Mellyn was not quite three when Jimmy died, so she
personally has little recall of the event, but I remember seeing my husband
holding Jimmys still body, and suddenly I realized we were in Mellyns
room, and she was witness to this whole event. Mellyn was scrunched into the
corner of her bed with the blankets all drawn up around her. She quietly
whispered, "I didnt hurt Jimmy!" Mellyn was an extremely bright little
girl, and she felt the death of her baby brother very deeply. One day she
climbed up on my lap, cuddled really close and said, "Ill be your baby
Glens and my parents experienced their own unique responses to grief. They
not only grieved for their grandchild; they also grieved as they watched
their own children suffering so intensely, but had to stand helplessly by
realizing this was one problem they could not fix for their children. They
could not kiss us and make us feel better as they had so often done when we
Jimmys death was not the last time grief dwelled in our home. Just eighteen
months later I gave birth to identical twin boys on Christmas morning. We
were elated at the arrival of Nathan James and Ethan Thomas Heavilin, but in
just a few short days we were once again planning a funeral as our little
Ethan died. Then seventeen years later a drunk drivers car crashed into the
car our Nathan was driving, and he joined his brothers in heaven.
In this book Matthew and I plan to share more of the details of our family
story. We will discuss the reactions the various members of the family have
had to each of the deaths of our family members.
It is our prayer that as you hear our story, our reactions and our attempts
to resolve the various responses to our pain, you will see that while we all
grieve differently, we can learn to accept each others style of grieving
and we can keep the family intact.
Five years ago my mother died quite unexpectedly. I was in the Indianapolis
airport when I received the word. By way of an air-telephone, my son Matthew
and I pretty much planned the entire service while I was flying from
Indianapolis to Southern California. I thought of practical things such as
making sure we had enough food, having Matt call a local cleaning service to
clean my house the next morning, changing my hair appointment, and giving
Matt other tasks to complete before I arrived home.
Glen spent most of his time on the airplane trying to comfort me and
dutifully calling people whose names I had written down as I assigned the
task to him. When we got home, he continued to serve as a buffer for me,
protecting my time so that I could think and plan.
Matthew drove to our town immediately after my dad called him. He made phone
calls for Grandpa and had funeral details all arranged when I arrived. He
also asked if he could speak at the funeral. He presented a wonderful
picture of my mom, laced with his marvelous sense of humor.
Mellyn and her family flew to southern California immediately, too, and
Mellyn made sure all of the behind-the-scenes work was completed. She stayed
in the background at the visitation and memorial service. She declined any
public participation at the service.
At Thanksgiving as we all traveled to Mellyns home for our traditional
gathering, we were all a little shaky. For the past fifteen years our
family, including my parents, had always spent the Thanksgiving weekend at
Mellyns. After mom was gone, my dad asked me, "Does anyone know how to cook
the turkey?" I assured him that we could manage the turkey, but the pumpkin
pie might be a different matter.
The day before the traditional feast, Mellyn suggested we do something
special for Grandpa. We bought a special card that everyone, including the
grandchildren, signed. Then I found a lovely little china cup just the size
my dad liked. Mellyn bought a special candle to burn on our first
Thanksgiving without Grandma. When my dad came to the kitchen as a very
early riser, he found the candle and the cup along with the card in which I
had written, Dear Dad, We know this day will be hard for you without mom. We
just want you to know we miss her, too. Please light the candle in memory of
mom, and enjoy your coffee in the special cup we bought for you. We love
I was the next to get up that morning, and I shall always remember seeing my
dad sitting at the kitchen table, reading his paper, drinking coffee from
his new cup, and basking in the glow of his very own memorial candle.
We now burn a Grandma candle and a Grandpa candle at the holidays. The
special cup sits in a revered place in Mellyns home. Grandma and Grandpa
are both gone, but we all can remember them and even grieve for them in our
own unique ways because Grief Is A Family Affair.
Matthew and I want to help you know which of us is speaking in each chapter,
so we have included clip-art emblems in the upper corners of each page. The
roses mark the chapters that I, Marilyn, have written. The little wooden
tops mark Matthews chapters.
You will notice each section has a specific topic. As Matt and I started
composing the chapters, we realized that we took a different tact to almost
every topic, and we deliberately chose to preserve those differences in our
writing. We hope you will find the emblems to be helpful visual reminders of
the fact that we all grieve differently.
Marilyn Willett Heavilin