It’s taken me several days to catch up on sleep and digest the events of last weekend’s Near-Drowning Mom’s Retreat (the first annual, I might add). It was like the longest slumber party I have ever attended. In the weeks leading up to it, I was concerned that it might be really heavy and sad, with many stored tears let loose.
Or, more appropriately, hahahahahahaha!!
I don’t recall ever having laughed so much in my life. Perhaps it was because for one smidgeon of time each of us were “normal”, and our lives were just like everyone else’s. Perhaps it was because we could make jokes that we would never say nor tolerate in the outside world.
Here’s one example: we’d just come back after a long day in Seattle and were determined to go in the hot tub even though it was 11:30pm. We dashed through the cold air, and hopped in…only to find that for some reason we were now submerged in a Lukewarm Tub. The temperature was only 90 degrees, and we were stuck. It was way too cold outside to make a run for it without being heated up by the tub, but it was way too tepid in the tub to be enjoyable.
We decided we would push, poke, tickle, talk to and yell at the tub controls until it began heating the water (which eventually worked.). Two hours later it was at 99 degrees and we were feeling pretty toasty, comparatively. As the clock neared 2am, our eyes were drooping. One mom said, “Now, I don’t think it would be too funny if the headline tomorrow read ‘5 moms drown in hot tub at near-drowning retreat.'”
A line like that would have made us cry or yell in the real world, but here in our bubble of understanding and shared struggles (and sleep deprivation) it was just plain funny.
Most of all, though, I think we laughed so much because during the time each of us has been on this road (varying from 2-8 years) we have had to choose over and over and over again to laugh instead of cry. We have highly refined senses of humor, and our instant sisterhood allowed us to poke fun at each other’s expense from minute one.
Annie is the mom of Isabelle, who drowned 13 days after Abbie did. We have been in touch since that first incomprehensible summer when both our girls were in rehab, and I have been longing to meet her. She was the last to arrive, at 1:30am. I, on the other hand, flew over night the night before and had been at the house since 9am…waiting, and welcoming, and waiting some more. Finally, she walked in, gave me a hug, said “hi” and then….”You are SO SHORT!! I just really thought you’d be taller.”
Yep, after 6 years of shared trials THAT was the first thing out of her mouth….and thus it began. Sharp tongues and sharper wits kept the weekend lively.
The other thing that was overwhelming, in hearing everyone’s stories, was not the loss or the heartache, but the goodness of people. It is staggering, truly, the kindnesses that have been showered on our children and our families. Teresa, Samuel’s mom told of being discharged with no nursing care — an unfathomable load to carry. The nurses at the ER where Samuel first went heard about this and organized a volunteer schedule of shifts that covered two months. The meals, the prayers, the financial help — THAT was what we talked about in awe. Each of us is so, so grateful.
While I had looked forward to meeting these women, I had not begun to conceive how powerful it would be. The safety of shared experience, the freedom from judgement or the need to explain, the concentration of hope and faith, and the permission to be a little (lot) silly.
It may sound overly sentimental, but I say it in the fiercest voice I can raise – these are my sisters bonded in tears, and grief and sorrow, but experienced in joy and laughter and hope. What a heavenly gift!