Grief Is a Family Affair Part 2


Grief Is a Family Affair
Grief Is a Family Affair Part 2


Part 2

Mellyn was not quite three when Jimmy died, so she personally has little recall of the event, but I remember seeing my husband holding Jimmy’s still body, and suddenly I realized we were in Mellyn’s 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 didn’t 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, "I’ll be your baby now!"
Glen’s 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 were young.
Jimmy’s 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 driver’s 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 other’s 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 Mellyn’s 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 Mellyn’s. 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 you!
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 Mellyn’s 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.

Authors’ note:
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 Matthew’s 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

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This site was last updated 03/06/04  ęCopyright 2002 Marilyn Willett Heavilin