Scotland’s Love Walk in Scotland, from Heartache to Healing

We planned to name him Scotland. Even though I had never been to this country, my Scotch Irish heritage drew me to this name. We’d call him “Scotty” for short. “Barbara, Tommy & Scotty, how cute is that?” I thought.

That was until the ultrasound screen which once fluttered like a butterfly was now still.

It was early evening and the contractions were picking up. The pain was similar to my other pregnancies, although the outcome was different… I would soon be delivering my stillborn son. For once, I welcomed the physical pain. It was a distraction from the emotional pain I had endured for 3 days since that dreaded ultrasound appointment. The emotional torment a mother carries after such a loss is far greater than any labor contraction… so yes, I welcomed the physical pain on that rainy February night.

During labor, a great deal of fear started to sink in, I was afraid. So in an attempt to escape the panic, my husband pulled out his laptop and started showing me images of Scotland. The green, rocky hills that stretched for miles until they were met with rainbows and clouds. I used this as a form of imagery meditation. I pictured a young boy running through those hills of green and climbing on those rocks. He was free and happy and safe and loved. It’s all that I wanted for my son, Scotland.

Soon it was time to deliver him. The fear and sadness were unbearable. I was so very afraid.

But then something truly divine happened.  The moment Scotland came out, that fear was gone…  all of it.  Even though his precious body was lifeless, I felt tremendous love and adoration for my boy. I’d felt this before with each of my children but never did I expect love to besiege all the fear and sadness and pain.

So just like his brother and sisters, my son was born into love.

That day, my husband and I made some promises to our beloved son…

We promised we’d show him the world.

We promised him we’d visit Scotland one day.

We promised we’d take him with us.

Now it’s summer of 2018, 4 ½ years after the loss of our son and also the year of our 10 year wedding anniversary… which also happens to be the day after what would have been Scotland’s due date.

It was time to fulfill some promises.

So on July 25th, Tom and I took our precious son’s ashes to Scotland. To the rocky hills of green where I always envisioned him being. We decided to hike Arthur’s Seat full of stunning views overlooking the entire city of Edinburgh. We expected this year’s “Love Walk for Scotland” to be a memorable one… what we didn’t expect were all these profound signs reminding us that we were not alone on this journey…

Within the first 15 minutes of our Love Walk, we were joined by this little boy, maybe 5yrs old, hiking alongside us. While his family did not stray from the path, he did. The explorer within him climbed the rocky boulders, eager to see a view unlike the rest. At one point, I was feeling a bit winded from the steep hike to the summit ahead so I stopped. And there he was, this blonde, blue-eyed little boy sitting upon a rock nearby… as if he was waiting for me.

As we approached the summit, I looked down to find this heart shaped pond. Love was all around.

And as if hiking the hills of Scotland wasn’t enough to fill my soul, off in the distance were bagpipes playing. Seriously though, how awesome is that?! The native melody acted as a soundtrack as we embarked on this path up ahead. Bagpipes that also played as we exited the church for the first time as a married couple 10 short years ago.

Just a few more steps to go before reaching the tippy top. Upon doing so, this massive gust of wind took over. It wasn’t cold or startling, but felt more like a massive hug from Heaven congratulating us on making it, both literally and figuratively.

Then there, like The Giving Tree’s stump, was this collection of rocks, almost forming a seat to say “come sit awhile and be happy.” Tom and I nestled in. It was then I knew it was time… this is where he was meant to be. As I took out Scotland’s ashes, I felt a deep sense of panic set in “what if I immediately regret letting him go?!” But with the encouragement of the love of my life, Scotland’s father, we spread his ashes upon this summit. And just like his delivery, the fear was immediately replaced with love. He was home.

Now what happened next makes more sense to my immediate family but hear me out. My mom passed away 9 ½ years ago. She always joked that when she died, she’d come back as a seagull. So whenever my sisters and I see a seagull, we scream out “HI MOM!” and our kids think we’re nuts. Well, no more than a few seconds after releasing my boy, this seagull stopped by for a visit just a few feet away. Before that, there hadn’t been a seagull in sight, especially not as high up as we were. Many tears were shed in that MOMent in time. 

Now the symbolism of that seagull touching down just as I released my son’s ashes was a gentle reminder of my mom’s unconditional love I have felt throughout my life. That a mother’s love is infinite. Even after her death, I feel the unconditional love my mom had for me. And it is my hope and belief that my son feels the unconditional love I have for him. These signs help to remind me of just that. Maybe it’s in the life of a thriving young boy climbing freely or a pond shaped like a heart or a song or yes, even a seagull… but let these life winks act as a sign, a reminder that you are loved.

The entire experience was so therapeutic and healing on both mine and Tom’s souls. Promises were fulfilled that day. We showed him the world, we visited Scotland and we brought him home.

Now there are a few reasons I’m sharing such an intimate experience with you:

First, many of you joined us in the Love Walk for Scotland in 2014. This post is for you. To thank you for all the support and love you have given us through these years of heartache and healing.

And secondly, this is for anyone who has suffered a devastating loss of a parent or child. It serves as a gentle reminder to have hope. It may not be today or next month or next year… but you can heal from a broken heart.  Remember, a parent/child’s love is infinite that cannot be broken, even in death. In the meantime, be patient and kind to yourself.

And always remember, you are loved.

Lucy Riles

Life of Mom Founder

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  1. Stacy says:

    You Have always been super inspiring since the day I met you. Your words always hit home and warm my heart! So happy you two got to travel and bring your boy home!! ❤️????

  2. Betsy Fenner says:

    Lucy, I also lost a baby boy in 1995 who we named Brandon. I share your pain. Sending love and support.

  3. Jean maroney says:

    Lucy very well written. You are able to put real feelings in words. I am remembering that beautiful picture of Kendall and Kimmy going on the Scotland Love walk with that large bouquet of balloons. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. Live you Sister.

  4. John Gallagher says:

    Well said Lucy!! Tommy too… You have a gift my young cousin. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

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