Rosemary's Blog

February 18, 2016, 12:08 am
Filed under: Documentary, Family and Friends


You’re giving me a special gift,
So sorrowfully endowed,
And through these last few cherished days,
Your courage makes me proud.

But really, love is knowing
When your best friend is in pain,
And understanding earthly acts
Will only be in vain.

So looking deep into your eyes,
Beyond, into our soul,
I see in you the magic, that will
Once more make me whole.

The strength you possess,
Is why I look to you today,
To do this thing that must be done,
For it’s the only way.

That strength is why I’ve followed you,
And chose you as my friend,
And why I’ve loved you all these years…
My partner till the end.

Please, understand just what this gift
You’re giving, means to me,
It gives me back the strength I’ve lost,
And all my dignity.

You take a stand on my behalf,
For that is what friends do.
And know that what you do is right.
For I believe it too.

So one last time, I breathe your scent,
And through your hand I feel,
The courage that’s within you,
To now grant me this appeal.

Cut the leash that holds me here,
Dear friend, and let me run,
Once more a strong and steady dog,
My pain and struggle done.

And don’t despair my passing,
For I won’t be far away,
Forever here, within your heart,
And memory I’ll stay.

I’ll be there watching over you,
Your ever faithful friend,
And in your memories I’ll run,
…a young dog once again.

Yesterday, February 16, 2016, our son Jordan’s dog, Lennon became a young dog once again. She was born on November 30, 2002 in Lexington, KY and within weeks became a vital part of our lives. She lived as Jordan’s loyal and constant companion for the next thirteen years. Her loss has devastated all of us who loved her.

Lennon’s health had been failing for the past month despite Jordan’s every effort to help his sweet dog. When she couldn’t walk, he carried all 63 pounds of her. When she was in pain, he made sure her vet gave him the medicine she needed. He watched her shallow breathing many nights without sleeping himself. When she had a seizure, he comforted her and laid beside her on the floor until daylight. Finally, he made the most difficult decision of his life, one that honored her devotion to him over the years.

Luther and I were blessed to see Lennon this past weekend. Gone was the puppy who pulled over the Christmas tree that first Christmas. Gone was the dog who would literally chase a tennis ball for as long as you could throw it. Gone was the dog who could swim for hours. Gone was the dog that would run through a steel door to get to the car if she knew Jordan was leaving. What had never changed was the dog who loved Jordan unconditionally.

As I sit here tonight, I am at a loss for words. Hard to imagine I know. How do I describe the loss I am feeling? More importantly, how do I comfort Jordan who has lost his best friend? I feel Lennon’s spirit telling me to stay in touch with her buddy, telling me to let him know she is still beside him and always will be.

We love you Lennon. I know Hootie, Hayley, Coco, Gunner, Ebby, Sasha, Elkie, Molly, Corey and McKeever welcomed you when you passed over. I hope they have enough tennis balls for all of you. You graced our lives and we will love you until we see you again.

Rosemary Smith

33 Packets
September 3, 2008, 3:56 pm
Filed under: Documentary

I woke up this morning and rolled over to look at the clock…it was 7:23.  How many times in the past sixteen years had I jolted awake at exactly 7:23?  Those three numbers used to take my breath but as the years passed, they came to be a sign from Drew and Jeremiah that they were near.  What was their message this morning?

Most of my Labor Day was a labor of love as I worked on bereavement packets for my Fellow Travelers.  This morning, I realized that I had thirty-three packets ready to be lovingly filled by Mary Ann Combs and Barb Brandenburg, two special earth angels.  Thirty-three is another significant number for me.  Drew and Jeremiah lived a total of thirty-three years.  The church bells here at St. Thomas Episcopal in Beattyville tolled thirty-three times that July morning as we followed the caskets of Drew and Jeremiah up the hill from the funeral home to the church.

Drew and Jeremiah sat with me as I wrote each note for these thirty-three packets.  They felt my sorrow as I wrote to the Wilson family in Bermuda, the Pohl famly in Illinois, Sgt Jason Swiger’s mother in Maine, the Phelps family in Montana who had also lost two sons…on and on.  Drew and Jeremiah’s message this morning came from a spiritual realm but was so real it gave me cold chills.  Their approval washed over me like a wave.

Sweet Auburn
May 18, 2008, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Documentary

For the past fifteen years, Mother’s Day has been a hard day for me.  All that changed this past Sunday when our documentary, “Space Between Breaths” won the award for Best Documentary at the Sweet Auburn International Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sweet Auburn selected our film as one of eight documentaries to be screened at their film festival from May 7th to May 11th during SpringFest in the historic Auburn Avenue area of Atlanta.  Initially our film was scheduled for screening on Saturday, May 10th.  Cindy Bullens, along with Dinah and Jim Taylor, made plans to join us in Atlanta for the festival.  Cindy’s contribution to our film was twofold; she wrote the score and shared the story of her red-headed spitfire Jessie.  Dinah and Jim Taylor have been our mentors in grief since our sons became angels.  Their son Young Jim had to be bragging in heaven after he saw their insightful interview for the film.

Less than two weeks before the festival, we were notified that there had been a schedule change for our screening.  Len Gibson, the director of the festival said the committee had decided our film should be shown on Mother’s Day “due to the subject matter.”  Our only regret with the change was that Cindy would not be able to be with us.  Prior committments with her new band The Refugees made it necessary for her to fly back to Maine early on Sunday.  Dinah and Jim were able to rearrange their schedule so they met Luther, Fong and me in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.

During Saturday night, tornadoes pounded the Atlanta area.  I slept right through the storms.  We had been up late the night before sharing stories of Drew, Jeremiah and Young Jim with our friends.  What a joy to be with friends who understand your need to talk about your children who have passed.  Don’t you love being in a safe place with friends who do not act like there is an elephant in the room?  My dear friend Becky Greer shared the poem, “The Elephant in the Room” with me many years ago.  Believe me, I knew the concept.  I had just never heard it verbalized in that way.

Sunday dawned with the promise of an awakening of spirit.  Would our documentary screening be an affirming experience for the audience?  Would the mothers identify with the other mothers in the film, mothers like Tessie Hunter and Donna Bellman?  Would my dear friend Dinah Taylor have a good Mother’s Day.  For those of you who have seen our film, the clip where Dinah haltingly tells of the Mother’s Day when a man at her church withdrew a flower from her is imprinted on my consciousness.  She deserves better.  Young Jim wants better for her.

My family has always supported me whether I was tourning for my book, “Children of the Dome” or now screening our documentary.  Sweet Auburn in Atlanta was no exception.  Dr. Jim Cox is my father’s only brother.  He and my Aunt Inez have always been like second parents to me and my younger brothers Gary and Bill.  My first thought when Drew and Jeremiah were killed was that I had to call Uncle Jim.  He would know how we all were going to face this terrible tragedy.  Well, Uncle Jim and Aunt Inez have not left my side over the past fifteen years even though they too have been through a life-threatening health situation.

The Cox family came to Atlanta in full force for the screening of “Space Between Breaths.”  Only my cousin’s wife, Judy Cox had not seen the film at least on one other occasion.  Uncle Jim and Aunt Inez drove down from Greensboro, Georgia.  My cousin Randy and his family came from Canton, Georgia.  Bill, my youngest brother holds the Cox family record for screenings, quite a surprise really.  Bill had been the one who avoided most family gatherings when he was young.  Now he seemed to enjoy being around all of us.  My brother Gary and his wife Karen live in Columbus, Indiana, much too far to make the screening.

Diane Cooper is my twin…not physically but in a spiritual sense.  Bereaved mothers are automatically sisters.  We know each other’s hearts.  Their children become our children.  Diane Cooper’s twins are David and Reid.  Reid is a junior in high school at The McCallie School (another connection) and David is an angel.  David knows Drew and Jeremiah, I am sure of it.  Diane and I think alike.  We do not sit back and wait.  We are the ”doers.”  Diane drove down from Chattanooga to be with us for the screening.  Diane breaths life into any situation.  I watched her as she spoke to every person who attended the screening.  Like Dinah, she cares about each and every person she meets.  They both are my role models.

Glen and Judy Cummins are bereaved parents I met while speaking at a Compassionate Friends meeting in Memphis after my book was published in 2000.  Their son Scott was a U.S. Army pilot who died in a helicopter accident.  The Cummins and their son are a vital part of our documentary.  As the credits are rolling at the end of the film, photo after photo fade in and out of parents holding photos of their children.  Scott Cummins and his loving parents are one of the families featured in this section of the film.  This was the first time they had seen the film since they had a prior committment at the premiere of the film on May 31, 2007 in Lexington, KY.  It was such a blessing to us that Glen and Judy came to be with us at Sweet Auburn.

Tim, Irene, Rachel and Erin Harkness rounded out the group of special friends and family that supported us by their presence at the Sweet Auburn Film Festival.  We had never met this family although we had spoken on the phone.  Tim and Irene’s precious niece, Kristin Harkness had passed on February 22, 2008.  Tim had called me shortly after Kristin’s death and asked me to contact his brother Tom and his wife Linda.  I sent packets to Kristin’s parents, her brother Eric, her sister Jessica as well as Tim and his family.  About a week after sending the packets, I made my first call to Linda Harkness.  She and I connected immediately.  We began talking on the phone almost on a daily basis.  We shared our grief…we cried together…we eventually were able to laugh together.  When I mentioned to Linda that our film had been selected for the Sweet Auburn Film Festival in Atlanta, she said she would see if Tim and his family could attend.  What a surprise when we found out that Tim, Irene and the girls would be coming to the screening.  Meeting them on Sunday was such a blessing to me.  I pray our film was a blessing for them.

The screening of our documentary was emotional for me.  Although I have worked on this film for over six years, there is never a time I watch any portion of it that I am not moved by the courage of those who were interviewed.  They bared their souls for me and for anyone else who watches the film.  I share the award we won that night for Best Documentary with each and every one of them.

This was a memorable Mother’s Day for me.  Dinah Taylor sent me a note after the weekend and she said, “I can truly say that this is the best Mother’s Day I have had since Jim’s death.”  That one statement made everything I have done for this film worthwhile.

Sundance Film Festival
November 29, 2007, 4:48 pm
Filed under: Documentary

Rejection letters are not new to me. During the years I was working on getting my book “Children of the Dome” published, I developed a tough outer shell. Letter after letter came from agents and publishers with polite notes of rejection. Nothing worth doing comes easy. That is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned since Drew and Jeremiah passed in July of 1992.

Rejection came again today but in electronic form this time. Our documentary, “Space Between Breaths” was nominated back in June for the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Filmmakers were to be notified by the end of November if their film was being accepted for the festival.

I have nervously checked my e-mail every day as the end of November approached. When I saw the subject line “Sundance Film Festival submission”, I knew the long wait was over. The e-mail informed me that a record number of over 8500 films were nominated for Sundance this year with less than 200 accepted. Our film was not chosen. We did not win the lottery. Well, I am disappointed but I truthfully did not expect our film to be chosen at this venue. Our film explores a subject no one wants to think about. Our film is real. It is sad. It is life. It is death. It is love. It is truth. It features eleven incredible families who bear their souls for our documentary. I am indebted to each and every one of them for sharing their angels with me on film.

Nothing worth doing comes easy…now I will move forward to the next step in finding the path for our documentary. I lament the time we have lost in waiting these past five months to hear from Sundance but know this was the only chance the film had to be nominated. How many ever get the chance to have a film nominated…and rejected from Sundance?

Cover design by Tony Dorris
October 14, 2007, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Documentary

I get hundreds of e-mails every day, many of which I delete without ever reading them. One I received about three weeks ago caught my attention. It said, “cover design by Tony Dorris.” I clicked on the message because I knew the name Tony Dorris.

Tony and I had never met. He worked at Sifford Video in Nashville, Tennessee during the time I was working on our documentary, “Space Between Breaths.” Tony was a patient man. He worked with me over a period of almost a year on the DVD design for our film. On our first conversation, Tony asked me the subject of the documentary. He listened patiently as I told him how we had interviewed twelve families from across the country who had lost a child. He was thoughtful and compassionate as we began working on ideas for the cover.

As I said, Tony was patient. He would e-mail a proof and wait for my inevitable changes. He never complained. He knew I was a perfectionist who wouldn’t be satisfied until my vision of the cover for the film was realized. Tony was a talented graphic designer. The cover, case, menu, and label design all came to life under Tony’s creative touch.

July 24, 2007…one day after the fifteenth anniversary of Drew and Jeremiah’s angel day…Tony Dorris took his life. I had not spoken to him since the second week in May, two weeks before the private screening of the documentary in Lexington. I did not know he had left Sifford Video. I also did not know he had battled a drug problem that eventually took his life.

Tony’s sister Donna had googled his name shortly after his death and found my website that listed his name under the credits for our film. Her message left me stunned. Tony had committed suicide. My mind could not grasp that sentence. Why hadn’t I noticed something in his voice on our many phone conversations? How are we as a society letting drugs claim our sons and daughters?

I now know Tony’s precious sister Donna and his parents Edna and Elliott. They mourn his tragic passing along with his wife, young son, and other family members. I too mourn his loss. I will think of him each time I see the cover for our documentary. He will live on through the work he did while he graced our lives.

“Space Between Breaths”
July 30, 2007, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Documentary

To those of you who were with us on May 31, 2007 for the private screening of our documentary, your presence meant the world to me. Having eleven of the twelve families interviewed for the film among the almost eight hundred in attendance made for a memorable night in the historic Kentucky Theatre. Most of the seventy-four families whose children’s photos were featured in the film were there as well. Thank you dear friends and family for supporting our film and its message in such a positive way.

Since the screening, word has spread through on-line chat groups about the powerful message of our film. I have received e-mails from literally all over the country requesting information on the film. Each and every message has been answered personally with many of the families being sent one of my bereavement packets. Many have asked to be added to the database we are compiling for the documentary. I will be using this comment section to keep those of you who are interested in the film abreast of the latest news.

Since the screening, we have done additional editing on the film. For those of you who remember the clip where our oldest son Drew is singing, “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, well, we had to delete that clip. I have tried for over four months to get a sync license from Guns N’ Roses to use their lyrics in the fifteen second clip so important to me in the film. Call after call to their publisher in Nashville provided no positive response. Rather than hold up the process of submitting the film to film festivals, we made the decision to edit out the clip. I am glad some of you got to see the clip that our son Fong did that meant so much to me. The film was been cut from the 113 minutes shown at the private screening to the current 105 minutes of the final version. Sifford Video in Nashville is completing the new DVD which should be to us by the end of the week. The next step is to submit the film to the Sundance Film Festival. Keep your fingers crossed.

If any of you have any distribution suggestions, please let me know. I do know each of our special angels are watching over this special film.