Yesterday marked 4 years since Daniel returned home from a month away at Manus Island, yesterday marks 4 years since an incredible experience but yet one I wouldn't choose to do again!
I still remember the day sitting in the chapel and being told of this opportunity which had come about for some of the cadets, to do their summer placement on Manus Island working with those in detention, seeking Asylum.
I leant against the wall just inside the door, and Daniel sat in the chairs across the room from me. As our Principal spoke of this experience, I knew so deep down in my soul that Daniel needed to go, without even speaking to him on wether he wanted to or not. As the principal spoke Daniel turned around and caught my eye, to which I just nodded my headed and mouthed the words "go".
Go...two little letters, with such a huge impact. I hadn't really thought about the impact, just gone with my gut.
Go...and leave me single parenting an 18month old whilst I still continue my studies and placement.
Go...for a month, with us knowing it will be minimal contact between us during that time.
Go...being obedient to what we'd been called to do.
Go...because I knew there wasn't any other option, this would be a once in a lifetime experience for him.
Go...because you have a huge heart for people, & you are needed there for such a time as this.
Go...and I have an experience of single parenting which made me see how difficult it is for some.
Go...and be an example of Jesus in a place we really knew nothing about.
The time came for Daniel to go, I can remember being so incredibly proud of what he was embarking on but also so terrified of the next month and what it would look like. As I stood with 3 other incredible mums, we said goodbye to our loved ones knowing that the community we were surrounded by would be our village that came together to assist us in parenting our children.
Looking back now, fours years on I reflect on the experience that was mine, I can't write about Daniel's because that was his experience and whilst he shared some of it with me, I will never truly be able to understand the experience he had.
Those 3 mums I stood with, they were my solid rocks though out that month, a simple message of "help", "you ok?", "let's eat together" was never left untouched, the friendship that was formed in that time was one I can honestly say I'd never experienced before.
The community in which we lived, I truly saw what they mean when they say "it takes a village to raise a child". I had people willing to mind Emery so I could have some down time, people wanting to invest in her life. They assisted me with childcare pickups, assignment deadlines, meals & mundane chores of groceries and cleaning and for that I am forever grateful.
I experienced life also as a single mother, in the middle of the night when your child is sick and admitted to hospital, being alone and feeling incredibly so, knowing that the people you want nearby are those that are a flight (or two!) away! I had experiences that helped me to see what life is like for those outside of my little world.
I worked full time at my placement and raised a child and boy it was tough. Sometimes the most contact I had with Daniel was a "like" on a photo on Instagram, and at times that was all I needed to know he was ok. I missed him so much it hurt some days, and there were some days it was all to overwhelming and I'd hide in our apartment with Emery, just enjoying the time with her, where I could let me emotions go and not need to explain them.
My most vivid moments from that time are the last few days when Emery was incredibly sick, and was admitted to hospital. I can remember counting down the hours until Daniel was to return, wanting so badly to be home for that, to greet him and not for him to need to come to the hospital. Sadly home was not an option and he was welcomed home at the hospital.
As I shut my eyes I can go back to that moment like it was yesterday. I feel the cool of the air conditioner on my skin, my tummy is hungry because I haven't been able to leave Emery and all I've eaten since 5pm the night before was popcorn, chocolate and a coke. It's now late in the afternoon and I am pleading with Emery to drink something or eat something so we can go home and see daddy, but she is pale and lifeless and refuses. Her little body is tired from the exhaustion of 13 vomits in a time frame of 5 hours. As I lean over the hospital cot, pleading with her, I see Daniel come around the corner of the ward out the corner of my eye, my heart leaps with joy, I tear up because he's home (just as I do now as I relive this precious moment). Before I can draw Emery's attention to Daddy, she too has spotted him and beemed with joy "Daddy!".
The rest is really uneventful. With Daddy's return and much to my frustration, Emery begun drinking and eating and within 2 hours we were home.
I did however have a moment where I was able to put myself in someone else shoes. I remember once Dan had been with us for a little while, I left him with Emery and went to get some food, as I returned with McDonalds, we were told we could go home. Earlier that day I had been placed in a room with another mum who like me, had not left the room, or eaten. When I returned with my food, knowing I was going home, I was able to pass on my meal to her and whilst I don't know if she ate it, I know the look on her face was forever thankful.
Four years on as I reflect on that time, I am grateful for Daniel, because even though his time away was tough on us both, we are in this journey together and support each other 100% in the choices we make still to this day.
I reflect on the woman I am. I am incredibly resilient, I am strong and I am an beautiful mother. But not only that I look back and see that through that time I never let anything pull me away from what I was doing. I kept going with my healthy eating and fitness, yes it may of been moved a little to fit around my single my routine, but I did it. I completed my placements and assignments, again, yes I may of had extensions for those assignments but they were completed. I enjoyed the moments with my beautiful girl, who truly kept me going.
I reflect on the moments I had that made me aware of others that I may never have thought about their experiences, and whilst I may of forgotten some of them, my hope is that I may be reminded of them when I need to and that I may be apart of someone's village to assist them in their time of need.
And for this experience I am truly grateful.