Saturday, September 17th will be a day I’ll remember. Yet I don’t fully know how I feel about the day or what to really think.
After weeks of preparation, I was ready with my orange tie dyed team shirt, orange feather in my hair and my new orange shoes. This whole time, I’ve been rooting for Children’s Hospital. Showing my team spirit to raise awareness for this wonderful place that took care of us in our darkest days. This was my chance to give a little back to a place that gave me and my family so much.
So the morning of, here I am all decked out in orange, lost down town Milwaukee, trying to find the parking lot that my sister was patiently waiting for me in and late for the team picture. I meet up with the team, and was hugged, kissed, handed a cup of orange juice (thank you mom!). Monarch butterfly wings are placed on my back (thank you Mandy!) and I try my best to greet my friends and new faces. I’m pretty much in a sense of shock and am completely overwhelmed at this point. We take a group photo … man we look good in orange!
As it gets close to the start time we are hurdled like cattle into the road. All of a sudden, I’m getting a little nervous … butterflies in my stomach. Nervousness and wishing I had come more prepared or I had taken just a little bit more time to treasure the morning. But here we are … the sound starts and the race is on! The streets were just filled with teams. Some who were honoring children who had their lives saved by children and other parents marching as we were … in memory of their children who have left us way too early.
Music was being piped in on huge speakers … the song “Good Life” by OneRepublic was playing. Things started going in slow motion. Don’t let this be over quite yet. I like it in this place, in this state of mind. Life stood still and all we did was remember. Remember Owen and the others who fought the good fight. I stared at Owen’s photo in front of me on the banner. The same way I stared at the over-sized photos of him at the funeral. He looked me in the eye “Mom, I’m here. It’s going to be ok. I’m ok Mom.” I felt him, his spirit there among us. Walking with us. Carrying me even for a few steps. What a crazy thought, my 6 month old son telling ME, his mom, that things were going to be ok. What a warped world that brings parents to the knees of our children.
The song helped me remember that life is still good. God is still good. This is a blessing. A double-edged sword, but we are walking the path of blessings.
It took me by surprise to have a moment of self-reflection and memory. I was so focused on what I could do to pay Children’s Hospital back and here they were honoring me and my family … again. The Marquette basketball teams (mens and women) were there, giving all the kids a high-five. Dave and Carol were there (the DJs who read Owen’s blog on the radio during the Children’s Miracle Network). When Carol saw the sea of orange making their way to the start line, I read her lips – “ahhh – here they come!” She came down off the stage and stood on the street so we could hug and greet her. The photographer who took pictures while Owen was on life support was there. Tears. She remembered us too. I swelled with pride – I know people here! Out of the sea of people, they know my Owen!
Team members reported to me that they were being approach … “Are you wearing orange for Owen? I read his mom’s blog.” Wow. Just wow.
What bugged me then and still bugs me today is that I couldn’t cry. All of these emotions were bubbling up … they were banging on the inside of my chest. Just ready to explode out. I want them out. Let me feel what I have to feel, the tears that I have to cry so I can continue to be strong. I don’t want them to keep them in for fear of them eating me up from the inside. Corrupting me from within. Let them out … let me feel the pain that I must endure. Yet, I can’t. I find myself almost reaching the point … then just not quite able to let it out.
So we walked. We walked the streets of downtown Milwaukee. Holding the triplets. Watching Jaden play with the other kids on the team. Arm in arm with friends and family.
At one point I heard someone say “look!” I looked up and there were two people with
the window open, shaking a pom pom. What looked like an ORANGE pom pom! We hollered and hooted. Are you freaking kidding me? Was this really happening? I’m still not 100% sure if it was orange or if it was golden yellow … None the less, I was proud.
In addition to the friends and family we had on our team … we also had a monarch butterfly. That right, an orange monarch butterfly fluttered along with use most of the walk. I remember right before Owen’s funeral a friend told me that she found a white feather in her jewelry box. She was sure it was a sign to her that Owen was near. While the thought was nice, I wasn’t sure I bought it. I wanted to, but wasn’t sure if God really sent us physical signs of his presence. I just wasn’t sure if I believed it.
This isn’t the first time a monarch butterfly has made its appearance. While at the lake house, a monarch butterfly was hanging around. There one flying around the yard when we were tie dying the walk shirts. The butterfly always comes around when we are doing or talking about him. Coincidence? I’m starting to think not. Before this, I could count the times I saw a monarch butterfly. They are unique. I’m not even going to go into all the symbolism that a butterfly has – new life, change, life after death … the list just goes on.
Owen walked with us. Owen showed himself to us on the walk. He was there. I felt him at the start of the walk and I saw him in a monarch.
Following the walk, we had a thank you lunch at my parents. There were so many new faces, I wanted to be able to spend a little extra time with them. So we grilled out and spent some more time together. The time was precious to me as I don’t get to meet readers face to face ever. It’s always words on a computer screen. Meeting these people brought a reality to the travels of Owen’s story.
I was exhausted by the end of the day … but it was a good day. I’m hoping we can do it again next year! We’ve got a family wedding on the same day as the walk so we might have to get inventive with our time. We shall see.
Thank you to everyone for the support and donations in Owen’s memory. To those who walked, thank you for giving a day to remember Owen and to pay back Children’s Hospital. To those who weren’t , I hope you will be able to walk with us in a future walk.
Blessings to everyone today and always!
PS here are some more photos from the day! (Click on the image to enlarge and read a description)