His Eulogy

For two days after Philip died, while I wandered around the Forbidden Forest, I kept thinking I should write a eulogy for him. My Mental Editor disagreed. You can’t, what would you say, you’d never say anything “good” enough, blah blah blah. I agreed. Where would I even pull the words from? I’d have to think to write, but all I could do was cry.

Then came the wake, which Phil arranged without any help from from me. Sunday afternoon, Monday night.  The crowd was overwhelming. The line was out the door and down the street. The funeral director had to reconfigure the path of the line inside the room to allow more people in. Whatever it was that happened in that room on Sunday, next morning I woke up clear-headed enough to write for him.  I had to. Phil and I did not raise Philip to be afraid. Now it was my turn to show a little courage. If I didn’t, I’d spend the rest of my life dodging the regret I’d put between us.

I’m posting this because I want you to know him. I think if you read it, you’ll see him a little clearer. And it’s that last paragraph that tears me up. If you’ve ever had to say, “Rest in peace,” you’ll know what I mean.

 For Philip

First, I am overwhelmed, but not surprised, by the amount of people who have shown up to say good-bye to Philip. And to everyone who has said, “I don’t know what to say,” know that by simply walking through that door, you said it. There are no words for this, but you are all here, and that is Philip’s gift to us, for what greater gift is there than love, and look at what Philip sent our way when we needed it most.

Phil, Natalie and I have been graced to have Philip as part of our family.  But families grow and change, and as time came for Philip to make the transition from home to college, I began to panic. As parents, our eyes are always looking to our children, but all too soon what we see is their backs as they begin to look toward their own lives. Philip taught me it was not that simple. He might have left our home, but he wasn’t gone. And the distance allowed me to observe just what kind of young man he’d grown into. What I saw was someone who was kind, and funny; someone who knew how to make friends and make people feel that he cared; I saw someone responsible and generous, who knew how to take care of people, knew how to pay attention to what mattered. And according to you all, I was right. I saw a young man who was not only intelligent, but knew how to use his mind. Philip liked to take philosophy classes and sometimes asked me to read his work. He once sent me a bunch of papers he wrote analyzing and comparing one philosopher to another. I took this pile of papers and started reading, and before too long, I was thinking, “What? What’s he talking about?” What I was seeing was Philip’s mind in action; he loved a challenge and had the patience and temerity to sit down and puzzle it out. Time and again when Phil and I would meet with his teachers, we were told, “Philip has a good mind. He knows how to think.”

And Philip was patient. As most of you know, he’d been fencing since early high school. And for those of you who don’t know, the goal is to work your way down the alphabet from E to A. Philip went from E to D and stayed there for quite a few years. He worked hard, took lessons, never missed practice. Every year the Montclair High Fencing Team has a dinner at the end of the fencing season, and every year the captains and squad leaders for the following year are announced. In Philip’s junior year, they announced that the new squad leader for saber was Philip. I was beside myself; proud of him and thrilled because I knew what this would mean to him. And I understood something that I hadn’t quite understood before – in the race to be the best and win the most it is too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Philip was not the best fencer on the team. But the skills he had, along with the trust of his coaches and teammates, his dedication to the sport and willingness to put in long hours practicing and competing, earned him his place as a leader. He earned the respect of his coaches and teammates, and last year, he earned his B. Touche, my love.

So many of you have said to me that Philip took care of you, that he made you laugh, that you could count on him.  Recently, on a night when I thought he was in Montclair, I called him up to tell him I felt lonely. He asked if I wanted to go to dinner; I asked, “What time?” It was only when we were eating that I found out that he had been in New Brunswick when I called, but he heard my need and came to meet it.

As a parent, you see your children the way you see them, and if you’re honest, you ask yourself if that is really who your child is, or are you just seeing what you want to see? In Philip’s case, you all have confirmed that he was just as extraordinary as Phil and I thought he was; what we didn’t realize, was just how unique. He had a wide, wide reach for such a young man. And what is devastating to me is that my son loved life. A couple of months ago he was talking to me about a difficult choice he’d had to make when he left for college. He told me that he wasn’t sure if he’d done the right thing, but he knew he had to choose. “Mom,” he said, “I really like my life.” And he added that things could change, and maybe one day he could reverse his decision and have it all.

I am Philip’s mother; how, I ask, am I to get through this? And his father, his sister? All of us here who do not want to let him go? Philip had my back, and I tell you I am terrified. It’s said that life is suffering and suffering is attachment. Can I love this child of mine without attachment, and let him rest as peacefully in my heart as he – wherever he is – is resting now? Can I – can we – believe that Philip’s love for us does not die along with his body? I do not know the answer to that, but I do know that if I let him, Philip will show me the way. And so Philip, my love, rest in peace.


55 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kirsten Lagatree
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 07:02:34

    A beautiful statement about an extraordinary person. Denise, please keep writing. I love getting to know Philip through your words.


  2. tersiaburger
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 07:25:01

    Denise what a beautiful tribute to your son. I know how much courage it took to do the eulogy. 3 months ago I delivered my beautiful daughter’s eulogy. I like your Phillip. He was a lovely boy and you are lucky to have all these beautiful memories. It does not take away the pain, grief, mourning and dreadful sense of loss …it just allows us to smile when we remember. Hugs!


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  4. behindthemaskofabuse
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 16:34:29

    I’m so very sorry that you lost your son. What a powerful eulogy.


  5. Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 16:53:52

    Beautiful tribute…


  6. Denise
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 18:29:20

    To all of you, thank you. So something “beautiful” came from something so devastating…it’s really something to think about.


    • Nancy Miller
      Sep 27, 2013 @ 14:26:06

      Denise, this eulogy is among the most heart wrenching and beautiful I’ve ever read. I feel so blessed to have “met” you and to be connected. Am following your blog and you are bringing strength to so many people because your perspective is so positive in the face of so much heart ache. You are my inspiration today, dear woman.


      • Denise
        Sep 27, 2013 @ 17:39:24

        Oh, Nancy, how are you; I’ve not forgotten, I’ve just been so busy. I’m grateful we met, and grateful for your kind words. I have your book, which is somewhere in my mess of an apartment. It’s going to be my next read. I hope you’re doing well, and I’ll write soon. Sending you love and hugs…

      • Nancy Miller
        Sep 27, 2013 @ 21:13:41

        Honey, no worries. God, I couldn’t read anything for so long. I’m just glad you are writing and doing this. You are helping so many others get through this horrible journey. Much love to you, always.

  7. fluckman
    Apr 27, 2013 @ 22:30:18

    Thank you for sharing about Philip, who he was and his impact on those around him. In my sons death, I too have been overwhelmed by the extraordinary wealth of love and respect in which he was so widely held. Whilst not surprised, it has in all the details given, some of which, much perhaps, I would never have got to hear, had he not died, been so very moving. I realise, and your, ‘A broken heart is ready to receive’ says it, just how much I needed to hear everything about Sulien, from his community, that I have. Your final paragraph articulates so well some of the challenges I am facing, thank you. My hope is that the answer to them both is Yes! It is my hope. I look forward to reading more of your journey and hope to start a blog of my own soon.


  8. johannisthinking
    May 08, 2013 @ 10:23:05

    my heart goes out to you…


  9. picturesofsilverbyjanice
    May 08, 2013 @ 13:28:05

    You all are in my prayers for that peace that passes all understanding through Christ Jesus our Lord. Your eulogy is beautiful. It makes me think of when I’ve heard my son talking to companies on the phone, and I am amazed. God blessed you with that special young man. What a beautiful story he wove in his time here on earth!


  10. iberostar
    May 12, 2013 @ 23:16:02

    beautiful writing


  11. Gloria Faye Brown Bates/Granny Gee/Granny's Colorful
    Jun 01, 2013 @ 06:59:21

    I feel for you with my very heart… I think about so much you voice. I pray you can find peace inside… I know it hurts so much. Your son sounded a lot like my own son, Tommy. What a beautiful, special son you had. He came when he knew you needed him…


  12. grahamforeverinmyheart
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 15:52:03

    What a beautiful eulogy for a boy who was truly loved. Such a monumental loss. I’m sorry.


    • Denise
      Jun 04, 2013 @ 18:16:40

      I know you are – you’re suffering, too. Parents who lose a child live in a special kind of hell. Thank you for your kindness; I am so sorry for your loss.


  13. Kate Swaffer
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 02:11:52

    No words… simply sending love and healing. A truly beautiful tribute.


  14. Lucia Maya
    Jun 18, 2013 @ 23:19:22

    This is so beautiful. I am amazed that you were clear enough to write something so articulate, thoughtful, and that captures your son and your relationship with him so well, and so soon after his death.

    It is a huge loss to the world that he is gone, and I do believe that, like my daughter, he is doing even greater work on the other side, affecting even more people, sharing his love in ways he couldn’t begin to while in his body… love and blessings to you.


  15. Denise
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 00:05:11

    The first day of the wake just did something to me; so many people, so much love. And I spent about half an hour talking to a group of his friends, which consisted of about ten girls and and his gay friend Andrew. The friends he SHOULD have been living with. Andrew said to me, “He adored you. He talked about you all the time.” Now, of course he didn’t talk about me “all the time,” but enough that his friends knew how he felt about me. It’s all that that made me wake up clear-headed enough to write for him; because it was for him, it was the only gift I could give him.


  16. WishWebber
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 22:41:24

    This is so beautiful Denise…

    ” It’s said that life is suffering and suffering is attachment. Can I love this child of mine without attachment, and let him rest as peacefully in my heart as he – wherever he is – is resting now? Can I – can we – believe that Philip’s love for us does not die along with his body?”

    To broach acceptance so early on in such a gentle way with yourself gives me hope of finding similar places within myself.

    Thank you for writing.


    • Denise
      Jul 25, 2013 @ 09:36:29

      It’s a life’s work, as I don’t have to tell you. And I miss him; my God, I miss him. Grief is its own force. But I think I’ll be surprised at what it has to teach; question is, do I let it? Today I’m overwhelmed, tomorrow, maybe, not as much. Know my thoughts are with you; it’s a terrible journey, but we’re on it together.


  17. complicatedwaltz
    Aug 08, 2013 @ 22:44:26

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I have 2 boys. Last summer, my cousin lost her son, not quite two years old. She has been so lost without him, and I think of her baby often. I’ll think of Philip, too. Even though I didn’t know him, perhaps he knows Baby Denny and carries him.


    • Denise
      Aug 10, 2013 @ 00:11:47

      My brother’s daughter – my sweet and lovely niece – died when she was four. I wrote about it a bit in the blog. He lost his oldest, and so did I. They were ten months apart, but by the time they were a year and a half or so, they looked like twins. I know they’re together now…but it all hurts so much. I can’t believe Philip is gone; I’m still shocked. Thank you for thinking of him; it’s the kindness that’s offered that gets me through. And your sister…it’s agony, I know. Tell her I’m thinking about her, and suffering alongside her. Denny was just a baby – every time I hear a child has died I lose another a piece of my heart. I’m so sorry for her loss; I am so very sorry for what she’s going through, what you’re both going through.

      Again – thank you.


  18. ksylviah
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 01:30:29

    I am very moved. Thank you.


  19. lensgirl53
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 19:18:51

    A touching eulogy for a wonderful, loving son by his equally wonderful, loving mother. I recently wrote one for my own son on my blog because I fear I failed him when I did not have the wherewithal to do it for the memorial. I wrote a prayer for his memorial and can’t remember much about it. Grief steals so very much.


    • Denise
      Sep 14, 2013 @ 19:28:51

      Thank you so much; I’m in the middle of a meltdown and I’m so glad you reached out. Grief is a thief, for sure. I feel better when I write because I’m telling my story. But then that hole; I’m – we’re – in a different world and I’m not sure how to navigate this one.

      Please know I’m so sorry for your loss, and my heart is with you.


  20. lensgirl53
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 19:35:26

    I am so sorry that you in that meltdown…it is so gut-wrenching and physical….and an emotional devastation. My heart is crying with yours. I would like to share my favorite quote with you that sums it up

    “I loved the boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me…yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure, I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it.” William Wordsworth 1812


  21. Denise
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 21:23:14

    Yes; I would have rather had 21 years with him than none at all. And he’s still around me, all the time. but I stamp my feet because I want him HERE.


  22. lensgirl53
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 21:47:19

    Yes, that is me, as well. In the beginning, it was shear agony to even breathe. Some days I am still in disbelief but it has gotten better…not gone. I don’t want you to think that there is never going to come a time when you feel somewhat better. It seems like a betrayal to say we can be better. I have had high blood pressure since the night of our tragedy…it started that very night and has not let go. The dr. recently reminded me that my son would not want me to be sad for the rest of my life. I resented her saying that when deep down I did understand that my son would not want me to be sad. I feel like if I am healthy or smiling that I have gone on, a success being without him and it is not like that at all. Maybe we think that to be sad is to pay homage to the missing….I guess. Moms can never get over this kind of thing…ever. We manage.


  23. Denise
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 06:39:46

    Right after Philip died, Phil said to me, “Philip would want you to be happy.” “How do you know?” I answered, “Maybe he’s lonely. Maybe he wants me there with him.” I certainly wasn’t ready to have THAT conversation. But Philip talks to me all the time; “Have a little faith, mom,” he says. And I think that’s why I get signs every day (part of which I’ll talk about in my next post). I think he’s encouraging me along. And yes, it’s an act of grace; but there’s an anguish deep inside I have to live with and it colors everything Ugly. So many of us; look what we walk around with.

    Thank you for all the time you took writing to me. Sending you love and hugs.


  24. gatito2
    Oct 18, 2013 @ 20:03:33

    That was so beautiful and touching and a wonderful tribute to your son. He sounds like he was a very fine young man to be proud of. I admire you so much. I admire that you had the presence of mind to write that eulogy and the courage to get up there and read it. It was all I could do to pick out the casket, the flowers, what she would wear and that kind of thing. It did not occur to me even once to write a eulogy much less get up there and do it. I would have broken down. As it was, all I did was sit in the front row where the family is to sit at her graveyard service and stare at her casket thinking that it looked like the lid was partially open and seeing if I could see her in there. I didn’t hear the preacher, I didn’t even hear the poem my other daughter wrote for her an hour after she found out about her death that the preacher read. I remember the blur of faces, the kind comments, the very many people that came from so far away, old friends, new friends, medical students that should have been in class that day. I remember that, but it was if I was in a dreamlike state of disbelief. So I admire you so much. Funny, after all that I have been able to write over 300 posts on my blog about her, but at her funeral, a eulogy never entered my poor tortured mind. I know yours was just as tortured and that is why I admire you so much. I’m so sorry you lost your wonderful son. May we all have some kind of healing.


  25. Denise
    Oct 18, 2013 @ 20:18:36

    I so appreciate your kind comments; and I do know what you mean about the blur; like you’re walking in a dream – a nightmare, actually – there, but not. I walked around in the same clothes for three days; it was Phil who suggested I take a shower. He did everything. I did what I was able to. The day before the wake, I snapped to for an hour or two and put a picture board together with my daughter and my cousin, for the wake. Then I “snapped to” again after the first night of the wake, and I knew I had to write this for him, for me.

    How wretched is this? Sometimes I wish I could scream it out of me – but grief is the other side of love. You get rid of one, there goes the other. And I’d rather be in this pain than lose my love.


  26. Jody
    Nov 01, 2013 @ 23:45:37

    I wrote my sisters Eulogy when she was killed at 25. I really connected to your words and even 12 years after her death… your words of sorrow brought memories of her to my mind. May each “thank you for your words” or “how beautifuls” remind you of little kisses from your son… so… thank you.


    • Denise
      Nov 02, 2013 @ 09:17:53

      Thank you Jody – what a sweet image, “little kisses from my son.” I’ve been having such a hard time again – like it’s ever easy? I guess I just mean I’m crying ever so much, so much more than I’ve been. I get signs from Philip every day, and I know it’s him asking me to pay attention, to not to go down the rabbit hole. I think I’ll start thinking of them as little kisses from him, ’cause God knows I need them.

      I am so sorry for the loss of your sister – and she was killed?? My God. For whatever sorrow we’ve ever thought we felt, Death shows us what it really means. My heart goes out to you, as in it’s wide-open and wishing you peace.

      Thank you, again, for writing.


  27. Isabel Morales
    Dec 07, 2013 @ 20:23:51

    Omg Denise I just found out. I ran into your brother in law, David. I asked about you and the kids – then he told me about my beautiful boy – the last time I saw him. I felt like I wasn’t going to pass out. Victor had to hold me. He kept asking what’s wrong – i just couldn’t say the your beautiful boy was gone. I remember Philip coming downstairs and ask if ” Aresabel” was in – he just couldn’t pronouns my name. As you know I always had healthy snack for him.
    Omg Denise I don’t have any words – but that this sucks out loud. Not fair!
    I pray that God carrys you during this difficult time. And may you be surrounded by the love of friends and family.
    Sending healing thoughts.
    Isabel Morales


    • Denise
      Dec 07, 2013 @ 23:34:24

      Oh, Isabel – how are you?? I couldn’t believe it when I saw your name; and now I cry all over again because every time I tell someone new, Philip’s a little more dead. I’m still in shock, and it’s almost two years. I want to just stop time and say, “Wait – you have to stop. I can’t get older without my son.” Isabel, he was such a sweet and kind young man and we were so very close. And it’s that bond I have with him that carries me though this because he’s always with me, guiding me, encouraging me. But I want him HERE.

      Part of me’s gone with him. I don’t believe there’s anything worse than losing your children. And we all say it, but we’ve no idea the devastation. And the utter loneliness. I don’t mean “people” loneliness. It’s the loneliness of dealing with grief because no matter how much support you have, it’s still you and your broken heart.

      I’m so touched and glad to hear from you. I told Don a few months ago; I called his office and had them ask him if I could have his personal email. He was shocked; of course he was, of course you were. I’m shocked and I live with it.

      Thank you for your kind words, and healing thoughts. xoxoxoxoxoxo


  28. Isabel Morales
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 19:38:31

    Denise we are fine. Elizan is married to a wonderful a woman. He’s a teacher she’s a nurse. Iliana is still home with Victor and me. Victor is still working, but I am retired. I go to the gym a lot and do volunteering at St Vincent DePaul pantry. I lost fifty pounds and I feeling great.
    Ok back to my beautiful Philip, yes half of you is gone but the other half is here. I don’t know how it feels to loose a child but I know a lot about losing a sibling.
    Natalie needs you more than you ever know. Give her your other half.
    I loss two sisters six months apart. I was very close to Carol not as much with Esther. Both were younger than me. I am 65 now and this happen in 1989.It was a very happy time for us because we bought a house on Ridge Blvd. then I loss a sister and six months after another. I thought I would lose my mine, which I did and got help with my grieving.
    Carol was three years younger, I fought her battles, stole her boyfriend and fought over our clothes. But at the end of the day I loved her more than life.
    When she died I loss my mine. I felt like i loss a big part of my life, which I did. I cried so much I could stand myself. I adopted her two daughters until they went on their own.
    So please watch out for Natalie, losing Philip must and is a devasting pain.
    Love and miss our time together – I call Don because i felt no one understood my pain of losing Philip. I needed to connect with someone who knew us. Don was helpful – we cried together – it helped.
    And yes you will grew older without Philip, but don’t forget about Natalie she’s in pain too. You will keep Philip alive in your memories and in your heart.
    I miss my sister most of all when happy things happen to her daughters. I think you remember Daisy – she’s a police office in Puerto Rico and when she graduated from the police acadamy I just couldn’t stop crying because my sister should have been there and not me. I was so proud of her and I know my sister would have been proud too.
    Grieving sucks – I still grieve for her but the pain is not as bad. But you never stop grieving I guess that’s normal and we must give into it.
    You will be in my thoughts and will send healing thoughts to you.
    I will tell you what I hated hearing from people – times heals somewhat – but you will never stop missing your love ones.
    Blessings during this time – try enjoying the holidays with Natalie. It’s important to her, it’s important to have some normalcy – anyway that what I was told by my doctor.


  29. Denise
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 22:04:49

    Isabel, I am so touched by all you’ve told me; no, you didn’t lose a child, but you lost your sisters, people you loved and took care of; people who were part of your life from the beginning. You understand what I’m going through. My dad died in May – on Mother’s Day. At his wake, the priest said, “People say time heals all wounds. It doesn’t.” This is no “wound” that’s going to heal. This is loss and transformation; this is, what now? How do I live? The world hasn’t changed, but I have and I don’t know what that means. I’m so hurt and vulnerable; but I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by such good people, even at work. I left my job after Philip died. I couldn’t work. At some point I started working one day a week in the city for my friend; a year and a half later, I was up to four days. Then in September I got a job that’s closer to me, and I work for a couple I adore. I’m fortunate in so many things, and I know these are Philip’s gifts to me. But Isabel, I’d give it all back to have him here. I miss him so much; “lonely” has taken on a new meaning. Because there isn’t any “body” that’s going to take this away. It’s just me and my grief – you know what I’m talking about.

    And yes, there’s Natalie. I work hard to make sure she knows that I love her. She’s what got me through this. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her.

    I wish you and your family the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years. And I thank you for caring so much. It means so much to me.



  30. Isabel Morales
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 09:17:35

    My dear Denise, to your question of, how do I live? I used to ask myself that question. I was angry at everyone, my poor family suffered so much. I hated that the world went on without my beloved sister. When I felt that my world has ended as I knew it. My dear husband Victor shook me so hard one day saying and to me, this didn’t just happen to you we love and miss Carol too. Yes, grieving is messy. He told me couldn’t grieve for carol because I was just a mess. He stared crying. I have never seen him cry. Elizan was so angry at me. He kept saying we need you back. Back to what a world withou my carol. That’s when I knew I needed help. After good meds and therapy. That’s when I started to learn to live without my Carol. I started letting people care for me. I kept telling people anyone who listen how wonderful my sister was. Drug addiction robs your humanity and I wanted people to know that my sister was more than a drug addict.
    Carol was a sister, a mother, a daughter, a friend, great cook, great hair dresser but most of all she was heart.
    I started volunteering at a homeless shelter because for a time my sister was homeless. For a while we lost contact with her. She lived by the kindness of strangers. I did that for five year than I moved on to the Aides Project working at their food kitchen. I have met wonderful people along the way and my pain has lessen.
    This how I learn to live my life again without Carol.
    I don’t know if you are a prayer but I am, it helped a lot.

    Denise I know you will find your way on how to live without your beautiful Philip.
    My doctor told me there are three stages to grieving.
    1. Not excepting the loss – deep grieving.
    2. Excepting the loss
    3. Getting on with your life

    There is not time on any of these. So don’t rush it.
    But if you get stuck on one get help.

    24 years later I still miss Carol, but most of the pain is gone.
    I pray to God that some day you too will feel less pain.

    Have a bless holiday season near your other love ones.

    And remember you are not alone, let others in and let them care for you.


  31. Nancy Miller
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 12:38:08

    Dearest lady Denise, and wise Isabel,

    As I approach my five year marker of Rachel’s death, I read these words and see myself in a weird middle ground. I am finally somewhere in between insanity and doing actually much better. There are so many ups and downs to this horrible process. My husband told me, like Isabel’s husband told her, that he wants me back. He said he lost his best friend when Rachel died, and it was so true. I am getting myself back but one thing you said, Isabel, is that you have to want to come back, you have to be patient with yourself, you have to give it time (and with the death of a child, there is no real manual…it is what it is). And wanting to come back doesn’t mean it will happen magically. It requires a yearning to do so, to give to others. One thing I have discovered is that the more I give to others — such as my students, my family, my friends — the more I feel her presence and the more I begin to feel centered.

    Today I wrap my arms around all of you, and honor this special community, this circle of heroes. Nobody else knows how much collective pain we have experienced. But oh, how it is forging our characters……

    Big hugs,


  32. Isabel Morales
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 13:45:57

    Dear Nancy,
    Thanks for your kind words. You are correct there is no magic time. It just eases the pain as time goes by. After 24 years of losing Carol the pain is less. And about forging our character you are also correct. When ever bad things happen to me my best friend tells, “hey you have been through the fire you are a precious glass.” I thank God for friends who reminds you of your strength.
    Again you are correct about giving to others. My family makes fun of me when ever I stop to talk to the homeless or the addict. I give them my time, money and food; with no judgment on how they got here. Because I believe that’s how my sister stayed alive in the streets; by The kindness of strangers. That how i honor her life. My family realize this. Lately I have witness kindness from my children to the homeless and the addict. They make me proud.
    Nancy I wish you a season of blessing. And pray to God to comfort and hold you as you continue to miss your beloved daughter Rachel.



    • Denise
      Dec 09, 2013 @ 23:03:01

      To Nancy and Isabel,

      For once I’m sitting here kind of speechless. Isabel, it’s just extraordinary to me that you feel Philip’s loss so deeply. Nancy, Isabel and I worked together when I lived in Brooklyn. I moved to Montclair when Philip was seven. We haven’t seen each other in decades. What is time, then? Something we make up, because it might seem “long” or “short” but Isabel, it’s like I saw you yesterday. That you care, both of you, is more than a blessing. I can’t seem to hold on to the love people show me; I think – and you both know this – that grief trumps all. I know I’m doing much better. I’m able to work, to pay attention to Natalie; I signed up for a writing class which is a big deal because it’s a commitment and I’ll have to go out. You’ve no idea how much I stay home. I want to be alone, but I could use some structure outside of work.

      But I’m angry, I feel helpless, I feel defeated. My son is gone – and here he is, poking me, reminding me he’s not gone, just in body. Every time I say, “he’s gone” he pokes me. I believe there’s a huge picture we just don’t see; and I know one thing Philip came here for was to teach me what death isn’t. But I’m fighting bitterly because I Want. Him. Here. Now. It’s not going to happen, and maybe year two is when it sinks in. I don’t know.

      Five years, Nancy; did you ever think it would come to this? Peace to you at this time. And I’m thinking about what both of you said, about helping others. I used to feel so strongly that I had to help people or I’d go crazy. Now I’m in some no-man’s land where I go to work and come home and I don’t want to go out.

      Thank you both for your love and blessings. Isabel, if you want to email me, my address is dsmyth693@gmail.com. No pressure; talking through comments is fine, and you’ve no idea how grateful I am that you took the time to write to me.

      So much love to both of you.


  33. Nancy Miller
    Dec 11, 2013 @ 11:32:59

    Isabel and Denise,

    Your words are like balm to my soul, both of you. And thank you, Denise, for telling me your story about Isabel. I too have reconnected with old friends I hadn’t seen in decades when Rachel died. It was weird, but like it was her hand guiding me toward a tribe who would help me. Your comment about year two took me back three years. That second year was much more excruciating for me personally (I can only speak for myself since each of us has such a different way of grieving and time is so surreal anyway….) because I believe the shock was beginning to wear off, leaving all my nerve endings exposed and making me feel pretty certifiable.

    What has been helping more than anything lately is getting out and giving more of myself. This is a process, however. It doesn’t happen all at once. Denise, like you, I do a lot of hibernating inside my house. If I didn’t actually have a job, I might never leave, or only rarely. As I am approaching my five year mark on Christmas day, I made a decision to join a neighborhood choir group because I love to sing. I used to sing with Rachel and to her all the time when she was little. I realized as hard as it may be at first, it will also rejuvenate me, allow me another emotional release, and force me out into the world. This group puts on public performances, too, so that will give me something to work toward.

    My students also help me all the time, though they may not always realize it. I teach at a junior college (English) and I’m always meeting students Rachel’s age who are severely depressed, suicidal, and they talk to me about these things. When I connect with them, hug them, tell them how valuable they are, listen to them, it makes me feel like I’m doing something to save someone else’s child, and that makes me feel Rachel nearer to me. As though she’s whispering over my shoulder, “Good goin’, mom.”

    This is so hard, my dear friends. Nobody knows the degree of intensity of pain we suffer every single moment. That’s why it’s so important to hang onto each other during the rough times. They will come and go, but I strongly believe one thing: if there is even one person in the world who really really gets where you are, it somehow makes this journey bearable. I suppose it’s about not feeling entirely alone in it. We blame family because we think they should know us, know how we feel. But how can they? How can anyone know?

    Unless it’s happened to them, too.

    With big hugs,



  34. Isabel Morales
    Dec 11, 2013 @ 13:58:56

    Dear Nancy,

    Omg I just got an email from Denise. I had sent her a private email. To my surprise you too turn to an activity you enjoyed with Rachel, singing.

    I just wrote to Denise that what got me out of my funk was dancing, an activity that I enjoyed with my sister Carol. Puerto Ricans love to dance. We use to going clubbing every night. We both had jobs that were in the pm.

    Dancing has kept me connected with Carol. During the holidays it’s the hardest but bearable. When I hear a song we danced too; I just dance and cry and soon I am feeling ok.

    After 24 years I still miss her but I am ok with it.

    Have a bless holidays season. And if you believe in God may he cradle you as you once cradled Rachel.

    Yes it gets better at your time.

    Warm regards


  35. Nancy Miller
    Dec 11, 2013 @ 14:42:00

    Oh, Isabel, you are helping me get through this day, though you may not know it. I love dancing, too!! In my grandmother’s culture (Armenian) belly dancing was popular and there are lots of folk dances I used to love to do. But I also love singing. Yes, all of this is painful, but part of the whole management of this is to engage in life again, on any level we can. Knowing that you have survived more than 2 decades without your beautiful Carol gives me so much hope today. Thank you for the gift that is you.



  36. Isabel Morales
    Dec 11, 2013 @ 15:48:22

    Dear Nancy,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    I have encouraged Denise to participate in an activity that she enjoyed with Philip or something he would want her to do to get out of her funk. Denise will know when she’s ready. It’s different for all of us who grieve.

    Something funny to make you laugh – God we need to laugh. When I was in Morocco a couple of years ago, we saw a fully clothed belly dancer. She was amazing. Women are amazing; how we adapte to our culture. I belly dance too, but with less clothe. Lol

    During all the tributes for Mandela, I notice how the South Africans sang and danced their grief. Maybe we can learn from them.

    Have a bless holiday season. And if you believe in God – may he cradle and comfort you as you had cradled and comforted Rachel.

    Warm regards


  37. Nancy Miller
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 21:16:53

    I love this idea of dancing through grief, Isabel. This is what we do, isn’t it? A strange metaphor but moving through grief is a lot like dancing. We have to embrace it, go with it, let it lead us where it will and then let it go. Thank you, dear lady, for these words of wisdom. Hearing from those who have been on this road much longer is so inspirational to me. You are helping me get through this month. Bless you.


  38. My
    Mar 23, 2015 @ 01:32:54

    This is so beautiful! What a testament to your son. God bless you in your grief and in the rest of your life. And may you always feel the presence of your son. And the present he obviously brought to you through living his life.


    • Denise
      Mar 23, 2015 @ 10:22:43

      Thank you for such kind words. Yes, he was – he is – a gift. Better to have had him here for 21 years than not to ever have known him. I miss him so…


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