Over the course of four weeks, members of the community will be sharing their story. These stories are about individuals and their experience with cancer or loss. They are the reason the Lowell community comes together for the Pink Arrow Football Game. Each story is written by the person you will read about or by someone on their behalf unless otherwise noted. We thank them for sharing their story and courage.
Photos courtesy of Heather Eveland and are used with permission. Heather donates her time to get to know those she is photographing and capture an image to be used with each story. You can visit her photography website and Facebook page for more information about her work.
Heather is also the volunteer coordinator for Pink Arrow events. If you are interested in helping out at Fans in the Stands selling t-shirts, Community Day (Friday, Aug. 23) or game day (Friday, Sept. 13) please contact her by calling 616-291-8907 or send an email to [email protected] Heather will let you or your group know what help is needed and determine the best fit.
The following story is about Roger Royer written by him.
One enters the Gilda’s Club housed in the Lowell Senior Center with some in trepidation. Oh, it’s not a place of exclusivity, but one of inclusivity. It is not particularly an environment that you might seek to be a ‘member’ of, although we all will eventually experience the situations that make the Gilda’s Clubs across the nation so valuable.
The clubs are an outgrowth of the relationship, no better said, love, that the actor Gene Wilder had for his wife Gilda Radner. Gilda, an original cast member of the long running NBS Saturday Night Live was taken by ovarian cancer at the age of 43 and Wilder co-founded the Gilda’s Club concept to provide support for those who had lost a loved one. He found a void and viewed the idea of the Club as a means for comfort. As clubs around the country celebrated Gilda’s life on what would have been her 73rd birthday this week, I thought it might be helpful and perhaps informative to share my experience as a way to encourage others to embrace the opportunities and resources available from the Club in the Victorian House on the south end of town.
First off, it must be said that programs and support provided by Gilda’s Club are without cost, so that removes one impediment that might deter one from seeking assistance. Our Lowell club is affiliated with its ‘big sister’ in Grand Rapids and benefits from resources shared with it. Volunteers provide immeasurable support in the operation of the club. Upon entering the club you’re greeted by welcoming smiles, a clear representation of the environment that you’ll experience. Remember the circumstances of all members are shared. Yes, each has its own uniqueness, but there is the common theme of the loss of a loved one or the challenge of traumatic health issues to oneself or those close to you.
In my particular instance, and those of many others, the loss of a spouse, child, parent, sibling or other loved one is a once in a lifetime experience and not something I would wish on anyone. The empty chair at the dinner table, next to you in the car, or on the couch watching the latest edition of Jeopardy is truly painful and cannot be shared. Yes, friends, relatives, neighbors, and other colleagues express their condolences with all sincerity, but unless you have experienced the trauma for yourself and until that day arrives, one can never fully understand the nature of the feeling of emptiness that envelops a person. The club provides a venue for attendees to share their challenges and hopefully to grow physically, spiritually, and emotionally, not to forget the past, but to help them approach the future. New attendees demonstrate their courage with attendance and frankly the first time it can be uncomfortable, sharing your inner most feelings can be difficult for any of us. As you look around into the eyes of the other members, there is a feeling of connectivity with those who too, have experienced similar circumstances. It may take several gatherings to reach a comfort level where one can ‘let their protective guard’ down and emotions are frequently demonstrated with tears. They are quickly followed by smiles of support and sympathy by others who know the feelings. Each member sets his or her own pace for growth as they use the meetings for the respite they seek.
Perhaps the most interesting and telling concept of the Gilda’s Club in Lowell are the members themselves, young and old, men and women, survivors and grievers, all are in search of some comfort as they look to build on their tomorrows. We are indeed privileged to be gifted a resource such as the Gilda’s Club and I would encourage you, if the need arises, to stop and explore its benefits.
Wade Publishing, who also creates the Local Saver, will be putting together all of the 2019 Perseverance Stories into one publication which will be mailed out to the community in August. Thanks to the following businesses!
Bernards Ace Hardware
Snow Avenue Greenhouse
Great Lake Paving
Arctic Inc. Heating & Cooling
Main St BBQ
Lowell’s First Look