Isn't it strange that in all the decades of my life, that I didn't
really think much about Memorial Day until my sweet Nina died? That first
Memorial Day was about 2 1/2 weeks after her death. She is buried in a
very old cemetery with much history. I drove into that cemetery that Memorial
Day and saw all the flags (about 170 of them I think) at each veteran's
grave and I paused for the first time in at least three decades and really
thought about the meaning of that day.
Last year, while at the TCF National Conference in Chicago, I spoke
with one of the bereaved couples that also were attending the conference.
The man was telling me about his duty in World War II, and how he survived
for days in the ocean after their ship had been bombed, watched as many
of his shipmates died, yet somehow he survived. I thought about how that
must feel to have survived against all odds, but then decades later lose
your own precious child. Who can understand? A lovely lady I met
while in Chicago, Jackie, walked in our on conversation. With tears in
her eyes, she said to this man, "Thank you so much for our freedom." That
really struck me. How I, and I am sure many others, have just taken
the freedom we enjoy every day for granted.
I watched "Saving Private Ryan" and that first half hour depicted the
horror of the invasion of Normandy during WWII and all the lives lost.
In that movie, a mother has been told that all three of her son's have
perished in the War. I wonder if I hadn't lost a child if I would have
felt the same gut-wrenching pain and sorrow as I did when watching that
fictitious mother sink to her knees when told of her son's deaths. It affected
me for days afterward.
Classmates of mine were killed in the Vietnam War. I remember being
very sad about it, but I don't remember I thought much about it beyond
that, about what they had sacrificed their lives for. It was all so far
away from home...But now when Memorial Day comes along each year, I remember
the mothers and fathers of the soldiers who died for our country, and my
heart aches for them. I would like to say to anyone who might be
reading this today, who served our country in 'Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm,
World War II, or anywhere else in this troubled world, just as Jackie did
last summer, "Thank you so much for our freedom."
God bless every one of you.
Cathy Seehuetter, Nina's mom forever
St. Paul, MN TCF
MY JOURNEY WITH COMPASSIONATE
~Freddie Saye, Jonesboro TCF
October 9, 1982, was a Saturday afternoon like any other Saturday
afternoon. But around 5:30 that afternoon as we were preparing to return
home from our trip to Gainesville, GA our normal world was turned upside
down. We received a call from our associate pastor that our son who had
stayed home that weekend to work had been involved in an automobile accident.
He didn’t know how bad Kevin was injured. After a few frantic phone calls
to the hospital we decided to head home. When we got to the Suwanee exit,
I stopped and called the hospital again. They put our associate pastor
Hinton Harris on and without telling me, we knew Kevin had died. What a
long and heart breaking drive it was to get to the hospital knowing our
only son was dead. What do we do? How do we continue to function and live?
My wife Charlotte and I and our twin daughters, Joy and Jamie, were
beginning the journey no one ever wants to begin. What words could
I say that would ease the pain we were going through? I certainly didn’t
find them that night or ever.
We made it through the funeral and as the days turned into months, we
begin to wonder if this pain would ever get better. We begin to receive
the Compassionate Friend’s newsletter and found that there were many more
out there who were hurting and looking for answers just as we were. Sadly
it took us nearly 15 months before we got up the courage to attend a Compassionate
Friends meeting. We attended a meeting of the old South Atlanta chapter
that met on Old National Highway. The one thing we learned that first night
was that we weren’t really crazy after all, because we certainly thought
we were with all the strange feelings and emotions we were having. We soon
found the help that we needed as we heard other grieving parents talk about
the depth of their hurt and what they were doing to ease their pain. But
after about a year the lady who was the leader of the chapter finally gave
it up because no one else would help and the chapter closed. Once again
we were left on our own to fight this battle with sadness and pain, trying
to survive our loss of Kevin for nearly three years. We struggled alone,
looking with great expectation for the newsletter to come each month. About
three years later we were in a new church and I was in charge of leading
our church into a lay renewal weekend. As I was setting up the different
rooms for our groups to meet in I went into our chapel building and at
once knew that this was a great location for a chapter of Compassionate
Friends to meet in. I fully believe that God had laid a great ministry
on my heart.
As soon as our lay renewal weekend was over I contacted Mary Cleckley
who headed up the Atlanta Chapter and wrote the newsletter. Even though
she didn’t give me great encouragement about restarting the chapter she
did give me advise on what I needed to do to start and run it and even
came down and spoke to our group.
Our first meeting was small. Wayne and Libby Gentry came down to give
us support and we probably had a total of 5 people there. But it was a
start and soon we were having 8-10 at each meeting. I don’t think we ever
had less than 5 at any meeting and have had 25 plus several times and as
many as 60 at our Christmas candle light service. We now average close
to 20 each month, so we know we are reaching out and helping many families.
As I look back, I still see the sad faces and broken hearts of parents
who have attended our chapter. We had parents come who lost their child
only weeks before and others who came after many years of trying to cope
on their own. Through the years I’ve been fortunate to see parents that
we have helped who were able to stop coming. But I am so thankful for those
who we helped who stayed around to help with our chapter as we ministered
to other grieving parents.
I still have great memories of Nancy and Paul Jordon, two of our charter
members, who came after losing their son Steve. Nancy was willing to share
so many things she did after Steve’s death, like leaving her car at Walmart
and walking home, putting the iron in the refrigerator, starting to go
some were and ending up in Columbus, GA and not knowing how she got there.
We nick named her the crazy lady, but the truth was we had all done the
similar things and it made us feel better about ourselves as we realized
others were doing those things too. Thanks Nancy for helping us to be able
to laugh again and laugh at our selves.
I think the many things that have meant the most to Charlotte and I
being in this chapter for the past 15 years are the following: The
love that we have felt from others. The knowledge that no one there judged
us, but that they accepted us where we were in our journey. That they were
there to pick us up when we were down. That they really did understand
the depth of hurt that we were going through. That when we said our heart
was breaking they understood. When we cried they cried with us. When we
needed someone to talk to they were there to listen. Has it not been easy,
by no means, but has it been rewarding you bet it has. We made friends
and met people who have had a positive impact on our life, people who have
helped us deal with our loss of Kevin, people who have given us hope that
things can and will get better. That help is as near as the phone.
What have I learned……
• That men and women grieve differently.
• That I’m not really crazy after all.
• That I’m as normal as normal can be for a parent who has lost a child.
• That’s its ok for a man to cry.
• That I won’t get over this in weeks or months. That even though it
took years before I really felt like I was getting better, I did get better.
• That there are people who really understand what I’m feeling.
• That I don’t have all the answers and don’t have to.
• That as we share we find that we are able to help one another.
• That it’s ok to go to the cemetery everyday or not at all.
• That just because it helped me doesn’t mean it will help you.
• That it’s ok to be mad.
• That it is ok to laugh again.
• To be more tolerant of others.
• To be more sensitive of others.
After 15 years of leading the South Atlanta chapter, of watching
it grow and then five years ago to see it become chartered, I have made
a difficult decision to step down. I know that Diana Green will do a super
job as the new leader and that those in our chapter will join in helping
her take it to a new level of helping other grieving parents as they come
into our chapter.
I would like to thank all the parents who have ever come to our chapter
and especially to those who stayed around through the years to help me.
Thanks to Paul and Nancy, Geraldine, Carl and Lauren, Robin, Carol, Bill
and Diana, Beckie, Dray and Judy, Robin, Lynda and Tom, John and Susan,
David and Julie, Joy and Jerry, Bucky and Cheryl, Valarie, Mary Jane, Dick
and Rosemary and to many I know I forgot to mention.
I’d like to give a big thank you to all Compassionate Friends everywhere
for being there when we were at out lowest and darkest moment and showing
us that there would be sunshine again in our lives. Thanks!!!
Mother’s Day, Before and
While sorting through boxes and bags, it is not unusual for me to find
something unexpected. It happened just the other day. Sifting through a
box, I came across a wrinkled, somewhat yellowed piece of lined school
paper. I carefully unfolded it only to find a drawing of a stick-Mom and
stick-daughter standing alongside a mammoth daisy. The mom and little girl
were holding hands with huge lop-sided grins on their faces. In her little
girl just-learning-to-print handwriting were the words, “Happy Mother’s
Day, Mommy. I love you, Kristina.”
Even six years later, little “gifts” such as these can bring fresh tears.
It is times like these that I am glad that I was an incredible pack rat,
especially when it came to saving things that my children have made. I
can picture my then-blond, petite little Nina (her nickname), with the
wispy hair, bent over the kitchen table, crayon in hand, creating that
hand-made card filled with love. Memories of breakfasts in bed, only to
return to the kitchen after finishing the “gourmet” meal served with tender
care, to find it in such disarray that it took hours to clean up! Even
through the tears, these are the sweetest memories.
As I type this, I look at another gift from a Mother’s Day past; a little
statue of a harried mom, surrounded by mop, broom and bucket, that says,
‘World’s Greatest Mom”, chosen for me at a neighborhood garage sale. I
came across it accidentally shortly after Nina’s death, unearthing it from
its hiding place. I wondered to myself, why had I packed it away. Did Nina
know that I did and did she think that, by doing so, I hadn’t appreciated
her gift? Did I ever thank her for it along with the other garage sale
items that she proudly brought home to me, or did it show on my face that
I really didn’t need anymore “junk” around the house? Sometimes resurrecting
these treasures can bring unpleasant feelings of guilt as we wonder if
our children knew how much their little gestures of love meant to us. When
our child dies, it becomes easy to second-guess ourselves, trapped in our
fixations and exaggerations of the negative things that may have occurred
during our child’s life.
The first Mother’s Days after Nina died was so grief-numbing I could
not imagine ever celebrating another Mother’s Day again. I am sure the
dads have these same feelings on Father’s Day. My heart goes out to them,
because I think we forget that they, just like us, grieve and hurt, too.
For those mothers and fathers who have lost their only child, I have
been saddened by stories they told me about attending church on Mother’s
Day Sunday. When the pastor asked the mothers in the church to please stand,
they were undecided on whether they should stand or not. I hope that they
will always remember, and the fathers as well, “Once a mother, always a
mother; once a father, always a father.” We are forever their parents.
If we are fortunate to have surviving children, they are often forgotten
as well. In the early days, we become obsessed with the one who is missing.
My own children showed quiet patience with this. I often wonder if they
thought ‘What about us? We’re still here!” Now with almost seven Mother’s
Days behind me, I try to accentuate what I do have. This does not happen
overnight. I found that in celebrating my surviving children, I could still
honor Nina’s memory and find ways to include her as well. I have developed
a ritual where I get up early on that morning and bring flowers out to
the cemetery. I bring a flower and a note to some of the mothers that I
know who have buried children there to tell them I am thinking of them
and their child. There is something very healing when reaching out to others.
I then sit by my daughter’s grave-site on the spring-green grass listening
to the sweet call of a robin. I bring her a flower and write in her journal
telling her how thankful I am to be her mother, how much I love and miss
her. That is our private time together; the rest of the day is spent honoring
my other children.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are holidays especially created for us.
Try to get through them the best that you can, in whatever way feels right
for you. Truly, only you know what that is. Whether it is alone those first
few years or with people that you love and who understand, do something
that you find comforting. It is your day, for you were the
giver of a precious life - you held a miracle in your arms. Even as powerfully
destructive as death is, even that cannot take those memories away from
you – they are your child’s gift to you.
With gentle thoughts and peace on your special day,
Cathy L. Seehuetter, TCF/St. Paul, MN
OTHER SIDE OF TOMORROW
Since the astonishment of your leaving,
I’ve spent so many days and hours
dodging reality while looking back and hoping
to catch a sudden glimpse of your face
shining in a forgotten corner of memory’s maze.
I’ve wept early and late over photographs,
yellowing mementos packed away in boxes
and so many remembered points of happiness.
I’ve even sat and held your clothing close,
trying to recapture your living scent.
With a glimmer of wisdom born of distance,
I recognize the futility of the mystical expectation
to find you hidden in yesterday’s embers.
Emerging truth tells me you are running on ahead
already out there on the other side of tomorrow.
I see you afar, bemused at the spectacle
of my searches through all the wrong places,
the welling tears as if you didn’t exist anymore;
the unending game of celestial hide-and-seek
while you watched serenely from a place of peace.
The fabric of my grief must have seemed strange to you, spun as
it was from
the compelling pull of yesterday.
Your transformation blessed you with a wondrous knowing
that eternity can only be found in the sparkle of a moment
and yesterday and tomorrow do not exist.
I now understand that remaining mired in grief
neither honors my life nor enhances your memory.
Honor of either estate comes
only in the act of living fully,
calling forth from within the energy
and joy of simply being,
willfully scattering seeds of love across every field.
Time now to look ahead,
down the path you marked so clearly;
time to follow your crumbs of sizzling joy,
and hear them erupting into the helpless laughter of innocence,
feel them emerging in the warm smiles of strangers,
see them gilding the wings of hawks and eagles along the way.
In remembrance of Lance Porter Hopkins,
© Harold G. Hopkins, October 2001
More Poems by
From TCF Atlanta Online Sharing
Thoughts After the Graduation
It was been a long time since I have written and I feel out of touch
with all you wonderful people. I have been so busy that I haven't even
read the line for the last two to three weeks and I miss you. I get so
much strength from your strength, and so much outpouring of genuine caring
from you whom I have never met, yet feel like I know you so well.
The baby of my family, my son Dan, graduated from high school at the
end of May and we had his graduation open house yesterday. It was a bittersweet
day of mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am so thankful and so blessed
to have him here with me so that I was able to have the party for him.
He was in the back seat, sitting right next to his sister Nina, when she
was killed six years ago, and he could have been killed as well. She was
his mentor and his best friend. His life was changed immeasurably by her
absence these past years during the difficult years of junior high school
and high school. He missed the counselor and adviser in his sister.
Making the picture board for the party was a very emotional experience.
I have had boxes of pictures untouched for so many years and this forced
me to go through them. Looking for pictures of the two of them together;
well, it just broke my heart. She was always at his side or looking over
his shoulder making sure he was okay. I have to trust that she still is
looking over his shoulder, from a distance. We missed her physical presence
so much yesterday. I know she was here in spirit, but, of course, it is
not the same. She loved big gatherings like this and she would have been
so pleased to see her brother looking so happy and watching her nephews,
that unfortunately she never got to meet, as they played together. Oh,
sweet Nina, we missed you!
My heart hurts for those of you experiencing the first summer without
your child. Their absence is even more apparent during the summertime,
especially for the school age children, because they would have been on
summer vacation and home with you. You are all in my prayers every day
and night. Thinking of you and wishing you as much peace as you can grab
Cathy, Nina's mom forever
Letter to Clergy
Dear Reverend ________,
I'm sending you a letter from the TCF Online Sharing letter that I get
in my e-mail. It really gets to the point of what a grieving parent can
expect. Unless a person has lost a child, people have no idea what grieving
parents really go through. Of course grief is different for everyone, and
there IS NO "Right or Wrong" way to grieve. I haven't lost a child, but
to me it feels as though I have. A grand parent goes through it two-fold,
because you grieve for your child who lost their child, and you grieve
for the precious grandchild whom you lost also. I don't know if you've
ever lost a child or grandchild, I sure pray that you haven't and never
have to go through that.
Until I got on this sharing line, I always assumed that preachers, priest,
rabbi's and the other men of God would know all about these things, since
you all do funerals, help the families and in your case, deal with the
insurance's of these people who have lost a child. But on this sharing
line, I've discovered that a lot of them know nothing about it because
they have never experienced it themselves. However, with this sharing
group we learn many things and the best thing we learn is that what we,
as grieving parents/grandparents feel is very normal and that NONE of us
need walk alone.
Some of us walk with our Savior, some of us blame Him. Some of us don't
know what, where or who to turn to, so we close ourselves off from the
living and suffer in silence. We wear many faces in public, even
when deep inside we're a total wreck and we sometimes can not see any light
at the end of the darkness we have been thrust into.
Now Reverend, I would never try to tell you that you know nothing about
how we feel, because I could not possibly know what you have been through
yourself. All I am saying is that, "If more men of God, would read some
of these letters, they too would learn a great deal about how to help grieving
parents." So, I'm sending this to you in hopes that you will read
it and find out what "We at TCF Atlanta" are all about, and will know more
about what you can tell those parents you meet that ask you where to go
or who to talk to, that really need some support from those of us who have
been there and know what they will be going through.
As you know, I am only three years down this road of grief, and I have
so much further to go before my end of time. But "I know that I do not
have to walk this road alone."
I'm also sending a copy of this letter to TCF Atlanta, so they can post
it in their next sharing letter. Maybe some of the parents/grandparents
will share TCF with their pastors or what ever religion they happen to
be.... or not to be.
Will you please say a prayer for Kami and me, as Vickie's birthday and
death day are coming in the next two weeks and we could sure use prayers
at this time.
Thank you, and may God continue blessing us all.
Wanda Bryant, Tarrytown, GA
Memory of My Granddaughter
04/17/1998 ~ 04/11/1999
(Article Sent to Pastor)
IN THE BEGINNING....
Your child has died. As a newly bereaved parent you have experienced
the most devastating life-changing event. Your whole world has been shattered
and you are in a new world now. You will be relearning how to survive when
at times you won't even want to survive. The only hope I can give you is
that we in The Compassionate Friends have survived and we are here to help
you. It won't be easy but keep in mind, if you hadn't love so much you
wouldn't hurt so much now.
"How long will it last?" is probably the first question we hear from
ones like you new to grief. It is a very important question to us at the
beginning. Professionals have managed to place timetables based on their
studies and you will hear "two years" quoted, but those of us who have
been the road a number of years will tell you that you will not "get over"
the death of your children in two years. You probably never will "get over"
his or her death, but you will learn to live with the fact of it and rejoin
life and lead a normal life again; it will just be different from before.
There is no timetable on grief. Some work through the process sooner
than others. We operate on our individual timetable; we cannot judge our
progress or lack of it by anyone else.
Grief is a process, a moving through. Sometimes we go forward, but sometimes
backward, and sometimes we get "stuck" for a while, but keep in mind it
is a process and eventually you will move through it. Within this process
there are "stages". We're told those stages are shock, denial, anger, bargaining,
and acceptance. They don't necessarily come in that order.
Most of us do experience shock and denial or disbelief first. We can't
believe it has happened! There must be a mistake! This happens to other
people...not us! That shock is so tremendous that it affects us physically
as well as psychologically. It is marked by a lowering of blood pressure,
coldness of the skin, rapid heartbeat and an acute sense of terror. That
shock insulates us and allows us to go through our duties and do things
at this time that we never could have done otherwise. I praise that shock
because it keeps us from dying too. That shock allows some of us to carry
on with grace and skill during the days surrounding the death and the funeral.
That same shock knocks some of us into merciful oblivion and we don't remember
a thing during that time. We are all individuals and we react differently
during grief, but there are common reactions we all share. This is why
you will find very quickly that the only one who really understands what
you are going through is another bereaved parent.
Anger, another stage, may come at any time. It is a very natural, normal
reaction; don't be afraid or ashamed of it. Know it is okay, you won't
always feel this way, there is nothing wrong with you for feeling this
way - most of us feel some anger toward something, someone, even at God,
even the child in some instances. You have been hurt beyond your wildest
imaginings. I have described my own anger as rage. Society frowns on anger
so don't expect always to be treated kindly when you display it, but remember
you have a right to be angry. Anger is often unfocused and we sometimes
take it out on innocent people. Medical personnel are often the first to
receive this anger and funeral directors are next in line. Later, that
anger can attack anyone who crosses our paths. It is good to recognize
anger and try to focus it, learn to use it as a tool. Take up social issues,
find healthy outlets for it. It is important to do something physical about
anger. Hard work and sports are ways, and we've heard many stories of chopping
wood, breaking dishes bought at garage sales and breaking them when we
need an outlet. Scream in the shower, in your speed boat or closed up in
your car, but get it out. Anger turned inwards becomes depression.
With the death of our child everything we ever believed in is shattered.
In my own case I had to struggle for a long time to even figure out what
I did believed in; I was so confused. Our egos, our beliefs in ourselves,
were badly shaken because, as parents, we truly believed we could protect
our child from anything. We were careful, good parents, and now our child
is dead. WE HAVE FAILED TO KEEP OUR CHILD ALIVE and our ego tells us we
are a failure! This devastates us; we can no longer believe in ourselves;
we feel that obviously we are incapable of doing anything right We have
no self-confidence, no longer any self-esteem: These are all natural, normal
responses to the horror of your child's death. Given time and care these
feelings will pass. We will achieve a balance in our personal life again
Remind yourself to be patient, to be kind to yourself. You are not
a failure, you did the very best you could, and you would surely have given
your own life to save your child's. You did not fail; life just isn't always
fair. These feelings, and others as bizarre, may cause you to think you
are going crazy. Ask any bereaved parent of some years and they will all
tell you they thought the same thing at some time. You are a changed person
now, you will never again be the same as you were before your child died.
Someday you will accept that fact: Out of the ashes of grief you can grow,
if and when you choose to do so. Look around you to the other bereaved
parents; you will find role models and hope in them. There will be many
tears, allow them, they are healing and necessary to survival and recovery.
Many of us suffer from the lack of ability to concentrate. It is a common
complaint. We can't think, we can't remember from one minute till the next
and we have no idea what we've read when we finish a page. Be patient…given
time and some effort you will return to normal.
Hang on to any shred of your sense of humor that you can, even a small
chuckle now and then can break your tension and give some relief. It may
be a while in coming but one day you will laugh again. I know you can't
believe it now but you will.
You will have a strong need to talk. You will find that you can talk
more than one person can listen, so seek out several good friends who will
let you talk to them. You will find some at the Compassionate Friends meetings.
You will need to tell your child's story over and over again. You will
need to talk about the whole life and death and what you are going through
now. Talking is therapeutic. Talk and talk, and talk, until your story
At night you may go over the events again and again and again, night
after night. This is called obsessional review. Sleep disturbances are
not unusual. We either can't sleep or sleep too much.
We suffer guilt real and imagined. We recall punishments and in turn
punish ourselves with them when at the time the punishment was probably
fair. We go through the "if onlys." If only we had or hadn't.... Beware
of isolation. We need to be with people, not alone. When we isolate ourselves
with no one to talk to about our feelings, we become depressed: and isolation
plus depression equals suicidal feelings and that spells real trouble.
We are fatigued, lack motivation, we suffer numerous physical complaints,
headaches, stomach disorders, we are either nervous or feel dead inside...
many and sundry are our complaints, most of which are normal and to be
expected in this time of enormous stress and always we ask ourselves and
others, ""Why?" "Why me?" "Why my child? Simply because life isn't always
fair, my friend....
Your world is topsy-turvy now, nothing makes sense, nothing fits....family
balance is upset, the numbers are all wrong, there is one empty chair at
the table now, so you choke on your food and think of the empty chair.
Grocery shopping is a nightmare because your child's favorite food greets
you from the shelves of every aisle; you don't dare think of holidays because
you know you'll never survive them without your child. Your child's birthday
and the memory of all the joy of that day looms like a mountain far too
high to climb. ...some days all you want is for the pain to stop. Some
days you just can't get out of bed. Some days you work hard and fast like
something has possessed you. Every day you cry. You find you are very lonely
even in the midst of a crowded shopping mall. You want to scream at the
busy, happy people, "Don't you know my child is dead?' How can they go
on as if nothing has happened?" No matter how many people you are with,
you are lonely.
Compassionate Friends understand: each one of us has had a least one
child die. We know what you are going through. We don't pretend to have
all the answers, but we want to share this time of your life with you.
We want you to know you are not alone.
Fay Harden TCF Tuscaloosa, AL
A Mother's Day Wish
By Jody Seilheimer
Dear Mr. Hallmark,
I am writing to you from heaven,
and though it must appear
A rather strange idea, I see everything from here.
I just popped in to visit, your stores to find a card.
A card of love for my mother,
as this day for her is hard.
There must be some mistake I thought,
every card you could imagine
Except I could not find a card,
from a child who lives in heaven.
She is still a mother too, no matter where I reside
I had to leave, she understands,
but oh the tears she’s cried.
I thought that if I wrote you,
that you would come to know
That though I live in heaven now,
I still love my mother so.
She talks with me, and dreams with me;
we still share laughter too,
Memories our way of speaking now,
would you see what you could do?
My mother carries me in her heart,
her tears she hides from sight.
She writes poems to honor me,
sometimes far into the night
She plants flowers in my garden,
there my living memory dwells
She writes to other grieving parents,
trying to ease their pain as well.
So you see Mr. Hallmark,
though I no longer live on earth
I must find a way, to remind her of her wondrous worth
She needs to be honored, and remembered too
Just as the children of earth will do.
Thank you Mr. Hallmark, I know you’ll do your best
I have done all I can do; to you I’ll leave the rest.
Find a way to tell her, how much she means to me
Until I can do it for myself,
when she joins me in eternity.
Words by Jody"
This is the first time I have written anything since the loss my beautiful
son, Josh on January 21,2002. I read what all of you write everyday. It
a source of great comfort for me to know that I am not alone in the thoughts
I have and in the way I feel. Every agonizing day that goes by the already
unbearable pain gets worse and worse. Josh left this world in my arms in
the driveway of our home. He had some friends over riding bikes that day
and he had an accident on his bike. I replay this over and over in my head.
I don't understand why or even how it happened. I never will. I would
like to share with you a poem I wrote to my angel Josh.
With love and thanks, Wendy Phillips, Winder, GA
Twelve weeks since I've held you
And seen your sweet grin
Twelve weeks since we've talked
Oh, how long it has been!
Twelve weeks since I've touched you
Or seen your beautiful face
Twelve weeks since we've laughed
Or been to your favorite place.
Twelve weeks since I've smelled you
Or picked you up from school
Twelve weeks since I've heard you
How could life be so cruel!
Twelve weeks since I've watched you
Riding your bike
Twelve weeks since I've tucked you in
And kissed you goodnight.
Twelve weeks since you left
On that horrible day
Twelve weeks since I begged God not to take you away.
Twelve weeks since my heart
Was ripped from my chest
Twelve weeks since I had to lay
You, my beautiful son, to rest.
I know you're alive
In Heaven above
Surrounded by angels
And Gods precious love.
Josh, when I get there
We will never part
Until that day comes
I'll forever keep you in my broken heart!
In Loving Memory of Joshua Stephen Phillips
May 16, 1989-January 21, 2002
What is Normal Now?
I was jokingly asked recently what normal meant by a friend and I thought
about it and jotted these things down. It is amazing what can become
"normal" to us. I'm sure you could all change the names and a few
circumstances and your normal is very close to mine.
Normal for me is trying to decide what to take
to the cemetery for Christmas, birthday, Valentine's day, and Easter.
Normal is discussing with a friend in the Netherlands
how different funeral customs are there than here. Discussing how
much both our sons loved trains and how the train sets now collect dust.
Normal is talking to a fellow musician at Sandhillls
symphony practice and the conversation going toward how you felt after
your child died.
Normal is sitting at the computer crying, sharing
how you feel with chat buddies who have also lost a child.
Normal is feeling like you know how to act and
are more comfortable with a funeral than a wedding or a birthday party.
Yet, feeling a stab of pain in your heart when you smell the flowers, see
that casket, and all the crying people.
Normal is feeling like you can't sit another minute
without getting up and screaming cause you just don't like to sit through
church anymore. And yet feeling like you have more faith and belief in
God than you ever have had before.
Normal is going to bed feeling like your kids who
are alive got cheated out of happy cheerful parents and instead they are
stuck with sober, cautious people.
Normal is having tears waiting behind every smile
when you realize someone important is missing from all the important events
in your families' life.
Normal is not sleeping very well because a thousand
what if's and why didn't I's go through your head constantly.
Normal is having the TV on the minute I walk into
the house to have noise because the silence is deafening.
Normal is staring at every blonde little boy who
looks about Kindergarten age. And then thinking of the age Isaiah would
be now and not being able to imagine it. Then wondering why it is
even important to imagine it because it will never happen.
Normal is every happy event in my life always
being backed up with sadness lurking close behind because of the hole in
Normal is seeing Ian in his long black coat and
hat at the cemetery visiting his brother’s grave and thinking, how could
this be normal? He shouldn't have to be going through this.
Normal is seeing other kids that are Ian and Isaac's
age teasing and playing with their brothers and sisters that are Isaiah's
age and feeling so envious of them.
Normal is seeing Isaiah's classmates from church
and Sunday school and wondering why he can't be with them. Why him?
Normal is playing my flute for a performance and
feeling really great about doing well, followed by an immediate down after
thinking how Isaiah would have said, "That was beautiful Momma (whether
it really was or not).
Normal is telling the story of Isaiah's death as
if it were an everyday common place activity and then gasping in horror
at how awful it sounds. And yet realizing it has become part of our
Normal is each year coming up with the difficult
task of how to honor your child's memory and their birthday and survive
those days. And trying to find the balloon or flag that fits the
occasion. Happy Birthday? Not really.
Normal is my heart warming and yet sinking at the
sight of a penguin. Thinking how Isaiah would love it, but how he
is not here to enjoy it.
Normal is getting up early to exercise (when I
really hate exercise) because I know my mental health depends on it.
Normal is disliking jokes about death, funerals.
Bodies being referred to as cadavers when you know they were once someone's
Normal is being impatient with everything but someone
stricken with grief over the loss of their child.
Normal is feeling a common bond with friends in
England, Australia, Netherlands, Canada, and all over the USA, but yet
never having met any of them face to face.
Normal is a new friendship with another grieving
mother and meeting for coffee and talking and crying together over our
children and our new lives. And worrying together over our living
Normal is not being able to rest until you get
the phone call that your 15 year old with a school permit has arrived at
school just fine. And having the courage to let your 17 year old
not call after driving to school because he is insulted that you need to
check on him.
Normal is being too tired to care if you paid the
bills, cleaned house or did laundry or if there is any food in the
Normal is wondering this time whether you are going
to say you have 2 or 3 children because you will never see this person
again and it is not worth explaining that one of them is in heaven.
And yet when you say only 2 to avoid that problem you feel horrible as
if you have betrayed that child.
Normal is feeling terrible hurt when you see your
child's power point presentation at parent/teacher's conference and that
child has listed only one brother. Then you realize the way the information
is set up there really is no logical place to list the brother who has
died and went to heaven. And how awkward that must of been for him
to think about the problem.
Normal is avoiding McDonald's and Burger King playgrounds
because of small happy children that break your heart when you see them.
And last of all normal is hiding all the things
that have become normal for you to feel, so that everyone around you will
think that you are "normal".
~shared by Vicki Windham, North Platte NE Chapter
Vicki’s son, Isaiah, died July 2, 1999. They were on a camping trip
for the 4th of July weekend. Isaiah was playing with his older brothers
on a sandy river bank. He wasn't tunneling or anything just sitting
halfway up the bank, when the bank behind him caved in and knocked him
down and buried him under three feet of sand. Isaiah suffocated.
He was 6 ½ years old.
In Memory of Michael Pattillo
May 14, 1973 – March 11, 1998
My Dearest Son,
This is the fifth birthday without you. I think back to all the
birthdays when you were alive. You loved your birthday so and your
mother and I always enjoyed the celebration of your birth. They were
wonderful days and years and our minds take us back to those days.
Now on May 14 we are always sad that we can no longer celebrate with
This would be birthday number 29 and all we remember is how you were.
We don’t have the fortune of knowing how you would have changed in the
past five birthdays. We know the changes would have been for the
good because as you matured you were such a fine son, man and brother.
We think of all the things that could have been and we miss you with
all our hearts. You were our first born and so special.
Love Mom and Daddy
Janice and Wayne Pattillo, Lawrenceville TCF
In reality we never lose the people we love, they become immortal through
us. They continue to live in our hearts and minds. They participate
in our every act, idea, and decision. No one will ever replace them
in spite of the pain. We are richer for all the years invested in
them. Because of them, we have so much more to bring to our present
relationship and all those to come. ~Leo Buscaglia,
author of “Survivor”
of Michael Pattillo
With each passing year my grief is absorbed deeper inside of me.
It's not something strangers can readily see anymore. It's not an
excuse for friends to avoid the topic. It doesn't bring sympathy.
It's in me, but it's part of me, unrecognizable. If I didn't tell
you, you would never know. My body has adjusted to the extra weight,
and my mind has learned to acknowledge it but not to give in to it.
Seven years. Ten years. Thirty years. We know we're functioning and
smiling and making new memories. We may feel guilty when we catch
ourselves lingering a little less in front of our lost loved one's photograph.
We make commitments to renew our attention to the memory. We remember
our siblings while we talk to people over lunch, but we pretend like we're
listening. The feelings go through us like a rush , but it doesn't
happen as often as it used to happen. And no one knows. Has
anyone made sense of it yet?
I never knew my mind could be dominated by a single thought every day
for years and still not get in the way of the progress of my life.
The hands on the clock continue to turn, and the sun rises every morning.
I'm thinking, "I wish Chris were here," and I'm thinking it constantly.
Even though the grief is not on the surface, the missing is as strong as
it ever was. We can't explain it, but we want to share it.
We might not break down, but the strength of the grief never fades.
We just keep on living with it and do the best we are able to do.
I miss my brother.
Scott Mastley, Atlanta TCF -
In memory of my brother, Chris Mastley -September 2, 1967 – December
Surviving a Sibling
Reflections of a Mother's
by Michelle Parrish, Columbia TCF Chapter, Baltimore, MD
On this, my first Mother's Day, I asked myself, Do I have the right
to celebrate Mother's Day? Have I truly been a mother this past year? The
answer is yes.
Each day I have cared for my child as every mother does, except differently.
In every way possible I have mothered him.
I have mothered him with every tear shed; through the agony of longing
to hold him. I have rocked him in my heart if not in my arms. I have kissed
his little cheeks in my mind if not with my lips. Smelled his sweetness
with my hopes if not my nose. Felt his skin with my memory, if not
my hands. Tickled him with my wishes, if not with my fingers.
Am I a mother? I truly am. My physical mothering has been limited to
lovingly tending his grave. But I am a mother all the same.