Family · healing-over-pain · Hope

We are all together

(This is the speech I’m giving tonight at our first annual Gala. It’s the next best thing to being there.)

It’s best to begin with the children–our burn survivors. I hope you have had some time to see and engage our burn children.

They are our galaxy of bright stars.

Have you heard their stories? Many of our burn-kids had never told their story before, to anyone. Some of the stories seemed impossible to be built into words. But we knew the words were there and by listening attentively in a safe harbor of non-judgmental love, the stories began to surface at an event that we call “Catching Courage.”

Their courage was tangible though it’s hard to speak when your spirit has been broken.  statue grieving parents

Our family has a story and it was very hard to tell even to ourselves at home. 

Here’s our story.

It was a typical family Sat. afternoon going from a swimming meet to a soccer match.

We were on the expressway when our tire detreaded and the car started flipping 3/4 times.

There were 4 of us in the car–Ryan (7), Tyler (2), Ron and me.

The car burst into flames. Ryan and I caught fire first. And then it spread thru the car.

We were all burning. Ron was able to reach Tyler and pull him out of the fire. But Ryan was stuck in his seat belt and there was no way to pull him free before the fire took him.

Ron, Tyler and I were flown 600 miles away and a quarter of our bodies were burned.

Even though we know we’ll never get over this, we’re still here and our family is getting stronger at the broken places.

15 years after Ryan died, we saw it was the right time to build our foundation–Ryan Shines–in honor of our son.

Ryan
Ryan

One purpose of our foundation is to ensure that no burn child is left behind.

burn survivor:dog

We have created a safe place where burn survivors can heal.

It’s a place where we don’t run ahead of them demanding they keep up with us.

 

We communicate face to face on the same level.

And when we hear them begin to talk about their day from hell, when the world reversed its rotation, we are there with them. 

And not only us, but the firefighters were in the center of everything.

There are few men and women who wake up every morning to an unscripted day; a day that could be their last.

 

Firefighters are born, they’re not made. Their kind of courage and two scoops of craziness is deep in their DNA.

They run toward death while everyone else runs away. They have the gift of not thinking about themselves first.

Compassion is at the heart of their work. 

fireman facing fire

And compassion is at the heart of our work with them. When I first opened my eyes to it, I had no idea that Alabama is 2nd in the nation in suicide over work-related death.

You understand I’m talking about our firefighters.

It breaks my heart.

So many mothers losing their sons and daughters fighting every day like our family did to make sense of it. But, you know, it doesn’t make sense. 

Now. Imagine these 2 groups–our pediatric burn children and firefighters–spending a weekend or week together. Without saying a word, they recognize that they are standing on common ground. It creates a whole ‘new normal’ for them.

brantson

The bond that began the day of the fire, continues even thru tonite.

It happens at all of our Catching Courage events.

And the bond between them is indestructible. 

One thing I’ve learned over these years is that when something awful happens,

“Why?” is almost always the wrong question.

When the roof caves in or a trap door springs, the only question worth asking is “Where do we go from here?”

And however we may answer that question, part of the answer will always be “together.”

Group Montg.

dawn

 

 

Grief · healing-over-pain · Hope · wounded healer

I’m STILL ME

Meet Sydney.Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 6.57.38 PM

“My accident and rescue were like a miracle.

Here’s why.

My dad is a firefighter.

Really, he’s the battalion chief.

Which means he is not required to go to the scene of accidents.

He has a desk job.

But that afternoon, he overheard a call come in and something told him to respond to the accident personally.

When he got to the scene, he saw that it was my car and it was on fire.

He jumped out of his truck and ran to my car and, finding me unconscious, he got me out of the car and into the ambulance.

Remember I was unconscious the whole time.

I finally woke up in the hospital. I really didn’t know what had happened to me, but I was burned pretty bad.Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 7.17.40 PM

They started telling me my story.

I kept thinking, “If it weren’t for my dad…if it weren’t for my dad.”

He saved me.

He saved my life.

Just after my accident, after the hospital, before I went back to school, I worried about the normal things a 16-year-old girl worries about; “with all my scars, will I have ever have a date or a boyfriend? “

I was so self-conscious about my scars!

But, then, all that worry hit me in the opposite way.

I became proud of my scars.

Can you believe it? They made me feel special.

Because I realized I’m still me!

 

I’m not saying it wasn’t hard.

Many times I would slip into the bathroom at school to cry.

After a while, when they stared at me, I stopped feeling ashamed.

Here’s why.

I kind of understood where they were coming from.

I remembered that I had done the same thing. I’d stared at people who looked different, too. 

My dream is to be a nurse.

I want to treat pediatric burn survivors.Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 7.00.28 PM

I can really understand what’s going on inside them because I’ve been there myself.

I can help them through all the stages of fear and recovery because I’ve walked the same path they have and we’re still walking together.

No matter what, I will always be a burn survivor. “

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family travel · Hope · Motherhood

A wonderful gift waiting for us in China!

Molly could be weighed against feathers.

She is so little for all the machines surrounding in the burn hospital, giving and taking.

China ward
Shanghai General Hospital , China

She had suffered through God knows how many surgeries, not to mention the endless skin-graphs.

Did I tell you we met her in China at the burn hospital in Bejing?

So many children, so little time!

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 3.48.39 PM
Molly

You know the feeling of wanting to take them home with us in.

We brought a big white stuffed dog for Molly.

 

When our Tyler bent down eye-to-eye with Molly he gave her his high-beam smile (a wonderful gift in itself); then, he took the big dog out of it’s red package and handed it to her.

Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 4.05.38 PM
Tyler

We were all happy-surprised when she reached out on her own to take it from Tyler.

She turned to her mother and hugged her with her dog between them.

Every door in my heart blew open.

I was full of love for Molly, but I had some questions. 

When she leaves here will she be stroller’d out into the great outdoors?

As she grows, will she pedal down neighborhood streets on her two-wheeler? 

Will the other children accept her?

Will she swing around the pole of parking meters?

When she sleeps will she reach out for stars?

I look at her mother and remembered every emotion rocking her heart.

All I want to do is to sweep Molly up and rock her for a solid month-and-a-half.

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

Faith · Grief · Hope

Firefighters rush into the burning Towers (d.343)

 At 8:45 A.M. on September 11, 2001, an airplane slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

9:11 ff going in

I thought it was a horrible piece of flying since three airports were in close proximity.

But, then, twenty minutes later, most of us saw for ourselves a second airplane slamming into the South Tower, and exploded like a ball of fire.

This was no accident.

It was a deliberate act of aggression.

Thirty-five minutes later a third plane crashed into the Pentagon leaving a gaping hole in its side.

The fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

As for the death count, 2996 men and women died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Firefighters Todd Heaney and Frankie DiLeo, of Engine 209, c

And the World Trade Center was gone for good.

Americans of sixty national backgrounds were in the towers.

But as horrific as that was, the terrorists struck every one of us. 

Firefighters Raise A U.S. Flag At The Site Of The World Trade Center

This morning, my dear friends, I am crying again, while at the same time, my heart swells with respect and deep gratitude for the New York City Fire Departments(FDNY).

Ten House(fire station next door) arrived first and rushed into the Towers.

Two-hundred-fourteen fire vehicles (44 units) responded.

Over the past 6 months, I have met more than 600 firefighters throughout Alabama, Texas, and Florida.

I look into their eyes and every time I see the same single-minded commitment as the brave ones in New York. 

We stand and raise our voices to shout our praise to them, to sing our love to them, to honor their sacrifices, and to continue the sweet melodies of their lives.

We proclaim the land where they died a sacred place, where they showed us a degree of vulnerability far beyond our imagination.

Living well and loving courageously is our best revenge. 

Screen Shot 2019-09-10 at 3.18.49 PM

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

 

Encouragement · Faith · Hope

A love that overcomes punishment

To set the record straight, I don’t think that “punishment” is God’s M.O.

spanking

God’s great Heart overflows with love.

That has been believed again and again through the centuries.

After the accident, it got so frickin’ hard for me to steer clear of fear of the Wrath of God.

Like I needed to carry around a lightning rod.

It’s easy to think that when we do something wrong God is eager to punish us.

Why would we think that?

Because we think God is like us, and we are a sad girlpunishing people!

Despite my battle scars, I have realized that God was not punishing Ron and me for something we’d done that caused Ryan’s death.

Original Love
Original Love

Underneath every tragic thing is “Original Love.”

Dawn    

To be continued…

Daily Instagram inspiration @dawnraymondhirn      

Encouragement · Grief · Hope · wounded Mother

True Confession: My private ride on the Grief Train

Remember all the Stops: Denial, Anger, Depression, Survival. Acceptance.

I realize my grief is a little unusual–the grief of losing a child.

fullsizeoutput_3d53

It’s against the natural order that parents outlive their children.

The death of a child is unnatural and unfair.

It never occurred to me that I would bury my son.

It came out of nowhere.

And so for me, Depression lasted for years and years(12 years).

On the outside, no one could tell.

Not even me.

I acted my way thru so much during the first 12 years: the death of my father 6 months after Ryan; the births of my third and fourth sons; and our family’s move from Texas to Alabama.

Everything was on autopilot. My Depression happened on such a subconscious level that I couldn’t recognize it or name it.

But the symptoms were there: lack of interest,  low energy, and no creativity.

So, I got off the Train at the Survival Stop, built a home and am living there now.

railroad

When you’re just surviving, the best thing you can do is survive, while fully functioning.

On our Train, Survival is a full Stop, and Acceptance is something I’ll take up later with the good Lord.

I’m surviving, but I’m not accepting Ryan’s death.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-12-6,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-ve
Tyler’s HS Graduation ’18

 

 

I just can’t get there now, besides, I know the neighborhood here.

I’m not lost.

dawn

 

Encouragement · Faith · Grief · Hope

Our Journey together on the Grief Train

Remember every STOP:   Denial. Anger. Depression. Survival. Acceptance.

train asey-horner-490781-unsplash
The Grief Train

 

So, here’s the first stop.

Denial.

Which means, “This is a nightmare I’m going to wake up out of, and Ryan will still be here.” Don’t be shocked at that. None of us are prepared to entertain the thought, “it never happened” for very long. You’ve thought it, now feel it. Nobody knows how long each Stop lasts.

Maybe, for some of us, the rest of our life.

rail stat eric-muhr-636819-unsplash.jpgFor instance, we build a home at the next Stop(the Anger Stop) because we ’re still mad at God, or someone else.

Of course, we are!

Don’t deny your anger!

Feel it…

The church often tells those of us in grief, “don’t be mad at God!”

I say, “Be as mad as you need to be. God can take it.”

So, spend as much time as you need there.

You might even find you need to return to this Stop again and again.

It’s OK. You’re the engineer.

There will always be the opportunity to move forward or return to this Stop.

God built that into our Journey together.

girl thinking railroad kyle-broad-29486-unsplash

So maybe you’ve left the Anger Stop for now, and Depression has set in. (Mine lasted twelve years.)

You’re on the pills longer than you wanted.

Don’t stew over the length of your stay.

Just survive. It is enough just to survive.

Stop at the Survival Stop. There’s a red light there. Stop. Don’t run it.

And remember God doesn’t take shortcuts, so stick as close to Him as you can.

woman & cross keem-ibarra-560576-unsplash.jpg

 

Where you are right now is not necessarily your ultimate destination.

 

And if you need to invent a world where tragedy doesn’t happen, invent the world.

 

Or, reinvent your world.

 

I’m wondering where you see yourself on “The Grief Train?”

dawn

 

Monday..  my personal journey…