by Kay Bevington
Alive Alone is a non-profit organization that publishes a bi-monthly newsletter for bereaved parents now childless and networks parents with no surviving children. It was founded in 1988 just eight years after Kay and Rodney Bevington’s only child, Rhonda, died just prior to her sixteenth birthday on July 24, 1980.
Rhonda had lived a healthy, happy, active life. She was full of enthusiasm, active in many school and church organizations, and had many friends. She was at the age when she was beginning to be an adult.
Rhonda was ill with what was thought to be pneumonia, bronchitis, and laryngitis for ten weeks. The specialists decided that there should be a biopsy as the CAT scan showed a possible mass behind the breastbone. The intentions were to remove what was there so she would be ready to begin school in a month. Rhonda died unexpectedly after the biopsy of a capillary collapse due to the anesthetic. A malignant tumor was found that was prohibiting oxygen to flow to the left lung properly and she also had lymphoma. This diagnosis had never been discussed as a possibility with her parents.
Kay and Rodney’s lives changed abruptly after Rhonda’s death. It was immediately evident that a support system would be needed to survive the ordeal of now being childless when their entire lives had revolved around Rhonda and her activities.
A local funeral home assisted the Bevingtons and another bereaved couple to begin the local chapter of The Compassionate Friends in Van Wert, Ohio. Kay did the chapter newsletter and assisted with program planning for eight years. Rodney and Kay also worked with a committee that planned the National Compassionate Friends Conference which was held in Columbus, Ohio in the summer of 1988.
Kay and Rodney realized that bereaved parents with no surviving children go through a similar grief process as parents with surviving children but knowing there is no child to love and nurture eliminates the parenting and, in many instances, there will never be other children or grandchildren. Therefore, reinvestment in life is a more strenuous and lengthy process.
The first newsletter was printed in December 1988 mailing 50 to bereaved families and a few chapter leaders. It was started under the “umbrella” of Compassionate Friends. Within a year money was being sent (unsolicited) to the Bevingtons asking to be put on the mailing list. Poems, articles, and letters started coming daily. The mailing list grew so rapidly that in 1990 it was decided to become a separate organization and a non-profit status became legal.
The name Alone, Alive was suggested by Sascha Wagner, a good friend who was also childless. An artist friend, Barb Thompson, changed it to Alive Alone while working on a logo and design which is still used on the booklet and stationery.
Joe Auclair worked to get a database ready for networking and did the mailing list for about three years until Rodney purchased a computer and learned to do this task.
Kay and Rodney receive at least 30-40 letters each week from parents, support group leaders, and professionals asking about Alive Alone. Each letter is personally answered by Kay or Rodney. Love gifts and memorials support the newsletter and are recognized with a personal letter from the Bevingtons.
Jake and Betty Owens folded, stapled, labeled, and organized the bulk mailing for several years until Rodney took early retirement in 1994. The mailing list currently consists of 600-800 names which are updated every six months. Alive Alone is mailed to all fifty states and seven foreign countries. There would be several thousand on the mailing list if it were not updated twice a year.
Alive Alone is unique as all the articles are original and not copied from other material. Bereaved parents, now childless, write the articles or professionals write the articles for this type of grief.
Parents with no surviving children can now find friendship, understanding, and hope from others like themselves as a result of Rhonda Bevington’s life.