We hope these inspirational stories by those who have experienced loss will hope you cope with your own loss.
A Sudden Realization
Monday, October 20, 1986,
was my 35th birthday. By the end of the day, my life was changed forever. As birthdays go,
it had been a pretty good day. When I arrived home after work, my husband, Rod, was not
there. He was off from work for the week and around 4 p.m. left a message at my office
that he was going to run some errands and meet me at home later. Since it was my birthday,
he had invited some friends over for dinner. When I arrived home, our friends were there,
but Rod wasn’t. Our six-year-old son, Justin, was involved with the party
By 8:30 p.m., Rod was still not home. Since it was a school night, our friends left. I was
furious Rod could be so insensitive. About 20 minutes later, the phone rang, and I was
sure it was Rod with an excuse regarding his whereabouts. However, when I answered the
phone, it wasn’t a familiar voice; it was a police officer. The caller very
matter-of-factly stated there had been a serious automobile accident, and Rod was in the
emergency department at a local hospital. He informed me I needed to go immediately. This
is the kind of call others receive. I would have never dreamed that I could be on the
receiving end of something like this. In 30 seconds, our lives were profoundly affected by
some stranger whose name I didn’t even know. Without having any details at all, I
immediately sensed the urgency of the situation and began making arrangements to get to
I walked into Justin’s room and watched him playing very quietly with his toys. He
was so content with his world. I wanted desperately to hold him and protect him from any
potential danger or harm, but for the time, I had to remain calm so he wouldn’t be
alarmed by my leaving.
The initial minutes in an emergency department waiting to know if a family member is dead
or alive are torturous. When we finally received word Rod was alive, I was extremely
relieved. He was stopped at a stoplight and teenagers in a stolen car, running from the
police, ran into him at a very high speed. His condition was extremely critical, but the
word “alive” sounded good to me. When the neurosurgeon arrived to talk with me,
he stated that Rod had a severe head injury and sheared brain stem. He was in a coma and
probably would not survive the night. All I heard was sheared, not severed and alive, not
dead. Words like head injury and coma had no real meaning to me at this point. I quickly
assumed his ability to survive meant there was a miracle in the works. After all, Rod had
When I got to see Rod, he was motionless. He didn’t look different or even hurt. I
joked with him about every hair being in place, which was typical of him. I could only
hope that if he had any awareness, he knew I was there.
After a few minutes, we were escorted to the intensive care waiting room. Funny how
intimately entwined the lives of perfect strangers become once you enter that waiting
Rod did survive the night, although the prognosis was bleak. I still clung to the miracle
theory. For the weeks to follow, we waited for the minutes we could visit during the
designated visiting hours. Our lives revolved around those times.
Trying to make sense out of a senseless situation is difficult to say the least. When I
went home for the first time and walked into our house, it was also the first time I had
allowed myself to consider Rod might not come back or that he would never play with or
hold his son again. I was overwhelmed by the realization that I would be on my own. I was
married soon after college and had no experience at this. All of a sudden, I had to handle
everything, and I was very frightened. Justin tried hard to understand, but he missed his
daddy and the special times they routinely spent together. He and Rod had a very loving
relationship. Rod was a great dad. Although I tried to balance all things. I could not
fill the void left by this tragedy in Justin’s life.
After two months, Rod was transferred to the Baptist Rehabilitation Center. A hospital
room at the Rehab facility now became a normal way of life.
Justin continued to visit his dad regularly for the first year. It was very touching to
see him sit by his dad’s side and pat Rod’s arm or wipe his face. He would tell
his daddy about school and his activities, but Rod couldn’t respond. He was trapped
somewhere inside and not even Justin could make a difference. As time went on, Justin
began detaching himself from his father. He was the first to let go. Although I was deeply
saddened, I understood and supported my child’s decision not to go back.
During this time I relied upon a few close friends for strength and support. I was very
grateful for these special friendships; my life was so tumultuous, these relationships
became a primary source of stability and security, especially since Rod’s condition
fluctuated constantly. I learned to sleep with the phone on the bed so I could quickly
respond to an emergency call in the middle of the night. Although Rod had periods of
wellness, his condition was apt to change without any notice--resulting in digression and
unresponsiveness. Forwards--backwards--we never knew what to expect. I was emotionally
exhausted. Where was this miracle I believed in--obviously a worthless concept all along.
I knew Rod was not going to recover, but was determined to control his care. I needed to
feel in control of something. Despite my best efforts, Rod didn’t progress. Week
after week he lay silent and helpless and there was nothing I could do to alter the
quality of his life; this was it. With the support of a close friend, I requested the
doctor stop all life prolonging measures. Although this was the right choice, I was angry
that life had dealt me a bad hand. Why were we undergoing this senseless ordeal? I felt
spiritually abandoned--why wasn’t there some divine intervention so that I
wasn’t left to make the final choice?
In June 1989, Rod acquired an infection which resulted in a high fever. We watched as he
drew his last breath. Rod was finally at rest.
The first four to six weeks following Rod’s funeral weren’t bad at all. I
socialized without dread of some emergency situation arising. My friends were attentive
during this time frame. By August, however, many of the people I had come to rely upon
were no longer around. I found that many people felt that I had ample time to grieve, and
I had...for Rod. I hadn’t counted on the other things I would mourn. After being the
caregiver for so long, I was at loose ends. I couldn’t go back to my former life,
because it no longer existed. I mourned the passing of friends and family who would no
longer play a role in my life, and ultimately I grieved for myself. I had never
experienced such incredible loneliness. I tried to internalize my feelings to avoid
criticism or the traditional editorial comments from well-wishers who didn’t have a
clue to what I was experiencing. Justin and I spent time together, but I was careful he
didn’t become my sole outlet; it would have been easy to do. He needed to feel loved,
safe and secure without assuming undue responsibility for my losses. He had enough to
figure out without taking on my burdens as well. After all, he had suffered too.
However, in order to help him, I had to help myself. I sought the assistance of my
minister, who was a well-trained counselor. He was wonderful and non-judgmental. He
assured me that recovery was complex and took time. Over time, almost every relationship
in my life was impacted by change. As I evolved through the recovery process,
relationships which endured (and some didn’t) found a new place in my life.
Recovery for me was like a long distance race, and it took hard work. While I haven’t
crossed the finish line yet, it is clearly in sight. Justin is a great kid--now a
teenager, active and well-adjusted. As for me, I am much stronger and have accomplished
things I never thought possible. My life is certainly difference from anything I had ever
envisioned, but despite the obstacles, I not only survived, but am doing fine on my own.
In retrospect, who knows...maybe there was a hidden miracle after all.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
I Knew the Day Would Come
I knew the day would
come--I just didn’t know when--that I would outlive my only sibling, my older brother
Art. I work in a hospital and I know people die every day, but not my brother, not at the
premature age of 32. Art, at 28, was healthy, handsome and happy. He was outgoing,
physically active, very witty and charming.
At the young age of 28, he was overly fatigued and had other symptoms that indicated
something wasn’t quite right. He was soon diagnosed with end stage liver disease. He
had non-A/non-B hepatitis, now called Hepatitis C. His condition deteriorated rapidly and
in a very short period of time, he was in need of a liver transplant. After just turning
29 years of age in February, he received his first liver transplant on March 20, 1987, at
Presbyterian University Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was deathly ill at the
time of his first transplant; it was indeed a miracle that he lived. He was fortunate, as
well, even to have received a liver. Many people die annually awaiting donor organs. After
his transplant, Art was an ideal patient, with a positive outlook on life. He took his
medicine as prescribed, and his attitude was one of thankfulness and hope for the future.
He eventually recovered to the point of being able to participate in activities he
enjoyed, such as golf and fishing.
However, his quality time was cut short when he showed signs of rejection, which
ultimately led to his having a second transplant operation on January 1989, less than two
years after the first one. He never fully recovered from this second transplant, and on
June 14, 1989, approximately five months later, Art received his third liver transplant.
He then developed severe pancreatitis and had to endure excruciating pain, suffering more
than any one person ought to have to suffer through several lifetimes. He had numerous
emergency surgeries during his 90-day stay in intensive care. One day at a time was the
only way he could look at things. But... when each day became exceedingly difficult and
more miserable than the preceding day, he became despondent, weary and depressed. This was
a grief laden time for everyone involved--the feelings of utter helplessness, sadness and
pity were overpowering. Art miraculously survived his nightmare, and by spring of 1990,
was beginning to improve. He improved so much that he chose to have elective eye surgery
for his cataracts (caused from the vast amounts of steroids he had to take.) He had this
surgery in September 1990, and recovered fairly quickly. By the end of September, he felt
better than he’d felt in years. He was able to drive and do some of the things that
brought him joy and pleasure.
On October 1, 1990, Art died at his home in Lexington, Kentucky, at the age of 32. Due
to his recent gains of improvement, his death was unexpected. He left a wife and a
six-year-old daughter, parents and stepparents, grandparents, and me. Although we
anticipated it, we weren’t ready or prepared for his death. One might say that the
anticipatory grief we experienced throughout his long illness lessened the actual impact
of his death...but it didn’t. Nothing could have prepared my family and me for the
shock of his untimely death. He had a long, four-year struggle in which he endured endless
pain and suffering. I never heard him complain--not even once. He had a strong will to
live, a very determined spirit, and an undying faith in God. He was truly an inspiration
to us all.
His death affected my entire family. I watched my parents grow older right before my
eyes as they lived daily with a constant, never-ending worry and a gut wrenching pain of
helplessness and heartache. When the news of his death came, I felt stunned, numb like a
robot. There was a bottomless pit in my stomach, an emptiness that’s hard to
describe. I cried a lot and sighed a lot. There was a tightness in my throat when I did
speak. My heart felt frozen, but as my heart thawed out and reality slowly crept in,
disbelief and dismay were left in its place. After disbelief subsided, I tried to
rationalize that there was a relief component to Art’s death. His tragedy had come to
an end. I tried to find comfort and solace in the fact that he wouldn’t suffer
anymore. In my mind, I tried to dwell on the fact that he would never experience any more
pain ever again. Later in the bereavement process, I felt angry and still do at times,
because it is so unfair that he’s not here with us to enjoy life and watch his
daughter grow up. It’s just so unfair that his life was cut so short. The reality
that I won’t get to see him, hug him, and have him in my life is a very hard burden
I ask myself, “What purpose did his death serve?” and “What lessons are
to be learned from such a tragedy?” Is the lesson possibly that we shouldn’t
take each other or our health for granted? Without our health, nothing else really
matters. Life is too short and too precious to waste. We need to appreciate each day and
make the most of it.
Somehow, life goes on with or without us. I am thankful that my brother knew how very
much I loved him. I have many wonderful, loving memories of happier times, we spent
together prior to Art’s illness that I will treasure and cherish forever. He was a
wonderful father, husband, son, brother, friend and Christian. He was well loved, well
respected, and admired by all who knew him. Our lives are richer and more blessed because
of him. I miss him terribly...and I always will.
Never Quite Prepared
One is never quite prepared
for the death of a loved one. In my case, I thought my parents would be with me until they
both turned a very ripe, very old age. I never dreamed I would lose them both within a
matter of four months of each other.
I am the youngest of three daughters and have lived most of my adult life in Memphis,
Tennessee. My parents relocated to Memphis in 1972, and it quickly became home to us all.
I never really “left home” as did my sisters, although my parents and I each had
our own lives. They were, however, for many years part of our social life as well as
My sisters and I were very lucky to be part of a warm and loving family. It was always
more of a treat for them than a “duty” to come to Memphis for a visit. Part of
what made our relationships so special was the ability to laugh and enjoy each
In 1983, shortly after my husband and I moved back to Memphis after three years in
Nashville, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and almost one year
of chemotherapy, she was given a clean bill of health. She remained cancer-free for about
one year when it recurred and had metastasized to the bone. There is nothing so
devastating as hearing those dreaded words, but my mother, with her usual strength, was
more concerned about me, who was pregnant, and of course my father. This was the beginning
of a protracted illness for my mother, with radiation and chemotherapy until at last the
doctors told my father there was nothing left to be done. I will never forget the day it
was discovered that the cancer had spread to her brain. My mother received the news with
quiet dignity and I’ll never forget how beautiful she looked sitting in her
wheelchair with her head held high. My concern turned then to my father, who could not
even say the words “terminal cancer.” When you’ve been married for 50
years, it’s difficult to imagine life without your partner. My father, however, was
the one who truly kept my mother going by his optimism and caring. He became a cook,
nursemaid and housemaid (this was a man who called my sister long distance to ask how to
turn on the washing machine), and with unfailing devotion cared for my mother until she
had to be admitted to the hospital just prior to her death. He also sustained tremendous
debt as a result of the illness, but never once let on to my sisters or to me concerning
the seriousness of his financial problems. My mother died on February 4, 1989, three days
after my son turned two. She was very peaceful at the end which was a blessing. My sister
bent down to kiss her and she just quit breathing.
Despite her long illness, nothing prepared us for the sense of loss we all felt. I
remember walking back into my parents’ house for the first time after her death and
thinking I heard her call my name. She and I had been very close, and it was the
realization that I’d never see her again that was particularly devastating. I still
miss her sense of humor, her unselfishness, and knowing she was the one person I could go
to who always loved me without questions. Our concern quickly turned to our father, who
seemed to be at loose ends. I knew in his own way he was quietly grieving, and felt very
strongly that he didn’t want to be a burden to us. I was particularly concerned that
something would happen to him since my mother had been his main focus for so long.
On June 1, 1989, I received a call at work from my husband and my father’s boss.
My father, while on a business trip to Washington, D.C., had suffered a brain hemorrhage
in his hotel room and had been taken to George Washington Medical Center. I immediately
contacted my sister who lives in Richmond, Virginia, and she headed to Washington. This
began a four-week waiting period as my sisters and I took turns staying with him at the
hospital until we could get him back to Memphis. He was in a coma almost immediately, but
we talked and read to him as if he were totally conscious.
My father died on June 30, 1989. I was not prepared for the sense of tremendous loss I
felt. I had not realized how much I had depended on him for support. He had truly been
“a pillar of strength” to all of us, and now that was gone.
As I look back to my parents’ deaths and the infamous year of 1989, I remember
feeling such a sense of sadness and loss and thinking I’d never recover. I never
experienced feelings of anger, because I knew that this is truly what my parents had
wanted--to be together. I know for my father, life was not much without my mother, and I
also knew that my mother could never have stood seeing my father helpless and in the
hospital. In this respect, I could see through my own pain and know that despite the
sadness and the horror of their illnesses and deaths, there were blessings to be found.
Does one ever “get over” losing someone? I don’t think so, but I do believe
that time makes it easier and that you can begin to see the good things again. I often
reflect on my parents’ friends and how they loved them, the great times we had as a
family, and the tremendous feeling of love we had for each other. These are things that
will never “disappear.” I will miss them until my dying day, and I believe as a
Christian that I will see them again. I only hope that I can live life as they did and
give my children what my parents gave me.
In One Brief Moment
What an exciting time! We were
expecting our first child. The topic of every conversation seemed to be the expected
arrival of our baby. We visualized our new baby in almost every situation--the first
Christmas photo or walking through the neighborhood pushing a stroller along with our
dogs. When driving past a playground, we imagined our child playing tee-ball. Things
really got exciting when we went to the doctor for the 20 week checkup and ultrasound. We
were having a boy! That settled the question of our baby’s name. He would be named
Andrew Thomas--Andrew is Dave’s middle name, and Thomas is Sandy’s dad’s
Of course, creating a special nursery for our first baby was in order. With fresh paint
and striped wallpaper and a puppy motif, the room looked perfect. The finishing touches
were a cherry baby bed and armoire. With all the gifts from our baby shower in place, we
were ready to bring Andrew home. Unfortunately, that would never happen. One day during
the 32nd week, there was very little movement by Andrew. Then there was no movement at
all. Thinking he was just sleeping, we didn’t panic but went to the doctor. After a
brief heartbeat check followed by an ultrasound, we were given the bad news. Andrew had
died. Never in our lives had we felt so helpless. There was nothing that could be done. In
one brief moment, we had lost our dreams and our futures. Nothing would ever be the same
Even after checking into the Labor and Delivery unit of the hospital, the reality of
what had happened did not set in. We still felt the shock, disbelief and heartbreak. Six
hours later, Andrew Thomas was delivered. He was a perfectly formed little boy with
Sandy’s nose and a tiny bit of Dave’s red hair. We deeply regret not having
spent more time holding and photographing Andrew. He will always be our little boy, but
having more pictures would have made him seem more real to our family and friends.
Almost immediately, we were faced with many decisions that most young couples would be
unprepared for, such as an autopsy and a memorial service. We chose to have an autopsy
performed with the slight hope that a physical reason could be found for Andrew’s
death. However, the cause of death remains unknown. We learned that infants can be buried
free of charge in the county cemetery, or parents can make other arrangements at private
cemeteries. However, in the county cemetery, markers are not allowed, as each grave is
marked only by a number. After holding our son, Dave couldn’t bear the thought of
burying Andrew in a grave that was only identified by a number. For us, a funeral service
and a cemetery marker gave us and the world additional evidence of the existence of
Andrew. One decision that we did not have to make was that of a name. We were very
grateful that we had decided on a name earlier in the pregnancy so that we did not have
that additional burden after the delivery. Also, we knew that Andrew was our first child,
and that his name would not be used for any other future children we may have. Even if the
rest of the world doesn’t recognize it, we know that Andrew was and is our first
The grieving process did not end with Andrew’s memorial service. This was the time
for us to face reality and begin accepting what had happened. Our family and friends were
a tremendous help and provided comfort and encouragement, beginning at the hospital. Many
times they kept us going with cards, hugs, a simple “I’m so sorry”, and by
just being there for us. Unfortunately, many people put a time limit of about two weeks on
the amount of time they think you should grieve, and then act as if nothing has
happened--this couldn’t be further from the truth. Even though you go back to work
and try to get into a normal routine at home, nothing is the same as it was before. We
were especially thankful for Sandy’s family and our close friends, Blake and Angie,
who helped us work through our grief by being open to our needs and allowing us to talk
with them about Andrew. Their love and support was especially needed when other well-
meaning acquaintances, who were trying to be nice, said and did things that only made our
We learned very soon after Andrew’s death that we had to be somewhat selfish in
order to cope and to work through the grief process. There were many parties and events
that we could not bring ourselves to attend. Many times we stayed home because it had been
an emotionally bad day. Andrew was expected to be born around Thanksgiving; therefore, the
entire holiday season was very difficult for us to enjoy. We couldn’t celebrate as we
had planned, since our dreams had been shattered. The sight of other parents with their
babies was especially difficult to handle and was a painful reminder of our loss. Even
television was not an escape from our grief due to numerous references to babies in
advertisements and programs. Being brave and “keeping a stiff upper lip” did not
work for us--many times it was better to be alone and let the tears fall.
As the grief process continued, which began with the shock and denial experienced in
the doctor’s office, we realized what a roller coaster ride we were encountering.
There were numb feelings and a general lack of concentration and interest in normal
everyday activities. These were mixed with feelings of guilt, what went wrong?, and why
did this happen to us? Through much reading, prayer and soul-searching, we finally came to
understand that we had done nothing wrong, and nothing we could have done would have
changed the outcome. We both realize that our relationship to Christ was the thing that
helped us most in working through our grief.
Even though it is hard to accept, especially at first, we know and believe that God
provides us with everything we need and that He loves us and knows what we need more than
It has now been a little over a year since Andrew died and was born into the kingdom of
heaven. The swings of emotions and feelings of helplessness do not come as often although
the pain is still present and very real. Now it is difficult to see parents with toddlers,
especially red-headed little boys. We make regular trips to the cemetery because it is our
desire that the memory of Andrew never die. We have compiled a memory box filled with
mementos of Andrew’s birth, baby shower, sympathy cards, footprints and especially
our thoughts and memories. We have stored away the smocked outfit made for him to wear
home from the hospital, and other things intended especially for Andrew. As of this
writing we are expecting our second child, to be name Abigail Elizabeth. There is a new
toy box being constructed and a new smocked gown being sewn just for Abbie. We are not
embarrassed to let others know that she is our second child, and she has a big brother in
heaven named Andrew.
Unfortunately, there will always be someone missing in our family, but Abbie will
always know, as we do, that because of God’s promises, one day we will be reunited
with Andrew in heaven.
Dave and Sandy Morris
Andrew’s little sister, Abigail Elizabeth, was born on January 14, 1994.
“...my grace is sufficient for thee.” II Corinthians 12:9
“...my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
“...my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Because of all
the changes I had experienced over a number of years (I felt I was “falling
apart”), and because I had begun to worry (something I rarely did), I thought it
would be a relief to receive an explanation for what was happening in my body. At least
there would be a reason for all the changes; then I could go on with treatment. The
diagnosis was finally established--Parkinson’s disease.
It didn’t take many hours to read all I could find at home about Parkinson’s.
I hadn’t known very much about it previously. My first research didn’t paint a
very pretty picture. I began to be overly concerned about my husband and children,
imagining how they would have to suffer too. The thought that was always on my mind was,
“I can’t be to them what I’ve always been.”
As soon as I could get an address, I sent off to the American Parkinson’s
Foundation for more information. After browsing through some of the booklets and reading
others about Parkinson’s, I began to get DEPRESSED.
I don’t think that in my life I had ever really understood what real depression
was like. I had heard about it, and knew that it had a power to stop normal functioning in
one’s life, but I hadn’t experienced it.
During this time I heard something that I identified with--that depression always
involves LOSS. It amazed me that a friend’s observation was so close to my thoughts.
She said, “Mary Jo, I think you are mourning your loss; the loss of the person you
have always been, the way you have always operated.” I felt a challenge to accept my
new self, as well as the new way of living, with all its limitations, to bring about a
useful, productive, satisfied and happy life.
In retrospect, there are two very important factors that helped me cope, helped me to
move forward, and to continue to cope.
1) The first is my faith in the Word of God and the promises of a loving God, seeing
Him as an all-powerful and all-sovereign, faithful God, who has a purpose for my life. For
many years prior to this, I had loved God’s Holy Word; and I still read it every day.
In no other place did I find such peace. The more I read, the more I was aware of a
returning mental clarity that had started fading with the disease. There seemed to be a
correlation between time spent in God’s Word and clear thinking. There was a return
to the joy of living one day at a time. The Lord took away the depression, and it
hasn’t returned to this day.
2) The second factor that has been most instrumental in helping me cope is the love and
support of my husband and children. My husband’s love for me is my greatest earthly
blessing, my richest treasure. I pray that we will both have the wisdom and patience to
accept and encourage each other, as the disease progresses. Our children, as well, play
such an important part in that needed blessing of support. It thrills me when they take
the initiative to keep in touch. Hardly a week goes by without a visit and/or call from
each of them. The assurance of their prayers, love and encouragement seems to have brought
us even closer as a family and deepened our relationship to our Heavenly Father.
I have already hinted that my view of a loving, sovereign God is so much richer. As I
have come to know Him and His love, mostly through His Word, I know that He wants the very
best for my life. When I stretch my mind and grasp hold of the immense thought of a truly
sovereign God, who is in control of EVERYTHING, and realizing that HE LOVES ME, and that
HE HAS A PURPOSE FOR EACH LIFE, how could I hold my life back from Him? I had to say,
“If you can use my life better with this disease, I am willing. If my life would have
a greater testimony if you healed me, I know you can heal me, and I am willing. If you
choose to take me home earlier than what’s normal, to be with you, I’m willing
in this too.”
I haven’t always been able to say that so boldly. But one day I read a statement
in His Word that fascinated me. It is in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar, king of
Babylon, made a decree that everyone should worship his golden image, and if they
didn’t, they would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Three Jewish boys who loved God
refused to bow down, so they were reported. As they stood before the king, they testified
fearlessly. “The God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and
He will deliver us from your hand.” And then they say, “But if not, it
won’t make us serve and worship you.” So I can say, “My God is able to heal
me, but if he doesn’t I’ll still serve Him and love Him forever.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet
inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” II Corinthians 4:16
Therefore I pray for
you and for me as Paul did:
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through
His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through
faith.” Ephesians 3:16-17