It was my 13th birthday, a day I was looking forward to celebrate being a teenager.
However, there was no party or celebration. All the family was home with my mom that day; she died that evening.
My mother was 42 years old. She left behind a young husband and four children: me at 13; my brother, 11; my sister, 3 and my baby brother, 14 months. I remember that day just like it was yesterday.
Our world had turned upside down, yet our lives went on and the love she left with us kept us together as a family.
Why am I sharing something so personal more than 50 years later?
Because there is a wonderful program in our area that my family could have benefited from but wasn't available then.
This year, the Altoona Mirror has selected Home Nursing Agency's Healing Patch: A Program for Loss and Hope for Grieving Children and Their Families as their 2012 Season of Sharing recipient.
Through this effort, I hope you will learn more about our unique program that is dear to my heart and help me share its message, especially with any family who has also lost someone special.
I have been with Home Nursing Agency for 35 years. I believe all of our programs and services are important and necessary to the well-being of people in our communities.
I am extremely proud to be a part of the agency that, along with special friends, recognized the needs of grieving children and responded without question or doubt that we could have a place for healing.
As a nonprofit, community benefit organization, The Healing Patch service is provided at no charge, and your support is greatly needed to help sustain it.
The Healing Patch is a soft place to fall when a child feels life will never be the same because of the death of a parent, grandparent, sibling or even a friend.
This peer-to-peer support program is offered at two centers (Blair and Cambria counties), in schools and through community outreach efforts.
Connections are made by kids who are going through the same thing, and trained volunteers lend a listening ear.
The program is a safe haven where children can express their feelings and know they are not alone in their grief.
The Healing Patch program is only 6 years old- still a young child- but its impact is immeasurable.
My birthday and the anniversary of my mom's death still come every year.
But after being involved with The Healing Patch, I have learned to embrace and celebrate the day with my family.
My mom left me with many wonderful memories, and I know how important it is for children to remember and have hope in their lives. Thank you for your support.
Rebecca (Ruston) Willnecker is president of the Home Nursing Agency Foundation.