Boy Courage and a Green Bandana - A Parent’s Perspective

  • September 02, 2016
  • Source The Moyer Foundation
  • Author Tricia Williford
  • Type Blog

I miss my son like crazy today. This does not usually happen.

I am the biggest proponent for sending, launching, letting them be brave and free and strong and away for a little while. But this weekend, I miss my kid.

This weekend, Tyler is at Camp Erin, a Grief Camp for children who have lost someone in their immediate family. Peter and I drove him there on Friday morning.

They started this weekend by bringing all of the children and counselors together into a circle to talk about what they all have in common: remembering. They each shared the name of the person they are remembering, and if they wanted to, they shared how that person died.

These little children, all lined up to be so brave. My heart broke over and over and over again to hear their courage.

“I am remembering my mom who died in a car accident.”

“I am remembering my dad. He was killed by a drunk driver.”

“I am remembering my dad died who died from pancreas cancer.”

“I’m remembering my sister because she died from suicide.”

“I am remembering my mom when she died from an overdose.”

“I’m remembering my dad. He died from a heart attack.”

And then her little brother next to her spoke into the microphone: “He really did. His heart gave up.”

And then my little boy held the microphone for his turn among all the other brave children. “My dad died from a disease.” Which wasn’t exactly true, but then I had to agree that I couldn’t actually think of a way for my nine-year-old to say what happened in just one sentence.

I watched him, wearing his lime green bandana for his cabin, and wearing his little raincoat I was so thankful we had packed, speaking so boldly to tell his story. And I realized that sometimes I forget we have a sad story. I have been so intentional to help them grow through their sadness, to help them talk through what they’re learning. We have been showered with so much grace and healing. We talk about their first dad with joy in remembering, and sometimes now I forget how sad it is. That my children carry tragedy in their pockets.

I listened to all of these children tell their story of remembering, and I wore sunglasses even though it was raining because my eyes wouldn’t not respond with tears. I was so overwhelmed by their stories, and then my child spoke too. I forgot somehow that he’s among them, that there was a reason we were there at all.

I said goodbye to my lime-green bandana boy, sending him into his cabin among the heroes who will love him this weekend and hold his heart. I sent him off into this three-day emotional journey without me. Even without his brother.

I need to trust the process of growing a little boy into a young man into a leader.

I’ve long said that the only thing I fear—truly the only thing in all the world—is my children feeling afraid. If they are afraid, I want permission and space to look them in the eyes, help them to know they’ve got this.

Last night, I watched midnight arrive while I prayed for my son who seemed so far away, and I could only think of what only I know: what scares him at night and what help he sometimes needs to go to sleep, how he needs to be heard and encouraged and reminded that mornings always come again. 

It’s the first time I cannot get to him. I mean, I could. In the same way that I couldget to Tucker when he’s at the bottom of a tackle pile on the football field. It’s just not good form if I exercise what I coulddo. I need to trust the process of growing a little boy into a young man into a leader.

I watched him walk away, and he seemed so young and so grownup, so brave and so mine, and all of this parenting journey was suddenly happening so fast.

Sunday can’t come soon enough.

 * * * * *

Our reunion on Sunday was the sweetest of his whole livelong life.

Tyler won the camp award for being the Best Friend.

Which is of course the best award. He’s a tremendous human being.

And he’s home again. Exhale.

Tricia Williford and her family lost a loving father and husband after sudden illness just before Christmas in 2015.  To read more about their story, visit  

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