Pillar Strong | Julie Hagy
The girls finally given cones of chocolate ice cream, the lady behind the counter calls me forward.

Her constant “honeys” and “sweethearts” make me feel ten years younger than I am. As she rummages around for a map, I stand there with throbbing temples, confused by the range of emotions flooding my head, and wondering what in the world I was thinking when I got myself into this. Maybe the ice cream lady sees more than I do, maybe I‘m still just a child, too.

“Good luck,” she says, and gives me a smile. She doesn’t mind that I haven’t bought anything, that I have taken up valuable customer time. I leave with a slight smile.

I look at my watch as I jump back into the driver’s seat. Panic resurfaces. At the rate I am going, Fall Fest will be over before I ever find the church.

It is October 18. Today, Edmarc is hosting its Annual Fall Fest at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Chesapeake, Virginia. Twenty-some local families have been invited to the event. Edmarc is a children’s hospice based out of Chesapeake. The non-profit organization was established in 1978, under the direction of a local Presbyterian Church. Edmarc is the first hospice in the nation designated specifically to cater to the needs of terminally ill children and their families. Since its inception, Edmarc has served over 700 children from all over Hampton Roads. Throughout the year, Edmarc sponsors activities for patients and their families. Today is Fall Fest, a happy time—clowns, games, face paint, and I am late.

I stopped my truck at the end of the quiet neighborhood street. The closely knit houses and vacant sidewalks stood witness as I closed my eyes and began to pray. A sickly thick wad of defeat resided in my throat. “Lord,” I said, “If the next street is not Scarborough, I’m going home. Just let your will be done in me.” The next road was not Scarborough. My sign had come, I thought.

It was almost a calm that came over me. I had tried. I had failed. Some part of me was glad that I hadn’t found the church. It was the same part of me that had woken up in the wee hours of that morning and had been unable to go back to sleep, thinking about what I would surely face that day. I didn’t know if I was ready.

No longer worried about the hospice or Fall Fest, I was focused on getting home. Not an atypical event for the day, I missed my turn back onto the interstate. As I was looping for my U-turn, a long street sign set back from the edge of the main road caught my attention. Scarborough. Behind it lie a large brick building. I could already make out the words Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints.

I paused for half a second in the middle of the road. I cringed. I had been content with not finding the church. Planning on returning home, nerves that had been stirred ever since I had found out about Fall Fest had finally settled. With the appearance of the church, they were instantaneously set into a heightened frenzy.

In front of me, the brick of the massive building was dark, solid, foreboding. Lifeless. There were no cars visible. There were no squealing kids in the front lawn. I don’t know what I was expecting, after all, Edmarc dealt with death. A light, yet cold breeze blew across the sun-splotched pavement, announcing fall. I shuddered, took a deep breath, and walked around the side of the building.