Updated: Sep 17
Liliana Tavera resides in Arizona with her wonderful and supportive husband Javier, and her surviving children, Xavier and Carlos. She's currently serving in the USAF and, when not on duty, spends free time with her family walking nature trails and enjoying picnics. Liliana focuses on living in the present moment, as she honors the memory of her daughter Sofia, who went to heaven in June 2020.
This past weekend, the family and I went to a two-day retreat, our first-ever family retreat. I did not think too much about it; I just signed us up for it. A few days before it started, we were told that the name of the retreat was: “Tell Me a Story.”
After my daughter Sofia went to heaven in June 2020, I felt the need to spend time with Jesus alone. Jesus often spent time in the mountains to pray and talk to his Father. I felt I needed to be in the wilderness to really connect with him and listen to him better, away from the chaos, away from the daily routine, and away from my own thoughts.
In September 2021, I finally had the opportunity to get away for a few days and do a silent retreat. I felt peace right after I got to the grounds. I spent a lot of time with God in silence, reading the word, and praying. Sometimes, all I could give God were my tears, but I knew it was okay, and that he was right there with me, listening and comforting me. I had the opportunity to hear him, to feel him, and to get to know him more deeply. It was a supernatural experience. I have attended four more retreats since then, and God has always been there, caring for me and showing me new things that he has in store for me and my family.
I've got a lot of stories.
The first session of the family retreat, of course, was introductions. What story of mine could these people possibly understand or relate to? I didn't feel I could tell them "the story" unless they had experienced what I had. For the past three years, our life story has revolved around grieving, mourning, hoping, waiting, healing, and living this new life that feels like riding a wave of joy and sorrow at the same time.
In this first session, we had to introduce all the members of the family and share how we saw them. Oh great, here we go, one of our family members is physically forever gone! No more Sofia on this earth. Do we name Sofia? Do we talk about her? We just met these families; how much are we willing to share?
We were given a piece of paper to write the names down. My husband wrote Sofia’s name in the center of the paper, and then I wrote it again next to the rest of our names. I introduced the family, and yes, I said Sofia’s name, knowing that that would open the door for questions. We took that chance. Sofia is still part of this family. Physically present or not she is still part of us, and we speak her name at our home every day. She is part of this journey and purpose as much as we are part of it. Before the introductions began, Sofia gave us a sign that let us know she was there. It gave us peace and the courage to speak of her when our turn came. I figured that if people asked about her, I would share more. But no one asked. Maybe it was for the best.
The rest of the sessions were about telling more stories, such as what legacy you want to pass down to the people you love. Without sharing the background of our story, we shared a bit about what has helped us during this painful journey. We told the others: “We want our children to remember that God’s plans are different from our plans and that God’s ways are not our ways. We want them to leave everything in God’s hands and not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. We want them to fully understand that life continues beyond this realm; the bond of love between us continues even after this life."
Our children still physically with us know the rest of the legacy. They, too, are walking this painful journey. They saw how we went through the deep waters when Sofi went to Jesus, I keep reminding them God is near and in control of everything and everything is in His hands. They are learning to be present and to focus on the now, because there is no promise of tomorrow. I hope they run to him, trust in him, and surrender to him daily. I pray they live a life of hope, knowing that, with God's help, no matter what trials they face, they can laugh again, they can live a new normal, and experience his peace and joy in everything they do.
After the retreat, I realized how important it is to keep attending other retreats, and to have a community. If this had been a Sacred Sorrows retreat, where all of us are on this same journey, I know it would have been easier to share our story. I am grateful for that first silent retreat I attended in September 2021, because it led me to the Sacred Sorrows community.
God is very present in our stories, and so are our children.