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Feedback on the 2016 Conference

My Detroit 2016 Conference Experience
By Janet, twin to Margaret

The Detroit 2016 Conference began on Thursday, which is meetings day for the Board and Regional Coordinators. I had breakfast first, in the dining room. There was a wide selection of hot and cold foods and I had fruit, yoghurt, freshly cooked omelet and tea. The Regional Coordinator meeting went on until lunch time then we had a shared lunch with the board before a meeting with them. Afterwards, I joined up with my twin pal Jennifer and we had dinner with Sandy and Paul before we all registered for the conference. This year the conference shirts were turquoise and very smart. We went into the new twins meeting and introduced ourselves. President Ray gave an address and welcomed everyone. We had desserts and drinks; then I went to bed early, hoping to sleep.

Friday was the first real day of the conference. I had an early breakfast with some of the twins before Inspirations at 8am. Afterwards we all went to opening of the conference in the big room. The keynote speech was given by Alicia Sims, daughter of Darcie Sims, the well know grief therapist who has spoken at conference on two occasions. The room was captivated by her positive approach to grief. Her message was that if we honour the life of our twins, we can look at anniversaries and significant dates more positively.

After Alicia’s address, we had a break before the self-introduction time. Lunch was at 11:45am and this year it wasn’t the usual boxed lunch with sandwiches and fruit, etc. We had an express buffet lunch in the hotel dining room for $15. Break out options were available at 1:30pm for those twins who preferred an alternative to the continued self-introduction sessions. I went to the writing class, but there was also a session for parents of twinless twins. Board member Dena facilitated our writing session, which was based on telling our twin stories. Dena shared with us a technique of writing where you look at a story from different character’s points of view.

We left the sessions to change for the twin memorial walk. As we boarded the yellow school bus which took us to the start, I marveled at the progress the returning twins had made. I looked around at the new twins boarding the bus and saw how they had already made twin friends and how they were smiling more. The magic of the conference was working.

Those walking found the circular mile walk challenging, but we were proud to be carrying a banner signed by all the twins, in memory of our lost twins. There were water stops and energy bars stops, all provided by Executive Director’s Michelle’s lovely relatives.

After the walk, we gathered in the grassy area of the park for the balloon release. We wrote messages to our twins and after Conference Committee member Sandra read an address, we all released them to the soundtrack of Tell Your Heart to Beat again. As our balloons soared off into the blue Detroit sky, it was unbearably moving. Back on the bus, we traveled the short distance to the Marriott to shower and change, ready for a meal out or in. My twin pal Susan had arranged for a group of us to go to the highly recommended deli Zimmerman’s, down in Detroit.

Saturday started early with breakfast and then Inspirations at 8am. Sandy’s choice of music was moving, as she ended with Alan Pederson’s track ‘Thanks for the Little While.’ The business meeting followed, when we heard the exciting news that the 2017 conference will be held in Arizona! After financial news, we moved on to the second keynote session with Alicia. It was very funny and clever, as she explored how our different personality types affect how we deal with our grief. Lunch followed, another Buffet with an Italian theme.

More breakout options were available after lunch. These included Suicide, Murder, Lingering Illness, Early Loss, Sudden/Accident under 18 and Sudden / Accident adult. Also a session for Family and Friends. I went to lingering loss. It was a large group so Venice divided us up into those beginning their loss, those just managing it and those who were coping and managing to honour their twins.

The closing ceremony was at 3:30 PM. Alicia ran this and it was immensely moving. We were all given a band and beads and we chose five for our twins to represent their qualities and attributes. We kept one bead back and put it into a large plastic jar which Alicia took round. As we put our beads in, we said our twin’s name and also the quality of our twin represented by the bead. Alicia went round again and we all chose a bead from another twin, an unknown quality. We threaded these on our bangles.

As always, the conference finished with a magnificent banquet. This year we had a buffet meal with hot salmon and chicken. There were speeches and awards, with the coveted Angel Award going to Joan, who works tirelessly as a RC for Minnesota and who also started a new twinless group in Seattle. We lifted the roof with our applause. The 50/50 raffle and auction followed, led by the incredible Dave. All too soon the evening was over and Detroit 2016 drew to an end.

The next morning we all went our separate ways, echoing our thanks to Michelle and Ray. As I sadly checked out, all I could think of was three words. Roll on Tucson!