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Sharing the Journey from Bereaved to Shining Light Parent
The Wheelchair

The Wheelchair

  • Posted
    • Aug
    • 28
    • 2022
by Elizabeth Boisson
The Wheelchair 
Signs from our children are easily missed but are there when we are open to them, using our sixth sense. 
We all are busy in our daily lives with obligations and distractions vying for our attention. Visual and audible information from multiple sources bombard us constantly. One of those distractions can be deep grief and all the places it carrie’s our conscious thinking. As grief begins to subside and we attempt to re-engage with life, it can be challenging to prioritize our thoughts.
Still, honoring that mysterious sixth sense can pay off.
I had the privilege to document and take photographs at the 2nd Helping Parents Heal Conference in August 2022. There were roughly nine hundred parents from around the world gathered to experience this single event to help each other recover from the passing of a child. 
Over four days, there were multiple presentations available, up to five separate events at a time. They were spread throughout the conference center with many personal interactions in the corridors between rooms. I had some help but was determined to capture as many events and participants as possible on my camera. I included set-up and after parties each night. I didn’t hear any complete presentation or get to visit much because my attention was on shutter, composition, and focus. I was busy.
I am happy to support the cause, so my wife and I volunteered for the weekend. We are also part of the group with two sons in spirit. Attendees wore name tags for themselves and buttons with photos and names of their late children. I enjoyed meeting several new people and exchanged stories of healing.
By the end of the first day, Lisa had lost one of her buttons. After a few mentions, I offered mine to her, which she accepted. From then on, when other parents commented on my son pinned on my lanyard, I had to tell them about my other son and the missing button. This scene repeated all weekend, as did another.
I moved from room to room swiftly and as discretely as possible and scanned stage and crowd for interesting photos. I kept seeing wheel chairs, usually empty in the aisle, but in various positions and locations. Each sighting reminded me of my son Michael. He had been confined to a wheelchair his whole life. Michael was on the button I had given to Lisa to replace the one she had lost. 
I contemplated the metaphor of the empty chair. Was he now free of constraint? Was it our emptiness of his absence? Was this a reminder of the button representing him that was now missing? I sensed it was a simple reminder that I don’t need the button or anything external to know he still is within me. I took it as a sign of his spirit and my heart filled.
Prior to the final event, I approached a standing woman whom I’d seen in one of the chairs. I thanked her for being at the event with her chair. I explained the button and how Micheal had remained with me when spotting the wheel chairs.
She explained that she had suffered an accident earlier and that she was using the only chair available at the hotel.
I was surprised that all my sightings were of the same chair. On the other hand, I sensed that Michael may have been responsible for directing my attention, repeatedly to that chair to share a spiritual hug. I sighed and smiled.
After the event, Lisa and I randomly met near the back of the room and said goodbyes to new and old friends. We shared stories of the weekend and prepared to go home.
Something was said which triggered Lisa to tell the story of the missing button. As she spoke, she fumbled with her purse and pulled out Michael’s original button that she hadn’t lost after all.
As she displayed this button, my attention was pulled behind her, between her and our friend, to see one more time, the empty wheel chair and sense again Michael’s spirit.
I quickly snapped a photo as she finished her story. Then, overcome with emotion, I choked out a quick version of this story.
My story might not resonate with anyone else.
I hear people frequently say that they do not get signs.  I’ve heard people tell stories of signs that didn’t move me. I was moved however, by seeing how much those people were impacted by what they had “felt” but could not express with words. 
I submit that signs are not “external”; they are much more intimate than that.
How many of the nine hundred  attendees noticed that wheelchair? It was there, EVERYWHERE, I say. To most people, I suspect it was just more of the bombardment of information that our five senses tune out.
Like the feather, cloud, Cardinal, scent, song, etc.; these external things are available to everyone’s senses. It’s that tingle in our sixth sense which privately identifies the sign to us. Are our children using the only sense available to them to interact with us? That sense is impossible to describe but we all keep trying.
I am grateful for learning to be open to the signs that keep our children as part of our daily lives. 
~Anthony and Michael's Shining Light Dad, Rick Wilcoxson 


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