The TCF scholarship winner’s essay about her experience!

I had the pleasure of meeting Kade’s mom Jenny and his Grandma at this years’ Compassionate Friends Conference.  Jenny had applied for the scholarship to attend her first conference and was chosen for her powerful essay she wrote.  I am truly honored to be able to contribute to the healing of others through the foundation.  I am sure after reading what Jenny had to say about her experience, you too will want to attend next years conference which is being held in Dallas Texas.  First time attendees may apply for a scholarship soon.  Sign up to receive updates to our page.  Below is Jenny’s essay and a few photos from the conference!  Thank You Jenny for sharing and having the courage to face your grief.  We wish you peace and love along your journey.

How the National Conference Helped Me


How I will Pay it Forward in Some Small Way

Jenny Robbins, Kade’s Mom

Tony Brown First TCF National Conf Experience (1)

The 2013 Compassionate Friends National Conference in Boston didn’t work out for me to

attend, only one year out from my son, Kade’s, death. There would be others. The next year’s

in Chicago was a remote possibility. But receiving the Tony Brown Foundation scholarship

made it a reality!

I was going to Chicago! I invited my mom to come with me. It turned out to be an

enlightening, bonding experience for us.

As I thought, the hugeness of the conference and what the thousand+ attendees represented

was overwhelming at first. There was so much to take in. We arrived hungry after the long

drive, but our dinner adventure couldn’t have turned out better. We stumbled upon an

entertainment district, landing a rooftop table and birds-eye view of an outdoor concert. We

could relax. We arrived, and were ready for an experience of a lifetime.

Back at the hotel we continued to get our bearings. There was a button table where we could

have picture buttons made of our handsome Kade to wear! We checked out the colorful

butterfly/dragonfly chimes boards (pictured above). Anne greeted me with a commemorative butterfly she bought to be sure I got one in case they ran out! I signed Kade’s name in the books that travel to every conference. I made Kade’s display for the memory boards. How to distill a life onto an 8×10-sized sheet of paperAnd there was meeting Anne, the reason I was there. And this was all before the first official day! Friday and Saturday were long days. Here are some words to describe them.

Full: I didn’t want to miss out on a single session. Busy: there was lots of rushing to get to the next workshop after chatting with new friends at the previous. Educational: I took PAGES of notes. Powerful: lots of tears. Inspiring: I won’t soon forget the stories of personal tragedy turned into giving back.

I can’t describe all of my meaningful experiences here, but I will try to include the highlights:

* I’m not saying this because her foundation awarded me a scholarship. Meeting a person

like Anne Castaldo was a highlight of my weekend. She greeted me in the warmest way.

She cared to make us feel comfortable the whole conference. I attended her workshop,2014-07-12 20.45.54

How to Rediscover Your Life after the Loss of a Child, and learned about her devotion to

Tony, ways to continue our kid’s legacies, and setting goals in this new life we didn’t ask


* Two writing workshops motivated me to make strides in writing a Mom/Grandma

perspective on grief with my mom, and a memoir to share Kade’s legacy. I learned

practical tips from a panel of published authors. We were encouraged to start writing for

magazines and newspapers now, join a writing group, and start that blog! I even got to

practice writing prompts to help me capture details of my beloved.

* From so many (speakers, leaders and presenters) the main message I took away was to

SPEAK my child’s name. CONTINUE his legacy. KEEP his memory alive, because

through these actions he lives. In the candle-lighting ceremony in the darkened room we

held our candles lowand then lifted them high. The room lit up. We will live with our

candles high and ablaze!

My mind is still racing and I am thinking in broad terms of ways to pay forward the opportunity of attending my first National Conference.

I’m involved in bereaved parent communities. I go to my TCF chapter meetings, belong to another group called Hope for Hurting Moms, and have started a little group I call Healing Mom’s Night Out. For a long time to come I will be sharing the gems I gleaned from the conference with my bereaved friends.

I will be a living example for Kade’s young friends that it’s OK for them to talk about Kade or any loved one gone too soon. Every day. Kade and his friends were raucous and vivacious and it’s OK to keep their stories vibrant and alive. It’s OK to remember, laugh, cry, have setbacks, and move forward by moving through!




  1. I dont know exactly what to say. I lost my beloved firstborn and only son for 15 of his 17 years, Jacob M. Espindola on a cold, very foggy night not too terribly far from my home. Less than a mile directly down the street… Let me backtrack a bit…. Jacob came home on a particular Friday after school very joyful, loving and playful. He razzed me and his little brother Nathan, then 2 and started to get ready for work. I asked him if he was hungry (what growing 17 year old isnt?) but his reply was, naw merms… I will get something at the Caboose. He was a busboy at a diner called the red caboose.
    Earlier that day, Jacobs father had called me specifically to let me know that Jacob is NO LONGER allowed to drive with his friend Tyler, whom was 16 and newly licensed. His father had noticed for the last time that the boy had no respect for adults by peeling out in front of his home and doing doughnuts as kids do. Too Dangerous..
    As I took my son to work, I drove by his great grandmothers house, whom had passed away only 6 months before, as I was thinking, How do I tell my son he cant ride with his friend in the car anymore without ruining his Friday night and weekend? As soon as I past her house, I just heard the words “DO IT NOW”… so I did…
    Of course by the time we arrived at his work, he was laughing at me , got out of the car, threw his backpac over his shoulder and said to me “Merm, what do you think could possibly happen??!!!” I looked at him and told him, Jacob, Im your mom, I think the worst! He smiled as I reminded him I was going to pick him up from work, but due to it being a friday, it varied so he had to call me and let me know….
    Well, he did call me, we were playing telephone tag…. by the time I finally got ahold of him, he was in Tylers car and everybody sounded so happy… I reminded him of our talk just hours before and asked him when he was going to be home. His cerfue was 11. He joked at me and told me “never merms” and I laughed and said ummmhum, you know your cerfue (and he never was late) and the last words he said to me were “I luv and a hearty PEACEEEEE… That was the last time I have ever heard his voice. That was the last alive kiss I will ever have from him. Our last conversation….. within 15 minutes of clocking out of work, my son, one of 2 other passengers along with the drive in a small Acura, spun out and hit a tree going over 90 mph. My son died instantly (they say, but I cant imagine no pain for all of the trauma caused to his growing body) Another boy, 15 was airlifted to a hospital while the driver and front passenger were taken to the hospital in ambulances. It has been 8 full years since that night…. Im still in deep depression, lost all but 1 of my friends, have been unable to work and need to find myself again. I need to learn to live again, because Im amlost positive I have died and am just existing…. Ive become an intravert… a homebody… and I desprately need some good grieving parents to talk with whom understand and can hopefully bring me to a better understanding of what I have to do to start moving forward.. My brain understands he will never be home again…but my heart just wont accept it….
    Thank you for reading
    Kelli Killian

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