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Jan3FriAt the end of her rope, one woman and her family found hope at a Salvation Army centre. January 3, 2014 by Jennifer Neeb
The September morning I pulled into The Salvation Army's Parent-Child Resource Centre (PCRC) parking lot in Kitchener, Ont., was one of the worst in my life.
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- Faith & Friends
I had put my two young sons in the van beside their newborn sister and driven around. Their dad was at home coming off of his 12th gruelling round of chemotherapy. I wanted the house to be quiet for him to rest.
But I had nowhere to go and no money to spend.
So we drove.
It had been a long year that had taken everything I had out of me. Our life consisted of surgeon, specialist and oncologist appointments. Jonathan had undergone 12 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and three surgeries as he battled advanced colon cancer. He couldn't eat anything and was constantly sick.
There was little I could do for him. Watching my husband suffer so much and become a shadow of his former self was heartbreaking.
On this particular morning, I was at my lowest. I could not fight back tears of hopelessness, fear and sadness. I could barely breathe. I was so exhausted, what with my children, my newborn, my sick husband and … life.
At least the van was a place where my children, seated in the back, wouldn't see me cry.
What possessed me to drive into the parking lot of a strange building, unload three children and wander in? I knew a Bible study met there. Was that what I needed?
“What's in here, Mommy?” my son, Benjamin, asked me as we walked in.
“I don't know,” I told him.
And yet I continued inside.
God knew the circumstances of my life and my desperate heart. And there is no doubt in my mind that He pulled my van into that parking lot.
A New Normal
I was greeted warmly by Pamela Nickell, the site supervisor and child-care co-ordinator, and Denise Shelbourne, the program leader. If either of them saw any evidence of swollen eyes or circles of exhaustion under them, they didn't show any hint of noticing. They explained that I had just missed the program registration but there was a Wednesday afternoon group that I could join.
It was, quite literally, a Godsend.
That Wednesday afternoon group was exactly what I needed. If nothing else, it was a place marker in my week, something to look forward to.
And it quickly became so much more. It was a group of women, expecting us. It was a place I felt safe to leave my children. It was a program run by caring teachers—Pamela, Sherry Cormier and Cindy Vos—whom my children quickly grew to love. It was a place where I could give my children normalcy, where they could experience the consistency, discipline and structure they so needed in their out-of-control lives.
And it was a place where I could hold my baby without interruption.
I felt as if it was OK to laugh.
To be free of worry, responsibility and stress, if only for two hours a week, was such a blessing.
The group quickly became the highlight of my week. Attending was the push I needed to venture out into the world again. I began to shed the anxiety I was living under, and it allowed us to live life more fully despite what was happening with Jonathan.
Getting in the car on Wednesday afternoons with somewhere to go meant so much to us. I felt normal for the first time in a long time.
So Happy Together
Despite this welcome change, by Christmastime, I was exhausted. We had a long month of the flu and a stomach virus, my two-year-old was sick with pneumonia, and a close family member passed away. Our house was not very merry. It was frustrating not to be able to create in my home for my family what I wanted so very much to accomplish, but I was running on empty.
The best decision I made that December was to attend the PCRC Christmas party with the kids during a brief break from illness. I was amazed at the time, effort and energy put into such a wonderful event. The children enjoyed their meal, saw Santa and received gifts that remained some of their most treasured even after Christmas morning. I was able to take a deep breath on our way home.
Even if the rest of the season continued to be disastrous, the PCRC gave my kids a Christmas.
And through the course of the next six months, life did get better. There were small victories and big ones, and I never felt anything but supported and genuinely celebrated with at the PCRC. Just knowing that support was available and someone cared meant everything.
Today, I feel like myself. I feel like a good mother. My husband is healthy. I am optimistic and hopeful.
And I am happy again.
From that dismal September morning that seems so long ago now, the PCRC and their tireless dedication to their work and the families they serve, played an important role. They may not always know what they mean to the families they support, but they are valued. And I am blessed that I pulled into that parking lot.