Patrick Malone’s remarks at The Compassionate Friends Atlanta Chapter 2009 Candle Light Remembrance.

We would have traded places with our child without a second thought, but we weren’t given that choice. When that enormous pain of grief rolled into and totally disrupted our nice, neat, little life, we didn’t have a choice. Even now, months or years later, when a residual wave of grief chooses to crash along our shoreline, we aren’t given a choice. It just shows up.

None of us aspired to be part of The Compassionate Friends. In fact, it ranks last in organizations that parents and families wish to join. We didn’t choose this but here we are.

So it is easy to allow this journey through our grief to make us its victim. And before long, I started treating every event in my life as if I didn’t have a choice and I became my worst nightmare. I became a victim.

And then, if we’re lucky, something penetrates the fog of grief and depression and causes us to re-examine the manner in which we are working through our grief. For me first, it was an article by my future friend, Rich Edler, in We Need Not Walk Alone magazine. The specific line in the article was “Grief is mandatory, misery is optional.”

Second, it was the following poem by Howard Thurman that appeared in a grief newsletter distributed by Dinah Taylor in Kentucky. It is entitled Candles for Christmas:

I will light candles this Christmas:

Candles of joy despite all the sadness,

Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,

Candles of courage for fears ever present,

Candles of peace for tempest tossed days,

Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,

Candles of love to inspire all my living,

Candles that will burn all the year long.

We do have a choice. We cannot change the facts of what happened to our child, children or grandchild. That is the past. We think we can plan for the future, but those plans may or may not have any effect on the actual future course of events. But we can do something about the here and now – the present.

So as we prepare to light these candles this evening in the memory of our children, let us choose, to the degree each of us is able, to create a positive memory of our child if only for the briefest of moments.

Remember that vacation at the Magic Kingdom that she loved so much.

Remember how he loved the Braves way before they started winning.

Remember that soccer match and how proud you were not because he won, but because of the way he played.

Remember how the dream came true when he made Drum Major of the band, but mostly remember he was part of finding the cure and that “ain’t for nothing.”

Remember how she loved Christmas and the light in her eyes whether she was giving or receiving.

Remember how much he loved to cook and the joy of making it his profession.

Remember her first day of school and how excited she was.

Remember all those scouting badges and how proud you were of all his efforts.

Remember how many of his college friends told you how much he helped them.

Remember how hard she worked in school to make you a proud, practical dad.

Remember his first smile, her first word and their first steps.

Remember the warm days, bright sun and flashing skis as she sailed effortlessly across the water.

Remember that slick, mischievous grin he flashed before he flipped down his visor and roared away on that purple motorcycle.

Some day, we will all see our children again and when we do, they are going to ask what we did with the rest of our lives. I believe Scott, Erin and Lance would be disappointed if I told them I spent the rest of my life grieving their deaths. That isn’t how they want to be remembered.

However, I think they would be pleased if we are able to tell them we lived the rest of our lives inspired by the positive memories of their lives.

So for the briefest of moments during this Christmas season and this remembrance service – set down your burden. Refresh yourself so that you can continue your grief journey buoyed by positive memories of a significant life regardless of how long or short.  A significant life lived well.

You have a choice. Choose well.

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Patrick T. Malone

Patrick T. Malone, a Senior Partner with The PAR Group , has decades of experience in operations, customer service, and sales management. Before joining PAR as a senior consultant in 1989, Patrick worked in a variety of management roles including Vice President - National Sales Manager for American Greetings Corporation and The Scott Companies. As a key member of the PAR team, Patrick has trained and consulted throughout the world with a wide range of organizations including The American Cancer Society, Banfield-The Pet Hospital, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, DuPont, Ft. Dodge Animal Health, Hewlett-Packard, International Securities Exchange, Novell, Sensient Technologies, Siemens Medical, SOLAE, The United Way, and Verizon Wireless. His work with PAR clients has taken him to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Spain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Australia, France and China. A frequent speaker at industry, management and bereavement conferences, he has presented and spoken before the Mississippi VMA and the Delaware VMA; the Frontline Forum at American School of International Management; Argosy University; the business schools at Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University; The American Society of Training and Development; and the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, Iowa State University, Louisiana State University, University of Florida, University of Minnesota, Tufts University, Compassionate Friends national and regional conferences. Patrick is the co-author of the new business book Cracking the Code to Leadership Educated at John Carroll University, Patrick is a member of the CEO Action Group of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Growth Council, Legislative Committee and the Professional Services Executive Roundtable. He has also served as the National Board President of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), Inc., an international support group for bereaved parents and is a former Trustee of the TCF Foundation. He also serves as President of LMMA Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to motorcycle safety and awareness and is the host of the weekly radio show "This Week in Blairsville" Patrick served on the National Board of Compassionate Friends (TCF) from 1999-2005. He served as treasurer from 2000-2003, and was President of the TCF board from 2003-2005. Patrick and his wife Kathy reside in Atlanta, Georgia and are the parents of Bryan, Lance (1970-1995), Scott (1971), Sean and Erin(1974) and the grandparents of Shannah, Devin, Riley, Katie and Megan. Patrick may be contacted at Patrick appeared on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart to discuss Grief in the Workplace. To listen to his interview with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link:

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