HEALING THE GRIEVING HEART
Parents With No Surviving Children
Host: Dr. Gloria Horsley
With guest: Rick Yotti
May 11, 2006
G: Hello. I?m Dr. Gloria Horsley with my co-host Dr. Heidi Horsley. Each week, we welcome you to Healing the Grieving Heart, a show of hope and renewal for those who have suffered the loss of a child. Well, Heid, before we introduce our guest today, I wanted to read an email. It is from Liz. Liz lives in New York City and she is involved with Columbia University 9/11 Project. She?s a therapist there. She says:
Heidi, I heard you and your mom on your show yesterday. You guys are amazing. You?re a good team. Of course, having you both there is such an advantage given the loss to the parent and to the sibling. I have to admit, it is so hard for me to listen, but I just force myself as a professional. That guy, Charlie Walton, was amazing. He had so much of something that could get him through those horrific losses. I don?t know if it?s emotional strength, what do you think?
Well, Charlie was our guest last week and just to update those who didn?t listen, Charlie had two sons who died of carbon monoxide poisoning and he is also an author and he is a pretty amazing guy. But, Heid, what do you think did get Charlie through?
H: Well, I first want to thank Liz for the email, and I?m glad that you?re finding it helpful from a professional standpoint. I agree with you. Charlie is a resilient, amazing person. I looked at his book last week and he had eight points of things that he said helped get him through it. I?m not going to go into them in depth, but I?m going to briefly review them because I thought they were really good.
G: Let me say before you review them, his book is called When There Are No Words and you can get it off Amazon. Okay, go, Heid.
H: And at the end of When There Are No Words, it says Finding Your Way to Cope With Loss and Grief. Okay, so, one, Mom, is he says that you need to realize that the depth of your pain represents the extent of your tribute to the one that left you. Two, understand that people say a lot of dumb stuff. Try to be patient and hear what they mean instead of what they say. I like that. So they mean well. Sometimes, they just don?t know what they?re saying and say the wrong things.
G: One of the things I remember Charlie said in his book was try to be kind through this. It?s not easy, but try not to say anything too harsh.
H: Three, he says understand that you need to tell and retell your story a lot more times than friends and family will want to hear it.
G: That?s right. That?s what?s so great about Compassionate Friends and the show and the opportunity for people to tell their story is amazing.
H: Yeah. And that?s exactly what he says. He said be thankful for Compassionate Friends because you can keep telling and retelling your story. Four, he said to give writing a try because writing is what helped him.
G: Of course, he is a professional writer and was before but anyway, journaling and all that is wonderful.
H: Getting your emotions and feelings out on paper. Five, I thought this was a good one. It says get regular strenuous exercise even when you don?t even feel like you could walk across the room.
G: Yeah, that?s a good one.
H: It does move your energy around in a different way when you exercise.
G: And at least, I always say, early on, try to walk to the corner and back.
H: And even stretching helps. Six, let people help you. It?s for their benefit and yours.
G: Good point.
H: And then seven, give yourself time to become yourself again before you go making decisions while you?re out of your mind with grief.
G: And we talked about last week and we talk about with everyone, you are crazy, but don?t make any big decisions particularly in the first year.
H: You?re crazy with grief. And finally, he just says quickly, you now have an understanding of life and its true value.
G: Yeah, a hard one, understanding. Well, Heidi, today we?re going to deal with a really tough topic and it?s also one that I never really thought about until I got involved with Compassionate Friends and got to know the wonderful person we?re going to have on the show today, Rick Yotti. Never got into it this fully. But I wanted to remind people of the email we got from Howard Solomon. On the show, I had said something about my grandchildren and he said well, don?t be so happy about your grandchildren because some of us aren?t going to have them and be more sensitive and I am so glad for that reason to have Rick on the show. Our show today is Parents With No Surviving Children. Heidi and I have talked about this. It?s going to be interesting to talk with Rick today on how you keep those children in your life.
H: Yes, because even though you don’t have surviving children, you always will have children because you had children and metaphorically, you?ll always have them. And just to discuss more what that means and how you deal with talking with people around you about whether or not you have children when those kinds of things come up. I know that?s even a struggle as a surviving sibling. When people ask me if I have a brother, I need to stop and think, okay, do I want to get into this, but if I don?t say I have a brother, is it disloyal, but if I do say I have a brother, then I?ll have to get into that he?s not here, he?s dead, those kinds of issues. As a parent, it always comes up but especially for a parent that no longer has any surviving children.
G: Right, because I am still a parent and for people to come to terms with that. It?s a very interesting proposition. Well, on that note, Heid, could you introduce our guest today?
H: Sure, I?d love to. Our topic today is Parents With No Surviving Children, and our guest today is Rick Yotti. Rick and his wife, Cindy, are the parents of Christopher and Matthew. Their sons died from a neuromuscular disease each at ten years old in 1983 and 1984. They have been with The Compassionate Friends chapters in Michigan, formed an alternate meeting site ?chapter? in Paris, France, and currently assists with two chapters in Virginia. Rick serves as President of the Board of Directors of The Compassionate Friends and is a trustee of The Compassionate Friends National Foundation. In addition, he is the administrator and a faculty member for the Chapter Leader Training Program. Rick and Cindy have conducted workshops at the National Conference and have also organized a Midwest Regional Conference. Rick and Cindy understand the pain of losing both their children and becoming childless. They have dedicated much of their lives to helping other grieving parents to find joy again. Welcome to the show, Rick.
R: Thank you, Heidi, and thank you, Gloria. I?m pleased to have a chance to be here today.
G: Wonderful to have you on. Before we get started with you, I should tell our audience, this is a pre-record today so you will not be able to call in, unfortunately, but you can email us through our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org. These shows are all archived 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on www.thecompassionatefriends.org website or on our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org. Also, you can download the shows from my website on your Ipod. And we also have transcripts of the show for those who have hearing disabilities. Okay, so Rick, our show today again is called Parents With No Surviving Children. Could you tell us about your children, Christopher and Matthew.
R: Christopher and Matthew were the joys of our life. They were born back in 1972 and 1973 which sounds like a long time ago to most people but it?s still pretty fresh in our memories. When Christopher was just about a year old, we were expecting our second son, Matthew, and Christopher at that time, our one-year-old, was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease called spinal muscular atrophy.
G: How did you know he had a problem?
R: He was not using his legs. He wasn?t sitting up. Very limp in general.
G: But when he was born, he looked perfect.
R: Perfect, yes. At one year old he looked fine, but he just wasn?t achieving anything physically.
G: None of the milestones.
R: No. We learned a lot in a hurry about spinal muscular atrophy which turns out to be a genetic disorder, something that was inherited from both of us, and it hadn?t, to our knowledge at that time, it hadn?t appeared anywhere in either of our family trees so it was a bit of a surprise. When our second son was born, the doctor told us he was going to be fine but after about three months, we could see that some of the similar things were starting to show and had a little more thorough testing done and found out that he, too, was affected.
G: Oh, what a heartbreaker.
R: The prognosis was maybe two, three years that they would live with this disease, and we were fortunate. We had them both for 10-1/2 years. They were tremendous children.
G: They were very bright guys, weren?t they?
R: What they didn?t have in physical strength, they had in their mental capacities. Our older son taught himself to read at 2-1/2 and our younger son thought he was slow because he waited until 3-1/2. They used to just completely astound the people at school, and they enjoyed working with them at the school, too, because they were so bright and just devoured books left and right. So they were a great joy to interact with and spend our time with and to watch them develop in their minds so heavily. But the bodies, I?m afraid, didn?t develop and they were very frail, very handicapped. Never walked, never crawled, never rolled over. Had power wheelchairs when they were in pre-school age that gave them some independence and it was one of those things where not only do we ? if I can back up here a moment. As Charlie?s book and the points you read from it are excellent, and I think all bereaved parents can relate with those. And that?s one of the big things that we have at Compassionate Friends. We?re all sharing a life where we?re trying to go on without those children that have died. There are some individual facets that everybody addresses. In our case, we have some additional facets of what our grief is. One, they were special needs children and our grief started with the diagnosis as opposed to a parent whose, as yourself, Gloria, whose child was killed in a car accident and there was this sudden trauma.
H: Rick, you were mourning the loss of the children you would never have to a certain extent.
R: To a certain extent, and we were mourning the difficulties that they were experiencing throughout their life.
H: And you were probably also mourning the fact that you knew they wouldn?t live a full life.
G: Now did you have a lot of support and help, Rick?
R: We had a lot of good support in the medical community. We had tremendous doctors. We had good support in the educational community in our neighborhood and the teachers that were just tremendous with the boys. We both came from very small families. Fortunately, my parents lived very close to us and my mother in particular was tremendously involved with helping us.
G: We need to go on break now and when we come back, we?ll talk more with Rick Yotti. When we went to break, we were talking a little bit. I was wondering what kind of support you needed with the boys and you said your mother was real supportive. Did you have siblings or does Cindy?
R: Each of us just had one brother. They weren?t near us. They weren?t in the area to be able to help with things and so we had distance from the rest of the family and that?s something to this day that?s difficult.
H: So your siblings weren?t there as a support system. They didn?t physically live near you it sounds like.
R: My brother didn?t physically live near us. For a short period of time, her brother did, but there still wasn?t a support system available through the family.
G: They didn?t make the connect. Not everyone can deal with this kind of thing.
R: And that?s what we realized, and I know my wife?s brother, who has now died from cancer himself so she?s now a bereaved sibling also, I know he said in his later years that he just couldn?t understand how somebody can handle that. He didn?t feel that he ever could have. But it?s not something that anybody?s ready for. It?s not something that you think can I or can?t I?
G: Yeah, you?re just kind of dealt that.
R: It?s just something that happens and you step up to it and you don?t stop and question, am I going to handle this? You just do, because you love your children, you do what you need to for them, and you love doing it with them.
G: I love that. You love doing it with them. Tell us some of the things you liked doing with the boys.
R: Oh, just getting out. Just getting out to malls and taking vacations. We took them a number of times to Disneyworld and being able to expose them to new things and to new people. They loved it. They loved meeting people. For a number of years, they were the poster children in the Detroit area for muscular dystrophy and that just took them out into the public and gave them a chance to meet so many people and for so many people to meet them. So we enjoyed sharing them with others and taking them to places like museums and that. With their intellect, they were just fascinated with things like that.
H: And how did they get along? Christopher and Matthew? Did they get along fairly well as brothers?
R: They were best friends. They were absolute best friends. They understood that each of them had the same handicap and they shared a lot of interests. In those days it was the very early days of video games that they were learning and the same toys. Not the same books so much. Our older son was the more serious one. The younger one was the typical if he could do it from a classic comic book, he?d prefer it. So I gave them each their own personality. But we have so many good memories and even though it?s been as long as it has for us, they?re a part of us every day.
G: Absolutely, and how do you carry that on? I was wondering with the continuing bonds thing, how do you keep their memory alive and what do you do and how do you carry it on?
R: Well, we keep their pictures around our house. We talk about them all the time. Something always triggers a memory for either my wife, Cindy, or myself. We?ll have an event. We?ll see something. We?ll say, oh, Christopher would have liked that. Matthew would have liked that. And that just makes them a part of our daily conversation. Having their pictures around makes them a daily conversation item. We learned over time to be able to share with other people, non-bereaved parents, to share with them that we are parents, that Christopher and Matthew were our children. We?ve moved a number of times with my job and then now with my retirement from the area that we lived in and raised our children in. So we?ve had to go through many rounds of hello, I?m new here, introducing yourself to people, having people ask you those standard few questions. You move to a new community like we did. It?s hello, where?d you come from, what company do you work for? Oh, do you have children with you? And that?s the showstopper for so many people.
G: And how do you answer that? What do you say? It probably depends
R: It depends, but most of the time we look at somebody and we?ll say, is this somebody we?re going to know? Or potentially would know? If it?s the taxi driver, we gloss over the topic. We say a little prayer to ourselves. It says, sorry Christopher and Matthew. They know we?re not denying them, we know. But we usually tell people right up front because people don?t see us as active parents. They look at us and they see Cindy and Rick, the couple. They don?t see us as a family. They don?t see us a mother and a father. It?s important to us to have that identity and to be able to tell people but for us to be able to tell them that we were parents, that we were active parents, that we still consider ourselves parents.
G: I would say you were probably some of the most active parents in the world.
R: And we address that pretty open with people. Now it was difficult in those early years because we had all of those emotions of being very outwardly sad, even at times being very hostile, whatever, the anger and things that come up. So you had to be able to tell people in a way that you didn?t scare them off. It?s something hard for a bereaved parent to learn. Whether you have surviving children or not, a lot of those old phrases were other people?s greatest fear. We bring up a topic that they don?t even want to think about, let alone have to discuss. It?s not that they?re cruel, but they just aren?t ready to discuss that type of thing, so if we can bring it up in a non-intimidating environment.
H: It brings up their own issues because as parents, our biggest fear is that our children are going to die. And to hear that that?s happened to somebody else, it?s scary for people.
G: Heidi and I were talking about Liz?s email because she says that it was difficult for her to listen to the show. Well, she works with bereaving people so Heidi was saying that sometimes it?s difficult for people to even hear that we do a show on it.
H: Like I told my mother, too, Liz has two teenage boys, and Charlie?s two boys died. So to hear that show just probably struck a chord on a personal level also.
G: People will say, oh, you?re doing a radio show. And I?ll say, yes, and they?ll say, what?s it on? And I?ll tell them and they?ll be like, oh, okay. So it?s difficult when we look at this. I know this is difficult and I wouldn?t broach this as deeply as I am but I think it?s for our audience out there. Christopher and Matthew did not die together. They died a year apart. Could you talk about that? Did Christopher die immediately or was he ill for a while or how did that go, and then how did Matthew deal with it? How did you all deal with it?
R: That was a very difficult period because the boys went through many hospitalizations where respiratory distress would be the issue, and they would be weak and they would come back. Christopher just slowly got a little weaker every month and had evolved to where he was on oxygen at home. We had a number of different rooms of the house piped with oxygen so he could be in one room or another and have a light amount of oxygen to help him. So Matthew recognized what his brother was going through. He recognized his brother couldn’t sit up in a wheelchair any more and he had to just lay down all the time. Christopher knew that he was dying, and one afternoon he and my wife, Christopher initiated it, and they had a tremendous discussion, fabulous discussion, one that I think sustains Cindy to this day, and he was very mature and very rational and he knew that he was going to die and then he was at peace with it, I think. He was a very spiritual child and that?s what I think supported him.
G: I?m a nurse so I?ve worked in the hospital with dying children and there?s an amazing something about them, the maturity. Even though they?re children and they play, there?s an incredible energy around them.
R: And I think we saw that with Christopher, too. It came down to his last day and we knew it was his last day and the four of us spent it together at home. At one point, I took Matthew into the bedroom. It used to be a thing that when things got a little too hectic or too many people around or something, he and I would go lay in the big bed and talk. So we went and laid on the big bed and talked that day.
H: I like that. That?s a nice ritual.
R: I told him that Christopher was dying and that this would be probably his last day. Matthew looked at me and he just said, well, Dad, then I guess I?m next. That was his only comment.
G: So he lost his best buddy, too.
R: And he immediately, after Chris? death, took on some of the advanced symptoms that Christopher had and you could tell he was in a depression. We took him to a couple of psychologists and they and we weren?t able to really crack the situation and then one day, they had a fabulous pediatrician who cared for them. Not only cared for their medical needs but very much cared for them, and we went and talked to him one day and he said, let me sit down with him. He took him in and they had a great conversation and it just turned him around. He was somebody that Matthew trusted and he basically said, Matthew, we?re all going to die some day. We just don?t know when for sure and we have to enjoy what we can. And that made a difference for him.
H: So basically, live in the present and enjoy each day that you have now.
R: For us, knowing that Matthew?s time was going to be coming too and not knowing whether he had another year or two years or what, we realized now we pretty much put the grieving for Christopher on the back burner.
G: I was going to ask about that, how you two dealt with that.
Rick, when we went to break we were talking about Christopher?s death and then how you and Cindy put it on hold for him in order to support Matthew.
G: And how was it? You didn?t realize that until after Matthew died that you?d done that?
R: I think that you?re right. It wasn?t a conscious thing that we sat down and said we have to hold this together for him. It was just knowing that we needed to put all of our efforts into turning things around for Matthew who was grieving both his brother?s loss and as I suspect his own imminent death from the same disease. So we really focused on him and in the years since that we look back and we say that it pretty much came crashing down around us after Matthew was gone.
H: So once Matthew died, you grieved both Christopher and Matthew?s death together.
R: Yes. In many ways, it was kind of a joint one. We remember them individually, but the grief is for them collectively in that situation.
G: For our audience who are newly bereaved, tell us about those early months and year. How did you get through it?
R: We got through it sometimes just by putting your head in the sand. One of the things we also didn?t realize then, but do in retrospect and I think many people suggested is that as a couple, you have to let the other one take their own course. As close as two people can be, they still aren?t going to grieve alike. There?ll be times when one will have an up day and the other will have a down and vice versa, and I think what we went through was somewhat chaotic after that. I know I probably put myself into my work and used that to get myself going each day. Saying I had a career, I had to get up, I had to go do this. On the contrary, Cindy?s whole life and career had been taking care of two special needs children. She had her degree in education but she had chosen to be a stay-at-home mom before we knew about their problems and had totally focused on them and, like she said, all she ever wanted to be was a mother. So the loss was her whole day. I had a job to go to.
H: And her identity in so many ways.
R: Oh, yes, and her identity was part of that. In Charlie?s points of things to do about how making major decisions in your first year was not a good idea, I wish Charlie had been my next-door neighbor at that point. We needed somebody. Seven months after our second son died, we pulled up roots, sold the house we raised them in, and moved off to France with a job transfer.
H: So you left your support system.
R: Our whole support system. Everything behind us.
G: And the people that knew them.
H: People that knew your kids, Christopher and Matthew.
R: Right. And people all around us, our minister and families all said, oh, this will be good for you. You?ll have a chance to start over. We didn?t want to start over. We wanted to go back. There was nothing to look forward to. And that was the hard part. And it was terribly hard for Cindy, terribly hard, because once again, we got there. I had a job. I had people there right away. I had things to do, places to be. She didn?t. I didn?t even know at the time because we were kind of in a fog. I didn?t know how serious her grief was. She used to sleep all day and then get up by the time I got home and try and make it look like she had been doing okay.
G: Well, also, being around people that spoke French in France. It?s a whole different culture.
R: That?s true and it?s not only a language difference, there is a cultural difference in that they believe your support comes from within your family not from outside. So that was very difficult. Cindy would try very very hard. She tried so hard and she worked at being involved in things like American women?s group at our church there and getting out and getting to meet people but the first thing everybody said was, where do you come from? What does your husband do? It was unfortunately a very sexist relationship environment with the husband being transferred. And, oh, do you have children? And immediately she wanted to tell them and she would often break down. So it made it awkward and a lot of people weren?t able to handle the situation and we were awkward about it in our way, too. It was a difficult period and we stayed two-and-a-half years, and Cindy had some counseling and we just said one day, that?s it, we have to go back to the States. Things weren?t getting any better. We came back and it was after we came back to the States then. This was almost three years and that would make it three-and-a-half and five years after Christopher died, and we found Compassionate Friends.
G: So it wasn?t until then?
R: Five years after our first son?s death and we were probably not much better then than we had been one month after. That made the difference for us. I always tell people, Cindy found the organization through a friend who had lost a child, told her about it and it was good for them. She told me about it. Like so many good husbands, I said, I?ll drive, I?ll go with you because you think this is something they need. I went to that first meeting with her and I?ve been going ever since. I didn?t talk for the first three or four I?m sure, but once they got me started, I haven?t quit either.
G: And when you have five years, it?s never too late. It?s been twenty-two years since my son was killed and I?ve been more involved in The Compassionate Friends in the past four years so it?s a wonderful organization. What do you think was the turnaround for Cindy? Compassionate Friends?
H: And what about Compassionate Friends was it? The fact that everybody there had lost a child?
R: Yes. We could share. We could talk openly. We were hearing other people say and express some of the feelings that we felt that we really hadn?t had a chance to express to other people.
H: And your grief was not being interrupted. You could tell your story and say whatever you needed to say and be open and honest.
R: Exactly. And we didn?t have to be afraid of upsetting somebody else. You could be yourself and you could open up and that?s something that we really hadn?t had an opportunity to do, I believe, and I think that made the difference for us. At a later period, we were back in the States for seven years, and an opportunity came up to go back to France again with my job and so we did. We always said we had our heads on much straighter that time and we were able to appreciate it. Cindy still had her bouts with a lot of difficulty in depression with it and it was when we were back there the second time that a psychologist and doctor diagnosed her as having depression and started her on anti-depressant medication which made a world of difference. So the combination over the year for her, both of Compassionate Friends and being able to take medication had just turned things around dramatically for her.
G: Now you also tried to adopt, didn?t you?
R: We talked about it. We made an effort. Michigan at the time when we came back the first time to the U.S. had some very stringent and difficult laws. They looked at me and I think I was 41 at the time and they said, hmm, 41, 42. You?re over 40. We aren?t going to talk to you. You go to the bottom of the list.
H: Wow, things have changed.
R: Yes, they have, and I?m thrilled for others that it?s a more open environment now.
G: I was telling you that Heidi has just adopted from China.
R: I know. That sounds so exciting.
H: And I?m over 40, Rick. Not to disclose my age here.
G: Don?t disclose mine.
H: Exactly. I?m outing Gloria.
G: So, Rick, it sounded like you and Cindy coped differently.
R: We did. Yes, I think we did. She?s much better at sharing. She read a lot more grief books than I did. I think in some respects mine was going off to work. I traveled a lot with my job in those years afterward and I had a lot of solitude time during travel and that maybe was my time to think and remember. Her?s was finding friends that she could reach out to and that would befriend her.
H: A lot of the ways that you meet people is through your children. There?s of course a lot of other ways to meet people but your children kind of bring the world into you. I was wondering what was the most difficult part of not having surviving children? I know it probably was different for you and Cindy.
R: Well, number one, you said what was the most difficult and I think it continues. I think one of the things we?ve recognized is a lot of the issues of no surviving children aren?t going to ever go away. The fact that we see friends and nieces and nephews that go through the milestones of life and they have their graduations and marriages and now they?re starting to have their children and our friends. We love our friends and to see our friends be able to enjoy their children and their grandchildren going through these milestones and now to be with them and hear they?re having another grandchild or something, the continual reminder of the things that we aren?t experiencing in life that we set out to be. We set out to be parents. We set out to be grandparents. That was our intention in life, and to be continually reminded that those things aren?t going to happen for us. We get to the point that we?re older. I just turned 60 but Cindy?s much younger. I?ll say that for her since she?ll listen to this. No, she is younger than I am, but the fact that we see people that their children help them when they get older and I realize that it?s just the two of us. And you come down to that in life, it?s just the two of us, and by odds someday it?ll be just one of us. I think that loneliness is part of what you continually address as a parent with no surviving children.
H: So there?s continual losses over time because like you say, you face the loss of having grandkids.
G: We?re going to break now but when we come back from break, I would like Rick Yotti to talk about. I don?t want to end on a downer. This is the end of our show and Rick Yotti is the most upbeat person I know and I want to talk to you about how do you make life meaningful and how have you done that because I know you?ve done a wonderful job of it.
H: And then how people find joy again because I know that?s one of the workshops Rick and Cindy do at Compassionate Friends.
This is our final break and one thing I want to say is I really feel a strong tribute to Christopher and Matthew on this show. I know they?re wonderful children and I know they want their parents to be happy and I know their parents have been happy and Rick is one of the most happy upbeat people I know. So, Rick, I want to know how you?ve done it with all this. How have you been able to make your life so meaningful?
R: I think that as a tribute to Christopher and Matthew and a memory that these were two children who loved living. They loved other people. They could laugh and I still hear their laughter in my mind. And I think that?s part of it is Cindy and I did a workshop for a number of years called ?Finding Joy Again? and one of the aspects of it was to sit down and sort of count your blessings and the blessings that we counted were the gifts that we got from our children. The gifts that they gave us of teaching us to be much more compassionate people, teaching us to appreciate the day because they?re short and they?re numbered, to appreciate a friend. All of the things that they taught us and I think that was part of a turnaround for us and one that says we can do things and we can reach out and try to help somebody else in their memory and one of the key things that many of us have learned through Compassionate Friends is helping others helps yourself. I think that continual reaching out in their memory and their support has been one of the things that has uplifted us and given us the chance to do it. Recognizing who we are, recognizing what we?ve been dealt and to be able to say because of our faith, every day is a day that we?re closer to being with them again.
H: So, Rick, it sounds like you and Cindy are poorer for ever having lost Christopher and Matthew and you?re richer for ever having known them.
R: Exactly. I like to think that for who we are not because they died, but because they did live.
G: Now tell us, you went back to Paris, you had fun, but I also know that you guys have decided to retire but you were able to look all over the United States and find the most fun place to be, right.
R: Well, we were. I decided one day to take an early retirement. I was in the Fortune 100 world and I came home and I told Cindy, it?s your turn. For 32 years you have been virtually following me around, my job around, setting up housekeeping. This time, you pick a state, you pick a city, and we?re going to go back to the U.S. and live there and retire there. And she picked Williamsburg, Virginia.
H: Oh, I love that. What a great place.
R: We hadn?t been here in a very long time. We came here, looked, said this is it, and some people spend 20 years planning their retirement. Our?s was more like two days and we don?t regret a moment of a single part of the decision. It?s been a wonderful community. After about two years of retirement, I got a little bored and so I said I?m going to get out and do something. I was a terrible golfer so I had to go out and find something to do so we both decided we would and went to work for a shop in an old established business here in town and I now manage a wine shop for them.
G: So that?s where they?ll find you, at Williamsburg, at what?s the name of it?
R: It?s the Cheese Shop in Merchants Square, tony Williamsburg. I run the wine cellar for them down here and it turns out to be able to take one of your hobbies and enjoy it later in life is great and it really brings me a lot of entertainment. It brings me a lot of happiness. It brings me out in the community to meet people.
G: Is Cindy working there, too?
R: She worked up in the cheeses and specialty food area for a while but now she?s doing what she even enjoys more. She works in a ladies clothing store a few doors down from me so we?re right in the same part of town here together. We can pop in and out and see each other all day.
H: How fun and, like you said, you both interact with people all day in the community.
R: We do and after so many years in the corporate world, this is such a different environment, and I didn?t know if I?d like it, but I love it. So you just never know.
G: Now one of the things I want to talk about before we close the show is the group you?re involved with that you drive 30 miles to go to. Tell us a little about that.
R: It?s actually more than 30 miles. It?s 3-1/2 hours drive in each direction. This is an alternate meeting site of a Compassionate Friends chapter and it?s in the Washington, DC, area actually out in Reston, Virginia. This is for parents with no surviving children. Each month, we?ll have 25 to 30 parents together. This is meeting a very unique need for us. We still go to our local Williamsburg chapter and spend time with the parents here. We all share that common factor that we?re trying to go on in our life without those children, but this other group up in Reston, Virginia, for us lets us address those facets of our grief and how we?re going through and how we?re progressing in our life with the altered future we?ll say that we all have. It?s just been a tremendous group for us. We get together for holidays. Most of us have small families or just aren?t comfortable in some of the family environment and have said, this is more family to us. In fact, this Sunday is one of those difficult days of the year which is Mother?s Day. Mother?s Day and Father?s Day are very difficult with no surviving children because you can?t hide from it anywhere. You can?t pick up a newspaper. You can?t turn on the radio or television and you definitely can?t go out that day. We get together for Mother?s Day. We?re driving up there this weekend and we?re all going to have dinner together at somebody?s house. We?ve gotten together and traveled for Christmas.
G: Rick, let me ask you a question. If somebody in our audience wants to get a hold of you and email you about what?s going on in their life for Mother?s Day or whatever, could you give them your email?
R: I would love to. It?s [email protected].
G: Great. And did you say there?s a lady who is very involved with.
R: Right, there?s a separate organization. A wonderful lady and her husband in Van Wert, Ohio, Kay and Rodney Bevington run an organization called Alive Alone, and Alive Alone is mostly for a newsletter but it networks parents nationwide who have no surviving children.
G: And there?ll probably be some things this Mother?s Day on her newsletter.
R: Definitely. Kay has run this for many years and she does two or three workshops at our TCF National Conference for parents with no surviving children. This year, in fact, for the first time we have a complete track at the National Conference of workshops for parents with no surviving children.
G: Great. Now that?s going to be in Dearborn, Michigan.
R: Correct in July.
G: I?m going to be presenting there and so is Heidi.
R: And I think it?s around July 17.
G: It?s July 13 for professional day, 14, 15, and 16 in Dearborn, Michigan, so please come and join us and Rick?s our chairman of the board for Compassionate Friends. He?s also on the endowment and, by the way, we would love to have contributions to that Foundation, right?
R: All the financial support we can get helps us continue outreach across the country to be able to continue with our fabulous web page that is reaching out to more people every day, bringing them resources and connecting them with other people.
G: Absolutely, so get in touch with the web page and get involved with an organization of Compassionate Friends. Rick, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. I think our show is a little downbeat considering your personality so just to let people know, Rick is a very happy guy. It?s wonderful having you on the show today, Rick, and thank you so much.
R: And I have to let you both know how much we all appreciate what the two of you are doing not only with Compassionate Friends but for the issue of parental grief.
H: Thank you, Rick. And sibling loss. Don?t forget about us siblings, Rick.
G: All right. Heidi is the voice of the siblings. Well, please stay tuned in again next week when our topic will be Drunk Driving: Forgiveness with Prevention, and our guest will be Lieutenant Carl McDonald, National Law Enforcement Initiative Coordinator for MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In January of 1998, Lieutenant McDonald?s five-year-old daughter, Carlie, was tragically killed in a drunk driving collision near Green River, Wyoming. It was especially painful for Carl as his ex-wife was the driver of the car. Lieutenant Carl McDonald continues his work and sharing his heart in honor and memory of his precious daughter, Carlie. This show is archived on our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org, as well as www.thecompassionatefriends.org website. This is Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley. Please stay tuned again next Thursday at 9:00 Pacific Standard Time, 12:00 Eastern, for more of Healing the Grieving Heart, a show of hope and renewal and support. Remember, others have been there before you and made it. You can, too. You need not walk alone. Thanks for listening. I?m Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley. We?ll see you next week.