An Avalanche of Kindness: The 3rd Annual Pay it Forward For Don Shepherd Day

Well, here we are 4 years since the sudden death of my beautiful husband. That first year, creating “Pay it Forward Day” was more selfish than anything really. I just wanted to be able to make it through July 13th without breaking down into a puddle of terror and pain. I figured that if I tried to make the day about my husband and who he was, maybe that would help some with the trauma of re-living all the details of his death. It helped some, but something even better happened. Lots and lots of people participated. Way more than I ever imagined. People came up with all kinds of creative things to do for their acts of kindness in honor of Don Shepherd. That first year, I had over 70 stories. The next year, that number doubled, and since then, it has been really powerful and incredible how many people from all over, take part in this event. Here are all the stories – in their own words. Grab a cup of coffee and soak in the love. It’s a beautiful thing.

“My Pay it Forward was the same as every year – sending Kelley flowers – but as always, they are not from me – they are from my brother Don, because I know he would want her to have them. Since he cant send them to her himself, he asked me to, so I do. Love you both! – Cynthia Shepherd, Colorado

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“I was going to make a donation to Elayne Boosler’s Tails of Joy for the animals, but then I thought that Don would probably want that money to go directly to YOUR pets Sammy and Autumn to help you feed them and keep them healthy during the summer months when your income is low. So that is what Dad and I did – a little donation for the kitties that Don loved so much. We miss you, Don! – Love, Mom and Pop” – Chris and Dave Niemi, Massachusetts

“I paid it forward in a way that I knew would help someone extremely deserving. As some of you know there was horrible flooding in Texas. I know a beautiful soul who lost his home, his dog, his job, he lost everything. Through all of this, he has never let it get the better of him. Sure he’s upset, but he’s grateful he survived. He still smiles, and most importantly, he still does for others. So I decided to do something for him.
He was having a hard time making ends meet. His job had stepped up to help, but it basically covered bills and left only a little for food. He was eating, but not enough, and certainly not anything nutritious. So I spoke with our local farmers market who does a crate service where they will deliver a crate of farm fresh eggs, fresh dairy, veggies, grass fed beef or free range chicken once a week for 6 weeks. So I ordered it for him. I explained the situation, and I explained about Don, and the owners thought it was beautiful. They allowed me to include a note. He received his first crate on Monday. The overwhelming gratitude I received from him, it was beautiful. I just feel like it was time this very deserving man who does so much for others, got a little of that back in return.” – Kat Tamayo, Kyle, TX

“Today, on the train home from S B., a woman wanted a better window seat so her niece with Down Syndrome who is from back East could have a better view & see the ocean. I gave up my seat with a big window seat to her. Hearing her excitement was so rewarding!” – Donna Cramer, Simi Valley, CA

“Headed to the post office to send off love note packages to two widow friends who are going through a rough time. (Follow-up) … when I took these into the Post Office the clerks couldn’t stop exclaiming about the packages, and when I explained what it was all about they were in awe that people do these kind of things. Made me feel so good that I’ll be doing more as soon as I get the Camp Widow volunteer schedule finalized. And it also provided another opportunity to give out some “You Are Not Alone” cards. Lots of ‘bang for my bucks’ on this ‘pay it forward’.” – Dianne West, Las Vegas, NV

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“I was shopping at the outlets. I asked the person in line to see one of their shirts because I liked the pattern. After they handed it to me, I bought it for them.” – Ginger Michele, Florida

“No pics taken, but I fed our neighborhood army of wild cats. Well, put food out for them.”– Danille Worthen Miller

“I am participating in The Generosity Project which is pay it forward for Don since I do it with him in mind,” – Mark Kavanaugh, Massachusetts

“Finally found my perfect Pay It Forward for Don. I had contact with a homeless person with three dogs, she had enough money for one more night in a motel, and she refused go to a shelter because she refused to leave her dogs, even in good, safe, temporary hands….they’re her family and I understand that. Me, and a friend of mine paid for another night in the motel for her, giving her pastor more time to raise the funds needed for a more permanent situation. She is retired from the helping profession in NYC, loves her pets and considers them family, and was reluctant to accept an act of kindness. A very kind person, down on her luck. I thought of Don all morning, and hoped he would approve.” – Molly Fisher Foster, Meso, AZ

“To know that any person, any where would consider making a choice between paying a bill or having a nutritious meal, hurts me inside. On Monday, I stopped by The Keith Haring Food Pantry in NYC, and donated a bunch of non-perishable, healthy, canned-food items. I did it in the name of kindness. I did it in honor of Don Shepherd.” – Tom Ragu, Brooklyn, NY

“I wanted to do something special for you today and to honor your amazing love.l know you could never get a coke bottle with Dons name on it. I decided to see if they could be custom ordered. I was busting with joy when you posted that you received the three coke bottles of Kelley, Boo, and Don. So, Yes I am Guilty as charged. Sending this with so much love in my heart for you and for your love that lives on forever. Hoping today brings you lots of love pouring in and you feel Don’s love surrounding you. Can’t wait to see you very soon to give you a huge hug. So grateful I can call you my friend.” – Judy K. from Delray Beach, FL

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“My random acts involved making the extra effort to hand out compliments at work. I know it’s such a small thing, but sometimes telling someone that you like their earrings or that they look great at least put a smile on their face. That was my small attempt at a random act.
Coincidentally, something I ordered for a special person shipped out yesterday, and although it isn’t random, I did it out of kindness.” – Brenna Clark, Ontario, Canada

“I want to be a parent – like Don wanted to be. I don’t know if I will ever get the opportunity. I also don’t have many kids in my life right now. There is a boy that I occasionally babysit. His favorite colors are pink and purple. He enjoys my She-Ra DVDs when I bring them over. Yesterday, I ordered a pink t-shirt with some of my She-Ra artwork on it for him, hopefully giving him more encouragement from an adult man that its ok to nurture the feminine energy inside of him, despite what our patriarchal, misogynist, and effemophobic culture says.” –Kevenn T. Smith, Lakewood, Ohio

“My pay it forward will be a donated registration to the “sailing trip” in San Diego during Camp Widow! I reserved it back in April when I thought I’d be attending. Love to you and Don!” – Diane Fisler, New Jersey

“Today at Starbucks, I did my Pay it Forward for Don. Covered the 3 customers behind me at the drive thru and had the Barista write “Pay it Forward for Don” on the cups.” – Shirley Lovato, San Diego, CA

“Hugs to you Kelley Lynn from Bozeman MT. I decided to do something to help animals at our local shelter, Heart of the Valley, in honor of Don today. So I got their wish list and went to Petsmart and got some things that they needed most. As I was going to drop it off, I saw the pathetically sad faces of my two dogs plastered to the fence watching me leave and thought “I should do something nice for my own animals today too”. When I got back I rounded up two of our cats and gave them each a plate of tuna (their favorite treat they never get because the vet says these guys need to lose a few pounds ).

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Then I took my dogs down to the pond by our house and let them jump off the dock into the water over and over as many times as they wanted. We finished it off with a trip through the McDonalds drive-thru where they got to split a cheese burger and each got an ice cream. This was a treat they used to get when my husband was alive. He loved to take our dogs to town in the back of the truck and get ice cream. When I saw their slobbery grinning faces in the mirror as I drove down the road I thought of your husband and of all the lives being touched- both furry and human.

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Throughout this day happiness and kindness is pouring out all over the country and maybe even other parts of the world. I cried tears of joy and sorrow for you sweet Kelley Lynn. What a hard day this is for you. And what countless blessings are to come from your desire to honor his memory. www.heartofthevalleyshelter.org” – Tracey Robecker, Bozeman, MT

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“The plan for today was a rescue transport of two kittys on the Euthanization list to be saved and brought to a loving foster home. Late this morning I found out that other arrangements had been made but I was not upset because the person who went also saved three more kittys who have FIV and all five will now have a loving home.
Second plan: I timed the launch of my new FB page ‘Skitty Scat Rescue & Transport’ for today and the very first post is to honor Don and express gratitude for each life he saved. I offer my help free of charge to go down to the kill shelter and free kitty cats from their jail when someone who wants to adopt or foster cannot get there in time to save their lives. I take them anywhere from a few miles to all the way across the state to their new homes. Until today I have only been telling people what I do and now it’s official! I’m available to the public for contact to rescue even more animals this year than in the last year. So, as I was trying to figure out what to do instead of the rescue today, it came to my own doorstep. I had the chance to help a neighbor who has been mowing our grass for extra money and recently lost his job. The grass did not need mowing when he stopped by today to mow but I gave him the cash I had to make sure he has food in his tummy. His name is Joe and he was very grateful, even asked if it was a loan and I told him it was a gift. So much love to you, Kelley! You are the best and the light of your love for Don lives within so many hearts it cannot be dimmed by death. You have always been and continue to be an amazingly beautiful woman and I thank you for being my friend.” Shannon, Tampa, Florida

(Each animal you see here is part of the Skitty Scat legacy, working since August 10, 2014 and I’m so proud to be inviting you to see what a difference we can each make in a life. Almost every post has transformation photos in the comments to show the amazing ability of these beautiful creatures to trust even after their lives were filled with harsh reality.
Thank you, Don, for everything and every single one of the lives You saved. You are a Hero Don Shepherd!) https://www.facebook.com/Skittyscatrescue?fref=ts

“You said Don loved animals, so I donated to Beagle Freedom Project in his name. Love from Anne, in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania www.beaglefreedomproject.org ”

Hi Kelley, I’m a day late, but didn’t want to miss out on paying it forward in Don’s name. My part is two-fold: I bought a raffle ticket in a Go Fund Me project for our Vanderbyilly/Guitar.com friend Davido, who suffered a stroke some weeks ago. The money raised will go to David and hopefully help in his recovery. Part two: if the ticket wins, I will donate the prize – a beautiful electric guitar – in Don’s name, to our local high school’s music program. RIP brother Don.” – Larry Manch, Killeen, TX

“So. I’ve been moving in with my next “plan a” and wow. I hate moving. Either way. It has been one heck of a process trying to combine two households into one. Especially when one has a lot of late spouse stuff.
In this process of moving, combining, sorting, screaming, whining, and organizing, I decided to donate all of our “extra goods” in Dons name. I think we’ve done three truck loads of stuff now? I know we’ve given children clothes, toys, stuffed animals, blankets, coats, adult clothes (three GIGANTIC ones just from me and I still have a closet full), kitchen supplies, furniture (couch, tv, kitchen table), and I’m sure other stuff I can’t think of.
One thing I have learned from you is that Don is a selfless, kind, giving person. I’m honored to be able to take part in his annual pay it forward day.” – Beth May, Ohio

“A coworker lost his keys so I volunteered to take him to his house to get an extra key. However, his brother wound up bringing him a spare. So I waited with him till his brother arrived.” – Russell Landsdown, Las Vegas, NV

“I know it isn’t much, but today I paid for drinks and appetizers at Applebees for myself and a friend. I gave a huge tip because the waitress had a big section and not much help, and she was so nice and kept apologizing that our drinks took so long to get to us. It was a small kindness, but I dedicated it to you and Don.” Much love – Meghan Starkes, NY

“Last year we made a monthly commitment to help Raju the Elephant’s rescue, and that continues. Earlier this year we started fostering cats/kittens and had to take one of our newest residents to the vet last week. Instead of asking the rescue we are fostering for to pay the bill, we took care of it, in lieu of our monthly donation to them. Well they are filing for their Charitable Organization status (501c3) and needed help with the filing fees; so we dug a little deeper in our pockets today and made a donation to help offset the costs. I also ordered a cat scratcher and some other supplies for the new foster room “Ozome’s Retreat”. I haven’t ordered the sign yet but it’s on our list.” – Carol Mills Manning, Clovis, NM

“It’s July 13, and that means it’s time to Pay it Forward — which is a beautiful way to remember your wonderful husband and a compassionate and loving man. Here is mine: Our neighborhood has a few strays roaming — a couple of them really irritate me, not because these cats are mean or anything, but because they wear a collar and “have a home”. However, these cats never seem to be where ever THAT is, and they are very small cats.
As I said, these cats have collars .. well… HAD collars. These collars were badly frayed, and when I called them, they both came running. I was able to pet them and test the collar. I couldn’t even get a single finger under those collars. So I removed the collars from both cats and they seemed so much happier to not have that restriction on them. While they are cats and they don’t know who Don is, I was thinking of him and his love for cats when I did it.” – Misty Corrales, Birmingham, AL

“Kelley, I nurtured Don Shepherd’s soon to be Cherry Tree. Fertilized with love and water for strengthening and growth. The sun is shining bright as Don always did for others and YOU daily. May Don’s strong legacy live on and grow. HUGS” – Ellen Sweetman Brant from Houston, Texas

“I forgot it was today until I saw your post this morning, so I didn’t have time to do much. Since Don loved animals, I put $20 in the donation jar for my local shelter for Don. They’re a great shelter and focus on cats, so I know he’d like that.” – Sarah Forgey, Washington DC

“This is my annual Pay it Forward for Don. Love you!” – Dianne Bissonette, VA

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“So today I went to the local Italian family restaurant for lunch. And just knew it was the perfect place to pay it forward in Don’s name and spirit. As I knew there would be a line at the register (as there always is!) and I went in there to get a meatball sub. Standing in line, with 2 people in front of me. I motioned for the cashier to look my way, which I finally was able to tell her that I was paying for the two people in front of me. I told the 2 gentlemen in front of me that I was ‘paying it forward’ but they had to listen to why I was doing it. I mentioned you Kelley and mentioned all that you’ve told me of Don. And they were genuinely interested that someone would inspire someone after they have passed (sorry for the pessimism, but this IS Baltimore lol). But just wanted to let you know, that at about 12:45pm today, Don’s spirit, kindness and genuine good-natured personality was on display and inspired by you, Kelley. Proud to be a small part of your life! – Scott Collins, Maryland

“Just donated again to Child’s Play charity. It was a nice reminder to do this! This is the charity that Greg’s memorial fund went too. They give toys, books and games to kids in hospitals all over the world.” – Izzy Grosinger, Colorado

“Hi, Kelley Lynn. I saw your post on Elayne’s Tails of Joy page. My heart goes out to you for your loss. In memory of your dear husband and so I can pay it forward, I just donated to Tails of Joy. I live in Michigan (originally from Ohio). My thoughts are with you today…thank you for asking us to honor your Don in such a loving way! May he RIP and may you find the peace here on earth that you deserve so much” www.tailsofjoy.org – Ceecee Castle, Michigan

“I’m spending time contacting friends to let them know I care about them. I’m also reading and responding to everyone who comments on my Facebook page. When people open their hearts I feel it is important to respond. Love to you Kelley Lynn. Sending an abundance of love and hugs to you from Melbourne, Australia” – Judy Taylor

“In honor of Don, today I donated to 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags. This non-profit was started by a local 11-year-old boy to provide healthy snacks and bottled water to homeless and low-income individuals here in Delaware. 3,650 bags have been handed out since July 2013! So glad to support this amazing young man’s mission as my Pay It Forward for Don. Kelley, hugs to you from Bear, DE!” – Julie Zimmerman Derrikson www.braedenquinn.com

“I know from what you’ve written that Don was a huge animal lover and now that I live in Alaska, I figured that donating to a sled dog rescue would be the way to go. This group is trying to raise money to perfect an adaptive dog sled so that people who cannot stand/walk can still actively drive a sled dog team. Enjoy, Don!” – Liza Rupp, Anchorage, AK

“I wasn’t sure what to do today, but when I woke up the first thing I saw on Facebook was a fundraising site for a fellow widda peep’s brother in law. Sometimes the universe just opens up and gives it to you. For your Don (and my Harmon, too)” – Janice Cornett Heidt, North Carolina

“A friend is in the Hospital In ICU..I lost My husband 19 months ago..so the thought of visiting SCARED ME, you all understand..But her daughter Called me and asked me to Please come, so I went and held her hand and her daughters hand..My heart is broken, I BROKE Down…AFTER we left In my Truck…But Being asked to go I could not say NO….all the people that Visited Stu in ICU..I felt I had to GO…Love that lil Lady and my heart is breaking.. Thought Of you Kelley Lynn. and Don… I had to do it as HARD as it was….” Wendi Kraslow Wiener, Riverside, CA

“I went to get a pedicure with my (very)pregnant friend. I surprised her by treating her to the pampering! Today, I made a donation to a friend’s Pelotonia fundraising campaign. He will be riding to honor his mom, who lost her battle against MDS and Leukemia yesterday. The world is a better place when we treat each other with kindness.” – Sharon Sharona DiCostanzo, NY

“Donated to All Children’s Hospital in St Petersburg, Florida on behalf of Don!!” – Barbara Boggs Travis, Tampa, Florida

“Mine wasn’t an intentional pay it forward, but I suppose it ended up that way – This year, because of all the chaos of selling the house and trying to move…I realized that I couldn’t do Camp Widow West. I was going to just keep the $ on the books and use it for Tampa or CWW 2016.
A few days later I was talking with some of my widowed homies and they encouraged me to donate my registration…
So I did – some one, who has never experienced CWW will be able to go and hopefully experience a life changing weekend. Pay it fwd? Who’s to say. Maybe, just maybe, someone else will see the light ..I will miss seeing you and everyone else this year. All my love ” – Sue C. Nova, Riverside, CA

“I’m in San Diego, this restaurant is in Philadelphia. Only able to make a small donation, but done in Don’s honor. – Lori Bartok
http://www.upworthy.com/remember-that-pizzeria-that-was-feeding-the-homeless-see-what-happened-when-you-shared-their-story?c=ufb1

“Hi Kelley; first off – sending you a big hug. Second, I donated to a local animal shelter with a high placement rate. “- Sheryl Wright Rice, Plymouth, MI www.HSHV.org

“I hosted another widow and her children this past weekend. If it were not for all of our widow connections, we would not be in contact. I had never met this widow in person before, just online in our group. Her son is training at the Army post near me in VA, she wanted to make a quick trip to see him with her own eyes, so I offered my home to her and her family. They drove the 14 hours from northern MI to Richmond VA, she saw her son on Saturday and even brought him to my house for a couple of hours. Helping this widow and her kids all come together for an 8 hour visit was awesome. Hugs Kelley” – Karen Marie

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“From Wausau Wisconsin I donated a sizable amount of money to www.ForeverHusky.org. We have owned Huskies since 2002 and in my opinion they give you more love and loyalty than most humans do. These dogs are in my heart and in my soul.” – Lisa Friedrich, Wisconsin

“I donated to the Akron Zoo in Akron, Ohio to care for a Humboldt Penguin in the care for a critter program.
Help support an animal today! When you “Care for a Critter,” you help the Akron Zoo provide food, medical care, habitat maintenance and conservation programs for one year for your choice of any animal at the Akron Zoo.
https://www.akronzoo.org/” – Beth Hensley, Ohio

“I purchased a gift certificate for food for my 88 yr old dad in honor of Don. In addition, I have a neighbor that is going through chemo & in general a very difficult time. I brought her a food basket as well. This is truly a beautiful & meaningful honor to the man you loved. Xoxo” – Lyn Duhd, Long Beach, NY

“I donated to a Go Fund Me Campaign called “Help Sandy See” in honor of Don Shepherd. This gift will help a local family provide an expensive eye surgery for their handicapped sister. I am constantly impressed and encouraged by the stories of Don’s selflessness and willingness to serve others with love and compassion. This family also embodies the same service towards their community. They are the first to volunteer, help, step up and love others. Don was also a donor of life-giving organs and tissue through NJ Sharing Network. He helped many through his life and his passing. May we all be willing to “help others see” every day, inspired by Don’s example.” – Rebecca and Ben Hoare Garreth, New Jersey

“Kelley, there is a wonderful rescue group here on Long Island that Don would have loved. It’s called the League for Animal Protection. They provide help in trap, neuter, and return as well as finding homes for rescued animals. They are currently running fund raisers for a few of their rescues that need medical attention. So, they are getting a sizable donation in Don’s name tomorrow. I love this idea of yours and hope that it helps in your own healing.” – Karen Block Breen, NY

“Kelley, I racked my brain to think what I could do to pay it forward for Don. Being shut in at home since I lost my husband and then handicapped, I believe a light shed down…no no…it was from the lamp. A neighbor brought me some delicious cherries. Ironic is I was not going to eat them at first for I am not a fan of cherries. It hit me, the act of kindness I want to do for Don is take the cherry pits and plant them on my patio and fertilize them in honor of Don. I will grow a plant/ maybe small tree to keep Don’s Spirit Alive. I love you lady and believe Don Shepherd Day will sprout and continue to bless you and others.” – Ellen Sweetman Brant, TX

“There’s a young girl that I know that is struggling so I helped them out yesterday and got groceries for them. I hope that these pieces of good charity in Don’s name help ease the pain of what is missing. You’re an amazing woman Kelley. Thank you for what you do” – Anonymous

“For my pay it forward today I want to honor two great men: Don and Danny. I made a donation to Destiny and the girls. I want to keep it anonymous. http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/team-danny-help-support-the-crabb-s-donate-here-/214312 I think about you and Don often, especially today. Hugs.” – Anonymous

” I’m a counselor at a university and today we were hosting a group of students. These are low income first generation high schoolers who spend their summers doing college prep. They come to visit the college, spend the night in the dorms and get a taste for different schools. I planned to have smores for them at the fire pit by the pond. This isn’t so unusual but I had forgotten that’s what I’d be doing today so I was in a dress and flats. I ran into another unrelated group of kids staying in the dorms, a bunch of city kids doing a summer internship.. I figured these guys would have pocket knives and could help me out. So I asked them if they could help me get the fire going and whittle some marshmallow sticks and I’d pay them in smores. They were so happy! It was four boys who have never really gone camping or anything and I gave them the chance to not only use their knives but start a fire and meet more kids. It was the coolest, and their counselor was really proud of them too. We hung out for a bit getting the fire going then the other kids showed up and they all got along really well and ended up hanging out and playing ultimate Frisbee on the quad. To be honest, I don’t know specifically why those boys were there, but they just seemed so freaking grateful that I just treated them like everyone else and just assumed they could handle the responsibility of the fire and cutting sticks. They acted like they were used to adults assuming they’d just screw up. I talked to them about college and how a number of our programs are very hands on and a good fit for students who might not love the classroom and like to be active. It was a really great night for everyone. I feel like I did my job well, and I think I gave those boys a gift much greater than the smores. I didn’t have a plan for what would happen today but it always turns out that something fits to honor Don.” – Anonymous

“I decided to use my own unique abilities to bless someone else. I know Don was always helping others and now you are helping others through the grief process. I decided to use my job as a dental hygienist to help someone else. (I figured that would be pretty unique;) I know of a single mom who is struggling financially but she always brings her daughter into our office for her regular check ups. She doesn’t have insurance for herself, and hasn’t been to a dentist in many years. I asked my boss if I could donate my time and stay late to see her. My boss thought that was a great idea and she also donated her time to provide her some needed procedures as well! Because it had been years and she had some other dental issues, we ended up being there twice as long as I thought, but of course it was worth it. It was very rewarding using what skills and abilities I already had to help someone else and honor Don at the same time. Thinking of you today.” – Stacey Riggs, CA

“Sending good thoughts your way Kelley. I made a donation in Don’s memory to Doctors Without Borders.” –Cormac Dorsey www.doctorswithoutborders.org

“I can’t do much to help others but in Don’s memory I helped people with bus fare. People get on the bus without money or change and I always help.” – Miriam Baard, NY

“In honor of Don Shepherd and his service to our country. A $30 donation has been made to “Cup of Joe” FOLLOW-UP: THANK YOU NOTE TO DON !!!
“Don, You have no idea how much a Cup of Joe can make a difference in soldier’s day. It’s nice to know that there are people that really do care about their Soldiers. Thank you so much for the Cup of Joe!”
– Anne Nardone Way , Kentucky

“I bought toiletries for a wonderful local organization that serves the homeless in many capacities. http://www.miriamskitchen.org/ “- Carrie Zwicker , Maryland

“Hi Kelley, so sorry it is MUCH harder this year. I have found that time truly doesn’t matter when your soulmate is not physically with you. I’ve spent time speaking with a widower whose wife died two months ago. He may come to Camp next week if he can swing it. I’m also checking in with all of my widowed friends today…an act of kindness in Don’s name. See you soon. Take good care.” – Anne Marie Higgins, Syracuse, NY

“In Don’s name, I donated a full campership scholarship for Camp Widow (www.soaringspirits.org or www.campwidow.org ). I hope it helps someone like it helped me.” – Paula Tamburro

“ I didn’t have much money to do it this year, but, what I have done is lose weight. I’m up to almost 16 lbs now. So, I washed up and cleaned my clothes, and took them to the womens shelter here. I know, it’s not much, but they are nice clothes, professional stuff and casual stuff. So hopefully the women here will get some use of them. There was quite a lot to donate, so I am hoping they can use them all. What was more cool, was I never even told all my friends about pay it forward day. But, I have some others on a group online, and I learned that they did the most awesome pay it forward ever and didn’t even know it was Don’s day, but it was. We’ve another friend who is very ill, chronic ill. She needed help and couldn’t find it, is alone, and far away. TWO of them, helped her, one flew there to do it, and the other paid. She now has what she needs, and will survive ok, and they didn’t even know her in person. It’s like our Brides group. SO, I told them about the Don pay it forward date, and that they DID what they did on that day, and they love it and will both keep doing it on that day. I thought it was pretty cool, they did all of this on the 13th.
love you kelley, and what you do this date is amazing. So much good done by so many. It’s a bit of sunshine from a horrible horrible day and month. Thank you for being you.” – Cyndi Harvey, Colorado

“I’m involved in Toastmasters and recently became the District 22 Area L34 Director. I’ve become pretty good friends with one of the officers of a club in my area. He is helping pay his boyfriend’s way through cosmetology school and they struggle with paying bills. He mentioned once how he only had $10 left for gas money and decided to let his boyfriend go to school instead of him going to work. He has shown real enthusiasm andleadership in his new role and even helped his club become distinguished only 3 months after chartering.

My deed for Don: My friend was interested in attending a networking lunch where I was meeting with some other officers of some clubs in my area but couldn’t afford to buy lunch. So I treated him and allowed him to come with us so he could meet the other officers and network with us.
It meant so much to him to be able to attend so that he could go back to his club and tell them all about what he learned.
It was just a lunch but it meant so much. Reminded me of how Don would give someone his last $15 just to make a new connection that might benefit them in the future.” – Jenny Billot , Kansas City, MO.

“Hi Kelley,
I was on the road all day yesterday and didn’t have a chance to pay it forward for Don Day. A few minutes ago at work, I saw a notice from a good friend on FB, reporting on the successful surgery of one of her good friends and musical colleagues, Tom Zajac. And I noticed that Tom’s friends have started a fundraiser, at giveforward.com, to help with the medical expenses he has incurred from this and other surgeries and the anticipated cost of upcoming home health services. I contributed what I could and shared it on my home page. I could not help but think about Don and his career of service and caring for others. Mr. Zajac is clearly facing an uphill battle with aggressive
brain tumors and an unsure future. I hope his fund can reach its goal and relieve some of the pressure of the medical costs. By the way, according to my friend, Tom’s first word after waking up from the surgery today was “TACOS!” Great.” love, Michael Hume, NY

“My part of “Pay it Forward for Don Day”—-I paid for our session tomorrow, plus a little extra. When my husband died, he left me a little bit of money, enough for me to be able to stay in our home and take a little time off after his death. I wouldn’t have survived had I had to move or go back to work right away. I am extremely grateful to my husband, for the little preparation he was able to do for me in case this happened. I know a lot of other widows have to move, lose everything, etc. So I am extremely grateful, in the middle of this horrible loss of my beloved. I know you have some financial difficulty–I wish I could give more, but on behalf of your husband’s loving memory, use my little donation for whatever you may need, or to help with your book. Thanks for all you do for others. I only hope I am where you are one day and am able to feel some joy again.” – Anonymous

“I made a donation to 100 Cameras, an organization helping kids in marginalized and low income communities to tell their life’s stories through photography. Here’s the note I attached with my donation:

“This donation is in memory of my friend Kelley’s husband, Don Shepherd, who died very suddenly in 2011. She does a “Pay-it-Forward” day each July 13th to honor him (the day he died). This is my contribution to her project, and to yours. Keep doing what you’re doing.” Love you!!” – Sarah Treanor, Texas

“On my trip to the grocery store, while at the register, I asked the woman in front of me in line if she knew who Don Shepherd was. She said no, of course, and then I told her that he was a great man and the husband of my good friend Kelley, who does a Pay it Forward in his name each year. I then asked her if I could please buy her groceries in honor of Don. She very hesitantly said yes, after informing me that “there’s a lot.” I videotaped this act to show Kelley, but we won’t post that because I think the woman was confused and stunned or she thought I was trying to hit on her or something lol. But she went home with lots of free diapers and other stuff for her kids, and once she realized what it was all about, she was very thankful. ” – Kevin Harris, WI

“I didn’t know what to do so when a few of us went out for some drinks on July 13th to toast to Don, I gave you $40 to cover your drinks so you wouldn’t have to spend money on that day.I just handed you cash and we both cracked up about it. Don would laugh too.” – Vanessa Branco, NY

“And I bought your dessert that night – Don’s favorite Gheradelli dark chocolate brownie with ice cream and whipped cream.” – Rodney Ladino, NY

pif friends

“While cleaning out my mom’s apartment after her death last week, we were especially concerned about furniture that ​meant something to her; things that we’d grown up with, as well as things she had acquired throughout the years and really liked. We wanted those things to go to the right people in the family. Antiques and objects that had meaning for us as children were easy because each of us had an attachment to a different thing so it was very democratic.

However, there was one piece that was not so easy to have anyone take…a fake fireplace (not one of those nice Amish fireplaces that we see on TV that actually generate heat)…nope, a big, heavy, fake fireplace, a wooden mantle which encased an iron grill with fake wood with a rotating light bulb, masked with some sort of plastic thing that made a crackling sound. Totally fake, totally useless, except, my mom simply loved it and called it “my fireplace”–“I’d like a nice mirror over my fireplace,” “when you go to bed tonight, leave on my fireplace, I like to see it when I get up during the night”–at Christmas, she’d hang our stockings on it…it was ridiculous, but, she loved that thing. It was from “the land of lost toys” I guess.

I knew she would never part with it. She offered it to me should the time ever come. I had considered taking it to my office where I work with children because I knew I could’t throw it out because of mom’s funny attachment to it. I have many silly things that crack kids up when I work with them, so this thing would be a great ice-breaker (if you will). It has the silly factor.. My problem is I work in a 5 floor walk up building in Manhattan with 16 foot ceilings, so it’s more like an 8 floor walk up. It has no freight elevator so it would be impossible to carry up that many flights of stairs and knowing my superiors, they would consider it a fire hazard!!!! (I mean it, they would).

A lovely woman, a friend of my sister, was starting her life over with her children and a new partner who also had children. They didn’t have much to furnish their home, so she came over to look at some of the furniture. She loved the blue sofa bed (which was in impeccable shape), a lovely comfortable rocking chair in which to rock someone to sleep, some great lamps, a Blue Willow dish set, an Ethan Allen dining-room set which would seat 8-10, and what seemed like thousands of glasses for all occasions, tea pots, flatware, the works! We told her how happy it would make my mom to know that children, little ones mostly, would be sleeping on the sofa, jumping on the sofa, eating Thanksgiving dinner at her table (my mom always set a gorgeous table for all holidays) and we thanked her for making this ordeal so much easier for us because it felt so right to us all after meeting her.

At the end of the “tour” and loading the truck, I told her the story of the fireplace and how much fun we always had teasing my mom over the years about it. I plugged it in and showed her little one how we could play being cold and then pretend to make ourselves warm…we could heat our pizza on it….wow!! We all laughed and then to everyone’s surprise she said “I’d like to take it…if that’s okay.” I couldn’t believe my ears. I felt, oh God, she really GETS my mom. I’m so happy…it belongs with children and now it will be in a home with kids, lots of kids.

This woman’s name? Kelley.
Best pay it forward for Don and for Kelley, and now my mom, that I’ve ever experienced.” – Caitlin Kelly, NYC

And there you have it folks. An avalanche of kindness. I will do this each and every July 13th for the rest of my days, and I sincerely hope you will continue to join me. It is my pleasure and honor to post every one of your stories, anonymously or not, to spread something positive out of something horrible. This is how we get through life, by creating something beautiful out of the ruins. To everyone who participated, I love you all. Thank you.

Pinata

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the middle of a phone session with a grief-coaching client, and I found myself talking with her about that feeling you have when you realize that your “other” life has ended, and a new one must begin. We were talking about what it’s like to have to literally stand in the middle of nothing, and learn to pick up every single thing that has shattered around you. That feeling of being totally lost as the whole world moves around you. Immediately, a very specific image of what this was, came into my head, and then later that night, I had a dream about it, where the images were laid out for me like a home movie, and this is what I saw ….

Pinata.

Life after losing your spouse or partner is like a pinata. Think about it. The pinata is your life. Your new life. The one you never asked for. The one that came crashing into your old life, uninvited. The one that mocks you everyday with it’s loudness and bright colors, when all you can see is grey. Your new life sits there, perched up above you, lightly swinging back and forth in the wind, messing with your sense of balance and steadiness. You are standing below it. Below your life. You look up at it, and nothing about it is familiar to you, because it is not the life you had just five hours ago, or five days ago. Your tired eyes are trying like hell to adjust to this oddly-shaped thing above you, and you are trying to focus, when suddenly, out of nowhere, another shock to your system.

Suddenly, someone is behind you, and you don’t know who it is, and they begin to put a blindfold over your face. So now your new life that you don’t want is above you swinging in the wind, and you can’t even see it. In fact, you can’t see anything. Nothing. Your world is completely dark. There is no light anywhere. The worst and most alienating part is that life is going on around you. Literally all around you, on every side, kids are laughing and people are dancing and life is singing and humans are having a party. They are having a party while your life is suspended in mid-air, and you have been blindfolded.

So now you are terrified. You are shaking and your mouth feels like it’s filled with dirt and mud. You want water but everything around you is sand and dryness. You can’t stop sweating, and then this horrible stranger who blindfolded you grabs you by your shoulders, and starts to spin you around. They spin you around in a circle. You go in circles for a long time. A really long time just moving in circles, ending up right back where you began. No focus. No purpose. No point. Just dizzy and nauseous from all the spinning and all the confusion. Where did everybody go? Where did my life go? Where are my friends? They were here just a few minutes or hours or weeks ago. You ask all these questions and more, but nobody hears you. You are left alone. Spinning.

The stranger puts a bat in your hand. It feels like a baseball bat. Why would they do that? You are about to pass out, and you feel like you cannot possibly accomplish one more task. You just want to sleep forever or stop feeling pain and hurt, but the voices come and so you can’t sleep and you can’t stop the hurt. The voices come from the thin, dry air and from all around you, and you can’t really make out what they are saying. It doesn’t sound like words. Nothing sounds like anything in this world where you are blind and spinning without your anchor. You feel the hand guide your arm up toward the strange colorful object. You still can’t see and you feel insane. But now, now suddenly and with a fire that scares you, you are filled with rage. You are crying and you are pissed off at this life and these questions and this God you believe in, if you believe in a God – suddenly the space around you grows silent, and you start blindly swinging. You swing and you swing and you swing, and at first, you touch nothing. Your arm starts to hurt and you start to question your sanity again. Is there anything up there? What am I swinging at? What am I reaching for? I don’t have the energy. I can’t do it. I can’t do it, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t …

But you do. You do, because you are so tired and so disoriented now, and in so much grief and pain, that you don’t know what else to do except stand there with your limp in your legs and your Jello arms and swing like a motherfucker at your life. You do this for hours or weeks or months or years, sometimes taking breaks for work or other obligations you are forced to still take care of, even though you can’t see and you have been blindfolded and left alone in a foreign space. You scream and you cry and you beat the shit out of the ground in front of you with your bat, and you stab at the air over and over and over, still feeling nothing except the cracks in your own joints from swinging.

Finally, there is a swing you take that has such intensity and such lack of direction and such violence in it, that you somehow magically actually make contact with something. You have made contact with your life. You try and center yourself, and you swing again through the darkness and the blackness and the hopelessness and the fear. You feel the tip and the middle of the bat hitting on something, and it makes a thud sound, once and then twice and then once more. You swing harder and faster now, even though you are seconds from passing out. You swing and you swing and you swing, and you hit and you hit and you hit. And then there it is, all of a sudden, and why did it take so long. You hear the final thud of your life, as it shatters in pieces around you. There is no applause or cheering. Just a subtle loosening of your blindfold, as it makes its way down your eyes and then falls down around your neck. You look around you, and there is your life.

You are broken open. Everything is scattered in pieces, and the fragments lie all over the hot ground. Your blindfold is off, so you can finally see, but your vision is still impaired. Everything is fuzzy and out of focus. Everything looks like shapes. You don’t know where to look first, what to deal with first. Your life has been broken open all around you, and you are still alone.

Eventually, after some weeks or months or years, you start to aimlessly wander around the space that is near you, searching for something. You have questions and there are no answers. But there is hope. There are shifts. There are changes. There is joy. There is laughter. It is somewhere, and now and again, you remember or feel what that was like. You can recall it, for a few seconds. But it disappears again because you are not ready. You have not picked up the pieces that are all around you. You realize that you have to start …….

pinata

Everything lying on the ground around you looks weird and unfamiliar. It is not candy or anything like that. It is all the pieces of what you must work through, what you must analyze and break down and feel. Sometimes you step on the pieces because they are sharp, so you have to then deal with them. Other times you bend down and pick up a piece of your grief.

This piece is the guilt. That piece is the anger. This piece is the jealousy and envy . That one over there is my future, the one I don’t get to have. The one I must grieve. That piece sitting in the rubble is the pieces of my children – the ones that were only born in the minds and hearts of me and my husband, as we dreamt of our someday family. That piece takes a long time to handle. That piece is a killer. This piece is loneliness. That one is the one that misses him. This one is my best friend being gone. That one near my foot is about the safety and security I felt with him, and no longer have in his absence. That jagged edged piece that I can’t seem to pick up still, is the one where I am no longer someone’s priority. The one where nobody is asking me what time I’ll be home tonight. And still, there are so many more pieces. The pieces of my life that I hit with a baseball bat came down in a flood, and there are too many right now. That one is old age and this one is getting sick and that one is dealing with more loss in my future without my husband. This one is my dreams. Our dreams. That one is the house we never got to buy, and the places we never went, and the anniversaries and vacations and kids and grand kids and retirements and years we will never ever have. The pieces are endless, but there they are. And you cannot fully life your life until you work through all these pieces. Some you come back to again and again, because they are just so hard and so painful to face. Others you are able to let go of or move through with a bit less harshness.

Eventually, you look out at the space all around you, and maybe you can finally see parts of the earth again. Maybe there are sections where all of your stuff and all of your fragments of grief aren’t taking up all of the room anymore. And then maybe you even have space for some of those things you felt in the distance before – things like hope, joy, beginnings.

When your life is taken from you without your consent, and a new one is forced upon you with zero notice, you are broken completely open and all the pieces of what lies before you emotionally, is scattered all over the ground. You are forever changed from this loss. This death. This is true. But the way that you change is up to you. At first, and for a long time, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like nothing is a choice, because it isn’t. But much later, once you work and move through the pain and the hurt and the pieces all around you, you get to decide how you might transform, and what that will look like. You get to decide, because you are finally able to see.

This Monday, July 13th, is the 4 year anniversary of my husband’s death. One of the things I have decided to do as part of this version of my life, is to use that day to honor who Don Shepherd was and is. He was the most selfless person I ever knew. And so because of him, I have created “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day.” This will be the 3rd annual Don Day, and all details can be found on my public Facebook page for the Event. Anyone can participate:

https://www.facebook.com/events/828325530596844/

Coming up on 4 years, I am still working through the pieces that remain on the ground. I have picked up and moved through and stared in the face of many of those pieces, but there are still a few left to conquer. These days, I feel love more than I feel loss. I feel life more than I feel death. I feel joy more than I feel pain, but then again, my joy has pain inside it now. It’s different. Everything is different. But it is a thousand times more beautiful and meaningful than it ever was before, and my relationship with my husband is more profound these days than ever before.

It’s not ideal. But I’ll take it.

I spent almost 3 years swinging and swinging and swinging at that pinata.

When that bitch finally pulled apart and fell out all over the earth, it became mine for the taking.

In the distance, there are people having a party.

I think it’s time for me to join them.

(Note: If the above link doesnt work, Pay it Forward blog posts can be found right here on my blog, or search “Avalanche of Kindness: 3rd Annual Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day” on Facebook. The page is public so anyone can participate and join the page. Also, Where is everyone lately? I know I havent written as much as normal, and Im sorry for that, but I used to get at least a FEW comments. Whered you all go? Its like crickets in here… Miss you all!!! )