This expression of gratitude is long overdue.
I met Jim Gregory many, many years ago. I can't even recall how he found me. I do recall that, characteristically, he shepherded a family to a support group I facilitated after their child's death. It was, perhaps, in 1997 when we first met. He wasn't a bereaved parent, rather, a bereaved sibling. His beautiful sister, Terece, was murdered many years earlier. Her tragic death left an inscription on Jim's heart.
Around 2006, I met Shannon LaRance and her four amazing children- three who walk- Justin, Kawani, Kaloni; and one who soars- Tashina. I was teaching a class on policy and Shannon, then a BSW student, stayed after class to tell me the story of Tashina, her first child, and how she'd tragically died in 1993. Her subsequent children, unaware that they had an older sister who died, became an integral part of the mourning process as Shannon finally shared her story, and we all recognized and grieved for precious Tashina, who was once silently inscribed in her mother's heart.
Every year since Jim and I met, he has sent me cards recognizing my dead child. Every birthday, without fail, he chooses and sends the most beautiful sentiments of remembrance and, with lovely handwritten words, touches my heart in the most tender way. He also sends cards on Mother's Day, and on my birthday (an otherwise bittersweet day when I long for her presence in my life, but which very few people recognize except this seeming angel-stranger), and even on the days when my parents died, in recognition of them. He recognized my precious child when others did not, could not, or would not. Many days, I have thought he must be sent directly by God, reminding me of a scripture that says something about strangers actually being angels unaware. I wonder... There is no way I can put into words how much his committed kindness has meant through the years...
A few weeks after Shannon took Tashina's box - her name inscribed on her mother's heart through all these years- from the shelf, sharing her story with her children, Kawani drew me a precious picture that I've kept on my wall since. It reminds me how important this work is in this world, as they now know and love their sister and openly recognize her as the beloved member of the family she has always been, albeit in her mother's heart. Her inclusion of me in the "family" picture warms my heart every time I see it. It nearly brings me to tears every time.
These simple, beautiful acts of civic love have helped to keep me going on days when I felt discouraged. Unappreciated. Defeated. Forgotten. Abandoned. They are a reminder that service to those in the abyss of grief is the most important of all work, and they inspire me to continue to fulfill my commitment to my dead child.
So, today, I wish to say, publicly, thank you to Terece's beautiful brother, Jim. And to Tashina's mother and siblings. And to all those who have expressed kindness and generosity to me, personally, and to the MISS Foundation for our work of the heart.
Today, I will use some of those 86,400 seconds to say: Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's long overdue, but no less full of loving gratitude to you. Thank you for remembering. Thank you for your loving kindness. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for sharing your beloved with me. I cannot tell you how much it has meant.
My heart is inscribed with their names: Terece, Tashina, and all those gone too soon from our sight but never from our hearts.
And thank you to my mother, Josephine, on her birthday today. I MISS you and wish I could tell you myself. Thank you, Mom, especially for loving my kids so big.
**** Is there anyone out there on whom you can expend a few moments of gratitude?****