It is believed that a traveler once told the early American novelist James Fenimore Cooper, upon visiting Lake George and the Adirondack Mountains in 1824, “that here was the very scene for a romance.” Two years later, Cooper wrote his most famous novel, The Last of the Mohicans, set in the tourist destination 200 miles north of New York City.
The picturesque location has been the setting of important moments in the lives of Al and Lucia Rein, including their honeymoon in 1994.
“It’s so beautiful, the air is so crisp and it’s very relaxing,” Lucia said. “When we first started dating, I remember how he would talk about how beautiful the Adirondacks were and how he was going to take me there one day.”
The Reins returned to Lake George 15 years later with sons Michael and Albert, this time to attend the Fall 2009 Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreat.
Lucia was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, the most severe stage, in November 2008. The disease had already spread to her bones by the time doctors discovered it.
In 2009, Lucia underwent a trial at Johns Hopkins University, requiring her to drive from Pine Bush, NY to Baltimore every month to receive a vaccine. But the tumors kept coming back despite the shots, and Lucia was removed from the program six months after it began.
Some friends told Lucia and Al about Inheritance of Hope after the diagnosis. The couple initially hesitated to attend a retreat out of concern that their children – Albert, age 14; Michael, 22 and David, 26 – might be beyond the desired age range for children at the retreat.
Yet when a last- second opening became available for the October 2009 retreat at Lake George, the Reins could not miss the opportunity. Michael and Albert hopped in the car for the two-and-a-half hour drive to join other families at a weekend retreat that would create long-lasting memories.
Lucia said it was the first vacation the family had enjoyed in a long time. Inheritance of Hope provided lodging, took care of finances and organized activities. The Reins bonded with the three other families on the retreat. In each case, it was the mother who was ill, allowing Lucia to meet other women dealing with a similar burden.
“I felt so good to talk to somebody else that I felt was in the same situation,” Lucia said.
Inheritance of Hope hosted events allowing families to share with loved ones during the struggle with a life-threatening illness. For the Reins, the timing of the retreat was particularly powerful.
“We were coming up on the one year anniversary of the diagnosis and coming into the retreat, we realized Lucy was definitely going to live more than a year, but how long would it be?” Al said. “It was agreed by everybody there that God had a hand in a lot of what was going on around us.”
The retreat also had a significant impact on the Rein’s children. They made friends with children from the other families and stayed up late playing board games. Inheritance of Hope activities and counseling helped them deal with their mother’s cancer, Lucia said.
“They realized they weren’t alone,” Lucia said. “We were able to cry together, hug each other. When it was time to go home, nobody wanted to go.”
The Reins returned from the retreat on a high, Lucia said. After being served by volunteers at the Inheritance of Hope retreat, Al and Lucia said they sought to help others. Lucia assists a 91-year-old neighbor with stomach cancer and participates in fundraising walks. Lucia’s friends started a team, “Lucy Loves Subway,” that raises money and walks in local fundraisers.
Lucia has also been training to walk in the New York Half Marathon on March 20 along with other members of Team Inheritance of Hope. A tumor prevents her from running full speed, but Lucia is confident she will be ready for race day with exercise, healthier eating habits and support from her sister-in-law, who is flying from California to walk with her in New York City.
“I felt like I had to give back to everybody because I couldn’t believe what these people did for us to get on this mini-vacation,” Lucia said. “Inheritance of Hope actually gave us tools and guided us to have a better outlook on things.”
The journey that began in Lake George has followed a remarkable path. Lucia’s son Michael met Lisa, an Inheritance of Hope volunteer of the same age, at the Legacy Retreat in 2009. They are now engaged.
Although it was Lisa who served Michael during the retreat weekend, Michael takes advantage of opportunities to give back. Pfc. Michael Haffner is currently stationed at Moody Air Force Base in southern Georgia and will deploy to Iraq in May. He has volunteered on the staff of three Inheritance of Hope retreats. When Lisa’s own father was diagnosed with throat cancer, Michael was able to help and comfort in much the same way she served him at the Lake George retreat.
Al and Lucia’s relationship follows a similarly stunning parallelism. Shortly before their marriage, Al was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. He was on crutches for the wedding and still recovering from injuries during the honeymoon at Lake George. When the newly married couple moved to New York, Lucia would drive Al, who served in the Navy, to Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington, DC.
More than a decade later, their roles were reversed. The drive to Baltimore for Lucia’s trial vaccinations closely mirrored trips to Walter Reed.
“We take the same road,” Al said. “It’s a thing that we never expected.”
When they revisited Lake George 15 years later, it was Lucia who was sick and surrounded by Al, her sons and new friends to provide support. A romance that began in the scenic Adirondack Mountains came full circle and continues to be played out in acts of service.
“It’s helped our family become stronger,” said Lucia of the experience. “Inheritance of Hope has helped our family to be able to reach out and help other people and share our story so they don’t feel alone.”