Learning to Live Again
 
Little more than twenty-one years ago my first born and only daughter moved into our home and our hearts. She would not only exceed my hopes and dreams and would go on to touch the world. She was an energetic and precocious child who grew into a beautiful young Christian woman who cherished her quiet meditative times with the Lord. As a godly role model, she befriended family, friends and foe and reminded us of the love of the Lord. To know her was to love her and those who had never met her wanted to meet this humorous and fun-loving person. Always a fast learner and honor student she became a world traveler. She graduated from Mr. Jefferson’s university in Virginia with a major in Spanish and Psychology which combined with her Christian lifestyle led her to serve as a missionary. “I choose to go on a mission where I can continue doing work that has eternal significance while using my Spanish to share Christ with the ever-increasing number of Spanish speaking people in the US”, she said of her upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic.  After considerable time and effort at fund raising she left home for her year-long journey with a short drive to the airport and a kiss good by. Her happiness and excitement were contagious and little did I know I would never see her alive again.  Less than three months after she left my arms, I was forced to address a question she asked of me several months earlier; “Mom how would you deal with my death? “How could you say anything so terrible or even think that,” I shrieked nervously. That strange conversation ended abruptly. A few months later, it was for real! I came face to face with that very question of how to learn to live again.
A telephone call of just three little words “she didn’t make it” plunged me into the depths of despair. Our special 21 year old daughter had not survived the injuries she sustained in a car accident in which some construction equipment crashed into her car. How am I going to live through this?
I did what I thought I had to do--visit the scene of the accident. My husband, our son and I reluctantly traveled to Santiago to bring our daughter and sister home. Upon our arrival in the country, we visited the scene of the accident, saw her new apartment of two days and drove past the hospital where she received care. We met her Christian family and her new friends while attending a memorial service for her. She really had touched many more lives.
Planning a funeral for a daughter that you expected to plan her wedding was surreal. I tried my best to celebrate her short, but rich life in the ceremony/ritual including a  display of her photos, certificates, awards and other achievements and reflections from a few of her friends. Our minister used some of Kandy’s personal writings in his sermon as he compared it with those of the Apostle Paul. The healing that began at the scene of the accident continued through the funeral.   
Learning to live again had new meaning as I sought to keep her memory alive through various means including a memorial scholarship or just remembering her in conversation. The scholarship established at the University of Virginia (her alma mater) now has eleven KMR scholars all of whom have been selected based on their life stories resemblance to our daughter’s life.  Other ways that I celebrate her life include placing memorial flowers in our church, remembering her birthday and transition day as well as making financial contributions to worthy causes in her name.  
Another way of learning to live again, especially in the early days, was through reading and learning about grief after the death of a child. A book entitled Life after Loss, became my best friend in grief. Even though I could not concentrate, reading was a tremendous source of comfort during those days of darkness, pain and despair. It helped me to understand that what I was experiencing was normal under the circumstances. It also gave me hope that I could survive. I continue to read anything written by and for bereaved parents.  
I learned that we will have trials and tribulations in this life but that we don’t’have to go it alone.  The Lord said He will be with us through them.
Additionally I learned to live again through participation in The Compassionate Friends (TCF)--a self-help, support group for bereaved parents and siblings. This organization has truly been a lifesaver for me and for many other bereaved parents and siblings. It is a place bereaved parents can go and find unconditional acceptance as well as receive love, support, comfort and most importantly encouragement.
Finally, I have learned to live again by reaching out to other bereaved parents through work with TCF and through personal contacts. To this end, I organized a new Washington, DC Chapter of TCF. It is through this outreach that my heart continues to grow a bit stronger and my life is beginning to have meaning again.
It has been twelve years since the tragic death of our beloved daughter, Kandy. Even though my life is changed forever, I have learned to live again with profound and blessed memories of our beloved daughter, Kandy.
In loving memory of Candice (Kandy) Monique Ruff
May 1975-January 1997