Category Archives: Purpose and founders of Hope House

Every Dollar Helps

Our campaign goal seems huge. Unimaginable. Unattainable.

But when you’ve struggled through the grief of a child’s death, when a dark day is right behind or in front of you, when you’ve walked through unimaginable pain and considered unattainable hope, facing a large fundraising goal doesn’t seem as daunting.

It might feel like a big dream, but when reaching out to help people who are going through some of the same pain you’ve experienced, wanting to help them and walk beside them, any pursuit, even if it seems challenging, seems worthwhile.

That’s where we are as Hope House founders, board members, campaign team members, and friends and family. We lean into the future, knowing many people are hurting and have a need for refuge, a getaway with family as they heal.

Hope House of Central Illinois will hopefully become a reality in 2019. We have the land and many volunteers. We want to break ground soon. Please help us.

Every dollar helps.

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Walking the Circle of Grief

photo-1484973768669-7fb6b5451095I have walked the circle of grief around many friends.

It’s not a journey I’d ever wish for them or myself, yet I was honored every time I have walked it.

Walking the circle is being close by, accessible, while giving space to my friends. Being available but not hovering.

Walking the circle is being close enough to feel the scorching heat of the pain. It is unimaginable. It is sharing a burden. It is seeing friends gasp for air. It’s inviting moments of laughter, knowing tears will often be close behind.

Walking the circle is doing difficult stuff. Making phone calls, picking up funeral clothes, sitting in uncomfortable positions beside a bed or chair for hours, holding hands, wiping snot, going through clothes and toys that will never be used (or used again).

Walking the circle now includes the opportunity to serve Hope House of Central Illinois. My friends founded this organization, and I do what things I can do to help them. It is a continuance of walking the circle.

You have likely walked the circle, too. You might still be walking it.

There are many of us. And now we get to come together.

We all walk the circle around parents and families who are grieving the death of a child. Hope House is on the verge of being built and welcoming those families. For more information on how to get involved, click on the campaign tab of our website.

Thank you.

A Good Place

photo-1521993067561-ce35b1ce9a91Whatever your preference and habits with faith and worship with a church family, we wanted to share a glimpse into one Hope House founder’s heart through something he recently shared at his church. Randy shared the following during a communion meditation. The habit at his church is to take communion every time the church family gets together for worship per Jesus’ instructions to share communion in remembrance of him. The weekly routine is intended to remember what Jesus has done for each of us as well as invite us to take inventory of our lives and consistently invite him to correct and encourage us. It is a reality check of sorts. And recently, Randy shared a glimpse into his own reality of grief and hope.

A few weeks ago, I went on a farm call.  It was a lovely spring day and I was thankful to get out of the office that afternoon. The farm is a pleasant place located on a hilltop. I knew well my way to this place because it was the home of my first and best friend after moving to Taylorville 32 years ago. It is a place that I’ve visited many times and I have only the fondest memories of being there. In my mind it is a happy place. But my friend moved and now I don’t go there so often. My friend’s son lives there now, and I will admit that I like him, too, and will gladly claim him as a friend. But our relationship is different and I just don’t visit as often as I probably should. While there, I looked at a few sheep and a couple dogs. Then I had a conversation.

We talked about our jobs, families, and all the interesting things going on in our lives. Then I told my young friend about a visit I had made the week prior to another place, very different place; Anderson Cemetery. I had gone to see my son. It is my son’s final resting place, and I don’t like going there.  I don’t visit often, and when I do go, I don’t stay long. I did not start that day planning to go. I have no idea why I went but I did, and for the first time, it wasn’t so awful. Maybe the sting of death is not as sharp now. I not only visited Dan’s grave but I also looked around. I saw Eddie there. He was my first neighbor in Taylorville. Eddie was a good neighbor. He used to watch my daughter, and she took her first steps in his house. Lyle is also there. He was funny and used to love repeating a story of when his mule bit me in the rear. I saw lots of names that I recognized and many whom I never knew. I saw headstones for young people, old people, and even people born in the 1700’s and Anderson Cemetery is said to be the final resting place of every last one of them.

Then I told my young friend that I had visited the grave of his daughter, and we talked about that for quite a while. Then he said something that really stuck in my head. He said that his life is in a good place now, and that he is content. Upon reflection, I feel that I, too, am in a good place now. But this good place will not be my final place. Nor is Anderson Cemetery the final resting place of our loved ones. There will be another place after my final resting place.  In John 14, Jesus has a conversation with his disciples and talks to them about his final resting place.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus came from heaven to earth to give us a glimpse of our Father and to lead us to a very special place called Heaven. Jesus has gone before us and prepared a place for each of us. Today at this communion, celebrate what Jesus has done.

The Dream of Hope

IMG_1754What began as a discussion among 3 grieving couples about how great it would be to have a cabin they could share as a place to “get away” has quickly turned into so much more.  These couples knew first-hand how overwhelming is was to deal with the loss of a child, and realized the peace and solace a private retreat location could provide.  It didn’t take long for those couples to realize that what they wanted for themselves, could minister to countless couples and families in Central Illinois.  

A little over a year ago, with initial plans in place, a larger group was brought together to provide feedback as to the feasibility of this dream.  The idea was well received, and the group embarked on a mission to share the dream and spread word throughout the area.

The dream of having a cabin, set in a tranquil, rural setting, that families could use as a retreat from everyday life, was the goal.  To establish this retreat location, that would be provided to grieving families at no cost, would take a great deal of work, but as the vision is spread, the dream is quickly becoming reality.  Choosing the right building site is key to the success of such an endeavor.  Finding a site that is easily accessible, but provides the needed tranquility, was not an easy task.  Through months of careful searching and prayerful consideration, just a location came available.  

In the late fall of 2017 an official offer was placed on a beautiful 7-acre tract of land that provides not only the perfect balance of level ground for the construction of an easily accessible home, but also pristine, wooded ground that will provide for a place for calm reflection.  The offer was accepted, financing secured, and in January of 2018, the papers were signed for the official home of Hope House.  

To date, no formal fundraising efforts have taken place, but thanks to others who believe in the mission of Hope House, adequate funds have been gathered for the down payment on the land.  The next step is the formation of a committee to plan the capital campaign to raise the funds for construction and operation of Hope House.  Thanks to a generous, local grant from the Duncan-Kendrick Ministry Fund, funds are in place for the construction of the foundation of the house.  During the fundraising drive, plans for construction will be finalized and the potential to break ground in the spring of 2019 is the goal.  

The Hope House committee, volunteers, and supporters are excited to be able to provide such a significant ministry here in Christian County, and to be able to serve families throughout Central Illinois.  For more information, and to follow our progress, please visit hopehouseofcentralillinois.org.

We Have Land!

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Special thanks to all the private donors, churches, community organizations, and businesses who have sponsored Hope House of Central Illinois and made it possible for us to purchase the land where Hope House will be built! We have officially purchased seven acres of land south of Taylorville (two miles west of Lakeshore Golf Course). We especially thank the sellers who helped us find the perfect place to help grieving families for many years to come.

We look forward to continuing to make plans and break ground in God’s timing. We’ll kick off our capital campaign soon. Stay connected with us here and on Facebook. We continue to appreciate your prayers.

 

The birth of a dream

The years 2013 and 2014 were life changers. We and our friends became part of this unorganized and unofficial  club no one wants to be a part of, Parents of Loss. While the dreams of life with our children had died, we were hopeful that there was purpose in our individual losses. 

Shortly after our loss, Jon and I took a trip in late July 2013 to the Smoky Mountains in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg TN area with Michael and Teresa. I was personally having trouble with being in public places.  I think social anxiety is a common thing for grieving parents. So, away we went for a little get away. It was a time of reflection, quiet contemplation, expressions of fears, anger, hurt, rejection, and a whole host of emotions. We spent time talking, eating, and playing games in the cabin. We spent time hiking and sight seeing in the great Smoky Mountains. There were moments we cried but there were also moments we smiled and even laughed again. 

That trip was an essential part of our healing process. It reminded us that although there are moments we can’t imaging living without our children, life is still worth the effort of getting out of bed each day if only to see the sunrise or help a fellow parent of loss know they aren’t alone. We were working to help each other find our lost hope and joy.


Once back in central Illinois, we continued to heal, spending time with friends and family. The memories of healing and time spent at the cabin in the Smokies kept us encouraged. 

Shortly after Christmas 2013, our little Yorkie, Phoebe, became very sick. We spent days visiting her at the vet’s office where Randy and his staff were working diligently to make sure she came out of her illness. During some of the visits, we spoke with Randy about our time in the Smokies with Michael and Teresa. That area has always been special to Randy and Gina. We discussed how nice it would be to own a cabin down there and joked about the three couples going in together to buy a place. As 2013 moved into 2014, we continued to discuss this idea whenever we would get together. Once Michael made the comment that it should not just be a vacation home though; it should mean something more, and maybe we could use it as a place to send grieving parents for a short time of healing like we had experienced.

The end of 2014 brought tragedy to Randy and Gina as they lost their twenty-four year old son Danny. He was home for the holidays and the beginning of 2015 found them taking a trip out west to handle his affairs there. While on the road one morning, they saw a rainbow which they received as a sign of hope. The idea of finding some purpose in the loss of our children, bringing something good out of these tragedies, was continuing to take root in our hearts and minds.


By the end of 2014, the birth of a new dream for each of us six parents had begun. The gestational period has been long and full of craziness but here we are boldly daring to dream. We dare to dream that although life can be difficult, there is always a reason to hope. We dream of being able to touch the lives of many other hurting families in the coming years by offering them a place of refuge during their first days of grief. We dream of finding land here in central Illinois where we can build Hope House. We dream of working with other organizations and services to provide the best resources for grieving parents. We dream……


Contact us to learn more and join us in this dream of Hope House.

Painful Endings…..

December 2012 was an exciting and scary month. We were excited to be pregnant but scared of another miscarriage. Nonetheless, our dreaming began. We were hoping for a healthy daughter. Michael and Teresa had found out their twins were going to be a boy and a girl. We imagined all types of shenanigans for them to get into. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds that this was going to be an exciting journey. Teresa’s sonograms and doctor visits showed healthy babies. Jon and I had decided to keep the pregnancy pretty quiet until we were around 20 weeks just to be sure everything was going well. We planned to start sharing in February.

In late January, Michael and Teresa’s dream came to a devastating end. Teresa’s water broke early. They rushed to a local hospital where she was evaluated and flown to Champaign NICU to give the babies every possible chance of survival. They were unable to stop her labor, and Samuel and Selah were born at 23 weeks on January 23, 2013. They were fighters. Samuel lived on this earth for three days and Selah for eight days. Our hearts were broken for our dear friends. This was not the end we had in mind for our dreams of parenting together.

I could not imagine Michael and Teresa (especially Teresa) wanting to be around us following the passing of Samuel and Selah. I especially did not want to go to the visitation with my little baby bump pushing my shirt out even though it was slight at the time. How do you face your friend who has just lost her children and you have not? In fact, your dreams are still very much alive, yet so altered. There was such a sadness and loneliness to my pregnancy the next few weeks. This was not the plan. This was not the dream. I was not supposed to go through this late in life pregnancy without my friend Teresa by my side going through the same thing (although, yes, she is a bit younger than me). I very much wanted to have our baby but it was not going to be the same without Samuel and Selah. Through tears of grace, our friendship remained constant through the tough first stages of Michael’s and Teresa’s grief.

9BC85B6B-As our pregnancy progressed, it was finally time for our sonogram around 20 weeks when we were to find out the sex of the baby and check the growth and development. Although we received the exciting news that we were expecting a little girl, we were told they could not view her heart as clearly as they wanted, so we were referred to another facility and provider for a more specialized sonogram. I lost my 5-year-old sister to a heart condition years ago. Hearing there was a question about our little girl’s heart was like a black knife of fear being birthed in my soul. I fought it. I celebrated with my family at the gender reveal all the while hearing those words echo over and over: “We can’t view the heart clearly. Her heart. Her heart.”

9C7AC66C-On March 4, 2013, after being on a bed for over 2 hours with a sono probe pressed to my belly here and there, I had a few beautiful 3-D photos of our little girl’s perfect face with a little turned-up nose and probably 8-10 photos of her feet which she continued to press against the probe no matter where it was. She definitely did not like it invading her space! Once the tech was finished and the doctor spent another 30-60 minutes reviewing the images, the doctor came into the room. She wanted to check just a few more images. Being a nurse, having had the genetics counselor talk prior to the extended sono, and having the fear grow inside me the longer it took, I had a dread of what was coming next. We were told our daughter had significant heart issues, a herniation in her diaphragm which was allowing her abdominal organs to go up into her chest cavity and cause an issue with lung development. All of this was further complicated by her small size for gestational age and the excess of amniotic fluid. Chances of carrying to term were considered highly unlikely and her heart and lungs were not compatible with life outside the womb. Basically, I was not expected to carry to term and she would not live long once she was born. To say we were devastated is an understatement. I am not sure how we even got to the car. I think we had to stop somewhere so I could throw up. I had so many missed calls and texts from Jon’s mom and my own mom. How were we supposed to tell them this news? How were we even supposed to deal with this?

Before we got home, I had plans to go shop for a pretty little premie outfit to bury our little girl in. I was trying to talk about who would do the funeral service and where she would be buried. Jon was having none of that. He was not giving up. God did not bring us this far to leave us with no hope. We weren’t even supposed to be pregnant so we had to keep hoping until there was no reason to hope.

We got through the first devastating days of the prognosis and continued to see different specialists including fetal cardiology in Springfield and then St. Louis Children’s Hospital. We were at one place or the other every 2-4 weeks for repeat sonograms to check Lucy’s development and weight. Honestly, at every sono and doctor’s visit, something positive was reported. The best day for us was when the fetal cardiologist at St. Louis Children’s told us that although the left side of her heart was smaller than the right, it was functioning properly. We were just dealing with lungs and diaphragmatic hernia now. There was hope.

Through all of this, Michael and Teresa were two of our biggest supporters and sources of encouragement. Randy reminded us of his and Gina’s own daughter’s health issues early in her life. Everyday we had encounters with people or physicians who encouraged us to keep our hope and faith alive. I remember a friend who years ago had struggled with infertility for years and finally had gotten pregnant telling me that she was going to enjoy every minute of her pregnancy no matter how long it lasted because it was a miracle she was even pregnant. I adopted her mindset. With every doctor visit, every kick of Lucy’s little feet, and yes, even every episode of morning sickness (which never ends for me during pregnancy), I was thankful for every pound I gained, every cramp I felt, every day that I got to keep my little girl inside me one more day.

C0B4A5FE-We made it to 35 weeks and four days. The plan was to not let me go past 38 or 39 weeks as long as Lucy was 4 pounds. We had some time to go as she was still just under three pounds at 34 weeks. I went into labor on June 18 and was flown from St. John’s hospital to Barnes in St. Louis. Lucy was born a little after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. She was so tiny. Her tummy so flat. I got to see her kick her legs once they had her intubated and were breathing for her.  One of my favorite photos of her is when she is wrinkling her nose and forehead as they are placing the g-tube in her nose. They rushed her to the NICU. Her lungs were unable to handle the pressure of breathing and collapsed multiple times. They were unable to keep her lungs working.

Once I was able to be with her, they placed her in my arms, and we watched another dream die.

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The Beginning…

It would be the epitome of conceit to believe that we at Hope House (and especially me, Monica, as a writer) could be the voice of every grieving parent out there, so we won’t even try. What I will do, as I write on behalf of Hope House, is tell you a series of stories, our stories from my perspective, showing you how they have intertwined and brought us to this vision of Hope House of Central Illinois. In sharing our stories, it is our desire to bring hope to other grieving families even in the darkest of days.

Our story begins with a mission trip to New Orleans to aid with recovery efforts from hurricane Katrina.

In early 2008, a couple gifted in construction (Michael and Teresa) led a missions trip to NOLA to aid in recovery in St. Bernard Parish. My husband Jon and Randy, a veterinarian friend, went as well. Shortly before the missions trip in February, Jon and I found out we were expecting a baby. I was 39 at the time. Michael was encouraged by our somewhat late-in-life pregnancy and mentioned to Jon his desire for he and Teresa to “throw their hat into the ring” and try again to have a child. They had struggled for many years with infertility.

A few nights into the mission trip, I was at home in Illinois working my night job as an ER nurse when I began experiencing early signs of miscarriage. I left work and miscarried at home. Communication with the mission team in St. Bernard Parish was unreliable at best. Once I finally reached Jon, he didn’t know if he could get home, because he had driven Randy’s truck (and Randy had flown). When Randy found out what was going on back home, he immediately offered his airline ticket, so Jon could get to me quickly. I was thankful Jon was able to fly home to be with me as I recovered.

We continued to pray for another pregnancy for ourselves as well as for Michael and Teresa. I specifically prayed for years that Teresa and I would get to experience pregnancy together and raise our kids together in our community and church, encouraging one another in parenting.

A few years passed. Randy and Gina had children graduate high school and go to college. Jon and I had our boys from my first marriage who graduated high school. Michael accepted the call to ministry and enrolled in classes at Lincoln Christian University. Life was rolling along, not exactly as we had planned but it was good. Michael and Teresa had attempted to foster some children, looked into adoption, and contemplated in-vitro.

They got the exciting news IVF was successful: Michael and Teresa were expecting twins in May 2013!

Winter 2012 brought the surprising news that Jon and I were expecting a child in July 2013. We had really given up the thought of ever having a child together, but here we were, pregnant. And at the same time as Michael and Teresa! We were all very excited.

The Next Step

Welcome to Hope House of Central Illinois. Hope House began through conversations between a group of parents who had each traveled the treacherous road of grief.  Though our stories differed, we felt the most ‘normal’ in each others company. Several months into the talking and planning stages, here we are, an official 501C3 non-profit organization raising funds to build a cabin in a quiet setting in rural central Illinois.

Who we will serve:

Parents of loss – There were 595 reported deaths of children ages 0-24, of which 212 were infants, within a hundred mile radius of our small town of Taylorville, IL. (government statistics – 2011)

Why we serve:

As fellow parents of loss, it is our goal to offer other parents a place of peace to begin to heal.  Our hope is for them to find a ray of hope as they learn to live with their new normal.

What we are up to now:

We are meeting with individuals, groups of friends, local community leaders, clergy, church groups, and businesses to spread the word about our organization.  Several have agreed to offer goods and services, time and talents, volunteer services, prayer, and financial support to see Hope House built.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to work towards the goal of seeing Hope House built and ready for service in the near future.  For now, we will just keep taking the next step!