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Greece (Athens & Santorini) Sept 2022
My story begins and ends with family. I am 56 years old, the oldest of four children born to a Korean mother and an African American father. My parents met when my father was enlisted in the Army and stationed in Korea. I married my high school sweetheart when I was 22 years old and we started a family soon after. Today, 34 years later, we are very proud parents of 3 beautiful children and 3 adorable grandchildren.
I am a very spiritual person. Most of my important personal and professional decisions were guided by my faith. I’d say my life was pretty ordinary with a sprinkle of blessings here and there, occasionally the blessings would come down like showers. My world was/is my family; my life revolved around my children. My world came to a screeching halt in 2019 when my youngest child, my only son, was tragically killed in a car accident on Mother’s Day at the age of 27. My seemingly blessed life shattered into a million pieces. I lost all sense of self, my faith, my aspirations and the will to live.
Patty & her son, Cedric
great wall of china, 2017
about the founder
When Cedric died, I knew that I would find healing through travel, but wasn’t sure exactly how to make it happen. My husband did not have a desire to travel at the time and I was very apprehensive about traveling solo. We also didn’t have a lot of reserves to travel to the destinations I had in mind, let alone to travel as often as I felt I needed. And then Covid shut down all hopes of travel in 2020. I was utterly despondent.
It was during this time at the lowest point in my life that I began to hear and see messages from God and my son. The seed was planted in my heart to start a travel group for mothers who have lost a child. I felt God’s presence so strongly as he orchestrated every detail for this group, including the name Sunrise in Heaven. It was with His help that I curated a trip to Costa Rica for nine other women who had also lost a child.
read the full article here
Sunrise in Heaven is a not-for-profit support group for mothers who have lost a child/children who are also interested in traveling. The company was founded in August 2020. We have a private Facebook group with about 30 members from several states. It is a safe forum to share thoughts, ideas, announcements, etc. In addition to the Facebook group page, we also hold zoom meetings and occasionally meet for brunch.
Our first trip was a huge success. Most of us were strangers when we arrived in Costa Rica in August 2021, but we left as lifelong friends/sisters. The trip was so amazing – we focused on self-love & care, health & wellness, cultural immersion, bonding and just having fun. We laughed, cried, danced, explored, faced our fears….it was everything we didn’t know we needed. By the end of the trip, we all knew we had something special and we wanted more of it.
about sunrise in heaven
The turning point in my grief journey was the night I heard God’s message and felt his and Cedric’s presence so strongly. Although my family already had projects in progress to honor my son’s memory and legacy, the thought of ‘ME’ traveling the world with mothers who have also lost a child truly touched my soul. I went through Cedric’s IG account for ideas for the name of the company. I landed on the post with the caption “Opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long you miss them. Take that chance”.
I googled for scripture references of the word Sunrise and one of the first results was a movie titled Sunrise in Heaven. (I’ve since tried to recreate the same results but can’t seem to come up with the right google search).
Sunrise in Heaven was a faith-based movie inspired by a true story about a woman who lost her husband in a car accident. What caught my eye was the date the screenwriter was interviewed - May 12, 2019……the exact date that Cedric died . It sent chills throughout my body . . .
Several months later, I took an exploratory trip to Costa Rica with my sister and best friend. I had asked the concierge to pick up a few grocery items for us beforehand. That evening as we gathered in the kitchen to watch the chef prepare dinner, I noticed the brand name of the napkins on the counter - SUNRISE ☺️🌞
I woke up every morning and sat on the balcony to catch the most beautiful sunrises in Costa Rica…praying, praising, crying, taking it all in. I knew at that moment that God & Cedric would guide me every step of the way.
I empathize with mothers who have lost a child. I know from personal experience the depth of the hurt and pain. Your world literally stops as every part of the life you once lived shatters to a million pieces. You lose all sense of self; spiraling downward into the deepest, darkest places of your mind and soul. You literally cannot breathe. The hurt and fear is paralyzing. There’s a tendency to isolate because in most cases there is no one in your immediate circle that has gone through such a devastating loss. Outside of your immediate family (spouse and children), no one can imagine or understand the pain. There’s an awkwardness when you are around others. Some would rather you not talk about your child because they don’t know how to deal with it, or what to say. Nine times out of ten, you are more annoyed with the cliche phrases rather than feeling comforted. And then there are those that have experienced the death of a loved one (not a child) who try to compare their loss to yours. You realize that family and friends mean well, but you find yourself wanting to just be alone with your own thoughts and crying yourself to sleep.
Though your immediate family is grieving the loss as intensely as you are, there’s another level of grief that is only experienced by a mother. Since I have connected with other mothers, it has given me a sense of hope and healing that I don’t think I would have found otherwise. A huge part of this healing for me is the travel. After Ced died, I knew that I would find my healing through travel. I felt a strong urge to travel to the places he traveled because I believed it was the only way I could connect with his spirit and also connect to God. I wanted to hike mountain trails, chase waterfalls, swim in the bluest oceans, just as Ced did. I wanted to explore other cultures and experience life as I never had. I wanted to LIVE for him. I truly believed this was key in the pursuit of PEACE - and Praise God, it was confirmed on the first group trip to Costa Rica. The experience shared between ten women who were practically strangers just 8 months prior was cathartic, beautiful, divine, fun, truly amazing! By the end of the trip, we all knew what we had together was special.
1. What made you want to go on the Costa Rica trip with Sunrise in Heaven?
I needed to be with people I didn't have to explain myself to
2. How were you feeling prior to the Costa Rica trip?
I felt ok, but knew that I needed more. More understanding, not sympathy, just understanding.
3. How did you feel after the trip?
Light. I felt like a weight had been lifted. And I felt that my son would have loved the idea of me traveling.
4. What was your favorite aspect of the trip that brought you the most peace, healing or joy?
Listening and sharing
5. In your opinion, what could be done better next time to make the experience even better?
In my opinion, the trip was perfect.
1. What made you want to go on the Costa Rica trip with Sunrise in Heaven? The idea of being with a group of women that understand my loss and my mindset, without explanation.
2. How were you feeling prior to the Costa Rica trip?
I was feeling very much like I was alone, on a desert island; misunderstood, sad and angry.
3. How did you feel after the trip?
I felt rejuvenated and like I didn't have to suffer in silence anymore! I found sisterhood!
4. Did you have any breakthrough moments on the trip?
My breakthrough moment was in that gorgeous villa's infinity pool. As I took in all the beauty, I suddenly released all the tears I had unknowingly suppressed.
5. What was your favorite aspect of the trip that brought you the most peace, healing or joy?
So many amazing moments but my fave, by far, was the poolside dance party! Terrible dancing forged beautiful lifelong bonds!
6. In your opinion, what could be done better next time to make the experience even better? Just a longer stay
After the loss of my son in early 2018, my primary goal was to get into counseling or a support group to help me cope with the intense pain of my deep loss. In year one, I went to three different counselors and two grief support groups and although they were helpful in the initial stages of grief, I was still yearning to connect with individuals that truly understood the pain of child loss. In early 2021, that opportunity presented itself through a phone call I wasn't expecting. By the end of that phone call, I knew I had found what I was looking for.
Sunrise in Heaven put me back on the road to healing. This group has allowed me to connect with such beautiful ladies that, unfortunately, share my experience. It has provided me with a safe place to be vulnerable and express my pain without the fear of judgment. Although, I never asked to be in this club and I would gladly hand over my membership in exchange for my son, I am glad that if I have to be on this journey, that I get to share this experience with such beautiful souls that exhibit such incredible strength. I am so grateful to this group and its organizer, Patty Hutchison.
For any mother who has experienced child loss and finds it difficult to manage the gut-wrenching pain, I highly recommend connecting with this group.
If you have any questions about how to connect to our community, would like more information on booking personal or group travel, or would like to refer someone to the group, please fill out the form below.
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