Monday, August 27, 2007

Having a positive attitude

Last night I invited a friend to dinner, Diana, who has been through hell and back. Her son Jimmy died 29 years ago at age 10 of a gunshot wound, while on a shooting expedition with his father and Diana's brother. The brother, who was the cause of the accident, has never recovered himself and has had a difficult life since then. Don't think for one minute Diana, or any other parent for that matter, stops thinking about or grieving for that child, even after 29 years!

But Diana is a survivor and moved on with her life and became the executive director of the national Compassionate Friends organization for 10 years. I lost track of Diana after she left that position, but this year I planned a national conference in Scottsdale, AZ, for parents who have lost their only child or all their children and discovered in searching for a good speaker that Diana lived only a mile from me and was working for Hospice! She brought me up to date on her life which included two other children who live in Arizona and California, divorce, her many bouts with cancer and her heart attack last year.

On July 27, 2007, she was declared cancer free. Four days later on July 31, 2007, Arizona was deluged with one of the worst rain storms in almost 100 years. Once again she was hit with a catastrophe...this time the rain turned into rushing currents and absolutely destroyed her house and everything in it including photos and lifelong keepsakes of her son Jimmy and her other children...things that can not be replaced. She was four feet in mud, without a home or clothing, and she did not have flood insurance to cover this loss. (She was not in a flood area and didn't need to buy it.) Fortunately, my husband, Lawrence, had a picture of Jimmy from the last conference, so at least we were able to replace a very precious item for her.

When she came to dinner, she updated us on the last few weeks and how she is trying to put her life back together once again. Her attitude is amazing. She laughs at things I would cry about. She is thankful she wasn't at home when the rushing water came through her home and could have injured her severely. She is determined to get her life back together little by little. And finally, she is an inspiration to people who are facing the loss of a loved one, and continues her grief workshops every Wednesday night despite what she is going through now.

I think we can all learn from Diana's experience and how she lives her life. We sometimes think our grief story is the worst... until we hear about the next person's.

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