Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Never give up: Bobby's story

I have watched miracles happen when parents who have lost a child are helped. In July 2005 I attended the national Compassionate Friends Conference in Boston. I spend a lot of time in the bookstore selling my book. It was there I met Bobby and his sister when they bought my book. He was very quiet and withdrawn. She explained: "I had to bring Bobby here. I was afraid for him." In 2001 one of his teenage children was killed in a car accident. In 2002 the second of his teenage children was killed in a car accident. In 2003 the third and last of his children was killed in a car accident. All three children gone and in different types of car accidents. Bobby's wife was getting treatment in a special hospital. "I love my brother and want to help him desparately," she said, "so I brought him here to hopefully get that help. I didn't know where else to turn." No one should have to go through what Bobby has gone through; yet it happens to the best of people.

Through the 4-day conference I occasionally saw Bobby and his sister. At workshops he sat quietly, taking in everything. His sister did a lot of talking. Gradually, he began to talk also. Good for him, I remember saying to myself.

At the end of the conference they both came into the bookstore to say goodbye. I turned to Bobby and said, "I must ask you this. Was this conference of any help to you?" He looked at me and without a second's hesitation said, "It saved my life." Bobby went back home to North Carolina and started a Compassionate Friends chapter in his hometown where there were none and is now the chapter leader. The chapter is growing very strong.

I lost track of Bobby for two years. Just recently at the 2007 national conference, both of them again walked into the bookstore. What a powerful walk he had. What a powerful handshake. I could tell he indeed had come through the worst part. This doesn't mean he won't have any more bad times; he will probably always get teary-eyed when thinking of his children, but there is nothing wrong with that. After 13 years, I still can't mention my daughter's name without a little choke forming in the back of my throat. The important lesson from this story is, of course, to never give up. And what a beautiful example of how Compassionate Friends, the workshops, the speakers, and the sharing sessions have helped so many over the roughest parts of surviving grief.

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