I wish you could see this place. I wish you could see it, but I hope you never have to. We're at a lodge built specifically as a retreat location for bereaved parents. Members of the club no one knows exists, until they're unexpectedly thrust into its midst. Children aren't supposed to pass away before their parents. Babies aren't supposed to fill plots in a cemetery. Yet, the painful reality is those things happen. There are so many hearts that beat differently as a result of being broken by this pain. It's a shame a place like this has to exist, but what a blessing that it does.
We're in the middle of the woods, literally surrounded by trees. The only sounds are from the birds during the day, and the frogs and bugs at night. Nighttime is almost deafening here - it's the coolest and strangest thing I've ever heard after sunset. The unrelenting chorus of croaks, chirps, and whistles is a beautiful mess. It's enchanting and overwhelming at the same time. I guess this is a hopping place for frogs. (I had to...I'm sorry...) It strikes me as funny that I'm able to sit at a keyboard in the middle of this wilderness and write about my time here. I guess "roughing it" has evolved over time.
I'm on the balcony outside our room, reclined in the Adirondack chair, barefoot, and wearing my favorite Wyoming sweatshirt. It actually was Brent's, but I covertly took ownership. There's a light cloud cover over the sky keeping the perfect outdoor temperature, the slightest breeze keeping the bugs at bay, and a tranquility that blankets this place, making it more cozy than any favorite sweatshirt. There are birds singing and chirping in the trees, grebes and ducks swimming on the lake, and somewhere nearby there's a black bear waiting until we go to sleep to attempt to raid the outdoor trash can. This place is beautiful. This place is perfect. This place has let me feel closer to my little Harlynn than anywhere else.
This morning I walked downstairs to get myself coffee and breakfast, and her picture was the first thing I saw. I can't tell you what it did for my soul to have her greet me "good morning", and to know that others would see her picture as they came down to begin their day. I enjoyed breakfast alone, being the only one up early this morning, sipping coffee and slurping cereal on the main patio. I wished I would have brought my Bible downstairs with me so I could have read it during that time. It was so peaceful and serene, I might have actually been able to focus on a passage or two.
Our only audience here, aside from the wildlife, are other parents who have lived through the unthinkable. We're not being ignored because no one knows what to say or do. We're not being avoided because other people feel awkward about addressing our situation. We're not expected to be "okay". Society tells us to dust ourselves off and keep walking. My heart knows that's not always possible. Here, we're allowed to be broken. We're allowed to be fragile. We're allowed to laugh and joke and cry all in the same breath. We're allowed to be as reclusive or outgoing as we need to be, moment to moment. Most importantly, we're allowed to talk freely about Harlynn. We're allowed to share our daughter and gloat about the beautiful baby she was, is, and always will be. We're allowed to be Harlynn's parents.
Last June when I had bronchitis and a double ear infection, I started watching a Netflix documentary (wow, surprise...) about our national parks. There was quite a bit of time spent on John Muir and how influential he was in preserving some of our most notable parks and forests. He found healing in the mountains. He found peace of mind in the woods. I've always liked John Muir, since visiting Muir Woods as a kid. If it weren't for insects, I would eat, sleep, and live outdoors. Pieces of my heart will always be in Wyoming and in certain thinking spots I used to go to get away from it all. I "get" Mr. Muir even more now. There is definitely cause and reason to keep as much of what God gave us in nature. There is healing in these trees. There is comfort in these hills. I know I sound like a promo for Avatar, but it's true: there is something to be said for relishing being a small creature in a big, beautiful world.
I've been sitting outside all day so far. I've spent some time reading, I've spent some time visiting, and I've spent some time in quiet meditation. There are a lot of hymns that have run through my head the last 24 hours, and the birds have provided lovely harmonies. One hymn in particular that's been on repeat in my mind is "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be." I know that if I'm in awe of this place and God's handiwork here, Harlynn will have so much more to show me one day when we're together in His presence. Thinking of those treasures, thinking of the beauty that awaits, and thinking of our precious Harlynn...well...it makes me homesick.
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