I have been working in palliative care, and end of life care, for 15 years---the last 10 years caring specifically for pediatric patients and their families. In my current role as Manager of the Supportive Care Program at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, I have had the opportunity to hear Maggie Horgan’s incredible story about heart stones. Maggie has been a featured speaker at our bi-annual memorial service on many occasions. And I have to admit; every time I hear her speak, I gain more insight into how people grieve.
Often, families whose children are dying will ask me how other families “get through.” In response, one thing I share with them is Maggie and Neil’s Heartifact story. Grief is a complex journey that the bereaved must travel, despite any attempts to skip past it. By sharing Maggie’s story, I hope to give grieving parents confidence that there will be light at the end of the very long tunnel they face.Carol May, RN, MSN, MBA, CHPN
Maggie Horgan has written a remarkable book. As I read it, it felt like a blessing and it is beautifully written. Very shortly after the death of her 19 yr. old son, Neil, Maggie began finding heart-shaped stones at an amazing frequency. They would just appear in a variety of settings. The hearts seem, so clearly, to be gifts from the Divine and from the heart and Soul of her son, Neil. The essence of Maggie's experience and message is written on p. 135:
Maggie does not minimize or deny the deep, deep, grief and loss she experienced when losing her son. In "Heartifacts" she describes her journey toward healing and going forward in her life and the amazing and totally unexpected journey that it has been. The book begins, and ends, with direct communications from Neil, which are full of wisdom and love. Neil's message is: "Even paralyzing grief can take on a new shape in time. The grieving are changed forever. 'Business as usual' ceases to exist. Grief does not have to destroy a life, though...it can be folded into a new, broadened and meaningful one." "Choose a life that supports the love you are" is Neil's message to Maggie. Maggie's experience, belief, is that "the Heartifacts validate our faith in eternal love. Death is of the body. Love is of the Spirit. Heartifacts represent love...and the continuing presence of Neil in our lives."
This is a deeply spiritual book, uplifting and giving hope and healing to anyone dealing with loss, indeed for any of us who need the feeling of hope and support in getting through this life.
Renee Bourg-Giarrusso, M.Ed.s,
Licensed Professional Counselor
My husband and I first met Maggie Horgan about 7 months after our beloved 8 year old daughter, Shannon, left this earth. Her death was caused by a freak accident at home. As her mother, I didn’t believe I would survive the horror of her leaving us. Maggie was a featured speaker during a memorial service we attended at The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Shannon was one of the children being remembered that day. I could not help but pay attention.
After the service ended, I thanked her for courageously sharing her pain, but more so for her willingness to share hope. I needed hope. Like all the days since Shannon’s accident, I had arrived at the special service with a heavy heart. Despite the foundation of faith I had been raised with, my daughter’s death left it somewhat shattered. I was at the end of my rope in many ways when I arrived at Children’s Hospital that day, but Maggie’s speech tied a knot at the end of it for me. Little did she know; she gave me something to hang on to.
I am happy to offer this testimonial for Maggie, and I am also proud of her for completing this journey to lightness. Her words gave me hope when I had little. Her faith opened the door of possibilities for my own healing wider than I could open it by myself.Sherri L. Wilson
Maggie’s story is inspiring and heart-wrenching, but the message is clear: Through the ups and downs, the self-doubt and pain (of grieving for a child) you just don’t know when something is going to touch you both physically and spiritually. As Maggie speaks and the heart stone is passed around, there is a physical buzz that can be felt by our families. They can see that there is some light in the distance, that there is hope.Michael Shulock, MS, CCLS
I met Maggie Horgan 7 months after my 11 year old daughter, Maggie, died from Ewing's Sarcoma (the same cancer that took Neil's life). Only God could have orchestrated our meeting. I believe our children, heavenly friends, found a way for their Moms to meet so we could support each other. I was given a heart shaped rock from a family friend with Maggie's business card attached to it. The heart rock gift started an important friendship between two Moms who understand living with the sorrow of the loss of a child. The unexplainable ways our children continue to connect with us give us hope, comfort, and a glimpse of heaven. The resounding message "I Am With You Still" echoes through my being with each connection. Thank you for writing about your journey with heart rocks, Maggie. Your story is a beautiful confirmation of the enduring love between mother and child. The amazing ways that God reveals Himself through these connections with our children gives us the grace to carry on.
Maggie pours out of her heart how her faith, the spirit of Neil, the compassion of God and the warm, hardness of heart stones have led her to a recovered place. Heartifacts displays the confluence of faith, hope and love. Heartifacts challenges the often used phrase, “I need closure”. Maggie cannot close the door on a love so deep and complete. The Heartifacts journey shares how God chose to promote healing in the spirit of His child, Maggie Horgan.
Maggie has offered glimpses of the Heartifacts journey to hundreds of bereaved parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings as she has spoken on a number occasions at our twice annual memorial services here at our hospital. I have witnessed and many people have attested to the healing balm nestled in the Heartifacts narrative. I hope you will embrace the journey towards healing … a journey embodied in Heartifacts.The Rev. Richard L Freeman, Sr.
I first heard Maggie Horgan’s heartifact story in 2005 at our memorial service in remembrance of the children for whom we had cared. You could hear a pin drop as her story unfolded, and as the original heart stone made its way through the crowd, people held it as if it were a precious treasure. Since that time, I have heard Maggie’s story numerous times. Each telling reveals something new for me, and the families who attend our memorial services always comment on the comfort they find in her sharing. A child represents the future, and losing a significant piece of the future causes a loss of hope many times.
The heart stones are proof that our relationships with those who have died continue – just in a different form. Neil’s story must be shared with those who are on the journey through grief. It provides a light for the darkest parts of the path. The hope it brings is so amazing.Sr. Lisa Balcerek, C.S.J.
As a pediatric nurse, healthcare executive and an individual who has experienced a personal and tragic loss in my life, I have found Maggie’s story nothing less than extremely hopeful, powerful, and transformational. Her story restores a parent’s faith that there is life after loss of a child.
As a health care provider, I thank Maggie for her time, commitment and support in sharing her story over and over again to our grieving parents at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Maggie…you are an inspiration!Diane S. Hupp, MSN, RN, NEA-BC
Maggie Horgan wrote this beautiful book from her own heart about the loss of her dear son and how she has been given her "heartifact gifts" over the years since his death. They have provided her a measure of peace from her terrible grief and led her toward a path of healing and finding a way to cope with life as it is after such a loss. She is a wonderful writer and has done an amazing job in telling her personal story. This book will help other grieving parents, family and friends to find their way through the grief they are experiencing from their loss, or for someone who has witnessed a loved one going through such a loss. It might give hope to those who feel none and cannot see an end to the horrible, intense grief that follows the loss of a child.
Thank you Maggie for putting your heart into this book! I believe in an Angel after reading it.