UNION CITY, Ohio — Next Sunday, the SOUL (Survivors of Unspeakable Loss) Walk is slated, and it just so happens that it will also be the 45th birthday of the group’s founder, Darla Bowman.
It is sure to be a bittersweet day for her, as she lost her husband, Ben, Jan. 30, this year, 50 days after a lung transplant he received at Middleton V.A. Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Death was due to various setbacks following the transplant. The lung that was received did not reject, but other complications set in for the man who was diagnosed with Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2009, three years after a diagnosis of colon cancer.
In 2012, Darla formed the support group and planned the Out of Darkness Walk, which was then just designed for survivors of those who completed suicide. Since that time, the walk’s name changed to SOUL and it is open to anyone who has suffered a loss to death of any kind. The themes have changed as well. Footprints was the theme for the first SOUL Walk; leaves, the second; and stars, this year.
New to this year’s walk is the serving of Paul Mueller’s chicken or pork chop dinners from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dinners will be pre-sale only, and they will be the main fundraiser this year. Proceeds of the day’s events, Darla said, and go to support those grieving in the community. She also noted that Mueller will also have his kettle corn there for $2 a bag.
Registration for the walk is from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Shelter 1 in Harter Park, Union City, Indiana, in the covered shelter behind the swimming pool.
“According to Facebook, we should have at least 102 people there,” she said.
The ceremony and walk will begin at 2, as always, and it will be followed by a butterfly release.
There will be raffles, prizes of which include afghans made by Marcia Kiser, and a limited number of t-shirts made specially for the walk, will be available. The shirts are navy blue with gold and aqua and are $10 each.
Another new feature this year will be the release of balloons near the cemetery.
She said Lemonade for Soldiers has plans to be at the event, and Greg Harshman is once again volunteering his deejay service.
The theme this year is “Our Stars In Heaven.”
Bowman said the decorations will feature a sky background to be covered with stars to memorialize the deceased. It will cost $5 to put the name of a deceased person on the star, which will hanging on the memorial wall. Also available will be $2 bracelets.
Life has changed for Darla in those 7 1/2 months. She has found she can go on with her life even while loving her husband eternally. Yes, 2015 has been an emotional year for her. In addition to losing her husband of 13 years, she lost her job of 10 years in March and in April broke her shoulder. And, she lost some more friends via death.
Yet, Ben will assuredly still be the main focus of her thoughts at this year’s walk.
“I will honor you all the days of my life,” she said in a Facebook post she made after his death. “Never will I let anyone forget the man, son, husband, dad, grandpa, friend and soldier you were. The world was blessed because of you. I love you forever.”
The walk, she pointed out, is not only dedicated to Ben but to everyone who has lost someone..
She indicated in one posting that her nerves were making her “shake to the core” when she was to interview with this reporter on SOUL Walk 2015.
“I’ve never done a SOUL walk without Ben Bowman by my side and am not sure I have the strength knowing that he will be one being honored this year instead of helping,” she posted. “I know he is with me always but this is killing me. Dear God, please keep your hands on me and give me the strength to do this without him.”
On this year’s SOUL Walk day, Ben has been gone 33 weeks and two days.
She wrote on Aug. 21: “So hard to comprehend that Ben has been in heaven for 29 weeks today. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t survive 29 seconds without him, and yet here I am, 29 weeks later. There have been lots of emotions and decisions in that time and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. However, I hope that if you find yourself or a close loved one in this position, you will stand by them and not judge the choices they make in their time of loss. NO ONE has the right to judge how someone else grieves. EVERY love is different. So many times, we think we know what we would do, yet without walking someone’s path, you have no idea. With that being said, I am proud, yet heartbroken, to share the final tribute I created for Ben. This was the hardest thing to see yet, but I believe I recreated the things most important to him, which was my intention. Special thanks to Bridget Swabb Ashley for being by my side in choosing details and for the Welcome Home insignia. And special thanks to David Miller for going with me to see the finished project and wiping my tears.”
She was talking about Ben’s tombstone which was on display at the Darke County Fair at the Abbottsville Monuments booth.
She feels like she is now on her way back to happiness.
“I had never been more alone in my life,” she said. “Thanks to my family and true friends, I have again survived a devastation beyond words. And I truly believe Ben brought David into my life to show me the way back to happiness. I will miss Ben everyday of the rest of my life, but I know he is with me and blesses me daily. The love of an amazing man once is unexpected- the love of an amazing man twice is unheard of. I know people are going to judge me moving on, but I know in my heart that Ben is shining down and happy for me and Dave.”
David will be at the SOUL Walk, too, to memorialize family and friends who have gone before him. He will be there to support her. He will pray over the walkers, and he will take Ben’s place at releasing the butterflies.
Others serving on the committee with her are Nikki Ford-Hill, Sandy Garee, Bridget Ashley, Tina Deaton, Marcia Kiser, Bill Gibbons and Cody Lester.
Linda Moody can be reached by calling direct at 569-4315. Be her friend on Facebook by searching her name. For more features online, go to advocate360.org or “like” The Daily Advocate on Facebook by searching Advocate360