Page 20 - 2016 Spring-Summer Issue
P. 20

In loving memory                                                  and devastation of their deaths, the loss of dreams for their
                                                                  sons, and unashamedly cry together…and when any of them
Joe Lawley                                                        would nod their head and say, “I understand”, they all knew
                                                                  that they truly did. Reverend Stephens said, “You are helping
Sadly, the Compassionate Friends lost one of their founder        each other in a way which I, and virtually everyone else,
parents when Joe Lawley died on June 13, 2016. Joe was            am unable to do, because of your shared experience; do you
a charming, lovely and loquacious gentleman who took              think it could work with other bereaved parents?” The names
great pride in sharing the story of how TCF came to be            and stories of other bereaved parents whom Rev. Stephens
and the part that he and his wife Iris, and Bill and Joan         encountered at the hospital were shared with Joe and the first
Henderson, along with Reverend Simon Stephens, played in          actual meeting of TCF, with six in attendance, took place
its beginnings in Coventry, England.                              on January 28, 1969, in a small room at the hospital where
Joe and Iris Lawley lost their son Kenneth to a car crash, and    Kenneth Lawley and Billy Henderson died.
Bill and Joan Henderson, lost their son Billy to cancer, three
days a part, in May of 1969 at Coventry and Warwickshire          It was decided that they needed a name for this group of
Hospital. Reverend Simon Stephens was the assistant to the        bereaved parents. And as Joe tells it, “The word ‘compassion’
Chaplain there. As he was standing with the group praying for     had featured frequently in our conversation, and eventually
Kenneth at his bedside, Reverend Stephens said simply, “If I can  ‘The Society of the Compassionate Friends’ emerged. It
help….I am here, all of the time.” He also made Joe aware of the  sounded right then, and now in a slightly shorter form, it still
Henderson’s whose son Billy was dying. After Billy died, Joe      sounds right – perhaps even inspired.” And as the saying goes,
mentioned to Iris about his death, and Iris suggested that they   the rest is history.
send flowers to Billy’s funeral. As Joe states, “We did not then
know the significance of that act, but looking back, it might be  Upon learning of Joe Lawley’s death, the UK Chair of
said that The Compassionate Friends started there. Joan and Bill  Trustees, Dr. Margaret Brearley, commented: “Joe and
telephoned their thanks and we met for a cup of tea.”             Iris, together with the Henderson’s and Simon Stephens,
Reverend Stephens kept in close contact with Joe and Iris,        created TCF in 1969 – now a worldwide group of caring
Bill and Helen, and noticed how much comfort the Lawley’s         organizations uniquely comforting bereaved parents. Their
and the Henderson’s received from each other each time they       shared companionship and informal mutual support in their
met around one of their kitchen tables. Together, openly,         overwhelming grief allowed them to turn outwards to seek
they could share Kenneth’s and Billy’s lives, the sadness, pain   other similarly grieving parents, with the result that literally
                                                                  hundreds of thousands of grieving parents have been given
2 0 |We Need Not Walk Alone                                       comfort and friendship – and in many countries – all this
                                                                  inspired by their example and their words”.

                                                                  Glen Lord, President of the TCF/USA Board of Directors
                                                                  said, “In May of 1968 when Kenneth Lawley died, his father Joe
                                                                  Lawley’s life was forever changed. What Joe could never have
                                                                  seen is that on that same day his and his wife Iris’s choice to
                                                                  survive their grief, along with the support of the Henderson’s and
                                                                  Simon Stephens, would change the world’s life forever. Joe has
                                                                  now joined his Kenneth. Thank you, Joe, for all the love; thank
                                                                  you for changing my life; all of our lives are the better for it.”

                                                                  Alan Pedersen, TCF/USA Executive Director, added, “Joe
                                                                  Lawley’s spirit lives on in every corner of the TCF world
                                                                  because his compassion was the kindling that ignited our

                                                                  The Compassionate Friends/USA expresses their deepest
                                                                  condolences to Joe’s wife Iris and their daughters, as well as
                                                                  our entire TCF family in the United Kingdom.

                                                                  Written by Cathy Seehuetter
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