Meet Lee Carswell. Born in Birmingham and educated in Liverpool, England, Lee is a successful senior manager at the consulting firm of West Monroe Partners in Seattle. He is tall, lanky and has an easy laugh.
This story has little to do with his consulting career. Instead, he describes a loving family re-constructing their lives as they emerge from an emotional whirlpool. Here are his words:
In late 2009, my wife, Jeni, went to the hospital to remove another brain tumor. She’d had one before, and a strong regimen of chemotherapy followed that surgery. We thought she was out of the woods, but the tumor returned.
Through the medical staff I found the Safe Crossings Program, which helps families – and especially kids – to cope with loss. I was most concerned for our little 5-year-old daughter, Rita.
Rita likes art, she likes fantasy, she’s a gifted reader and very good at math. She’s direct. Also very good at karate. [He laughs].
The Safe Crossings counselors and staff encouraged our family to be direct about my wife’s illness. Rita knew her mom was going to die, but of course it never really hit until one day in early 2010. It was in the morning that my wife, Jeni, took her last breath. And moments after – quite by coincidence – our Safe Crossings counselor pulled into the driveway to pay us a visit. I met Lulu in the driveway. ‘My wife just died,’ I said. ‘How am I going to break this to Rita?’
Lulu took me by the arm and said quietly, “Lee, let’s go into the house. We’ll do it together.”
Through my wife’s illness and after her death, the Safe Crossings staff helped Rita and me in so many ways. I received lots of well-intended advice from family and friends, but the best advice – the advice that carried me through this whole ordeal – came from Safe Crossings.
Lee shares the changes in his life four years later…
Rita has matured in so many ways. She’s 9 now, and she has a mothering tendency that is the result, I think, of her traumatic experience. She can verbalize her feelings, and she understands that she’s been through a lot for a fourth-grader. She has many friends today, and her teachers really appreciate her.
As for me … I’ve met a wonderful woman and we’re engaged to be married in 2015. In fact, Rita chose to introduce Elizabeth to her karate teacher by saying, ‘This is Elizabeth, my new mom!’
As I said, Rita’s direct. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When Lee talks about the help he received from Safe Crossings, he uses words like “confidence” and “lucky” and “hopeful.”
One in 7 children will lose a loved one before age 18. For every Lee and Rita, there are many more families who need the help of counselors, camps, grief therapy. Vulnerable youngsters need guidance to help rediscover their joy.
Lee Carswell supports Safe Crossings Foundation because he believes so many families need the kind of help he and Rita received. If you, or someone you know, needs this kind of help, please contact Safe Crossings Foundation.
Please, too, consider a year-end gift to help us spread the word about these vital services. As Lee says,
“Despite our loss, Rita and I are the lucky ones.”
You can offer hope and encouragement to kids like Rita and parents like Lee by donating now to Safe Crossings Foundation.