Somewhere up there, our son is surely hooting at the marvel taking place in our lives.

One of Mike’s closest and lasting friends is a special needs educator in a nearby town. At times effusive,  loquacious, and highly-driven, Travis works with a group of students and young adults who are on the autism spectrum. As part of his job, Trav arranges for a few of them to help out at our bereavement center once in a while.

One in particular, whom I will call Aaron, is the sweetest young man you can imagine. So thorough and eager, whether vacuuming or raking leaves to perfection, cleaning windows, or whatever task is at hand. Just meeting him once in a while and sensing that doing a few hours of work to help our nonprofit means something to him can halt my overwrought thinking.    


Hope Floats Healing and Wellness Center
holds its 2nd Annual Memory Walk Saturday May 2, at 4 Elm Street, Kingston, Ma. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., the walk starts at 10:00. This community event helps sustain free bereavement supports for families.

Photo by Karen Alves, Design Principles

Photo by Karen Alves, Design Principles

There’s more. As my wife Denise–who directs Hope Floats Healing and Wellness Center–says, Aaron also seems to understand what the center is about. He sees a picture of our son Mike in the entry way. Michael was only 18 when he died in a car crash in 2002. Aaron knows that people who have lost a loved one are in pain. He yearns to help.

And for Mike to see his buddy Travis taking care of Aaron and the others–he may chuckle thinking of their high school exploits, but I’m sure he’s also very proud.

For Travis to stay connected to his friend–and not just rekindling memories, but by supporting and even participating in some of Mike’s legacy in a unique way–well, what can I say?

It stops a barrage of clanging thoughts.  

It helps lighten the load my wife and I occasionally feel, especially for her, providing supports for people who are grieving.

This work can be draining, taking phone calls from other adults who have lost children or their spouses to illness, to sudden catastrophe, to overdoses and suicide. She wears many hats, such as organizing and facilitating support groups for adults. There are also workshops and wellness classes to schedule, bills to pay, and rooms to clean. Gardens overflowing with perennials to tend and weed. 

And then there is the shift whenever someone lifts us up. We may not even feel it right away.

A group of women gather in the living room, taking charge of which local businesses to contact for gift certificates and other goods for a raffle at our fundraising event. Some introduce us to new sponsors. Others contact the local media, while another mostly listens and offers helpful ideas.

Another mom who finds a support group helpful, because it’s there she finds others who get it, who can share shards of angst and regrets and reminiscing, feeling less isolated and ostracized–this mom goes to her employer and convinces them to sponsor Hope Floats. A guy who runs a small business and whose son died of an overdose donates from his company to help sustain our programs. On it goes. 


We dare not take for granted or downplay what is going on here.

We meet couples and families so fresh in their loss, including those who grapple with trauma that never should have come their way. Just as my wife and I once sat in shock after his car crash, crying, Why us? Where was God? What now?

Good friends of ours, those both longtime and recent, approach two years, nine months, 14 years after losing a beloved dad, their only son, and a son and brother to many.  

This week we feel momentum rising again. From Travis and Aaron, from our volunteers and fundraising team, from dear friends and parents who’ve been around during many of our darkest hours.

We know Mike will be smiling or perhaps circling above, his spirit riding with a red-tailed hawk, when Hope Floats holds its second Memory Walk this Saturday.

This will be another community event. A community of people sustaining one another. The countenance of so many lifting each other up.