Countdown to 2nd Annual “Pay it Forward” Day …

If you are someone who has followed my blog from the beginning – or the end – as it’s known in my heart – you are probably aware of what “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day” is. If you are a newer reader, then you can jump on board the kindness train this year, and participate, for the 2nd Annual Pay it Forward for Don Day, otherwise known as July 13th, otherwise known as the day my husband died. 

Yes, this Saturday will be exactly 2 years since his sudden and life-changing death. I will be honest (because I am always honest, so why stop now?) – I am having a really rough time lately. After returning from a full, beautiful, harmonious, meaningful, and healing week in San Diego where I performed at Camp Widow for my second time this year, (more on that in my next blog post – give me about a week or so to collect my thoughts), I am finding it rather exhausting and difficult and depressing to come home to ugly Flushing, Queens, where I don’t share a home with my husband, and where I continue to exist in this  new life without my best friend and soulmate. Plus, the weather has been disgustingly nasty hot all week here, and it is the exact same weather that surrounded all the days and weeks around his death, funeral, and everything in between. I have always hated hot and humid summers in NYC – but since my husband’s death, hate doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word to cover the way I feel about this horrible, stomach-churning heat. It feels as if all of my sorrow and all of my loss and pain is being held inside of each hot, clammy, humid hour that passes.

Summer makes me crazy-sad. It is a whole new level of sad, really. It is the kind of sad that seems to worsen with the passage of time in this new reality. Seems like everyone around me is talking about their family vacations, weddings, graduations, parties, and cookouts and barbeques. The 4th of July means fireworks and burgers for most people. For me, it means the last real memory I can conjur up of my husband before his death one week later. It means torturing myself for deciding not to stay home with him that night, but instead, going to my friend’s house alone for her cookout and fireworks. He was tired and wanted to stay home. If only I knew he would be gone forever just 9 days later. If only he showed some sort of symptom, other than being tired from working two jobs. If only, if only, if only …….

My husband, running the grill, on a typical 4th of July …

This Friday night, I put together an evening with some of our friends to celebrate him here in NY. We will go watch the sunset, which is supposed to be visible inside the grids of NYC this weekend, and then we will have a nice dinner at Carmine’s, which was one of our very favorite restaurants here. On Saturday, the anniversary of his death, I will go home to mom and dad’s in Massachusetts, and mom will make some of Don’s favorite foods for dinner and dessert. Some friends and family are coming over, and we will just have a nice, relaxing night of good food and hopefully some laughs. And then, of course, there is the Pay it Forward, which I began last year, at the suggestion of my awesome grief counselor, who told me: “On that day, do something that honors who he was.” The idea is simple. On July 13th, do something kind for somebody. Anybody. Friend. Stranger. Something huge. Something small. Doesn’t matter. Just do something, and do it in Don Shepherd’s name. Then write me and tell me about what you did. Post it on my Facebook Wall or send me an email ( or leave it in the comments here in this blog post. Include pictures if you can. All of your pay it forward stories will appear in this blogsite, in a future post, sometime next week. The most creative ones will go into a chapter in my book, which I hope to have finished and published somehow, sometime in 2014. Here is a bit more about “Pay it Forward:” ……..

Last year, over 130 people took part in Pay it Forward Day, many of them total strangers or internet friends. This year, I hope to shatter that record and get the idea out to even MORE people, and hear even more stories. Last year, your stories and your acts of kindness on behalf of my husband, changed the entire energy of that awful, horrible day. It was still an incredibly sad day for me, and always will be, but I started looking forward to getting online to read the next story someone had posted – the next creative thing that someone came up with to do, in an act of total kindness. It was something that began as a way to get me through the day – and it has turned into so much more. It has turned into hundreds of tiny miracles, from hundreds of wonderful people. It is inspiring what the human spirit can accomplish, in the midst of so much pain.

If you’d like to read some of the inspiring stories from last years Pay it Forward, here is the blog I wrote about it, on this blog site, where I featured about 75 of the 130 stories. Check it out. Some of the things people came up with floored me. It was incredible:

There are many , many things you can do on this day. Some people prefer acts of kindness, others prefer to make donations somewhere. If you would like to donate to something in my husbands honor, a few suggestions of things/places that mean tons to him/us would include:

My friend , and legendary comedian and activist Elayne Boosler, runs an amazing animal foundation which works with animal rescue and shelters around the country to give funding and help to animals in need everywhere. Last year, Elayne was able to help some local animals/kitties in need, in Don’s former hometown of St. Pete/ Clearwater Florida, with the many donations she received from Pay it Forward Day. 

My friend Michele Neff Hernandez is the founder of CAMP WIDOW and the incredible nonprofit organization Soaring Spirits Loss, the largest known community to connect widowed people worldwide and provide them with coping and living skills to survive this new life. A donation to their organization would mean more funding to provide others with the opportunity to attend events like CAMP WIDOW, which are lifechanging, as well as help with local regional meetup events, packets for newly widowed people that provide hope and tools, and more. You can donate at their site

Lastly, you can make a donation to my blogsite, by clicking the Donate button on the homepage. Losing your husband to sudden death, in my case, meant the loss of health insurance, no life insurance, no savings, and a new life where I struggle financially everyday just to get by. Although I’m doing okay currently with the “getting by” portion of life, I do still survive paycheck to paycheck, and do not have any “extra” funds for my book, which is my sole focus at this time, to honor my husband’s life and our life together. Any donations to my site will be put into a fund to help with book-related costs, which I’m told can be into the thousands. (Yikes!) Publishing, editing, printing, and shipping costs, to name a few, will all be things I need to concern myself with, once the book has finally been completed next year. I will need help to get this off the ground. My dream is to tell his story – our story – and be able to get it published somehow.

Please, if you make a donation to any of these above places or another place of your choice, comment on their notes somewhere that it’s for PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON SHEPHERD DAY, so that they know and I know what has been donated as a result of this day. Please know that making a donation is only ONE way of participating. Many people did MANY other things that did not cost them one penny. It is all up to you – that’s the fun of it. Read some of the stories from last year’s blog to give yourself some ideas.

July 13th is just one week away. You have one week to start thinking about how YOU want to pay it forward for Don. Don’t forget to post somewhere to me, in writing and pictures if possible, what you did. The best part of this day is hearing all the incredible stories from people of all walks of life, coming together in love and remembrance. I can’t wait to hear your stories, and I hope that some of you will take part in this magical idea, that really is the best tribute I can think of to demonstrate exactly who my husband was, and always will be.

I miss you so much, my dear and wonderful husband.






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5 thoughts on “Countdown to 2nd Annual “Pay it Forward” Day …

  1. I;ll be thinking of smething that Don would appreciate…a great way to honor a great man! We miss you Don!

  2. Dear Kelley,
    For Pay It Forward Don Shepherd Day July 13th, 2013, I am doing two things. I just donated $100 for you to write and publish your book about your amazing husband and I have written and attached an acrostic poem I wrote about Don Shepherd. I read about him through your website, links, and stories. I have tried to use the words that you used to describe him. I hope you like this poem that I have written from my heart for this special day!
    Love in Christ,
    Shirley Tam
    P.S. I have printed and framed the poem in red, white, and blue colors representing July 4th because you mentioned Don was the barbecue chef during special holidays such as July 4th. I will give this framed poem to you next week!

    Dearest Don Shepherd: Husband, Best Friend, Soulmate
    Of Kelley Lynn
    Niemi: Comedian, Actor, Writer

    Shepherd of animals in need
    He is kind, caring, compassionate
    Ever ready to lend a hand to people in need
    Patient when he listens and Humble when he helps
    He is Wonderful, Sincere, Amazing
    Eager to laugh at witty jokes of his beloved wife Kelley
    Rescued countless folks as an EMT
    Don Shepherd’s legacy of love lives forever when we
    all Pay It Forward on every July 13th!

    Sincerely, Shirley Tam 7/13/2013

  3. Kelley,
    It was a pleasure to meet you today! I also have to thank you so much for the wonderful laugh! I read you blog and the following made me laugh so hard I cried…
    “Many outsiders, or D.G.I.’s, as we call them in the widowed community (“Don’t Get It” people), like to assume that widowed people are left with all kinds of money, huge life-insurance policies, big houses, pensions, and a lovely gaggle of gorgeous unicorns that poop rainbows and glitter out of their asses.” You are so right!!!!

    Reality check…we are often left just enough that we can continue to live the lives we’ve known (if that), hopefully for the rest of our lives. If you are looking for money found over the rainbow, we suggest you find a unicorn and ask them where the pot of gold is located! We will gladly join you in your search!

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