Dear Dinah,

     Another year has passed at J. I. M. Conference and I am already missing being there.  You are so lucky to live where everyone acts like they are your "Best" friend.  I admire that in you.

     Again--I don't think you realize how much love, caring and help you give to people who have joined this club that no one wants to belong to.  As you know, I have been very sick.  My wish was to come to see you and everyone else--even if this was my last trip.  I had 3 "BEST" friends who helped me make my wish come true.  I am truly blest by having them in my life.

     The Conference was great as usual.  I love Cindy Bullins even though the first year I came, I walked out on her on her concert.  I thought she was to0 much hard rock and I didn't know her story.  I look forward to hearing her now.  I loved Fhena--the poet.  She was awesome.  She made you think.

     Do you know how much your students love you and Jim?  I do and it is amazing. You both give of yourselves so much.  They don't even want to move away from you.  That's how important you are to them.

     The Conference was great as usual but your Southern Hospitality is really awesome.  Thank you for inviting me into your home again.  I hope to see you next year.

 

Love you much,

Linda Flory

 

Dear Dinah
 
I was hoping to send an e-mail thanking you for the wonderful weekend, but naturally you beat me to the punch.  You are so kind to think of us so soon after spending what must have been an exhausting weekend hosting the J.I.M.'s Conference.  As I've told my family and friends since arriving home, the weekend was full of heartbreaking stories, but we met so many wonderful people and participated in very meaningful exercises and discussions.  We were also treated to some great music with emotionally charged lyrics by Cindy Bullens and of course Rosemary's and Luther's documentary, which featured you, Dr. Taylor and young Jim, was such a heartfelt expression of grief and love. 
 
Yes, there was a letdown after leaving, but we barely had time to catch our breath before leaving for NY Monday afternoon.  More on that at a later date.  For now, please know that we are so glad to have had the opportunity to experience the warmth and love generated by you and all those who attended this year's J.I.M.'s Conference.  You and Dr. Taylor have given all of us bereaved parents and siblings the most precious gift of hope.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 
 
We certainly will understand if this indeed was the last J.I.M.'s Conference, but if by chance we find out there will be another one next year, we'll be there.  If not, we'll be back anyway because as you've so generously and lovingly said, our children are there now under your protective care.  We feel very good about that and could not ask for anything more. 
 
With warm regards, utmost respect and deep appreciation,
 
    Tom, Linda, Jessica and Eric Harkness

 

 

This weekend I attended J.I.M.’S (Joining In Memory) conference in Williamsburg, Kentucky. It felt more like a family reunion than a conference as those in attendance were all parents who lost children. Albeit, it is not a group anyone aspires to join, but it was good to have a group to be a part of after losing Brian. There was immediate connection and security to grieve & to be happy remembering and sharing about our children. That dichotomy of grief, sorrow and joy, where only one state is illuminated at a time, but that both make up the whole.

Included in the time spent there were-


**A concert by Cindy Bullens, a singer songwriter who lost her child 14 years ago and whose music was inspired by that loss. She wrote the very poignant soundtrack to the award winning documentarty, www.SPACE BETWEEN BREATHS.com. which was shown to us during the conference. All 10 songs relating to her daughter's death and her grieving and choosing to live. Both the music and the film were so meaningful and powerful. check them both out at the website above.


**A memory table where parents shared pictures and writings by or about their children, art work and other creative displays, that really brought us close to each other.

**Small workshops on subjects like making it through the first year, faith, and "signs" from/about our children. I did signs and was happy to see I'm not the only one by any means getting encouragement from butterflies, and dreams, rainbows, different encounters with people. I now have an "I brake for butterflies" bumper sticker! It reminded me of the time Brian went to Greece with Kate and her family and they visited Rhodes. Before he showed the pictures to us he said something like "Mom you're going to really like the one of the butterfly island!" How would he have known? Actually looking back at the picture Kate put recently on the site it was the Valley of Butterflies. (see Dec. 13, 2005 entry)


**We had a group balloon release, where all eyes gazed until the last balloons were out of sight. It was held in a garden dedicated to all the children's memories then and in the past whose parents have attended.
Dinah, the lady putting it on, and her husband, lost their son Jim and through their pain have created this wonderful program. It gives her great joy. Rosemary and her husband, who lost their 2 sons in the same accident, wrote the book, Children of the Dome, and the documentary, “Space Between Breaths.”


**We all brought soil from a place special to our child, which was then mixed together and spread around a Christmas angel in the garden. We got some of the combined soil to bring home. Also a "forever" plant. A type of sedum which looks an awful lot like the one Brian brought home from Westlawn Elementary in 4th grade.


**I met and was touched by so many nice people, hurting and missing their children like us and wanting to share and reach out to others. And instead of reinforcing our pain, as some might think, the experience was a validation of it and it offered a place where you don't have to put it aside because other's think you should have "closure" or be finished with it. It is in the fabric of our souls now and will never be gone. It is cherished and we live with it. And we do have to choose to live. I'm glad we have done that. It is what Brian would want and we will carry on whatever we do, whether a simple task or something else in the community that we think of, in his memory.


**We had a candle lighting ceremony where we placed the candles in front of pictures of our children. We gave their "angel dates" and assigned a symbol to them. Mostly people did animals. His angel dates are, September 16, 1982-December 15, 2004, and a giraffe was his symbol. I chose a giraffe because the long neck represents spiritual foresight, they are very curious, and can defend themselves with one quick blow from their hooves.- Brian was very curious and bright all through childhood, introspective and thoughtful in his thinking, and held a black belt in tae kwon do. When he was little he was peaking out through his blinds. When I asked him what he was doing he said "there might be a giraffe looking in!" I got him a little giraffe that he carried with him to college. I guess he was facing his fears.

**I attended because of a very nice mother named Debra, who I met through going to a grief site that the Special Dream author, whose book my dream was in, recommended. I had contacted Debra after reading a response she left on the grief site to a father whose son died of a drug overdose. She sounded so caring and I was ready to talk to another mother who had lost her child to an overdose. I unloaded Brian's story and she gladly accepted it and shared her son's story. She told me about the conference and I had seen a piece she wrote about her son Clinton in the Lamentations newsletter. I am very grateful to have my family nearby and my own personal "compassionate friends", some for 40-45 years now! But it had been 3 1/2 years since Brian left us and it was time to open up to others in the same situation. So I made the decision to attend.


** I feel that I expanded my territory of grief and love to include those that I met and their situations. Like those in the “Space Between Breaths” documentary, I too have a desire and conviction and an urgency to reach out of myself in honor of Brian and for God's glory to others in need. I'm very thankful to the people who made this experience possible for so many.

 

Here are the lyrics to one of the songs from the soundtrack. Please pass this on to anyone who has experienced the loss of a child.


Love you forever Brian, Mom

(Lee Ann Christ)

 

Dear Dinah,

Again I extend my deep appreciation to you for organizing such a beautiful conference. It is so good to talk with people that I only see at your event, and to meet new friends, hear their stories, and get to know their children. It is an experience of love and compassion that can be felt to this measure no where else on earth.

The poet Fhena, was a surprise and a gift. When she performed the spoken word with her passion, energy, and true connection to spirit I, as was  everyone I talked with, was profoundly touched. When she spoke in our candles glow it stirred my soul to the core. And for her to say "Justin's song," it did not matter to me in the least if it was my Justin or the newly bereaved family's Justin, I cried. Not tears of sorrow, but tears of connection to something bigger. We embrace the mystery with each other, and celebrate the physical experience of this life together.

Thank you again my friend for all that you have done to heal many broken hearts, and to give us hope for something beyond this sorrow. Young Jim is your son, but I feel this connection to him as I do other children I have known through the Joined In Memories Conference, and I am grateful to be able to mend the cracks of my broken heart with these connections.

May you continue to be blessed in all of your endeavors.


 
With much love,

Debbie Garber, Justin's mom, & Linda's sister

 

 

Hello from Wisconsin,

 

Thank you again Dianh for all your work and heart.  This conference was so rich and healing.  Tom and I so appreciate the opportunity to come and feel our needed rest and freedom to be with Joe.  I also so hope you enjoyed yourself as this takes so long to prepare for, and is over so soon. As I enjoyed those J.I.M. conference days I was moved by the work and preparation that goes into this.  I am moved by the generously, as it is for our well being and the gift of spending time with our dear children. Your Jim must be so very proud of you and the love you two share must be so strong. 

 

We arrived safely home to Appleton and seeing the flooding in Ohio and Indiana was another sobering site.   So much to pray for, so much to hope for and so much to be thankful for.  I am so blessed I can speak these words again as so many days and years I could not.  Thank you for supporting that.  You and Jim are so generous to provide so much, you may not even be fully aware of the power that this conference brought. Thank you again.  I have one more time, attached our Joe's picture as I know it is safe to share with you.  He was such a good looking boy as your Jim.  He would get frustrated when I told him so but I could not help myself.

 

Much love 

Tom and Kathy Hinton 

 

 

 

Hello Dinah,

 

First of all, I thank and applaud you and your husband for putting on J.I.M.'S Conference and by working through your pain, being so welcoming and concerned for others. You greeted me when I came in the door with a big hug and smile and that meant an awful lot.

 

I "met" Debra Reagan on line by googling her name after reading a response she left on thegriefblog.com to a father whose son died of a drug overdose. She sounded so caring and I was ready to talk to another mother who had lost her child to an overdose. I unloaded Brian's story and she gladly accepted it and shared her son's story. She told me about the conference and I had seen The lamentation piece she wrote about her son Clinton. I am very grateful to have my family nearby and my own personal "compassionate friends", some for 40-45 years now! But it had been 3 1/2 years since Brian left us and it was time to open up to others in the same situation. So I made the decision to attend. I feel that I expanded my grief to include those that I met and their situations. Like those in the Space Between Breaths movie, I too have a desire and  conviction and an urgency to reach out of myself in honor of Brian and for God's glory to others in need.

 One thing I did for 9 months was do laundry at a day homeless shelter that Brian used to comment about when we would pass it. I was driving him to classes at GMU after he came home to us from the treatment center he attended for 50 days. He planned to resume classes at UVA and transfer these classes when he was up to it. He still had lots of plans. You wondered what he was thinking- so did we. He did tell us his mind was always racing and he had thought the heroin would help slow it down. Just an unbelievable thing to hear from our very intelligent child. But something didn't feel right to him about himself. That part is the hardest to reconcile-that we didn't know -how he felt or that he had a long history of using different drugs. The heroin was his "drug of choice" and a heinous addiction followed after 4 months of using it. Probably immediately upon use.

 

Back to the shelter, Brian commented that he had too many possessions and wanted to donate some of his to help others like those we passed daily at this shelter. Something I had been by many times and never paid much attention to. Some of the others there looked like him and I realized then but by the grace of God he was not in that situation- but was one step away.  At any time in recovery he was always one step away from moving forward or backward. He had the relapse at home a day after completing 2 engineering classes and getting B's, and feeling like his life was going to be back on track. And we lost him. I write a lot about him and how I have gotten thru, on the website his friends started. And like you will continue to do so in hope of helping someone who reads it and to keep his memory going.

 

 Working at the center was such a humbling experience and the raw connection with people and their situation convicted me even more to give compassion, love and respect to others without condemnation. The kind Brian had been shown by many since he had started his recovery. And that was the kind of person Brian was also. This is something to always work toward as we can never attain it perfectly here in this world. But must keep going on toward it.

 

I feel as if I was at a family reunion instead of a conference. There was an immediate feeling of security and connection. The emotions were heavy and light. That strange combination -sorrow and joy. Thank you for helping me receive and give. I plan to keep Brian's memory going and join in the memory of the other children represented at the conference. Thanks again and God Bless you and your husband and family.

Love,

Lee Ann Christ

www.brianchrist.com

 

 

Dear Dinah,

I have been thinking about you since we returned from the conference Saturday evening.  I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate all your hard work putting the conference together for so many years.

I watched the people's actions and the expressions on their faces and hoped you had at least some idea of how much you were helping these parents who have no one to turn to for help except those of us who have been in this lonely valley with them.

Thank you for having the insight to put this conference and newsletter together and to continue doing the newsletter.  Many of the parents are in such a daze they probably forget to tell you how much they appreciate you, so I am doing it for them, as well as, Jim and me.

Double hugs to both of my dear sweet saints!!!  Judy (Rose)

 

 

We just got back from the conference we attended in Kentucky. It was so very nice to be a part of such a wonderful event. We were able to honor Heather in such wonderful ways. There were so many people that shared their child with us and we were able to share also. It was amazing to see some of the progress I have made, when I see others that have lost their child after we have lost our Heather. The candle light service and letting go of the balloons were so very comforting.

 

The University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg really out did them selves for such an important and needed event to reach out to those who don't have any idea where to go from the darkness. I want to tell you both,  Rosemary and Dinah, your work is a true blessing from above and I can not express with mere words what your work has done for my family and me.

 

I believe God has put all of us on this world for a reason. I do not know what my purpose is, but I only hope and I pray that I find my purpose and perform my job as well as the two of you have. I can not express enough what your work has done for others like myself.  I am truly sorry that the circumstances have brought us together but I must say what a wonderful way to share our children.

 

I believe I have made life-long friends in you both and I am grateful more than you will ever know. I was able to exchange e-mail addresses with many of the parents and I will be keeping in touch with them all.  I will forever cherish in my heart, you both.

 

                                               Love Always,

                                                         Glennis Hirt

 

 

Dear Dinah and Rosemary,

 

"Thank you" won't cover it, but it will have to suffice for now. What you do for so many people is incredible. From my vantage point as the "newly bereaved" session facilitator, it seemed that people were making very important connections - true lifelines, as you say. My heart was breaking hearing the stories, yet I was so happy that the families were meeting people who could ease some of their feelings of loneliness and isolation.

 

I love you both. Yes I do.

Diane (Cooper)

 

 

What can I say??  If this was truly the last conference, it went out a winner!  I felt it was the best I have attended.

 

Cindy started it off with what I felt was the best workshop I have attended of hers.  She was absolutely great.  I felt she was totally attuned to Jessie and her own feelings and the best part was, she laid those feelings on the stage for all of us to share with her.  Great!  Great!

 

The documentary was as good as last year and seeing it the second time, I picked up on things I missed last year.  Thanks Rosemary for all the hard work you, Fong, and Luther put into the film.  I know it will help many parents.

 

I do not know which of you came up with the idea of inviting Fhena, but it was a great idea.  She blew me away.  I do not think I have ever been in the presence of anyone that made me feel closer to God than she did.  When she hugged me I truly felt that God was hugging me.  I felt total love from her as she held me ever so close.  Then when she read the final poem at the candle service, I felt she absolutely captured the feelings I have when sensing Jessica in this physical world.  Thank you ever so much for inviting her so we all could experience her work and great love

 

What I have to say here is difficult to put into words because words alone cannot express how I feel about you ladies.  But I will try.  Thank you ladies from the bottom of my soul for all you have done and will continue to do for grieving parents.  You give totally and unselfishly of your heart, soul and materially.  Meeting you and sharing a little time with you in this life has had a profound influence on me.  I am so proud to know you and call you FRIENDS. 

 

Love, love, love

Bill Rogers

 

 

Evening Dinah & Rosemary,

Just returned home from Williamsburg this evening and wanted to express my sincere thankfulness for all you have done. The conference was wonderful as always. So good to see you both and others while focusing on our children. I could watch the documentary a hundred times and still get something out of it. I can't wait to work on our plans of showing it here in Frankfort.

Thank you both again, love you dearly-Karen Cantrell, Frankfort, KY TCF

 

 

Dear Dinah, What a pleasure to meet you and so many wonderful people over this past weekend at J.I.M. conference! Having never been to such a gathering, the weekend proved to be a very emotional one for Bill & me. I am trusting that tears do help heal. I learned that I have so much to be grateful....I got to see what my Jason would 'become' as an adult, become a Father, and always such a loving son. I thank you for all your hard work organizing this conference and hope to keep in touch with you even though this was the last conference. What a super job you have done! Thanks to all for making us feel so welcome.


Love, Kathy (Jason's Mom) & Bill (Southard)

 

 

Dinah, the conference this weekend was AWESOME!! Yesterday I attended my first sibling's session since Shelby died soon to be 16 years ago. Even though I was some what older and far more into my grief journey than the other 8 people in the session, it was so good for me. I was able to speak about things that I have been holding inside for so long. Thanks to all of them for allowing me to unload. Thanks again for all that you do and for loving all of us and our children.

Teresa Noe

 

 

Dear Jim & Dinah,

            Michael and I wanted to let you know what an uplifting and inspiring time we had this past weekend.  Though it was tough at times, there is some comfort in being with those who share your circumstances.  As parents of an only child, I’m amazed at the grace and strength you both exhibit. 

            Again, thanks and blessings to you and all the folks who had a part in making this a great experience.

 

Fondly Michael & Sharron DiMario  

 

 

Dinah, this Father's Day article by Jim is amazing... I am sitting here with tears down my cheeks...I know that Jim is so honored to have you and Jim Taylor as his parents. Probably even more so now than when he was on this earth, simply because you have done exactly what Jim stated as your goal in the letter below. You have memorialized "Young Jim" by allowing yourselves to do things so that others may benefit because he adorned you with his presence. He is ever so present in all that you do and say.. So many other parents (and siblings/care givers including me) have been blessed by the work that you do that has helped us in our own grief journey.

 I must tell you that I have been to many of J.I.M.S conferences but this one moved me to a whole new stage in my grief journey. I battled for two weeks trying to back out of coming.. I wanted to but I didn't want to but I saw Teresa Mays and she  enoucourged me to come, "We can go together" she said. So I decided I would go since it was to be the last one and to do something to remember our Shelby .

 When it got time to go to the sessions I so wanted to go to Rosemary's session about "Signs for our loved ones" but instead thought I would go to Teresa's siblings group to give her moral support if she needed it...Let me tell you, I was amazed in that room with those other 7 people.. I was the oldest person age wise in the room and I have been trying to deal with the loss of my sibbling much longer than any of them.. I had been doing this for almost 16 years. All of them except Teresa were in the first first six months of loosing a sibling, but I will have to say that I have never felt more love, support, concern, from any group of people in the past 16 years than I did from this group of young people.. I  was able to talk about things that really bothered me, hurt me and to this day are still breaking my heart that I had never spoken to anyone about other than my husband until June 7th in that room.. I was in the room with Eric (who reached out and held my hand when I reached a breaking point and could not hold back the emotions any longer, (thanks Eric) & Jessica Harkness (Kristin's siblings), Reid Cooper (David's twin brother), Danielle Hirt, her sister Chrissy Burdette (Heather's sisters), Chrissy's husband Jerry and Teresa Mays (Ralphie's sis)..These people have no idea what a blessing this session was for me. I will be forever blessed by meeting them. There are no exact words for this up lifting experience for me.. and I thank them so much..

Thanks to you Dinah, Jim, Rosemary, Luther, and all the others who have helped you along the way to put J.I.M.S Conference together for all of these years. Most of all thanks to Young Jim and our great God above for giving Jim's parents the strength and determination to turn their terrible tragedy into something that has help so many. As long as parents are losing children from this earth, Young Jim will live on in our lives forever because his parents cared enough to make that first phone call to another grieving parent to share their loss, Jim's story and their unconditional love ... What better way could there be to memorialize Young Jim.

 Love and Prayers from a fellow traveler

Teresa Noe

 

 

Dinah, I just want to Thank You for all you do.  The conference is always such a healing and learning experience.  Like I told you before, it’s like coming home.  The parents I've met and the children’s stories are unforgettable.  It is so comforting knowing that all of our children are there, you can feel it.  The candle lighting is so sobering, to just look at all of those candles and realize that each one of those candles represents a child that is no longer here on earth with us but has Angel Wings.  The work that you and Rosemary do to help others is just awesome. I know that we will all be together again maybe not at a conference, but we will be together again.   Love, Marie-Dan's mom forever

 

Marie Wilson

 

let this email convey how much Judy and I appreciate all that you have done to help fellow travelers along the emotional and time consuming journeythat we all take.  With people like you and Rosemary our journeys are softer and smoother.  We all have a terrible weight to bear with the loss of our wonderful children.  We will never, until we join them, understand why they had toleave us so early and at such a young age. 

Glen & Judy Cummins