When I signed up for Ed and Kate’s Memorial Day Retreat, I did not know what to expect. My husband, Cliff, and I wanted another way of remembering, honoring and celebrating the life of our beloved son, Pfc. Keith Jesse Moore, who died by suicide while serving the US Army in Iraq on October 14, 2006. We had spent other Memorial weekends at traditional military events and while these were meaningful, we needed something more akin to our spirituality and world view.
Ed and Kate’s description of their retreat sounded like it fit us better so we signed up to give it a try, not knowing what it would be like. We chose items, as was requested in their advertisement that represented our son. I brought a framed picture of our Keith. Cliff brought his Unit pin (2-14)with the Golden Dragon on it representing the 10th Mountain Division and we brought our broken hearts.
The location was at a beautiful retreat center surrounded by the woods of Massachusetts in a small town. The staff was friendly, the grounds lovely and the food very healthy. The retreat began with our group gathered in a small comfy room. We were graciously welcomed by Ed and Kate and introductions were made as we shared about ourselves around the circle. I immediately felt safe and right at home. The stirrings of restorative healing had already begun.
As the hours and days went on, as the group shared more in depth of our personal stories, and together chanted, drummed, meditated, stretched our weary bones though gentle morning yoga my heart began to soften, my mind began to feel soothed. I felt embraced by a loving community who knew the agony of loss, the horrors of war, who received each other’s different experiences as precious gems of truth and courage. We melded together in mutual respect and compassion for one another.
The stories of each participant, the stories and drumming of our facilitators, the sweat lodge, and meals together, exchanges of hugs, tears and understanding healed places within me that had been open bleeding wounds for eight years. It happened simply because I showed up, the others showed up and we shared, we listened, we comforted each other, we healed together as family.
Kate and Ed created an environment where this was possible. I will be forever grateful to them, their trainers, Diane and Doug and all the others for their open hearts, compassionate presence, willing vulnerability and authentic, generous love. I hope to be a part of another gathering lead by Soldier’s Heart as soon as I can. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Susan G. Turley and Cliff Moore
- Portrait of Pfc. Keith Jesse Moore courtesy of Moore Family. Used by permission.