter eleven years ago to cancer, since then she had this dream to have a place where parents could go to heal, reconnect, bond with other parents in similar situations and have fun. She is one of the most amazing women that I know, she spent years of planning and fundraising to get to this point and I feel so blessed and honored that we were apart of her first parent trip. She thought of every tiny detail and made this trip completely stress free.
Quinn and I, Ashley and Pat, Heidi and Matt and Cindy
This was an awesome crew. We were a little anxious when we learned that we were going to be staying in a house with two other couples that we had never met and the only thing in common with them is we had all experienced the devastating loss of a child but we all got along so amazingly. Almost immediately we opened up and talked about our kids, their lives, how they died, our experiences. We spent every night laughing and sobbing and could swing from one emotion to the other without fear or judgement. It felt so very safe and I learned so much from these incredible people.
One of the fun activities we did was to go on a helicopter ride. It was so cool to see the island from the air. Despite getting terribly sick it was a really amazing
Swimming at Queens bath
Riding bikes and mini golf with the sullengers
Heidi had planned so many great "healing" activities. She always started our day with a quote and a thought to think about and discuss with our spouse. One of my favorite activities was on May 3rd, the one year anniversary of Lila's funeral, we went to Anini beach and had a bonfire and made fajitas, we talked and laughed, shared stories and cried. Then at the end of the night Heidi gave each of the men a single orchid, she told us that if you make a little nest for them from moss and tie them to the tree they will eventually grow right around the tree and continue to bloom for years to come. She told us that these little flowers would represent our children. How they continue to live and bloom in our lives. It was extremely touching to watch as these strong men climbed these trees on the beach and tied these tiny and delicate flowers for their little children who they could no longer see and touch. I felt our kids with us and knew that Lila was next to me watching her daddy as I was. It was an extremely beautiful sight, the full moon was filtering through the trees and from the light of our bonfire we looked at our sweet flowers. After I thanked Heidi I ended up sobbing in her arms, but it didn't make me feel self conscious or embarrassed. I knew that everyone on that beach understood and was holding their own sorrow.
Snorkeling. I will admit I am a bit fearful of the ocean but I did go snorkeling at tunnels beach (this is actually the salt ponds beach but I didn't get any pictures of me snorkeling. That is Quinn and Pat) i was amazing just haw many gorgeous fish were swimming around and not at all too concerned about the people.
Heidi and Michelle. Michelle was our personal chef. I know pretty amazing right?
One night our water main broke. one might think this was a bad thing but the home they sent us to ended up being a nine million dollar estate. It was a fun little excursion.
On our last day Heidi told us we were going to take a ride on some outrigger canoes. I didn't realize that I was about to have one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. When we got to the canoe club we were surprised to see that they had decorated the canoes with beautiful flowers, it was breathtaking and the photos simply cannot do it justice. We had a crash course in canoeing and then it was out to sea. We canoed around hanalea bay and took in the beauty of the island. Kauai really is paradise. At one point we stopped and we were completely alone out on the waves. As we sat there a tiny sea turtle spun and twirled beneath us. He popped his head up to take a breath right between our canoes. - I need to backup at this point, the night before Heidi had given us leaves from the autograph tree. The leaves are big and waxy and when you scrap into them you can write right on the leaves. Heidi had us write what blessings our children had brought to our lives, then as we were alone on the ocean we let them go out to sea. It was hard for me to let go of my leaf, I felt like I was saying goodbye all over again. Heidi then passed around baskets full of beautiful flowers and we let them go into the ocean as well. To watch the ocean fill with notes of love to our departed children and gorgeous flowers was simply overwhelming. We were all sobbing. It was one of the most amazing and spiritual experiences I have ever experienced. Then our guide Devon, who is part of a Hawaiian royal family, started to sing the most incredible hawaiian song. We all held hands around our canoe and listened to his voice carry across the swells, our flowers and our love letters. I felt so at peace and calm. I felt that all of this was part of the grand plan. That Lila was a brief but significant teacher in my life. That she was suppose to come to me but she was also suppose to leave. That everything was connected and had purpose. I wish I could explain it better but to be honest it was one of the most sacred moments I have ever had and words will never be able to explain it.
Being a part of this group was life changing. It was simply incredible timing leaving just three days after the one year anniversary of Lila's death. It was healing and therapeutic yet it also allowed Quinn and I to have fun with one another again, something that has been hard especially for me, to do this past year. I felt that any laughter or joy I experienced this year was in somehow betraying Lila's memory and yet Ohana Oasis taught me that to live ones life is to honor Lila. To live the life she was never able to is showing her that she taught me to enjoy every small moment and take nothing for granted. I wish for Lila unending and everlasting joy and I know that she wants the same for me .
I am so grateful for that safe place that Ohana oasis provided so that I could share and explore my feelings. It brought up so much, I think Quinn and I realized we still have so much more grieving to go, a lifetime in fact, and while that is overwhelming it was comforting to hear from someone eleven and five years out that the pain does start to lessen. Its not always a sharp and painful wound. As Heidi said her greatest advice was you have to go through the pain to make it our the other side, you have to feel every strong and horrible emotion to get to the place where you can breathe again.
I love these people so much. We shared a wonderful and spiritual week together and for that they will always be in my heart.
If you want to learn more about ohana oasis and how you can donate or sign up please check them out here