How Can You Be Thankful After Your Child Dies?

Hopefully, I’m not the only one that spends this time of year reflecting.

We are expected to focus on those things for which we are thankful. Sometimes, I think it is too easy, almost cliche, for us share our expressions of thanks. Our kids get trained in this skill beginning in preschool. [Said in a cute Kindergarten Cop voice]: “I am thankful for my family, friends and toys.” Within hours, they are complaining about friends or family and wanting more toys.

Something this year made me open up the eulogy I gave at Simon’s funeral. I guess I wanted to see how my “thankfulness” had changed. Here’s some of what I found:

“A couple months ago, we got together with friends over breakfast and started talking about how fortunate we all were. Someone commented, that it was almost too good to be true – it’s probably only a matter of time until something bad happens to even it out. I don’t agree with that. The truth is, we’re still very fortunate. We have a beautiful daughter, a big family, a nice house, incredible friends, good health and financial security. Simon did not take any of this away with him – he left it in tact for us to enjoy.”

This year, I have more reasons to be thankful. In August, the Board of Directors asked me to serve as Executive Director of Simon’s Fund. I resisted at first because Simon’s Fund was created to be a tribute to our son, not a job for me. After some soul searching and deep conversations with others who had walked in my shoes, I accepted.

These past three months have been a gift, professionally and personally. Professionally, I have been able to rekindle relationships, explore new partnerships and engage new lawmakers. We have established better systems, expanded our heart screenings, focused on a national youth ECG database, and reorganized the Board, including electing a new Executive Committee. Personally, I have been able to spend more time with my family. Life is much more focused, and in a strange way, simpler.

This new and improved organization is going to give us the opportunity to really make an impact on the lives of children. We will check more hearts and save more lives. We will pass more life-saving legislation. We will inspire more research of sudden cardiac arrest and death in children. To date, we have screened almost 5,500 students and helped 49 discover heart conditions.

It is hard to be thankful after losing a child, but not impossible, especially when I have so many tremendous people by my side and limitless opportunities ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving.