Sunday, March 2, 2014
Today, it is 20 years ago that my daughter, Marcy, died in a car accident. It is amazing how the triggers: a song, an anniversary, a birthday, nature, can cause both tears and laughter, even to this day so many years later.
I felt like the luckiest person in the world when Marcy was born. She was a beautiful baby, so good, so loving, so kind to everyone as she grew up.
When I walk outside now and see what a beautiful day it is, I am sad that she can not enjoy it with family and friends. When I see nature at its finest: the flowers blooming, the birds singing, the misty rain making everything grow beautifully, I know she would have loved to witness this too. I can just see her running through the open fields when she was younger, skipping through the rain drops as they fell on her long ponytail, picking up a grasshopper to show me and just enjoying life.
Every year she had a birthday party and each time it was different: pizza party, ice-cream party, skating party, etc. She loved them all.
In school she won many awards for speaking, debate and theater. I was always so proud of her. I keep all her awards and trophies on a shelf in my office next to the few that I have also won.
When she married she was the happiest. She was a perfectionist like me; everything had to be just right for the wedding. (She even checked to make sure my table at the wedding dinner, not her father’s, was closest to hers. She had to make changes at the last minute to make that happen, so that I remained in a good mood. She knew me and was right about that.)
She loved life so much, and there was so much more to do. It was so unfair that an impaired driver cut her life short, just four months after her honeymoon. I never dreamed it could happen to me; that sort of thing happened to others, and I always felt bad when I heard about someone else’s tragedy. But then, you are just blown away when it happens to you.
Friends of hers were kind, telling me many stories of how Marcy was the glue that held them all together, how she was always doing things for others, and how much they miss her. I never knew some of those stories, but was always glad to hear what a fine person she was to all who knew her.
Twenty years…and it seems like just yesterday that I held her in my arms and said good-bye as she flew back to Los Angeles after her best friend’s wedding, thinking I would come visit in a few months. Ironically, she was going home for another funeral. The accident was a week later.
I am on my way now to the cemetery to see her gravestone, clean it and spend some time with her. We, the bereaved, eventually go on, as hard as that may be. We live our lives as best as we can, always keeping our child in our heart and our mind. It is very difficult, but we never forget the best thing that ever happened to us.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Another book that I have contributed to is the “Open To Hope” book. It not only highlights the death of a child, but other loses as well.
Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley chose two of my stories to include. One is on writing down all you can about positive memories of your child and keeping them handy to relate to others when you are together. Don’t dwell on them to the extent that you ignore the present. But they are fun to look back on years later when the pain is less severe. These types of memories we will never forget. Keep them in a safe place within our heart so our children will always be with us, and we will always have opportunities to talk about them to others.
My other story in the book deals with how to keep your marriage healthy after the death of a child. It is an opportunity for growth and bringing the two spouses closer together. Some ideas include talking about your child, remembering the good times and funny incidents, the awards and the honors that made you so proud of them. Talk about your feelings. Most married couples don’t grieve the same way. Allow each other space at your own rate and in your own way. Talk to friends, relatives; look for ways to please your spouse. All these things and more will help you find new ways of moving on with your lives as a couple, without your child.
Other stories in the book talk about spousal death, parental death, surviving and moving on with your life, the emotional stress of losing a loved one, sibling death, how men grieve, laughing again, honoring your child and rebuilding your life with valuable tools to help.
These are all inspirational stories written by authors who also write for the Open To Hope web site, writers who have also experienced deep loss, from which it takes courage and effort to lift yourself out of the abyss you are in. It reminds me a lot of my second book, “Creating a New
Normal…After the Death of
a Child” in which I give a lot of advice from my experience and the wisdom from
It is definitely a good read and one I would recommend.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Editor's note: The following letter I received a few weeks ago is the very reason I do what I do to help the bereaved. Receiving this letter validates what I say and write. I am leaving out the name and company for privacy, but I certainly hope his meeting turned out great for him and he, in turn, can help other parents who have also lost a child. I answered his letter and gave permission to use whatever he felt would be useful.
I am currently reading your book, “Creating a New Normal” and I am so glad you were able to put these concepts on paper. I lost my 25 year old son, golf partner and best friend on February 5, 2011. After going through the pain and struggle of getting back to living and finding my new normal, I found more and more people within my division of the company that were living with this pain. I started a small peer support group from that division which has approximately 10,000 employees. Our first meeting was February 5, 2013 and we had 10 people show up. In less than a year it grew to 30 members.
January 29, 2014, I am having the first Global meeting in Atlanta, and we are opening the group up to the entire company of 80,000 employees. The company has been very supportive of this endeavor and we are really helping people learn to cope with life after the loss of a child. As I was reading one of your chapters last night, I thought how great it would be to share this with the group. So I guess I am writing to ask your permission to use some of your material (credit given of course) to hand out at this meeting. Chapter 8 The Grief Journey: What you know, What the Future Holds is the chapter that spurred this email.
Thank you in advance and regardless of your answer I am so grateful you have written this book. It helps knowing that what we experience is not abnormal and that there is hope on the other side of this tragedy.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Valentine’s Day will be upon us in a few days and as always, we’ll be thinking of our child, no longer with us.
I’ve been thinking back to when my daughter was very young. She was always interested in making me something she thought I would like. Little did she realize it didn’t matter to me what she made. As they say, it is the thought that counts. Of course I oohed and aahed at the card that had a stick figure of me, her and her father against our house. It said, “Happy Valentine’s Day to the best mom in the world. I love you. Love, Marcy.”
“I bet you’ll be an artist when you grow up,” I said to her. “No, mom, I’ve decided (at 8 years old) that I want to be a veterinarian and take care of animals,” she answered. At that time we had a beagle and was soon to get another one. We showed the second one in contests and surprisingly he won a few ribbons. But then he grew too big. Beagles are not supposed to exceed 15 inches and ours was 16 inches and disqualified eventually. (Maybe that was what discouraged her from being a “dog doctor.”)
Marcy was always thoughtful about the gifts she gave me. She sometimes thought I didn’t dress “cool” so she started buying me clothing: denim shirts and jackets, as well as dressy blouses. She never agreed with her father about what to get me. He was practical and always bought me pots and pans for cooking, while Marcy would shake her head at him and make me a necklace or a jar for flowers in a craft class. “Mom wants girly things, not practical things,” she’d tell him, up to the time she graduated high school and went off to college. To this day, I have kept all those denim shirts and still wear them and think of her.
Many of the cards after she went off to college, I kept. I wish now I had kept them all. They were most always funny cards, but sometimes they were sentimental and talked about what I meant to her. I didn’t have to tell her what she meant to me. She knew. We always got along.
And that is what I remember the most: not the cards, not the gifts, but just being together on special holidays like Valentine’s Day and being able to talk about anything and everything. I know I will get some kind of sign on Valentine’s Day, something simple, that will let me know she is thinking of me as I am of her.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
I’d like to relate to you one of my favorite stories from my first book, dealing with the death of two sons and how the parents coped.
Imagine losing two children within a year and a half of each other in two different types of accidents and being left childless. That is what happened to one couple. And their long road to recovery, grieving differently and how they were treated by the medical profession, ended up bringing them to a better place.
One son died in a car accident, the other son in an airplane accident. The hospital staff was very cold and indifferent both times when the parents were told of the deaths. The husband went back to work, as part of his way of coping, but it wasn’t easy. Many times he just broke down during the day and had to go home. He had a good friend take over for him. The wife, on the other hand, didn’t go back to nursing for three months. She said, “I didn’t trust myself to make decisions dealing with people. I felt like someone had taken razor blades to my insides. And my mind shut down, physically and emotionally.”
To make matters worse, at the funeral, the husband’s brother, at 37 years old, leaned over the casket, had a massive heart attack and died. “The pain of what happened was so awful, I can’t even describe it,” he said.
The wife was so angry at the situation. She began reading a lot about death and afterlife. She became very spiritual and it became an important part of her whole journey. The husband’s anger turned to rage and consumed him. It was all he thought about. I was out of control, cursing God for letting this happen to us. “I know now that left unchecked, anger and rage will undo you in every way. I struggled to get out of that mess, but it took a very long time.”
What finally helped this family were three things according to the husband: joining Compassionate Friends, where they found others in similar situations, then started their own group. It gave them something to focus on. Having close friends also helped. One friend convinced the father to seek professional help. “We connected and I saw him for two years. He helped me vent my anger.” Lastly, although it sounds corny, time going by was a big help. Time softens the hurt, but you never forget.
The wife, on the other hand, felt very different. She continued with Compassionate Friends, even after her husband stopped going. She said once, “You never think it’s going to happen to you. This kind of thing happens to others. When it does happen, you realize you’re not invincible and it could happen again as it did in this case.
When the second son died, she reacted differently than her husband. She felt it was right the two boys be together as they were in life. She didn’t feel the anger as her husband did. This is when her spirituality journey came about. She realizes there is a plan out there. Even at the worst times, all the love and support helped us. We wouldn’t have met all the wonderful people who changed our lives. We have come to accept what happened. That doesn’t mean they don’t miss the boys. They know they’ll never have grandchildren and that hurts. And there is no one to carry on the family name.
Through all this, the medical community didn’t have a clue as to how we, and all parents, feel when our children die. So they realized they had to educate people by helping with an after-care program to recognize this was not how you treat people. The program has worked so well, it has been picked up by trauma centers around the country. A small group puts programs workshops together for professionals (teachers, nurses, policemen) and trains volunteers to help these families and make their journey easier. This family believes they are in the same place now and through it all always kept the communication lines open by talking about their sons.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
I do some of my best and most relaxing thinking when driving in my car. It is also a time when I think of my daughter with both happy and sad thoughts. Today’s thought centered around the fact that time has a way of passing so quickly. How can it be so long...1994? In a split second she was gone that March.
It seems like just yesterday that she was so happy in her job at the music center in
L.A. and meeting such
fabulous famous people as the marketing director. I remember one month she let
me know that Barry Manilow would be entertaining at a charity event. “Oh, I
wish I could come,” I told her. (At the time Barry was my favorite singer).
“Well, I’ll tell you what, she said, “since I am in charge of this event, if
you want to fly out to L.A.
that afternoon, bring a long black skirt and a white blouse, I’ll let you be
one of the hostesses. (They all wore black and white.) You’ll get to meet him,
and hear him sing. All you have to do is greet people and pretend you also work
at the music center.”
“Done,” I said. I made plane reservations, and off I went. When she saw my outfit, she said, “Perfect, you’re hired.” What a great time we had that night hearing all those great songs he used to sing and meeting interesting people.
She would tell me inside stories of some of the stars she had to work with. Just to name two, when Michael Crawford came to star in Phantom, she commented how nasty he was to everyone who tried to be helpful to him before he went on stage. (Maybe he had had a bad day, I ventured, but my daughter didn’t think that was the case.) She also said she thought Charlton Heston was the nicest man she had met in all the years she worked there. He was kind to those who showed him around and when it came to interviews, was always willing to give them to the press. She also enjoyed Yo-Yo Ma, the famous cellist, who she called ‘really cool.’
It seems like just yesterday we were yakking on the phone about their next trip or the next holiday I would see them in
She always made sure that she was fair to her dad and me and we always shared
holidays, one year she came to me, the next was dad’s turn. It definitely
helped to keep the divorce a friendly one.
It seems like just yesterday that I went to
for her engagement party and we decided to go house hunting. I was so shocked
at some of the prices of homes in 1993 that needed a lot of work, but were in
good locations. They were four times what we paid in Arizona
at the time, but I remember her words: “ L.A.
is expensive and there is no way around it. If you want something nice, you pay
through the teeth.” She never got to buy a home. Four months after returning
from her honeymoon, she was dead.
Time passes very fast. I often wonder what her life would have been like if she had been able to fulfill all her hopes and dreams and also what my life would have been like to watch it all happen. The sad part is knowing it never will happen.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
I told all of you about the article I wrote for singer Gloria Gaynor’s new book, “ I Will Survive” (just recently published) which not only includes my story of the death of my daughter, but many stories, not only about a child’s death, but also about those who have been scarred by life’s trials and tribulations but are brave enough to survive the storms with courage and tenacity.
One Sunday, years ago, I wrote a blog about how some people mourn the death of a dog as others mourn the death of a child and believe the dog is like a child to them. I questioned how a dog could be compared to a child and received many critical comments from dog lovers about my article, so I thought these dog lovers would enjoy reading this story in Gloria’s book called, “I Loved Lucy,” not about the TV star, but about a dog--named Lucy after her favorite actress-- that it’s owner fell in love with after having to put a former dog to sleep which was very painful for her.
To give you a few highlights, the author loved this dog so much she decided to even take the dog to work with her, so they could always be together. The author thought of this dog as her kid and spoiled her rotten! When her boss complained, she quit, rather than have to leave the dog home during the day. Lucy, the dog, went everywhere on planes, trains, cars, etc. Oh, she was mischievous at times, according to the author, but the owner chalked it up to the same experiences she would have had with a child and treated the dog as one.
When Lucy was diagnosed eight years later with diabetes, the owner researched and did everything she could for the dog, but the dog later had complications. A stroller was even purchased for the Lucy, since she couldn’t get around much in those later years, but loved her walks. After three years, the diseases finally claimed Lucy’s life. She died at home, in the author’s arms.
The book can be purchased at Amazon.com.