Newsletter of The Compassionate
January - February - March 2003
mission of The Compassionate Friends is to assist families in the positive
resolution of grief following the death of a child and to provide information
to help others be supportive."
A Nonprofit Self-Help Organization for Families
Who Have Experienced the Death of a Child
by Kaye Des'Ormeaux
If you know anything about training horses,
you know they first need a gentle stroke.
For if a horse has no knowledge of what to do ...
We refer to him as being 'green broke.'
It's a process that sometimes takes a while.
A new way of life he must learn.
And ensuring the least amount of pain to him ...
Should always be the main concern.
For if you show kindness and tenderness,
that same horse can be a best friend.
If he allows you to ride high in the saddle,
you'll feel as if you're riding the wind.
Well, I have read many stories about parents
who could also be considered 'green broke.'
They suddenly face a new life without their child ...
And every day they need a gentle stroke.
They need to know that they are not alone.
For other mothers and dads are nearby.
And just like a horse that doesn't know what to do ...
These parents need help understanding why.
From the first day when they have lost their child,
they face a new world feeling lost & forsaken.
As time passes, they find their life is a nightmare ...
A nightmare that forbids them to awaken.
But I've seen those who find the courage to survive.
Comfort comes to them from deep within.
Oh they find themselves riding high in that saddle ...
While their child guides them through the wind.
Cause if you know anything about bereaved parents,
you know they always need a gentle stroke.
And even though you show them love and compassion ...
They rarely pass the stage of being green broke.
Dedicated to all parents who have lost a child.
Precious Valentine Memories By Darcie
The lace has grown yellow with age. The edges are tattered and the glue
that held the pieces together has long dried up, leaving only a slight
stain on the faded red paper. It is much smaller than I remembered. Perhaps
time has caused it to shrink. It seems so fragile, resting here in my palm.
The words have nearly faded and even the heavy crayon marks have lost their
luster over the years. There's a smudge of unknown origin on the back,
near where the paper was rubbed dangerously thin by the uncounted erasure
marks. The name is barely legible, the pencil lines so weak that only the
mind can read the letters. . I found it the other day, while doing one
of those winter chores: cleaning closets. It's nearly 25 degrees below
zero outside and it seemed like a good idea to clear away some of the trappings
of a thousand years.
February is a middle-of-winter month and most of us have fewer choices
in this month than in any other. For those of us here in the Great North,
it is either shovel the walk or clean the closets, and it's warmer in the
closet (although not by much!) So, armed with a dust rag, trash bag and
the radio, I opened the door and slipped in...not really about what I might
find. I thought I was just going to clean the closet.
But, that first box sent me spinning. I found things I hadn't even remembered
I'd lost! I finally found the holiday gift bought for my sister last year
and then so carefully had hid away. I found snow boots and sand pails,
a beach towel, three old paperbacks, a pile of magazines (all saved because
I wanted to clip something "important").
I found shoelaces for shoes no longer "alive" and several other things
that had once been alive. I found a half a chocolate-covered cherry and
part of a deck of cards. It was quite a treasure box, filled with junk
that once had had some meaning to someone, maybe even me.
I sorted though the coats and clothes, painfully aware that "someday"
would probably not arrive in my life-time. The too short hemline and the
too-small waist would not be mine again. I packed those things away, mindless
of the hours and the drifting snow outside the windows.
When I found the box of scrapbooks, I sat down, now that the closet
had some actual floor space. I touched the bindings, not quite sure I possessed
the courage required to open the pages. The phone rang and forced me away
from that decision. I left the closet and did not return until now.
That's when I found the old paper Valentine, tucked away between the
pages of a life lived long ago. As I held that once sticky, but now only
stained, piece of construction paper, I felt a connection with other valentines,
in other lifetimes. I heard a whisper of another voice: my own mother’s
exclamation over my offered gift. It blended with my voice, speaking across
the generations of children bringing home paper messages of love. OH! I
had forgotten THAT...it had become lost in the pain of losing you.
It was a peaceful hour in that closet, listening to the sounds of my
life, lived long ago and now remembered through the pages of the scrapbooks.
I found my own laughter and that of my friend, joining the laughter of
my own children, seeking the laughter of tomorrow's bearers of paper hearts.
Time does pass on. Generations of hearts have been delivered and received.
Generations of love have been shared just as generations of hurt have been
endured. It felt timeless in the closet...as if when I opened the door,
the give of this Valentine would still be waiting!
Perhaps that is exactly what is happening, perhaps the engineers of
all of our hurts and happiness are still waiting - waiting for us to claim
that love and bring their light back into being. There were so many years
when I could not bear this exchanging of paper hearts! There were so many
years when I counted FIRST what was missing, never realizing that in the
measuring of my losses, I was truly losing what I did have.
The snow had drifted deep across the yard: only the tips of my flamingos'
knit-capped, covered heads are visible in the white. But my vision has
been cleared somewhat this after-noon by a visit in the closet where I
found a memory that no length of time could fade. The lace is faded, the
edges tattered, but the heart always remembers and through the tears, the
sounds of love given and received echo back to me.
So now, this little paper message from both my past and my future sits
on my dresser, reminding me each morning to make room for the happy memories
as well as the hard ones.
I had "lost" that Valentine form so long ago, but the bearer of that
most precious gift of love has NOT been lost to me. Our loved ones die,
but the love we share between us can NEVER BE DESTROYED. Love continues
past all change and becomes the memory trace that guides the human spirit.
Love isn't enough, but without it, the world grows cold and frozen, and
the sidewalks never get shoveled and the closets never get cleaned, and
the memories get lost in the confusion of pain not healing.
Go find a Valentine, clean a closet, rummage through a drawer, search
for some tangible evidence that, indeed, your love DID LIVE - and what
a sweet treat that will be!
"Where there is love, there is life"
From First To Sixth
By Meg Avery, Sugar Hill, GA
In the world of sports, going from first to sixth is not something to
brag about nor be proud of. A sports team doesn’t start off in first
place anyway – the norm is to start at the bottom and gradually work upwards
– with lots of hard work, determination, effort and teamwork.
It’s truly an achievement deserving high recognition when a team can get
to first place.
But on an individual level, I’ve gone from first to sixth and it’s a
mark that has been achieved with just as much determination, pain and courage
as an entire team puts forth. For the bereaved parent, the
holiday season represents constant reminders of our child who is no longer
able to physically celebrate with us. The songs on the radio and
in the stores, seeing other children’s excitement and anticipation, not
being able to shop for our child or see Christmas through their eyes all
adds up to an ache that is indefinable and filled with sorrow.
Only a bereaved parent would understand this journey – I’ve moved from
getting through that first Christmas to recently surviving my sixth Christmas
I can well remember the numbness, pain and shock of having to face that
first holiday season back in Dec. ’97 when James had only been gone for
three months. It was unimaginable to stay home and “celebrate”
the holiday. My husband & I spent that first Christmas
in a cabin with our two dogs in the north Georgia mountains.
It was very quiet, very different and we survived a Christmas without James.
However, I can look back and remember poignant moments from that first
Christmas; we spent quite a bit of time outdoors, which we’d never done
on Christmas day. Instead of staying inside, opening many presents,
cooking, cleaning and visiting relatives, we had the experience of being
a part of nature as we hiked to waterfalls and spent time at a state park.
My parents visited us on Christmas Day and we had lunch together at the
state park lodge and then went to the waterfalls together.
James loved the outdoors and in the environment of the serenity of the
sound of the water, birds and being away from a hectic busy “normal” holiday,
we discovered a peace that was unknown previously. Still being in
shock and still being numb from the realization that James was gone created
a little bit of an insulation from harsh reality. Of course,
we missed James terribly but we did feel his spiritual presence all around
us. We were relieved when the holiday season was finally
over and we could put that behind us.
Now Christmas is made up of memories, a gentle sadness instead of a
piercing pain, a special candle, a small 3’ tree with very special decorations,
and still, the need to get out of town. Christmas still represents a monumental
effort of coping, surviving, handling and dealing with pain, loss, and
heartache. I remember each Christmas without James with the
clarity of a cold, clear winter day. The second was again spent in
north Georgia and we had a quiet holiday time, yet managing to enjoy the
outdoors once again. Our third Christmas we stayed home and
invited all the relatives here and managed to enjoy the day with 22 family
members & friends with a mix of old and new traditions, even some laughter,
and a few tears when reading a poem dedicated to my son, my brother and
all our loved ones gone too soon. Our fourth Christmas we were
in Tybee Island in a rented condo with our German exchange student, and
our fifth Christmas was spent at our own townhouse with a new exchange
student on the beach at Cape San Blas. We spent this sixth
Christmas again at the Cape, remote, scenic and peaceful. . My parents
spent the week with my husband and I and we allowed the beauty of nature
by the beach to be the focus of our holiday, met new friends and shared
their traditional Christmas dinner. We had beautiful sunsets,
painted by God and the angels, clouds that drifted and breezes that sang
of the whispers of the angels above. Dolphins, known as “angels
of the sea” danced and played in the Gulf of Mexico. More than ever,
we missed James but could feel that he was with us
Yet as my husband & I walked on the beach later Christmas afternoon,
my thoughts kept drifting as I wondered, where is Christmas these days?
I wanted to wish James a merry Christmas, I wanted to be able to talk to
him, hug him, shower him with gifts; but instead it was he who gave us
special gifts. Being on a remote beach and being
blessed to view such spectacular sunsets made me feel closer to heaven
than ever before. I did write “Merry Christmas James” in the
sand. In my heart, I know he realized how much I missed him
that day more so than any other day and I know he got my message in the
sand, just like I got his messages in the sky’s sunset.
I now realize it will never ever be the same. No longer is there
the 7’ Christmas tree in the living room for father & son to assemble
and put the lights on, or for mom and son to decorate with special ornaments
gathered through the years. No longer are there dozens of brightly
wrapped gifts under a tall tree decorated with lights, ornaments and garland.
There’s no hectic shopping to find the perfect presents for my son to open.
There’s no decision to make as to what Christmas play to see or tree lighting
ceremony to attend. There’s no scent of Christmas baking in the kitchen,
no one to help decorate cookies with mom or grandma. How I dearly
miss all the beloved traditions that made up our holiday season.
We constantly strive each year to create the best of what’s left,
to include James in our Christmas card, to light candles in his memory,
remember his life with others on National Children’s Memorial Day, bring
his memory to life on the TCF Tree of Memories, and to join with others
at candlelighting ceremonies to remember all our children, precious and
loved, gone too soon. Each Christmas will continue to be different.
I believe I will constantly seek a new meaning each Christmas, strive to
find Christmas in my heart and soul each year as we share another holiday
season without our son’s laughter, without his hugs but with his spiritual
presence casting a magical glow on that Christmas day letting us know he
is still with us and we still love him, miss him and remember him as we
live each day, as we reinvest our lives, not only on Christmas, but every
day, not only in his memory, but to create and strengthen our own sources
of peace and hope.
Meg Avery, TCF Lawrenceville GA
Memory of James Avery 7/15/83 ~ 9/22/97
Some Quiet Valentines
While watching an evening sunset
Fade in the western skies,
We know that when tomorrow dawns,
From the east the sun will rise.
Although it may be hidden
By veils hanging low,
We’re sure it will appear again
And we’ll feel its warming glow.
And so it is with life,
When seen through misty eyes,
When our world is suddenly dimmed
And we plead and ask those whys.
It is then we learn, ‘no man is an island,’
As someone wisely said,
As we travel life’s uncharted course
And by an unknown hand seem led.
To walk that path of sorrow,
Enduring life’s great loss,
But by chance or fate that someone’s
Path we are guided to cross.
That someone through kindness
In his or her way does impart,
A warmth and a tenderness
That so lifts a sad heart.
For it’s the depth of their smile
That lifts this sorrow of mine,
And by far they are best suited
To be our Valentine.
We may be someone’s Valentine
And never be aware,
In these caring, still-grieving hearts,
Our children’s love is there.
We’ve no choice but to continue
On life’s uncharted way,
And be thankful for those quiet friends
Who brighten up each day.
-From TCF Newsletter , Cleveland, OH
By Scott Mastley, Duluth, GA
Missing Chris is as much a part of my life as thinking is a
part of my life. I think of him and miss him frequently every day.
I keep a book of daily reflections on grief in my desk at work, and the
bookmark in it is a photograph of Chris. Sometimes I open the book
and just look at Chris’ face. I think about his charm, his vulnerability,
his sense of adventure and spontaneity, his intelligence, and on and on.
Most of all I think about his love for our family. Girls that Chris
dated used to pull me aside and tell me how much Chris loved me, how proud
he was of me, and how much he said he owed to our parents for what they
taught him of love and respect and decency.
I wish I had videos of him and recordings of his voice, but I don’t.
Missing Chris, missing the life we had together is part of who I am.
I say this because I live a positive life, and I am generally a happy person.
I have one hand in happiness, the memories we made together, and one hand
in isolation, the world without my brother. I constantly push and
pull in an attempt to firmly remember yet triumphantly live a positive
life. It is possible to feel the pain, to wish something else had
happened, to grieve healthily without giving up on life. Chris and
I had conversations about death, and he would say that if he ever died
before me that I should still seek out my life and have fun.
The world is a different place. I am a different person.
Death prompts an evaluation of priorities. It reminds me of the things
I take for granted. It forces me to weigh the values that I assign
to things in my life. I look at my jobs, my relationships, my dreams,
and myself. I contemplate my future and try to store my past.
I know that my life will be different.
Chris is gone. Sometimes things don’t come with a reason.
I can’t explain in cosmic terms why Chris died. I have the choice
to live in the whys and what ifs and always be miserable or to acknowledge
the positive contribution that my brother made to my life by giving equally
of myself and making the world a better place. It’s not all about
religion or psychology. It’s about accepting my grief and adjusting
my stance so that I can continue my life while carrying it.
Over time my body adjusts. Muscles develop and mental attitudes
improve. I strengthen and grow. After daily practice over a
period of time determined by me, I can carry it well. The point is
not to dwell on the past but to appreciate it and make the most of the
present from what I learned in the past.
When I was in elementary school Chris had a saying that annoyed me greatly.
If I complained or made excuses about something like losing a soccer game,
Chris said, “Life is hard.” He said the sooner we accept the fact
that life is hard, the better prepared we are for its challenges and opportunities.
He would also respond to my gripes with, “Who said life was fair?”
He taught me early on that life is not balanced and fair. Life is
what I make of it. I’m thankful for my big brother’s teaching.
Now I know the true value of his words.
All who have lost brothers, sisters, children, parents, grandparents,
and friends have learned that life is hard. I deal with the question
of fairness in moments of despair. Through it all, nothing I ask
and nothing I say can change where I am now. And knowing that
life can be hard and unfair prepares me for the rest of my life.
Where others may be hurt, shocked, and discouraged by setbacks and tragedies,
I now understand that these tragedies are a part of my life. I know
that I am vulnerable. I know that my world may be flipped inside
out at any moment. I may be knocked down, but I continue to
get back up. Perhaps I also know the depth of love more completely.
It is easy to think that I always felt the excitement of life when Chris
was alive. It is easy to convince myself that, if he were still alive,
my life would be completely satisfying. I would have no worries.
Some part of me knows that that is not true, but most of me also knows
that without my brother on it, this world is a lonelier place. My
father, my mother, and I agree that the grief is with us every day—that
there are days when we don’t want to go to work. There are moments
when it seems like too much to handle. We also agree that we are
lucky. We had in our lives a person whom we loved and cherished and
who loved and cherished us for twenty-seven years. We are lucky
to have shared a large part of our lives with such a wonderful person.
Our only logical choice now is to do our best to create happiness again.
Question: What are some suggestions for including my brother
Chad in my upcoming wedding? Lisa
• Add a note to the wedding ceremony program about Chad.
Scott Mastley, TCF Atlanta
• Put a candle on each table at the reception with a note explaining
that the candles are burning in honor of Chad.
• Have a photograph of him at the entrance to the church.
• I've also heard of people who put the candles out without an explanation
and then talked about it during the reception over the microphone
Visit Scott's web site "Surviving
The talk about Valentine Day memories in today's online sharing
really hit home for me. This morning I tackled an activity I've kept putting
off since our son, Lance, died in November 1999 - I decided to pack all
the odds and ends in Lance's room into boxes. As I handled all the
things that had been important to him, I found it so emotional and the
memories (and the tears) just overpowered me. I picked up one of
his favorite books, one I'd read to him a jillion times and saw something
sticking out at the top like a bookmark. I turned it over and it
was a photograph that just clutched at my heart and reminded me again of
all the joy Lance brought to us and others in his short life.
Harold Hopkins, Lawrenceville, GA
Lance was born with cerebral palsy and it affected his entire body.
But the glorious thing is that it never hampered his spirit or the happiness
and joy with which he moved through the world. The picture I found
was taken the year Lance was selected as Valentine King at his school.
My wife, Beverly, and I went to the Valentine Ball that evening.
Lance was in a wheelchair and could not stand or walk. But, oh how
he wanted to dance like the others. Finally, Bev and I took him out
of his chair and held him under the arms as he "danced" with the
Valentine Queen. The look on his face was one I'll never forget -
pure joy, pure delight, blazing with energy. Lance stomped his feet
up and down with the music, moved his arms back and forth and filled that
room with laughter. Of course, he didn't want to stop and we
danced ruts in the floor before it was all over. Beverly and I were
worn out, but he was still raring to go with every song. That evening
is still one of my fondest memories among all those I treasure about Lance.
I'm so glad we were willing to go through all that physical exertion
to make it possible for him to dance. I believe that if I could open
a window to heaven right now, he'd still be dancing. Thanks
for letting me share.
Remembering Lance Porter Hopkins,
Jul 20, 1975 - Nov 30, 1999
~reprinted from TCF Atlanta Online Sharing - Valentine
New Year, Old Memories
Sun going down in the western sky
A lonely feeling of dread inside.
On this eve of the old year, the new waiting to be
I reflect on days past,
and ponder the new ones I wait to see.
What will they bring, will they be like the old?
I wait and wonder for them it unfold.
Another year gone, one more mark on time
Yes another year gone, but you remain on my mind.
I gather the memories of all the days past
For I know in this new year they will still last.
Into this new year I timidly step
Along with the love so preciously kept.
New Days will come, old ones will pass.
But my love for you will forever last.
A New Year is rung in with glad shouts of cheer
Parades and parties welcome the new year.
Another holiday season behind us, a new year to face
New days for the memories time can't erase.
Gone are the pressures of holiday cheer
As we march on in this journey of this up coming year.
The mark of the calendar separates us in time
But the love still flows in heartstrings of yours and mine.
May your memories be gentle, and a comfort to you
May the love you feel carry you through.
Time is an essence, a mark to make
Taking us closer to the ones for whom our hearts ache
by Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta
In Memory of my son Steven
A Love Song
The mention of my child’s name
May bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring
Music to my ears.
If you are really my friend,
Please, don’t keep me
From hearing the beautiful music.
It soothes my broken heart
And fills my soul with love.
~Nancy Williams, TCF NJ
A Solitary Journey
By Helen Steiner Rice
An Angel’s Kiss
Grief is a solitary journey. No one but you know the gaping hole
left in your life when someone you know has died. And no one but
you can mourn the silence that was once filled with laughter and song.
It is the nature of love and of death to touch every person in a totally
unique way. Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the
same journey. And solace comes from understanding how others have
learned to sing again.
We go through life so often,
not stopping to enjoy the day.
And we take each one for granted,
As we travel on our way.
For in your pain and sorrow,
An Angel's Kiss will help you through,
This kiss is very private,
For it is meant for only you.
We never stop to measure,
Anything we just might miss.
But if the wind should blow by softly,
You'll feel an Angel's Kiss.
A kiss that is sent from heaven,
A kiss from up above.
A kiss that is very special,
From someone that you love.
So when, your hearts are heavy,
And filled with tears and pain,
And no one can console you,
Remember once again...
About the ones you grieve for,
Because you sadly miss.
And the gentle breeze you took for granted,
Was just an Angel's Kiss.
By Peggy Bouse
Heart hath its own memory, like the mind.
And in it are enshrined the precious keepsakes,
into which is wrought the giver's loving thought.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves
a memory no one can steal.
I would like to share a poem that I wrote for my daughter,
Marissa. Marissa's birthday is Valentine's Day. This birthday
is most significant because this birthday is her seventh and Marissa lived
just three and half years. She is now gone from me as long as she
was here. I am finding this hurdle to be most difficult. My
heart, which I thought was as broken as could possibly be, is shattered
once again. Another difficult part of this time is that I feel the
world has forgotten my child. I was actually told that I "make myself
feel this way." It hurts. Please allow me to share this poem
in Marissa's memory. Thank you for giving me this avenue to feel
safe in remembering my daughter. I miss you, Marissa!
February 14, 1995 - August 6, 1998
My Eternal Valentine
Today is your birthday, my sweet Valentine
In my heart you now live, my soul you entwine
For you came into my life and gave so much love
Then you were beckoned to join all the Angels above
I know that He called you, He called you by name
"Marissa, come my child," as His Angels came
They encircled you into their wings and cradled you near
Your Eternal journey was begun,
there was nothing to fear
I know that Jesus himself greeted you
as your spirit soared
I know that you knew Him as your Savior, our Lord
He gently welcomed you into His Heavenly Home
A place for you He prepared, no need to roam
I am certain that he calmed you,
for I know you wanted to stay
But the Lord, His Plan fulfilled, it was your Heaven's Day
Though I ache for you here with me,
My Darling Baby Girl
I am consoled that you are mine not only of this world
You are mine and mine alone, Eternally
What greater Gift, my Lord give to me?
Your birthday, I remember, though it brings tears
Tears of Joy, Happiness, and Memories so dear
I will never ever forget you, my precious Twinkle Star
I need only look into my heart, my soul, for there you are
And there you will Live on through my life
and in the hereafter
Marissa, your Love lives in me,
you are my heart's laughter
Happy Heavenly Birthday, sweet baby of mine
You are mine forever, My Eternal Valentine
By Laurie Myers
by Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta
Winter sun slants down, no warmth in it's rays
Warm spring is sleeping, under the snow she lays.
Barren tree branches dance in time to the cold winds song
Nights are dark and oh so long.
But your memories are my blanket of warmth
And I pull them close to me, waiting for spring to come forth.
A time of warm breeze, to chase away the cold
But now in the winter, warm memories I hold.
TCF Atlanta Area