Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On Meeting Cassidy Stay

I returned yesterday from Origami Owl's second annual National Convention. A few weeks prior to convention, our Origami Owl family was rocked with the news that one of our designers, Katie Stay, and her family, were the victims of a senseless act of violence. Katie, her husband, and four of her five children were killed. Cassidy Stay, her oldest daughter was the sole survivor.

Origami Owl rallied around the family, spreading the word about this tremendous loss and through the help of Katie's mentor, loving sister designers coordinating tee-shirt fundraisers, and corporate initiatives to get the word out, we were able to add a significant amount of money to what was already being donated by others in the community and around the world.

Cassidy Stay was, and continues to be, on the hearts and minds of everyone in Origami Owl. When I was at convention, I heard rumors that Cassidy was actually there with us. I didn't know if it was fact or fiction, but I whispered a prayer for her nonetheless as I often have over the past few weeks. I prayed that if she was there, that some part of that experience would bring her a sliver of peace. When you are grieving, you cling to those slivers. You collect them, store them up, and fall back on them when times are the hardest.

Sunday morning, our hotel was abuzz with designers who were making their final arrangements to head home. Last minute hugs were being given. Shuttles rushing in and out taking friends to the airport or some other destination. I had booked another day at a nearby resort, so my travel companion and I opted to spend the morning at Mass at an old Basilica across the street from the hotel. While at Mass, I continued to pray for the Stay family, and for all of our designers who would be traveling that day.

On my way back to the hotel, I received a text message from my Senior Director, reminding me that she brought some motivational cd's for me, and that she was in line waiting for her shuttle pick up. When I returned to the hotel, I made a beeline for the pick up area in hopes of locating her before she departed. I peeked out the doors, but there were so many designers waiting that I had to go outside and into the midst of them to fully see who all was out there and whether or not my Senior Director was among them. After scanning the crowd and coming to the realization that she was no longer there, I turned to go back inside and came face to face with Cassidy Stay and her guardian.

In that moment, a million things rushed through my head. Is that really her? What to say…. do I say anything or nothing? What to do…. do I offer a hello or a hug or just a nod? Do I walk away as though I did not see her to give her space? It occurred to me in that moment that the things my minister told me the day we lost Henry were very true: People do not know how to act around the bereaved. Even though I consider myself a little better armed to handle a grief situation given my personal history, I still stood dumbfounded while this sweet girl stared at me wondering whether I was going to move out of her way or spend the day staring at her.

In the end, I opted for the hug. One thing I love about Origami Owl is that it's all about {LOVE}. Give love. Share love. Pass it on. I hugged her tightly and she hugged back just the same. I told her I was sorry for her loss. Safe words for anyone who is grieving. We chatted a bit, and I closed with, "God bless you," before releasing her and moving on my way.

Once my back was turned, I burst into tears at the thought of the weight of the grief she bears and the road before her. I am so grateful to know that she holds a strong faith in Jesus Christ. That she knows there is light, and that His light can alleviate the weight of this grief if she will let it (and I have faith that she will). I will continue to hold her and her family in prayer and am confident my Origami Owl family and so many others will do the same.

This is a quote from Harry Potter that Cassidy quoted when she first spoke after her hospital stay. If only one remembers to turn on the light. His light. Day by day, the weight of grief lessens.

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Cindee said...
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Cindee said...

Thanks for sharing our love with her! ♡ Hugs!

Sue from Oregon said...

Wow Sarah. I am so glad you got to give her that big ole hug. Having a loss in my family recently I have found you don't need to say anything-a hug says it all!

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