The Piano Sits Silent
- I wrote
this poem to share with all my Atlanta Sharing friends. I wrote it in memory
of my precious Nina. She played piano, violin, and clarinet...not always
well, but she loved music. She seemed to always play sons from "Beaches",
Terms of Endearment", "Philadelphia"...sad, sad songs. After she died I
wondered why; did she know subconsiously what was to be? She lived life
to the fullest, as if there was little time to accomplish all she wanted
to, as if she knew. So many things make me wonder. ~Cathy Seehuetter
Thank you for sharing your
poem "The Piano Sits Silent". It is a beautiful poem, and so
sad, also. But that is such a big part of our life ~ sorrows
and beautiful memories. Thank you for sharing Nina with
us through this poem - the love you have for her comes through every line.
It made me think of so many things that I have of my son James'
- the soccer ball that no
longer gets kicked around, the books that are unopened and unread, the
backpack that doesn't get packed anymore, the soccer shoes that no longer
gather mud, the sleeping bag that is empty,.....
I could so relate to "if I
could just take back those words" - don't we all say that for one reason
or another. So many things left unsaid, or things that were said
I hope you continue to share
Nina through poetry. She had the gift of music, even if, as
you said, didn't always play well, but she had the love of the melody and
the rhythm of sound and it seems as though her love has given you the gift
of soul-reaching poetry.
Meg Avery, TCF, Lawrenceville,
Hidden Gifts -
Learning to Find Meaning
Without our Missing Pieces
After running across an oil
painting I painted over 20 years ago, it reminded me of a story of a young
woman. I would like to share that story with you now.
I was in my late twenties with
two small children and taking life and all it is for granted. I have always
loved "art" and as I passed an art store I saw the most beautiful oil painting
of daisies and butterflies. The colors and texture were lovely. There was
a sign with the painting "Oil Classes next week".
I went in and inquired and
they said the instructor would be having a class next week and we would
be painting the picture in the window. I had painted a few pictures but
certainly was only an amateur. I immediately signed up for the class.
Next week arrived and I was
eager to get started. There were six ladies in the class. We all had our
easels, canvas and paints ready to go. As our instructor entered the room,
everyone became very quite. Jeannie, the instructor, was a beautiful young
lady just a few years older than myself. We all knew Jeannie was a gifted
artist, but what we did not know was Jeannie only had one arm.
Jeannie was very aware of how
people reacted to her physical appearance. I chose not to use the words
"handicap" or "disability" because as the story continues you will realize
these are not synonyms.
Jeannie knew we all were wanting
to know her story and looking back on it now, I am sure she wanted to share
Jeannie had been diagnosed
with bone cancer six years earlier. She was in her early twenties at the
time and married. The cancer had spread and they had to remove her right
arm about six inches above her elbow.
Needless to say this devastated
Jeannie's life. This was the worst thing that had ever happened to her
and she couldn't imagine anything any worse. She shared with us feelings
of not wanting to live, anger, depression, isolation, denial, struggles
and final acceptance. (Does any of this sound familiar?) She was broken.
How do you recover? How do you learn to live again?
She shared stories of how difficult
the simplest things were. I remember her trying to demonstrate how she
would curl her hair with hair curlers with only one hand. For those of
you old enough to remember, it took two hands - one to curl the hair on
the roller and one to hold it while the other hand would reach down and
get a pin to hold the roller in place. Imagine doing this with one hand.
Could you do it?
Jeannie said it took a lot
of practice but she did manage to learn to curl her hair with one hand.
I went home and tried to do it and thought to myself - this is impossible
and I am glad I don't have to learn how to do this because I don't think
I could. I remember thinking "I couldn't do as well as Jeannie has done…I
just don't know what I would do". (Has anyone every said that to your before?)
Jeannie was sharing that she
stayed in denial and deep depression for several years until someone suggested
her getting some paint and brushes and practice using her other hand making
brush strokes. At first she said "no" but the friend purchased her everything
she needed and Jeannie began practicing….learning to use her other hand.
The more she practiced the better she got until four year's later she was
painting the most beautiful oil paintings.
In reflecting back on Jeannie's
story, I can see so many things that are so similar to that of a bereaved
parent's journey. After Jeannie's surgery, she was no longer physically
whole as we are no longer whole after the death of our child. Her loss
was visible though ours is not. All of us now have a part of our heart
missing only it is not visible to someone else.
Jeannie's life changed that
day as our changed when our child died. We all experienced similar emotions
and feelings… denial, anger, depression, and guilt. We all have to work
though those emotions. We all begin to "mend" the body and mind and soul
with out the missing piece…..realizing it can never be like it was before.
Jeannie's arm will never grow back, as our child will never return to us
in this life, but she chooses to accept that and finds different means
in which to function…to have quality and meaning back in her life in spite
of her missing part.
She focused on abilities she
did not know she had. She realized a Gift of Painting that she would never
have discovered had her life altering experience not happened. We as bereaved
parents can also relate to that. We now have the Gift of Understanding
and Compassion to those who have lost a child which very few of us would
have had if our life experience had been different.
Another comparison Jeannie
also shared was even though her arm was gone she was still able to feel
it. It would itch and she would reach to scratch it only to realize it
was gone. We as bereaved parents
also have those feelings. We can feel our child's presence only to look
and realize they are not there. Gone only physically, same as Jeannie's
arm, but NEVER to be gone in our minds and hearts and souls. (Maybe if
Jeannie had been born with only one arm as if we had never had our children
- ONLY then would we NEVER miss what we did not have.)
The holes in our heart and
soul will never grow back, like Jeannie's arm, but we can chose to find
alternate ways to find meaning in our lives. I think all of us, including
Jeannie, would gladly give all these gifts back if we could have our children
back or Jeannie could have her arm back, but since that is not an opinion,
I think all of us want to find a way to find meaning to how our lives are
Reflecting back on this story,
I can parallel so many emotions and struggles that we as bereaved parents
go through. As I look at the painting of daisies and "Butterflies" I wonder
if it was just a coincidence or was that part of a Master Plan. As I listened
to Jeannie's story over 20 years ago, I could only try to imagine what
she was feeling but yet I retained everything she shared. It has been stored
in my subconscious and only until I pulled out that old painting several
weeks ago did I begin to make comparisons of our losses.
I feel I can understand Jeannie's
loss much better now. I admired her determination to move forward back
then and thus I am hopeful I will be able to use Jeannie as an example
and I hope I can find my "hidden" strengths and gifts I did not know I
had before my son died. Our lives here are Our Journey - most things we
have little control over but we all have control over some things - things
such as "finding meaning deep in our soul because of our child's death".
I hope I was able to share
Jeannie's story in a way you could relate to. I hope we can all find our
"hidden gifts and abilities" in spite of our missing pieces. I hope that
those gifts will help ease the pain and make all of our sorrows softer.
Search for your hidden gifts, and hopefully in that you will find a meaning
and purpose in spite of our missing parts.
Jayne Newton, TCF Atlanta
In Memory of My Son Chad 5/21/72
I’M AN ANGEL
(A Child’s reply)
Where I am now you cannot see,
For I am spirit, fancy free.
Where shadows end, no day or
I am in heaven, in the light.
And so wherever you may roam,
Remember now that I am home.
Quite different to the one
It’s sad to see you’re still
So here I stay where there
No hurt, no pain, just sweet
I was the product of your love
A child sent down from up above,
To walk a brief time there
A life of hope and meaning
I know you wanted me to stay
And even though you knelt to
The angels came and lifted
High up above the clouds to
Another time, another space
Where love surrounds this holy
Remember me but do not grieve,
I’m happy now, you must believe.
So keep the faith although
For you to go that extra yard.
I am at peace, I’ll say again
There is just sunshine here,
So live your lives so full
And maybe sometimes cry for
You’re only human proud and
Whilst I’m an angel after all.
John Bartlett TCF Queensland
I just finished reading the
book "Living With Loss, Healing With Hope" by Rabbi Earl A. Grollman and
wanted to share these paragraphs. This last paragraph says so much!
Death has led you to the edge
of an abyss of desolation. It has threatened to overwhelm you with despair
and meaninglessness. Now you must begin to build a bridge across the abyss
through those things that count the most - memory, family, friendship,
and love. Try to strike that delicate balance between a yesterday that
should be remembered and a tomorrow that must be created.
~shared by Meg Avery, (James
Mom) Lawrenceville TCF
by Becky Sharpe, Atlanta TCF
For all my angels - Christmas, 2000
There's no one size fits all notion
in the guardian angel rule book.
It's plain as you can see.
All you have to do is really look,
It's very clear to me.
See, people come in XXL, Petite, and in between.
They're wrinkly, smooth and smelly
and sometimes they can be mean.
They're sensitive and funny, serious and sad.
They drink and smoke and swear a lot and yes
sometimes, they're bad.
So angels in this world are very, very flexible.
Cause taking on the human form is so damned irresistible.
What fun would it be to float to earth radiant light
When blending in like one of "them" feels just so
I think I saw one on the street just the other day.
She smiled and said a quick "hello"
then hurried on her way.
A clever one disguised himself
with jeans and shoes with holes.
But I saw right through his thin disguise...He knew
the best fishing holes.
Another angel I have seen reads books and goes to school.
She works so hard and is so kind and follows all the rules.
She watches and she listens to see who might need a friend
And she steps in oh so quietly...
Her compassion knows no end.
Another angel comes to me when I am feeling down.
Sometimes his hair is pretty wild and his clothes
much like a clown.
With strange voices, silly faces and sarcasm that's just right.
I recognize the angel and I make it through the night.
Look out for angels all around ...
Their disguises are so clever.
And once you have identified them you have a friend forever.
They have a certain chemistry I hope you will discover.
They make a difference in this world, these angels
"Get Over It?"
Today when we were talking,
you said words that broke my heart.
That it was time to put the hurt away,
Move forward, make a new start.
Don't you understand
I don't know how to put it all away
Why I'm doing the best I can
just to make another day.
How can I forget the past?
Forget the child that is gone?
How can I put his memories away,
pick up and move along?
Is there some magic potion
I can drink to end this gloom?
So all my friends don't become silent
when I walk into the room.
Or quickly change the subject
when I mention his name.
Don't you know your silence
only adds to my pain?
If you truly want to help me
move toward a better day
Then stand by me,
and listen to all I have to say.
When tears of sadness come,
don't walk away in fear
But just sit quietly by,
let me know that you are near.
You don't have to say a word,
just by my side remain.
And then one day with time,
and you, my smile I will reclaim.
I feel very lucky to have all the TCF friends here to share my son's
and no one tells me to "Get over it".
Steve's Mom Sheila Simmons Atlanta TCF
Celebrating Life Is a
Better Way to Cope with Death
Today marks a week since my
youngest brother's birthday. But instead of recalling memories of the family
all here together eating cake and ice cream and celebrating the joyous
occasion, my mind conjures up images that only seem to surface twice a
year, on Jeffrey's birthday and on the anniversary of his death.
Seven years ago Jeffrey committed
suicide. Though I was only 14 at the time and so many years have passed
since his death, when his birthday rolls around each year, so does the
pain. Today, how ever, is my last day for mourning. About three years ago
I decided that instead of fighting back my emotions or feebly attempting
to act as though everything is okay, on his birthday and on the anniversary
of his death, I would allow myself a week to mourn and heal.
I have even developed a ritual.
On these two occasions I dress all in white, sit in a private place with
the lights turned off, put on Bette Middler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" (the
song she sang in the movie "Beaches," right after her best friend died),
light a single white candle, and sort through old photographs of Jeffrey
and the family.
The color white, for me, has
always represented light, rebirth and newness. So wearing all white is
my way of saying, "Instead of mourning his death, I will celebrate his
life," Lighting a single candle stems from our Catholic faith. It is a
way of showing that the fire of his spirit is still alive. And with the
heat of the candle I can feel the warmth of his presence.
Listening to Midler's song
helps me say all the things I didn't get a chance to say. Especially when
I carefully listen to the words and realize how much they apply to Jeffrey
and me. The song seems to have been written for us.
When we were younger, I was
the star of the family. The straight-A student who sang in the church choir
and excelled in academic and athletic competitions. Jeffrey was the quiet
one. He was reserved, an average student, and spent most of his time reading
or practicing Ninjitsu. So it was no surprise that I commanded most of
the attention from my parents.
This didn't seem to bother
Jeffrey, however. He was easy going, a good listener, and best of all,
he always supported me in everything I did. I thought he was the perfect
brother. Losing him was extremely hard for me.
Everyone kept telling me to
cry and let out the grief I was feeling. Someone even said that a year
now I wouldn't remember how painful this experience was. But even now I
remember how hard it was to return to school and my everyday life and pretend
that everything was fine, acting as though I was dealing with his death
and would be okay.
I know they meant well by sharing
their condolences and advising me on the best way to deal with my grief.
But in the end I realized that no one could truly understand what I was
going through, and their remedies for relief may have worked for them,
but for me, I needed something more.
The first birthday after his
death was especially hard, and I dealt with it in a very different way
than I do now. I spent the entire month wearing black, closing myself off
from everyone around me and crying every time I had the inclination. I
don't regret dealing with his death that way, but I do find solace knowing
that seven years later, 1 can silently mourn without wearing black, without
shutting myself off from the outside world and without wearing a mask of
I have healed at my own pace
and in my own time. And I understand now that is the only advice I could
ever give someone experiencing a similar tragedy: Take your time and deal
with it in your own way. Only your way is the right way.
Now I deal with Jeffrey's death
the best way I know how--by celebrating his life. And in that, I am at
--Karma Lowe, Brazosport Chapter,Lake
THE BITTER TEARS OF LOVE
Peter Smith, age 15; sibling
to Gregory Smith
Because of my status in society
I can look below to poverty
and realize no matter how
frustrated I get,
I will always be very lucky
to have a family
who loves and cares for me.
But still the tears roll down
and my cheeks are forever
because I know as long as
my heart will always be pained.
I was left in shock, pain,
left with your unspoken words
which I will never hear
But in my days of sorrow when
I feel that I will fall
I can only repeat the phrase
"It is better to have loved
and lost than to never have loved at all."
One day you wake up and realize
that you must have survived it because you are still here, alive and breathing.
But you don’t remember the infinitely small steps and decisions you took
to get there. Your only awareness is that you have shed miles of tears
on what seems to be an endless road of sorrow.
One day – one glorious day
– you wake up and feel your skin tingle again, and you forget just for
an instant that your heart is broken…and it is a beginning.
~Susan Borrowman, TCF,
The Sower's Seeds
There is an old Chinese tale
about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man
and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring
my son back to life?"
Instead of sending her away
or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a
home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out
of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard
She came first to a splendid
mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has
never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me."
They told her, "You've certainly
come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that
recently had befallen them.
The woman said to herself,
"Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people than I, who
have had misfortune of my my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went
on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned,
in hotels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness
and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's
grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard
seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her
~lovingly lifted from Provo
TCF Chapter Newsletter - Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R.