￼2011 C.O.P.S. Parents’ Retreat
The first time I attended the Parents' Retreat was in 2009. It was a little scary, but I had been prepared by other parents who have attended in the past. Once I arrived, I was greeted by veteran survivors who drew me in and made me feel at home. It was a moving and positive experience. I had planned to go again the next year, but wasn't able to fit it into my schedule. So in October, 2011, I attended Parents' Retreat for the second time. It had been four years since Peter's death and I am healing well. I didn't fly with any other parents from Washington, but I connected with them at the Holiday Inn where we spent Thursday night before being bussed to the retreat center. I was assigned to room with another Washington surviving mother at the retreat. We had already met at the hotel, so we were both relieved, I think, to find that we would room together. We were joined later by another mom from Oregon.
I saw many familiar faces when we all arrived at the retreat center. I was surprised at how many parents apparently make this an annual event. I instinctively knew that since I was not a first-timer now, I would have the role of meeting and encouraging those who were there for the first time.
I attended all the workshops I could and I chose the target-shooting experience as one of my Saturday afternoon activities. It was my first time to shoot any kind of gun and I have to admit, it was a little intimidating. But I am proud of myself that I did it. It was one of many "firsts" in my life since I lost both my husband and my son.
Another activity I took advantage of was flower arranging. The instructor showed us how to make arrangements for grave sites. That was very educational for me. I learned new things about arranging flowers.
I appreciate the fact that there is a spiritual outlet at the retreat for those who want to take advantage of it early in the mornings. That was a bonding experience for me with other parents who share my faith as well as an encouraging way to start the day.
The retreat ground itself is a comforting experience. The accommodations are more motel like than rustic retreat-like. The setting is rural and peaceful, with the buildings facing a serene little lake which reflects the trees on the hills surrounding it. The time of year being in October is about perfect for the fall colors on the trees reflected in the lake. It's breathtaking! The dining is amazing! The food is plentiful and delicious. There are beverages available all day and into the evening. I never went hungry.
The campfire experience on Sunday night was so much fun!
There was singing and skits and an overall jovial atmosphere which allowed us to release some of the tension that we may have been feeling after having to relive the tragedies that brought us there.
I want to thank C.O.P.S. for providing the retreat opportunity for us parents and for reminding us that, indeed, our beloved children may be gone from the earth, but they are not forgotten. And I have been made to feel that, though the circumstances of my son's death may differ from many others, his memory is just as important as all the others.