Page 4 - 2017 Spring-Summer Issue
P. 4

A Message from the Executive Director

                                        When I was nine, my best friend Bobby moved away. His family stopped by our house to
                                        say goodbye. I remember telling Bobby good luck but I couldn’t say goodbye. Long before
                                        I was forced into this world of grief and loss I did not like the word goodbye, and I still

                                        So, as I write my final column for We Need Not Walk Alone as your Executive Director, I
                                        refuse to say goodbye. I want to use this opportunity to reflect fondly on the incredible
                                        honor it has been to serve you. From the day I walked into our national office in Oak
                                        Brook, Illinois as a wide-eyed newbie on December 1st of 2013 until this very day, I have
                                        never taken for granted how fortunate I have been.

Honestly, I am not quite sure how I ended up being named our Executive Director; initially, two different people
approached me about the job and I said no, but then I did it anyway. Today, I am so grateful that I was given this incredible
opportunity. The Compassionate Friends has been my family, my crutch, my hope and my constant since my daughter
Ashley died in an automobile accident in August of 2001. Though, I will no longer be our Executive Director after
September 30th of 2017, The Compassionate Friends will continue to be all of these things to me for as long as I live.

History will judge the effect my nearly four years of service leaves on the organization. My goal when I took this position
was simply to work hard every day trying to make a positive difference. My hope was to express deep gratitude from the
top of the organization that could be felt by all of our volunteers. I want each of you to know that I appreciate your efforts
more than you can imagine. TCF is and will continue to be a great organization because of you, not because of the person
sitting behind this desk.

I had never heard of The Compassionate Friends until the fall of 2001. A letter sent in the mail by a woman named Linda
Shaw was my introduction to this club nobody wants to join. I wrestled with the idea of attending the October meeting but
something led me to walk in the front door of the Jefferson County Chapter of TCF in Littleton, Colorado. It was awful;
signing in, writing my name, writing Ashley’s name, listing how she died, filling out a name tag … it was awful. Even
though I was greeted with a hug at the door and the folks were friendly, I did not want to be in that room, but I stayed.

That first night as I listened to others describe their loss I couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of pain sitting around
that circle. When it was my turn I could barely speak, but I was somehow able to say her name and express my pain. The
memories of the rest of that evening are foggy; I do remember leaving with the thought that I would never return, but I did.

Over the next few months I began to talk a little more and feel a lot more. While my pain was unbearable there was
something about this group of people that was helping me. As much as I tried to convince myself that I could walk this
journey alone, something would always draw me back. This group of grievers were becoming my family, my rock, my soft
place to fall, and my lifeline. One night after I had been attending for a few months, I was asked to serve on the steering
committee. I did not want to say yes, but I did.

Writing songs was one of the ways I coped with loss. I would go to the desert of Arizona and sit for days with my guitar
writing words and music about the experience of loving my daughter, raising her, having her die, and then trying to put my
life back together. One of my TCF friends heard that I had been writing songs about my grief and asked me to play it at our
Chapter candle lighting. I said absolutely not, it would be too difficult for me, but I did it anyway.

Looking back there were a lot of times I really wanted to say no, but somehow said yes. When grieving families asked me
to record these songs I had written, I was reluctant, but I did it. When my music began circulating among the grief world

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