By: Meredith Byers, former Share Board Member
Summer is beginning, and many families are making vacation plans – either to travel somewhere by car or plane, or to enjoy a “staycation” and take in a local activity. Our family’s summer plans include travel in Missouri as well as Texas, and like many Share families, but vacation after loss includes a time to make memories with both our living children and our angel Samuel.
Our son Samuel was born still in April 2007.
Before that time, our vacations were usually excursions for rest and relaxation, a new adventure or experience, or a working trip with some sightseeing and good food squeezed in. After Samuel’s delivery, everything in our world, including our future travels, changed dramatically. Derek and I grieved intensely for weeks after coming home from the hospital without Samuel. We eventually began to realize that we needed to “get away” just for a little while to gain some shelter from the storm of feelings that were controlling our lives.
Our oldest son, Wyatt, was 2 and loved trains, so we traveled to Colorado over Memorial Day weekend to explore and ride trains there. We brought our new camera, meant to be filled with photos of a new baby, and instead filled it with photos of us riding a train through Freemont, CO, in the snow (we weren’t expecting snow in May!). This trip was our chance to hide in a world that wasn’t raw with feelings for Samuel for a few days and hunker down with just ourselves. When we returned home, I made a photo book of the Colorado train ride for Wyatt to enjoy. When I look at that book now, it’s filled with memories for me – I look swollen in my postpartum state, Derek looks tired and worn, and Wyatt’s chubby cheeks are lit with excitement from the ride. I can still feel Samuel in those pictures.
Since then, we haven taken many trips as a family for various reasons, and each time we try to do something or find something that reminds us of Samuel.
We have found a seashell on a South Carolina beach, a handmade bowl from a market in Georgia, an Asian ornament in San Francisco, and a Zuni mother-of-pearl butterfly from Santa Fe. Samuel is our butterfly, and we often look for butterflies and butterfly objects in our travels. We feel like Samuel is with us when we see a butterfly, and Derek feels closest to Samuel when he is outdoors under a blue sky. We have many butterflies on our shelves, our walls, and even in Samuel’s garden in our backyard to remember him.
We have been blessed with two more living children since we lost Samuel, and all three kids enjoy looking for special treasures on our trips to put on Samuel’s shelf when we get home.
They recognize that these items are part of our family and part of our memories, and they value these objects and their meaning as much as I do. Our daughter Shiloh feels a special connection to butterflies also. On our recent visit to the Laumeier Art Fair on Mother’s Day, she picked out a small drawing of a butterfly for her room. I think that she feels the memory of Samuel in this drawing. Our youngest, Ryder, is filled with charm and mischief, and his treasures usually reflect his spirit of play – a ball, a well-loved toy, even a shiny coin – and remind me of his angel brother.
We are driving to Branson today for a long Father’s Day weekend vacation – we will do a little boating and fishing on Table Rock Lake, enjoy some amusement park fun at Silver Dollar City, and snuggle up around a campfire. Most importantly we will be looking for a treasure to remind us of our family. We will celebrate our living children, mourn our angel baby, look for butterflies, and make memories for now and always.