A Look At The Compassionate Friends Conference From Our Scholarship Winner!

Beacon of Love – Rays of Hope


By Jean Springer-Puglia


What an excellent title for this years 36th National Conference for The Compassionate Friends. Although it has been five years since the tragic loss of our beautiful son Derick, this was the first convention my husband Bob and I attended. I’m not quite sure what I expected to get out of attending this conference but I can tell you it exceeded anything I could have imagined.

We had planned on arriving on Friday afternoon of the 1st day of events but our car broke down and we didn’t make it there until most of the workshops that day were done. Needless to say I was disappointed but right away we connected with people we knew from our chapter that were also who informed us that we could still attend the sharing sessions.IMG_0390

The sharing sessions didn’t start until later that night so until then we decided to check into our room and freshen up then walk around and get our bearings and see some of the wonderful displays as well as the gift shop and book store. We also found our way to the beautiful reflection room decorated nicely in a nautical theme with Lighthouses, sand and seashells. The seashells were there for people to write messages or the names of their children on. There were so many shells with names and messages written on them already, sadly overwhelming at first but heart warming too. Bob and I each added a shell with a message to Derick and I loved the idea that they would be returning the shells back to the sea. It was perfect because we recently release my Fathers ashes to the sea and a psychic once told me she envisioned Derick exploring the sea after he had passed. This room was created by my friend Anne Castaldo in memory of her beautiful son Tony Brown.


We brought a picture of Derick with us to add to the infamous Memory Board. The Memory Board was located in a special section where people could go and see pictures of the beautiful children we were all there for. Some pictures also had a short story of the child or a clipping of their obit. Others were grouped together with their particular TCF chapter and displayed with butterflies. This too was sadly over-whelming but it was also a great testimony of love. 

Over the weekend we attended several sharing sessions and workshops including the one we sponsored In Loving Memory Of Derick James Springer called “Why Did You Say That? When People Say Hurtful Things” We heard so many stories during these sessions and workshops from so many parents about their child/children, each as unique as the stars in heaven but commonly connected by the same universe. And we both met other parents we felt a connection with and even exchanged contact info to reconnect again, and agreed that we would try to find each other at future conferences.

There were several highlights for me that weekend. Three that come to mind are the sharing sessions about signs from our children. There were many amazing stories parents shared about signs from their child that could have gone on through to the following day. And I had the opportunity to share my own without feeling like I was judged as crazy.

These signs are real, they happen and they give us hope. Speaking of signs, our room was on the 23rd floor, our table in the dinning hall was number 84and my husband hada blue butterfly marker on his water glass which allowed us to win the butterfly centerpiece. Derick was born in 1984, he was 23 when he passed and his favorite color is blue.IMG_0285

The second would be the sibling show performed after the nice dinner we all had. These kids were truly great and very inspiring. They touched the hearts of every parent in that room. And lastly, the Walk To Remember. The weather was perfect that morning as several hundred parents, siblings and grandparents gathered at Boston Commons Park.IMG_0442

Many walked together in groups associated with their home TCF chapter just as we did. We walked with our Bridgeport and Vicinity Chapter from CT carrying a beautiful banner created by each parent in our chapter with their child’s picture. As we walked many people were taking photo’s, I took several with our camera and as I looked forward and then backward to take a shot, all I could see was and endless sea of people walking together with a common bond of hope and love. And that is what The Compassionate Friends Conferences and Chapter meetings are all about. We are a community of people who share a common bond with hope and above all, LOVE.



  1. Pam Robinson says:

    I cry every time I watch this! Even if I think about it! How can I share it? Live in SA Florida and I can’t exercise on the beach for picking up shells,so this REALLY spoke to my heart!

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