(Posted on September 20, 2016)
I have many favourite moments at the family forums. Especially dear to my heart is watching the new families, from their arrival on Friday nervous and unsure of what to expect, through to leaving on Sunday afternoon knowing they have found a safe haven for their grief and a second family that understands without judgement. Not to mention all the hugs I get too!
On Saturday evenings we take time to honour our many volunteers. We are so fortunate to have so many dedicated and giving individuals without whom Threads of Life could not achieve all that we do creating safety awareness and providing essential support to families. When we call out all of the names of those who have been a part of making the forum weekend a success there are always a few who have a look of surprise at being included in this list. There are so many ways that people help out and it is all of these contributions together that make the weekend run smoothly. The gift of welcome that the returning families willingly provide to the first time attendees is vital in ensuring that they are able to get the most from our time together.
Truly, it is the moments of sharing that heal and bond us all together. Between staff and facilitators, we can plan the weekend’s sessions and activities but it is family members’ ability to be vulnerable and honest with one another that allows for the ‘magic’ to happen that fosters healing.
This past June at the Atlantic Family Forum, I had the pleasure of seeing a table that could not hold enough chairs and each year the circle around it has grown. This is because of one family’s gift of welcoming and nurturing new families. I am so grateful that I can always ask, ‘would you be willing to welcome a new family?’ and know the positive answer I will receive from Mike and Laurie Durant. As I looked at their gathering and listened to the conversation and laughter I saw the many families there together, who I have asked Mike and Laurie to connect with over the years. That Friday welcome has been an invitation to something much greater.
Mike was injured in 1988 and it wasn’t until 20 years later that he attended his first family forum. Although he had no idea what to expect, Mike was grateful that he had good family support with him including his wife Laurie, and knew another family that would be there. Mike shared, “we look forward to the family forum each year and enjoy everyone we meet. You really get a connection with people and we are glad to be able to make them feel welcome.”
The bond doesn’t stop there either, as Mike and Laurie were invited to visit the family they welcomed this year if they’re ever in Newfoundland. And I know that even if the visit doesn’t happen, next year in June the conversation will pick up right where it left off.
For your compassion, understanding, caring and sincere welcome, thank you Mike and Laurie! Welcoming new families is an essential role at the family forums and I am grateful that next spring when I email you once again I already know what the answer will be.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Threads of Life’s newsletter, Threads.
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