I've had this card on my dresser at home for a month for a month or two. On it I wrote, “Greg Runyon, uncle of Lila Ruffalo.” I wrote this card and slipped it into a plastic sleeve the night I attended my very occasional meeting of The Compassionate Friends, a group my sister and brother-in-law are very active in due to the loss of our dear Lila, who was Jenny's daughter from a previous marriage.
The Compassionate Friends is a group of people who have each lost a child or children prematurely. If you watch them as they participate in these meetings, you can see the pain of every day they've grieved for their child etched upon their faces. These folks certainly go to work, and to the grocery store, and even manage to have fun. I'm sure, though, that the pain they endure is never far around a corner, quick to be brought to the fore by the littlest thing. I'm not sure how they do it, putting one foot in front of the other and somehow making it through each day.
I so admire these people for their ability to get out of bed every morning. I admire them for the fact that they've sought to gather with people to perhaps ease their own burden, and I admire them for the fact that they are there with these other similarly devastated individuals in order to lend their support to another in need.
This is a club no one wants to join, meetings that no one would want to have to come to, a life each of these people would give anything in the world to be living differently, and yet they soldier on. There was a little donations cup at this meeting, and as I milled about just being with the group, I tucked in a twenty. And then I milled some more, and tucked in another. The third time I went past, I just emptied my wallet. If one of the folks at this meeting had asked me to drive them to Montana that minute, I'd have said yes, so desperately do you want to do something, anything, to ease the suffering in some miniscule way. That's a good thing for my sister to take note. I'm ripe for the picking after that meeting, so just let me know when to come re-roof your house or whatever.
I see that card that I've had on my dresser from that meeting every day, and it reorients me if only for a second or two to the things that are most important in life, meaning of course those people you love. This being the anniversary of Lila's death, it stuck with me for far longer than a moment today. No one should have to bury a child, and my grief at the loss of my niece is nothing compared to what all of those parents who have lost a child go through every day.
If you or someone you know would like more information about The Compassionate Friends, just click this link.