Newsletter of The Compassionate Friends 

  Atlanta Area Chapters 
 November - December  2002


"The 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 Offering Friendship and Understanding to Families 
Who are Grieving the Death of a Child 


Another Thanksgiving
Another Thanksgiving  is upon us….the 3rd without Steven. I still find myself just wanting the Holidays to be over in a hurry, so many memories come rushing in to just overwhelm me. A time that should be filled with Happy moments spent with family and friends, has become a day to just somehow to get through. And I embrace each and every one of you out there that knows what I am speaking of. So what do I find to be thankful for? 
I am thankful for a sound mind to be able
to recall all those wonderful memories. 
I am thankful for the past, which gave me these memories. 
I am thankful I live in a country where 
I am able to express my right to be thankful. 
I am thankful for each and every one of you out there
who help strengthen me and help me to go on. 
And I am thankful for the pain...
for you see without the pain there would have been no love...
And for that love I am eternally Thankful. 
I wish for you all a warm peace filled holiday, 
as the tears fall and mingle with the smiles, 
know that as long as we have each other we will make it.

The Empty Chair 

The table is set, and ready with food to delight the eye 
Everyone is waiting, with anticipation high. 
But one place is empty, void of a loved one dear 
And as we pause to remember, we wipe away the tear. 
Your chair may be empty, and your presence no longer there 
But your memory is with us, as we gather around this fare. 
Someone recalls something you once said, 
and the memories start to flow 
And in this magic moment, your spirit upon us glows 
Gone but never forgotten, as with us you'll always be 
And if I look close, your presence, in the empty chair I see. 

~Sheila Simmons, Dallas, GA
In Memory of My Son Steven
March 24, 1970 – October 19, 1999


Merry Christmas From Heaven
By John Wm. Mooney

I still hear the songs
I still see the lights
I still feel your love
on cold wintry nights

I still share your hopes
and all of your cares
I'll even remind you
to please say your prayers

I just want to tell you
you still make me proud
You stand head and shoulders
above all the crowd

Keep trying each moment
to stay in His grace
I came here before you
to help set your place

You don't have to be
perfect all of the time
He forgives you the slip
if you continue the climb

To my family and friends
please be thankful today
I'm still close beside you
in a new special way

I love you all dearly
now don't shed a tear
Cause I'm spending my
Christmas with Jesus this year

In Memory of Michael Pattillo 
Submitted by his family
Wayne and Janice Pattillo 
Jason and Staci Pattillo, Hannah and Wyatt


"Courage does not always roar... 
Sometimes it is the small voice at night that  says.....
I will try again tomorrow."

Memory Tree

This will be our second Christmas without our son Joey. He was a big Lakers fan, and played basketball like his idle Kobe Bryant... So our tree is decorated in purple and yellow lights (Lakers colors ) and butterflies, and of course all the ornaments that have been made over the years...Our town has a tree lane and you can purchase a tree and decorate it how you want. 

We will again have a tree in our town’s courtyard in memory of our son... 
Seeing the colors shine bright with purple and yellow makes us smile with wonderful memories...

Ginger Long, Havana  IL

Suggestions on How to Sign Christmas Cards?

My son Chris died on May 3, 1998. Two years ago I came across a  picture of him when he was in our church Christmas program at 2 1/2.  He was wearing a halo standing in front of the church's Christmas  tree. I printed these pictures and included them in our Christmas card. I just typed his name birth date and Angel date. 

Last year I remembered just how much Chris loved and enjoyed the story of the Little Drummer Boy as a small child and in his high school years. I found cards with the drummer boy on them and included just how this was one of Chris' favorite Christmas stories and I told the recipient I wished they had people in their lives that brought them as much happiness as Chris had brought to ours in his short lifetime.(19)

When Chris was in the 3rd grade they had to write about their favorite recipe. Chris' was Gingerbread men. After he was finished writing he asked if he could make some and take them to the kids in his class. I have already found Christmas cards with Gingerbread men on them. I am explaining Chris' love for them and include the recipe with them. 

Carol Schuh
Grieving Mom to Christopher M. Schuh 

The last two Christmases I signed my Christmas cards   "In Memory Of Melanie".  This year I have a butterfly stamp that I stamped each card with in red and then with green ink I wrote "Melanie" across the butterfly and then under the butterfly I wrote "In Heaven".

I will always include Melanie in all my holiday, birthday and greeting cards, even if it is just a butterfly stamped upon the page with her initials, she will be included.

I am looking for an angel stamp to use for Christmas but haven't found one to my liking as of yet.  I will keep looking.    ~Kathy Thompson (Melanie's Mama)

Last Christmas was the first without our daughter Ashley and I had a horrible time trying to decide what to do about a Christmas card.  I found the perfect card from Abbey Press.  I would think anyone that can make a computer card could use the words.  It makes my Christmas card perfect.

front:  Christmas . . . .  a time to remember loved ones, both here and in heaven

inside left:  I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
                Jeremiah 31:13

inside  right: After the loss of a loved one, the holiday season brings special memories of Christmases past  and tender moments of sadness.  We are also reminded of special friends and family like you.  Through your love and God's healing touch, we know that Christmas will once again be filled with hope, peace and joy. 


Hope this helps someone this year.

Always - Teri
Mom to Ashley 6/29/99 - 10/11/01

I've seen some parents write, "...and from Joey, our angel in heaven."  What I've found to best the best solution for me is to send the cards from my husband and myself, in memory of Tracey.  I make my own holiday cards on my computer, and next to her name, I add a photo of her smiling face.  (This year on the back of the card I wrote:  "In memory of our precious daughter, Tracey.  We remember her. . . . always."  Her picture was below this message.

Though many of 'us' aren't comfortable sending cards since our child died, I feel it gives me an opportunity to remind people that she lived, and she continues to be a precious part of our family.

Wishing you peace,~   Sally Migliaccio

A dear friend of mine has been able to take a signature from her angel daughter (off something she wrote her name on when she was still here) and made a stamp out of it to sign cards and letters. 

Where Is Christmas? 

Where is Christmas? Where can it be found? 
I've tried and I've tried, I have looked all around. 
Is it hiding in some forgotten space? 
Have I misplaced it? I can't find a trace. 
Up in the attic in boxes stored away? 
I try to find it, it will soon be Christmas Day. 
As I sit and ponder my lost Christmas plight. 
My mind drifts back to long ago Christmas Eve night. 
When did I lose it? Where did I lock it away? 
Why can't I find Christmas this Christmas Day? 
Years before it was so readily found 
But now I can't find it, it is no where around. 
And as I remember it comes clear to see 
When I lost Christmas inside of me. 
For Christmas is born from a joy deep within 
But since you are gone, I don't know where to begin. 
The feelings of joy have been replaced 
By the pain of longing to see your sweet face. 
Yes, Christmas is here, but the joy gone away 
And try as I may, I can't find Christmas, 
this Christmas Day. 

Sheila Simmons, Atlanta TCF 


On Memory

When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, 
that I have left some mark on who I am on who you are. 

It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. 

It means that if we meet again, you will know me, and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart. 

For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost.

~Frederick Buechner

As we approach our first Christmas without our beloved son and brother Billy, we find that this Christmas is the most difficult for us. The house seems so empty and we all miss Billy so much.

It's raining outside - a typical thunderstorm for us this time of the year. How I wish that the rain could wash away our pain. But that's not to be I wish to share the following thoughts with all you who have been a constant support for us. It’s greatly appreciated.

It's Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve
but there's no fun
because we grieve 
the loss of Billy, our son.

It's Christmas Eve
but there's no joy
to give or receive
but tears for our dear boy.

The house is bare
We're so alone
Our Billy is not here.

This will be the first year
that at Christmas time
we mourn and shed a tear.

It's Christmas Eve
We want to be strong
but still we grieve
for Billy that's gone.

We hope and pray
that our Christmas tomorrow,
Will be a better day
but we are filled with sorrow.

Because it's Christmas Eve
It's not to say
we cannot grieve
on this Christmas day.

© Robert Petzer, 23 December 2001
Robert, Beverley, Charlene & Abigail
Parents and sisters of Billy (1 Aug 1980 - 30 May 2001)

My Hope for You… 
that you will be able to find Christmas in your heart.

This Christmas has been harder for some reason, than the ones of the last two years - for a lot of different reasons. As I read this newsletter everyday, I am touched by each and every story and frequently find myself crying for all the children and for all the parents who are surviving. Reading your pain around Christmas has been particularly sad for me. I never had a Christmas with Diana so only miss what might have been. I don't have to face empty chairs, empty rooms....she never had one. I have been touched by your trials, though. And wanted to share something out of the book “The Quotable Evans”  by Richard Paul Evans that has helped me in my quest for peace.

”We stand here encompassed by winter: the barren trees with their fallen leaves, the silent riverbed.  Nothing is more certain in life or in nature than death. We accept it as the way of things. Perhaps we are able because we have faith in spring. Yet somehow it seems different to us when death comes early. Much as we might bemoan an early winter, we feel robbed of something due. We feel cheated. Sometimes we rage. And sometimes we blame. And in doing so, we say to God, ‘my will be done, not Thine,’ and we forget about the promise of spring....In the cold of our soul's winter, we bury our hearts. And then we wonder why it is dark and why we feel so alone. And we risk spending so much of our lives occupied with our loss and what we have not, that we forget the beauty of what is and what we have still. And this is sometimes the greater loss...This I know. There are more ways to lose a child than death. Perhaps those who lose a childhood to death are more fortunate than those who let the chalice of childhood slip from their grasp without ever drinking of it."   Richard Paul Evans...The Looking Glass

When I read this, I don't hear that we have to forget our children or that we should not be sad that they are gone. I hear that there is still much life to live, much love to share. This Christmas I plan to focus on the beauty of what is and what I have still, to look at Christmas again with the wonder of a child, and to trust that the promise of spring will be fulfilled.

My wish for each and every one of you is that you will find the beauty of what is and what you have still in the face of the deepest sadness – that you will be able to find Christmas in your heart. 

Peace, Love, and Joy to you all, 
Michelle Kissman, Atlanta TCF
~reprinted from TCF Atlanta Online Sharing

Gifts of Love 
by Cathy Seehuetter ~ 
TCF, St. Paul, MN

As I type this, it is the day after Thanksgiving. People in the retail business say that it is the biggest shopping day of the year.  Before Nina died, I was one of those crazy shoppers who on that day sat out in the parking lot of whatever store that opened at 6 a.m. waiting for them to open their doors so I could shove my way into whatever "blue light special" was being offered. My children's wish  list in hand, I was ready to power shop 'til I dropped. But that was then, and this is now. Five Christmas shopping seasons later, my life, as all of our lives, has changed irrevocably as one precious child is no longer on that shopping list. 

Not too long ago, I was in a fitting room trying on some clothes when I overheard the conversation between mother and teenage daughter in the room next to me. There was a volatile exchange of words between the two of them as the mother was trying to hustle her daughter along. She kept saying to her, "You know, I don't have all day to waste because you can't make up your mind." The heated discussion continued and concluded with the girl's mother saying, "That's it! I am never taking you shopping again!" That phrase sent a chill down my spine. It took everything in my power to keep from bursting from my fitting room and admonish that mother; tell her that I would give anything to have my daughter alive so that  she could cause that so-called "inconvenience" that obviously hers was causing her. I then realized that in this woman's agitated state it would only fall on deaf ears. It has been four and a half years since my daughter died and I still go into the shops that we frequented and see some adorable outfit hanging on one of the mannequins and think, "Nina would have loved that." She was my shopping buddy. She could never say no to an invitation to go shopping. And it wasn't just shopping for herself that she loved.  From the time she was very young, she loved buying gifts for others. She would scrape whatever money she had saved from birthdays, etc. to buy a small gift for each of us. Interestingly, the gift she gave me our last Christmas together was an angel. At that time I had not even started the angel collection that I have now since she died. 

Be prepared to find "gifts" from your children when you unpack your  Christmas decorations for the first time. It seemed as if each box I  opened there was something left there from her, something that I had  long forgotten about: one box contained a picture of her in a Santa  hat smiling that brilliant braces-laden grin, another her carefully crafted handmade ornaments, another one a hand-written card in her just-learning-to-print handwriting, and on and on so many memories. I realized that in a sense, these were Nina's gifts to me now that she wasn't physically here. She was giving me the gifts of  memories….beautiful memories that were given in love. Those memories will only increase in value as the years go on. They are invaluable because they are yours and yours alone.  No one can ever take those priceless memories away. Though they may hurt now and probably always  will but not as intensely, give yourself a gift…..the gift of emotion and allow those healing tears to fall. Give yourself time to grieve. 

If I could give each of you a gift I would want to give you the gift of peace, as much peace as you can possibly find. And the hope that you can remember some of the joy and love that was yours from Christmases past.

Iowa Christmas Card

The days have turned to winter one more time,
The light behind your trees is pale with snow –
That glow of giving gifts and singing songs
Soon comes to warm the season and the heart.

And I try sending Christmas thoughts your way
To fill you house with comfort and with peace
But most of all I hope and wish that you
Will not be hurt too deeply, nor too long.

~reprinted from Wintersun

Gifts, Garland and Grief
by Sandy Goodman

I remember our first Christmas after. It began the first week of November in 1997, three short months into our worst nightmare, but a lifetime into missing our child of eighteen years. He had died suddenly, one of those “in the wrong place at the wrong time” things, and he took our hearts with him when he left. Summer screeched to a halt and autumn came and went without our participation.

Still standing in confusion at the threshold of grief, we were stunned when the stores replaced the gloomy ghosts and goblins with sparkling ornaments and cheerful decorations. Neighbors strung lights on their houses, friends sent cards wishing us joy filled holidays, and not one person mentioned Jason’s name. Closing our drapes, we huddled in our cocoon, waiting for his return.

Thanksgiving passed. I recall the empty chair, the unbroken wishbone, and more turkey than three of us could eat. There was an unwatched football game and a failed attempt at gratitude. That was our day, and it was good enough. It was inconceivable that we would ever enjoy another holiday, much less be thankful for it.

Snow fell. Carols rang out, lights twinkled, church bells pealed. Our thoughts were of Jason, fixed more acutely on his departure than on his arrival eighteen years before. Memories of prior Decembers pervaded our present. Jason ice fishing. Jason sledding. Jason’s birthday. Jason opening gifts. Jason throwing tinsel on the tree, on his brothers and on the dog. Every memory brought tears but every tear brought Jason closer to us. 

We found him in the pain, the only place we knew how to get to. I believe that first Christmas had to be that way. Showing up was the best we could do.

But now it is six trees, six silent nights, and six collectable ornaments later. I’ve learned a few things about this path I’m on and found a few crutches for when the road gets too rough. Holidays can be disabling for those who grieve. I’d like to share some things that might help:

—Believe that your loved one is with you. Include them in your celebrations and in your sadness. Include them when you talk with others about old times and holidays past. If you don’t mention them, no one else will.

—Talk to THEM. They hear your thoughts...and if you listen, you can hear their replies.

—Light candles. For six years now I have lit a special candle for my son. This year I will light five, one for
each of us, living or not. Why perpetuate the myth of separation? Jason is still a part of this family.

—Do good things in celebration of your loved one’s life. Random Acts of Kindness( bring smiles to everyone involved. Buy anonymous gifts, scoop snow from a stranger’s sidewalk, or light candles at unmarked graves.

—Connect with your loved one who has died. Buy yourself a holiday reading with a reputable medium, take a meditation class, create a special place to go to where you can feel their presence.

—Call a newly bereaved friend or neighbor and invite them to reminisce with you. Cry with them, listen to them, share your journey.

—Give to an organization that your loved one supported.

—Make a memory tree. Buy a small tree and decorate it with tokens of their life.

—Don’t worry about what others will think. You are solely in charge of this journey. It’s all yours. Love someone who is grieving? Lost as far as how to help them through this upcoming season? Any of the above suggestions can be adapted (i.e. give money in celebration of their loved one’s life and tell them about it, make them a memory tree, etc.) to fit your needs. However, there are two gifts that you can give to a person deep in the pit of grief that will mean more than anything else:

1. Undivided attention

2. Unconditional acceptance of their journey, wherever it leads them.

I won’t end this article with a wish that you have your merriest Christmas ever. I know that, for some of you, that is not possible or even desirable. Instead, my wish for you is this: That you find a quiet moment during the sometimes magical but often horrendous season upon us and relax. That you take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and envision your child, sibling, or grandchild. That you accept that dead doesn’t mean GONE. That you send out a “Merry Christmas” and “I love you” and then BELIEVE when you hear his or her whispered reply of “I love you too. Merry Christmas.”

Editors Note: Sandy Goodman is the author of LOVE NEVER DIES: A Mother’s Journey from Loss to Love
~reprinted from BP USA Fall 2002 Newsletter

Memory Candles – shared by Cathy Seehuetter, St. Paul, MN

First Candle: This candle represents our GRIEF. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.  "Our joy and our sorrow are inseparable."

Second candle: This candle represents our COURAGE - to confront our sorrow - to comfort each other - to change our lives.  "Even like a chain we are as weak as our weakest link. This is but half the truth. We are also as strong as our strongest link."

Third candle: This light is in your MEMORY - the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other - the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us. This light is also for the memories that never were. Even though our memories can bring pain, in time we will look upon our memories of you as yesterday's gifts to the heart. 

Fourth candle: This light is the light of LOVE. As we enter the holiday season day by day, we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift of your love. We thank you for the joy your living brought to each of us. 

Fifth Candle: This candle  is the light of HOPE. It reminds us of love, and memories of you that are ours forever. May the glow of the flame be our source of hopefulness now and forever. We love you.


The holiest of all holidays are those 
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


December Night

Oh tender child in heaven above 
We gather tonight to send our love. 
See our candles down here below 
Hear our voices tell how we miss you so. 
Each tiny flame that you see 
Each one speaks of a memory. 
Tender child both young and old 
Your spirit lives on in our stories told. 
Look down now and see the glow 
Of the lights of our candles here below. 
And as we gaze into heaven above 
Then we will exchange our prayers of love. 
Tender child this December night 
In honor of you our candles light 
Burning gently into this night. 

Scene from our child's view how beautiful the candles glowing across the globe must be. 
May God Bless you all and be with you this season. 
Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta


Making Music With What You Have Left
by Jack  Riemer, Houston Chronicle

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the  violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln  Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you  know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and  walks with the aid of two crutches. 

To see him walk across the stage one  step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an unforgettable sight. He walks  painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. 

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play. 

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke.  You could hear it snap- it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. 

People who were there that night thought to themselves: "We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage- to either find another violin or else find another string for this one." 

But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. 

I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. 

You could see him  modulating, changing, recomposing the piece in his head. At one point, it  sounded like he was DE-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before. 

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done. 

He smiled, wiped the  sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said, not  boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone, "You know, sometimes  it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with  what you have left." 

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the [way] of  life--not just for artists but for all of us. 

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.