That Other Life

Does it ever stop? Does it ever really go away?

That feeling. That longing, that comes out of nowhere.

That thing where you are inside of a moment, enjoying it and loving it, and then suddenly, seemingly out of the clear blue sky, that feeling- like you’ve swallowed a nail, just enters your stomach, like an invasion.

Suddenly, while deeply involved in a beautiful moment of the life you currently have, it enters you. Right there, smack in the center of your joy, a deep and overwhelming sadness.

That thing.

That longing.

That Other Life.

That Other Life, the one you had before death stole it away, reminds you how much you miss it, over and over and over again. It happens in a split second, and it takes you by surprise each time, as if it’s never happened before. Standing there, in the midst of ecstatic joy, you feel like you want to cry forever. You feel your stomach drop out from under you, a bottoming out of your insides. That other life pokes you and stabs you again and again, just in case you had forgotten for a few seconds, that it is no longer there for you.

Last night, Hillary Clinton made history when she accepted the nomination for President of the United States – the first ever female nominee of a major political party. As I watched it unfold on C-SPAN, I felt such joy at the history of it all. At what it means for America, for women in this country and all over the world. I felt it on a visceral level, and I started to beam with pride. I was smiling and laughing right along with Bill and Hillary, as those balloons fell from that “glass ceiling” that had finally been lifted. A moment in time for the ages, something that would be remembered for decades to come.

And then, just like that, out of nowhere, my joy turned into a longing and an intense sadness. There was no warning. No sense of why, in that moment, all my emotions decided to flip. They just did, and suddenly, I was sobbing. Just seconds before, the happiness was so pure and genuine. And then, just gone. An emptiness took it’s place, and I had this need to share this historical moment in time, with my husband. My husband, who predicted that Hillary would be our first female President. My husband, who was born on Election Day, and was a fellow Democrat with me. My husband, who was way more into politics than I am, and who loved debating and talking points and learning and sharing with both people that agreed, and those who didn’t. My husband, who would still be teaching me things, and who would have the same pride in this moment that I have. And please don’t tell me that he was right there with me, or that he DID see it, or that I should talk to him anyway. I know all of that. But none of that is even close to the same, and none of that is going to feed me what I want, which is for him to be here right now, in this moment in time, to watch this happen with me. And the thing is – in that moment, he is the ONLY person I wanted to share it with. Nobody else. Just him. It was his specific take on the world that I was longing for. His opinion I wanted to hear. His joy and his laughter and his holding me and smiling with me, as we watched history unfold together.

That other life. I want it. And I can never have it. Not ever again. And when that point is driven home multiple times, slamming into me like a tornado, it just hurts. And it keeps on hurting, until it doesn’t. Until next time.

This life is the life that I have, and I have vowed to make it a bright and beautiful one, because my husband does not have that option. And I am determined to do just that, even though some days, it is just about the most impossible thing in the world. I will do it, because doing anything less, is dishonoring his life, and wasting life itself. But that longing – that need and urge and want – to get it all back again, to turn back time and have him here with me – it will never go away. Not ever.

I suppose we just figure out a way, to live inside this life, while honoring and remembering that other life. And perhaps finding places where we can merge the two together – like a tapestry or a blanket, of everything that we were, that we are, and that we will become. That other life is NOT part of our past. It is the foundation for everything beautiful, that we still have yet to see.

We don’t need to choose between that life and this one. We cannot ever have that life back, so there is no choice to make. But, it is not gone either. I refuse to believe it is gone. If it were gone, then it wouldn’t keep showing it’s face and it’s soul – it wouldn’t keep invading us, while we live this life. It’s there. That other life is there. It’s there every time we breathe, and every time we say yes to life. So embrace it. When it shows up, embrace it. Acknowledge it. Talk about it. Make it known to others that it’s there and that you’re missing it. And if they don’t understand, find someone who does, and spend more time with that person. For when we merge all the pieces of who we are, with everything that made us – it is only then, that we become whole.

An Ocean of Kindness: The 5th Annual “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day”

Five years ago this month, the life I knew was taken from me in an instant. In one tiny moment, my entire world collapsed, broke, disappeared, and then changed forever. At first, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know how to exist, or even if I wanted to. After a whole lot of time, a great grief counselor, and the help of so many supportive people – I began to slowly figure things out. One of the hardest things for me has been re-living the trauma of “that day”. My grief counselor suggested that I spend July 13th, the day he died, doing something that honored him and included others. The idea for “Pay it Forward for Don” Day was born. My husband was quite literally the kindest person I ever knew, so what better way to honor his life than by creating a project of love, that builds an avalanche of random kindness? Each year, your pay it forward stories started pouring in, simply because I asked you. What started out as a way to get through the day, has turned into something so much bigger. In the five years since my husband’s death, one of the biggest things I have learned and continue to learn, is that we are all connected. Through love, through death, through life – everyone is connected in the most unexpected of ways. I have also learned that when I make the choice to live my life as fully as possible and to embrace love when I feel it, THAT is where my husband lives. I feel him closest to me, and I receive signs or signals or his energy present, when I reach out and say YES to life. This is not always easy. In fact, there are many days and weeks where I fall into my own depression, and shut off from the world. It happens. But when I make a different choice, beautiful things open up to me, and to others. The bottom line is, we can live in constant pain, or we can live with the pain, while also allowing joy. Either way, the pain isn’t going anywhere. And living my life in color is the best and only way, because my husband will never get that choice. Any future love I have in this life, is born out of the love I will always have for him. So he is a part of it. He is a part of everything. And in that way, we are always and forever connected.

What follows below are your Pay it Forward stories. There are about 100 of them, which is astounding. With all of the nastiness and violence and killings going on around us right now, this is the perfect antidote. This is what you NEED to be reading. In this world of confusion and chaos, there is love. There is love. There is love.

Grab a cup of coffee or seven, and let this brighten your day. Don’t skip any of them. Trust me. Each and every one of these stories is so worth reading, and some of them connect to one another. We are all connected. You’ll see.

“Even though putting together, organizing, collecting the stories, and then writing the epic blog of kindness IS my pay it forward each year, I usually do a few little additional things as I think of them. Tonight, on July 13th, I’m meeting some friends in the city for casual drinks, food, and to toast my husband and his beautiful, short life. I have written up flyers explaining pay it forward day and challenging others to participate. I printed up 50 copies. On the subway ride into the city, and while Im walking through the city streets, I’m going to pass these out. I am also going to buy a bouquet of flowers in honor of a widower friend’s late wife’s recent birthday, and choose one person who looks like they could use them, and give them to her. I will report on that again later in this blog. Let’s see how many complete strangers will participate in this project of love, in honor of someone they don’t even know. I can’t wait to find out what happens when we put love out there!!!” – Kelley Lynn (me)

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“Funny Thing…My Pay It forward happened today…an elderly Gentleman was in Line at the Market..NO 1 would let him go in front he only had about 4 things..105 degree’s outside and all he wanted was to get home and stay in his A/C all day….Of Course I Let him in front of me and offered him a ride Home which he declined BUT the Smile On his face and telling me Nobody ever lets him go before them..(THAT PISSED me off)) and told me how they have 1/2 Price stuff in the back of the store…He just needed someone to talk to..and as Wids, we KNOW that Lonesome Feeling. Kind of Made my day..and His I hope. I needed to add I Tried to Pay for His few Things But he was TOO Proud and would Not let me “ – Wendy Kraslow Wiener

“I kept forgetting. And then feeling bad. But I’m briefly at the library, and a few minutes ago I thought I could see if I had any cash…and I did. It was only $3, but I gave it to the guy at the front desk to go toward the next $3 worth of fines for the next person who had them.” – Connie Winch

“I made a blood donation last week. I do that regularly because Brian needed a number of blood and platelet transfusions when he was in the hospital, and I gained a deeper understanding of how important it is. This donation was for Don. Since he was an EMT, it seemed a fitting thing to do.” -Sharon Wall

“I’m a little late in posting this, but coincidentally it happened on July 13. I have some not so great neighbors whose kids decided to catch and bring home a box turtle from the woods. All day I saw the kids abusing this turtle. The first moment I noticed they were distracted, I ran over and grabbed the turtle and put him in my truck. I drove him far away from here to a nature preserve where he could have a good chance at a long life. I know it’s a small gesture of kindness to the earth, but I saw that your husband shared my passion for animals. I have done numerous years of working with animals as a vet tech and volunteering my time with rescues. I’m sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful event that you have organized to keep his memory alive “ – Jennifer Kozak

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“My car was parked in Flushing Queens on Main Street on the evening of July 13th. I live in New Jersey, but I had spent an annoyingly long day in Flushing dealing with some even more annoying red tape and paperwork issues involving my ex-wife, court stuff, and alimony. I got back to my car super late, and saw a rolled up scroll paper under my windshield wiper. I will admit to cursing out loud as I grabbed it from the window and got into my car, thinking it must be some scam or somebody wanting even more of my money that does not exist. Then I started reading what Kelley, a total stranger to me, wrote. About her husband and his sudden death , and about how he died exactly 5 years ago today. The paper was given to total strangers at random, and it said that I had been “chosen to participate and do an act of kindness” on this day, should I decide to do so. I sat there tearing up at how lucky I am. It definitely put things in perspective for me. Yes, I went through a very shitty divorce, and am now going through some really shitty aftermath stuff. But my wife is alive to love our children, and even if she is someone I no longer want in my life, I am grateful that she gets to HAVE a life at all. She is alive. My children have their mother, and I don’t have to do all of this alone. Like, REALLY alone. As in, 24/7, she is never going to be taking them away for the week, alone.

On my drive home, I started thinking about what I could do for my pay it forward. After going through the Lincoln Tunnel into Jersey, then getting onto the Turnpike, it hit me. I drove through the cash lane instead of the EZ Pass, and I spoke to the woman at the toll booth. While in line, I jotted down the web address for the blog Kelley posted where the Pay it Forward stories would appear. Then I gave the toll booth lady two $50 bills. I handed her the paper I had received on my windshield, and said: ‘No time to explain why, just read this and you’ll get it. If you are allowed to take tips, please enjoy this $50 tip from me and from some guy named Don who I do not know. If you aren’t allowed tips, use the whole hundred for as many cars behind me as it will pay for. All I ask is that you pay it forward too.’ I got home, sat at my laptop, and read the ripthelifeiknew blog. I must have read at least 20 of your blog posts, Kelley. It felt as if you were talking right to me, and I suddenly felt almost guilty for being such an ass earlier, about such unimportant and trivial things. You are very brave, your husband was brave, and you took this old bitter man who was having a crappy day, and turned it completely around. Thank you. July 13th will now be Pay it Forward Day forever, in my book. And on all the other days, I promise to “hug my people”, and to try really hard not to be such a cranky asshole. With Much Respect and Gratitude, Patrick , New Jersey. ”

“I delivered the pizzas today to the fire department/paramedics at Genoa Kingston Fire Protection District. I only talked to the chief. They have training today, so there is about 15 people there. I was told based on the drills they have, I picked a good day.” –Casey Wheeler, Illinois

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“Brought lunch yesterday to some unsuspecting EMS workers. They got a surprise delivery of pasta salad, filet mignon sliders and vegetable slaw, all in Don’s honor, from our Sage Bistro restaurant. They were so grateful. I got the feeling that they don’t get recognized or appreciated very much, which made it all the more rewarding for me.” – Sarah Chamberlin, New York

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“Today I donated to the Chautauqua Institute in honor of Don Shepherd. Chautauqua’s mission is love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness and cooperation. Let love and the memory of Mr. Shepherd live on!” – Diane Haines Fisler, New Jersey

“Hi Kelley. I have 2 wonderful brothers, like Don, one is in the Air Force and the other is an EMT/Fireman. I’ve asked them both for the name of someone they work with that I can give a thank you care package to in memory of your husband and the caring, generous way he lived his life. Your pay it forward day is such an amazing way to touch others in a special way. I hope all of the kindness you have triggered brings you the healing and happiness you deserve. I am sure Don is proud of you.” – Kristen Dubey Rider, Nashua, NH

“I’ve already said so elsewhere, but I think this is where it belongs. Today, in honor of Don and my Daddy, I grocery shopped for a shut in. My Daddy also believed in helping those in need.” – Danille Worthen Miller

“We did our Pay it Forward for Don! We have an elderly widowed neighbor who has an old, slow dog. Neither the dog nor the neighbor can move very quickly. My daughter and I went over and asked if we could help her out a bit.
I cleaned up her house a bit while my very energetic, antsy five year old took a walk around the block with the neighbor and her dog. She was so patient! And she told the woman AND the dog, “This is for Don! He likes rainbows and is in heaven with my daddy!” – Carrie Gutzwiller

“On July 13th, this woman ran into the place where I work at the front desk/counter in Manhattan. She handed me a rolled up scroll thingy, said ‘ please don’t throw it away. Please just read it. Thank you!’,and then ran out as quick as she came. I read it, and it asked me do an act of kindness on behalf of her husband Don, who had died 5 years ago. It gave instructions to email her or post on her public FB page what I had done, and it asked me to keep the chain of kindness going if possible. So here goes. I work in a place that is sort of like an arcade with games and different activities for kids and families. We have pizza and fun bowling and stuff like that. I had actually just gotten back from my lunch break, and I had just cashed my paycheck, so I decided to take $25 of my money, and purchase coupons for free pizza, free games, and free bowling . I put the flyer on the counter and when families came in with small kids, they would say what they wanted, and I would give them some of it for free. Like, one family wanted to bowl and then play some games and get pizza, so I said “Well your pizza is free today, and one string of bowling is free too. Just read this to find out why.” It was so much fun. Some people teared up when reading the flyer, others just thanked me or thought it was a promotion of some kind. It made my work day go by so much faster, and it was a small thing that brought lots of smiles to people. Im going to pay it forward more often. I like the way it feels”. Karen, New York City

“My passion is to rescue dogs (both of mine came from shelters), so I donated to Partners for Paws, to save dogs in Jonesboro, GA.” – Patricia Sun, Reston, VA

“I’ve been kind of flummoxed about what to do in honor of your dear husband this week. The right opportunity finally came along tonight when I heard that this sweet little guy had lost his way and wandered into a very busy intersection near my home. As the workday wound down, I got in touch with a couple of other helpers and together we spent our evening canvassing several neighboring areas until Fluffy’s home was found. Long Live Love.” – Renee Dawson

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“So, My husband made sure a homeless man had enough to eat. My six year old donated money from her piggy bank to help children who do not have shoes, get a pair that will grow with them and last up to five years. She also helped her friend when she dropped her change all over the floor. My little one chose to donate something, from an Amazon wishlist, to a camp that’s run for homeless children that could really use some help.…/camp-serving-homeless-kids…/40140274 . I sponsored a child (at that same camp) for a whole week in honor of your husband and in honor of our child who would have been due July 11, 2012 (interestingly enough every year we have donated in his or her honor- in lieu of the birthday party he/she will never celebrate). My mother fed a family in need. Thank you for celebrating the life of your husband every year. I love that I got to have a conversation with the people I love about celebrating his life by doing good in the world. I did not have the pleasure of knowing him, but I have heard many wonderful things about him from Vanessa & Kevin (and of course reading your posts). Knowing what I know of your husband, I feel our acts have definitely honored him and the kind of selfless person he was. Much success going forward. XO” – Jillian Rydl

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“I am a day late but I really wanted Haley to be able to participate in my Pay it Forward for Don. This afternoon she and I went to Target and bought a case of canned cat food, a bunch of canned dog food, a couple things of bleach, dog toys, and cat toys and brought them to our local human society. Oh and a thing of cookies for the humans too. We told them about you and Don and his love for animals and why we were there. They thanked us and gave us a each a hug. Afterwards Haley looked at me and said her heart felt happy that we could help those animals. I am so honored to do something in memory of your sweet Don. Xoxo” – Nicole Green Conner, Woodbury, MN

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“In Jewish culture, 18 represents life and luck. I donate monthly to North Shore Animal League of America. This month I donated an additional $18 to them to keep Don’s memory and desire to help animal’s alive, and to wish you luck in all you do.” -Brett Alyse, New York

“A donation was made in Don’s memory to to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to children from low-income famililes.” –Carrie Zwicker, Rockville, MD

“A friend in my neighborhood has hit hard times. Her husband walked out and left her with 2 little kids. She was so upset because she couldn’t afford to do much for her oldest girls birthday. Her daughter would be turning 4, and she was scrambling to try and get her something, and coming up pretty empty. By the time all the bills were paid and groceries were bought, there just wasn’t anything left. So I picked up a toy from Target, and a stuffed animal and book from Kohl’s, and left 20 dollars, which her mother told me will go towards cake and a little Cesar’s pizza. It’s not much, but at least that little girl will have some things to make her feel special on her birthday.” – Kat Tamayo

“Because of Don’s love for animals, I made a donation to the Cleveland Anmial Protective League, where we got our beloved Lucy from, in Don’s Memory.” – Kevenn T. Smith, Ohio

“I sent a contribution to our local Humane Society shelter in Don’s name. I heard on the news that they are in dire financial straights with $50,000 needed by September. I didn’t send $50,000! But I know Don loved his cat and I hope that saving other animals fits the bill for paying it forward.” – Kathleen Piowaty Fredrick, Indian River Estates, Florida

“Last night, I donated to our local SPCA in Don’s memory.” – Heidi Miller Jajkowski, New York

“Paid for the person next to me at Starbucks. – Maria Tere, Goldstein, Florida

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“My girls and I went to eat and noticed an elderly woman eating alone. I paid for her meal anonymously and we were delighted by the reaction from her and of the wait staff. When we asked for our tab, the waiter said, “This is kind of weird but when I looked for yours, I couldn’t find it. It’s been paid for.” – Joyce Jefferson

“This afternoon I was racking my brain for what I could do to honor the Pay It Forward for Don Day…well, the opportunity presented itself to me all on its own! I was gonna gas up at one station, but as fate would have it, I ended up at a different fuel station, much further away than I had planned. While I was there and in the store getting a soda, I overheard a young couple with a toddler come in and ask if there was a pay phone available as their car aka home had been towed while they were out enjoying Golden Gate Park. I didn’t think much of this until a few minutes later, I exited the store and finished filling my tank. The attendant came outside and told me that my right front tire was low on air, so I drove over to the air pump to reflate my tire. While doing so, I saw this young woman standing outside the store with a portable phone in hand, crying as she spoke to whoever was on the other end. I didn’t know exactly what the conversation entailed, I just knew she had her vehicle/home towed and was trying to figure out what to do to get it taken out of impound. I sat for a moment and asked myself what I could do to help her and her toddler out. That’s when it hit me that I should ask her if she needed a ride to the impound yard! I dropped my window and called out to her, asking her if she needed a ride to the impound yard. She was taken by surprise I think and she answered back that she didn’t know where they had taken the car. I told her I’d wait for her to get the address and then I would take all 3 of them to the location where her car/home was. A few minutes later, she told me the location and I knew exactly where it was. So, as promised, I drove them to the impound yard cause had they even been able to take a bus that far, they would have arrived way too late and the fees would have shot through the roof! Once I delivered them safely to the impound yard, they asked me how much they owed me for the ride. I told them nothing! My payment Is knowing I was used as a godsend on this very special day.‪#‎LongLiveLove‬ ‪#‎LoveNeverDies‬” – Angel Vigil, Benecia, California

“Since I finally left the house after being home for 4 weeks, I was finally able to pay it forward!! Bought Chipotle for some peeps in line.” – CJ Moc , Glenview, Illinois

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“Picked up my 16 y.o. son from baseball practice today. He and his buddy were the last one’s there. His friend wasn’t sure if/when someone was coming to pick him up, so I gave him a ride home. (We live in Texas – it was near 100°, so I figure I saved him a few gallons of sweat!) All day, I was trying to figure out what I could do for someone on Don’s day, and the opportunity presented itself. It was something Don probably would have done – help out a kid who needed a ride on a hot day.” –Larry Manch

“A woman gave me a paper flyer on the subway about paying it forward with doing something kind. She was really friendly, and she was one of the few people to put a couple dollars in my hat after I did my performance. Im a subway/street performer, and she smiled at me when I was done and said ‘Im giving you the cash because youre good, but im also giving you this. Don’t throw it out!’ I promised her I wouldn’t and I didn’t. I took a break after getting off that train and drank some water while I read it, cuz it was freakin hot out lol. I actually couldn’t believe that her husband had died. She looked way too young for that kind of thing to happen. It got me sad. Anyway, when I got on the next subway, I did my usual speech before my performance about that Im a street performer trying to make a living – and then I read the flyer to everyone on the train. I told them if they couldn’t afford to give me a dollar or two, they should pay it forward for this girl who lost her husband, and for Don, cuz we are all pretty lucky just to be here. Maybe Ill see you on the 7 train again, Kelley. Lol.” – Ray , NYC.

“I helped a blind man onto the N train at Queens Boro Plaza station, we got off at 59th & Lexington to get onto the uptown # 6 train. I held his arm, walked with him upstairs to the #6 train, and helped him get on it.. I sat down next to him a talked with him till I had to get off at my stop at 77th st..” –Margot Casalena , New York

“Thinking of you and Don today…paid for the person behind us at Starbucks and had a really interesting exchange…
Barista: “what???”
Me: “I’d like to pay for the person behind me.”
Barista: “the order w/ the white mocha & a Gouda sandwich?”
Me: “I have no idea what they ordered; I just want to pay for it.”
Barista: “Do you know them?”
Me: “Nope ~ it’s called a random act of kindness…”
Barista (frowns): “ummm, I’m really sorry, but we’re not allowed to do that.”
Me: “YES, actually, you ARE!”
Several take-aways, but Don’s memory & kindness apparently opened a door for someone today that had NEVER experienced a RAoK! Also, fodder for one of your shows?? And the person behind us happened to have a Yankees hat on his dash…don’t know if Don was a fan, but my NYer hubbie SURE was and I thought maybe they were kindred souls in that regard .” –Jill Townsend Drowne, Arizona (of course he was a fan. Proof below in picture.)

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

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

“Donated to Alzheimers and Dementia Resource Center for Don’s pay it forward day. I am aware this was not his illness, but the opportunity presented itself and it IS a friend’s husband’s illness. In Don’s memory, with love to you both.” – Carolynne Larsen Fox

“Sorry it’s bit late, but it was the timing. Doing my “pay it forward” right now. Working on a birthday cake for free for a young mother of a 3 year old, who just hit a bad patch financially this month, and was going to have to cancel plans for her little girl’s birthday. Every child deserves a birthday cake, so I just couldn’t let that happen. I told my daughter to let the young mother know that she didn’t need to worry, because there was going to be a cake for her little girl’s birthday. (update) Finished! Princess dress made from cupcakes!” – Marie Kerr Killeen

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“My husband and I bought a window air conditioner for our garage 4 years ago and never installed it. Then we moved from the home we bought it for. Recently, we found out one of my friends from high school, who I’ve known for 30 years is paralyzed from the chest down, fighting to get disability and living in a home with no working a/c! We have gifted the never used air conditioner to my friend and made arrangements for it to be installed in his home asap.” – Janelle Klepic

“Benjamin and I made a donation to the NAEMT Foundation in honor of Don Shepherd. It is crucial that we support emergency medical service members because when we need them, we are glad they come to our rescue! Don had a heart for serving people in this way so we honor his courage, care and dedication. We love Pay it Forward Day!” – Rebecca and Ben Garreth, New Jersey

“In honor of Don Shepherd, I made a donation to our local no kill animal shelter. Kelley Lynn, I hope Don can feel all the kindness being paid forward in his honor.” –Carla Duff, Florida

“Because Don loved Publix, I knew I had to do something at my favorite grocery store. I took ten $5 gift cards to randomly give out through the store and parking lot. I’ll post more pics later. They’re over on my friend’s phone. See the note below attached to each gift card. It was my honor to participate in this year’s Pay it Forward event. I love what you have done with the day that Don died, Kelley. I admire you so much. I am your long distance cheerleader. ” –Ginger Michele, Florida

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“Kelley in honor of the 4th Annual Pay it forward anniversary for Don , knowing he was a Paramedic and gave back to everyone while working, I wanted to assist as many public workers working on the apt grounds today by giving back something. I stood on my patio and called several over in the 97 degree temp. And tossed them a bottle of cold water to stay hydrated. I wish I could have given more, but homebound and physically challenged I did it from my heart and passed on Don’s legacy of love of caring for others! Tight Hugs!” – Ellen Sweetman-Brant

“Paying it forward for Don Shepherd Day, and in memory of my beloved husband, Chuck D…I went to downtown Concord with this sign, to give out hugs. It kind of came out 50-50 with results. I got some great hugs, including one from a little girl named Aurora (named for the Borealis), who had a mop of curly blonde hair. And this man in the picture-he’s Dwight, and he’s both a park volunteer and a pastor. He and I spoke at length about current events and how he’s had to change his sermons to that he can address all that’s going on with our country~” – Allison Miller

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“I was making prints in the studio today. I had to print several proofs to get it just right before I print the one I’m sending to the client. The last one is perfect (image below) but not the right size for the client. I will be donating it for auction.” –Tamara Beachum Gehle Hancock

“I wanted to do more today in memory of Don, but I did manage to pay for a month of Tae-kwondo lessons for a little boy here locally who’s (single) mom was struggling financially. It’s not much but it sure made her day” – Shannon Bell Allen

“I have tried to think of something all week and found it right within in my own family. My daughter and her husband live on a cattle ranch. They inherited a couple of dogs to help with herding and to protect their family and livestock against predators like bears and coyotes. They were looking for one more big dog and ended up rescuing this sweet little puppy instead. Her name is Pearl and she was in a super sketchy situation, so they took her home right on the spot. I am going to help them get her all set up with a new bed, collar and leash and food and toys. I am also going to upgrade all their dog beds and houses so that their dogs can be extra warm and comfy during our cold Montana winters. Three dogs getting loved on in honor of Don!” – Tracey Robecker

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“I donated to K9s for Warriors. Here is their email to me, and what they do: I cannot thank you enough for your gift. Because of so many supporters like you, we continue to make a significant difference in the lives of our service men and women by providing service canines to veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or Military Sexual Trauma (MST). ” -Jennifer Loudon

“When I read about this week’s remembrance, I decided to dedicate my Saturday to Don. I even spoke of him when I helped prepare the dinner at Not Bread Alone, a soup kitchen I volunteer at every other week, in the morning and then in the afternoon as I visited a women from our church who is unable to leave her apartment.” – Aunt Debbie, Massachusetts

“I helped a young woman looking for a job connect with the right people to start her on her way!! – Amy Richard, Ontario, CANADA

“I don’t have a picture because I had tears in my eyes when I did it but Barbara Sullivan got tickets for Frankie Avalon and others in October to celebrate Bob’s birthday with joy and not tears. She purchased tickets for Bob’s children and spouses and they will all go and enjoy themselves to honor him this year. Barbara put out quite a bit of money for the tickets so I surprised her with the money for her I could treat her to the show in his honor. A friend was in the office and he loved one of the little inspirational gifts on Barbara’s desk so she said…”.you like it? Take it!” and he mentioned that it wasn’t for him but for a friend who needed it. She handed it to him on the spot and he was going to give it to his friend this evening. Three pay it forwards in one!
(Sorry about the lack of pic. I’m an ugly crier)
Love to you and Don on this day.”
-Maggie Lally, fellow Theatre Professor at Adelphi University, New York

“Well, instead of helping another widow, neighbor etc… I spent my pay-it-forward day taking care of my 21 year old son who was just released from the hospital after being hit by a car while riding his honda scooter to work. His leg was broken so badly it needed surgery and a titanium rod inserted. He has road rash every where, but praise God he is alive! So I will be gratefully paying it forward for the next month! “– Barbara E. Jones

“Some woman was handing out flyers on the 7 train on the 13th. I took one because she seemed nicer than most people who are usually doing that. I figured it was some kind of thing telling me to love Jesus or whatever, but when I read what it was, it broke my heart. The flyer said her husband was in EMS at Hackensack Medical Center. Im a nurse, and while I don’t know him personally, when I read his name on the flyer it sounded really familiar. I texted my friend who is also a nurse and I asked her if his name sounded familiar. She said ‘Oh my god, yes. He used to work the overnight shift at Pascack Valley ER years ago. I never met him but I totally remember when he died – it was a huge shock. He was really healthy and everyone that worked with him loved him. He was so sweet. I remember a ton of the nurses and EMS went to his funeral, even some that didn’t work on his shift.’ What a small world. That nurse and I don’t work in that hospital anymore, but I thought it would be cool to screenshot the flyer and send it to her. So I did that, and she put it up in their break room, so everyone could see it. When I got to work, I put dollar bills all over the vending machines so people could get free candy or soda. I swear, sometimes NYC feels like the smallest town in the world. You always run into somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody that you know.” – Christy Paperton, Bronx, NY.

“A lady gave me a paper to pay it forward for Don, her husband who tragically died a few years ago. I couldn’t think of what to do, but since I was on my way to the post office , I figured something would come into my head when I was in there. And it did. I was in the long line and it was really hot and there’s no AC in there, so people are fanning themselves and some people stink and its not fun. Everyone is grumpy and just wants to get the hell outta there asap. So I just started singing. Now, Im a big gay black dude, so when I tell you I started belted out “Holiday” by Madonna, you will hopefully laugh. Cuz everyone in line started laughing. I don’t know why, but that’s the first song that came into my head. I started clapping too. Hands over my head and everything. They didn’t know what to make of it – this fool just singing Madonna at the top of his lungs while everyone is sweating their ass off in line. I like doing stuff like that, and it seemed like the right thing to do. The woman in front of me said “You crazy!” and she started giggling, and I think the two teenagers in back of me were putting me on their Instagram or some shit.. I know it’s a weird thing to do and its not really an act of kindness, but in some ways it is cuz it made people stop stressing out for five whole minutes.” – Aaron, Flushing, NY

“Donated to Child’s Play again! This is the charity that I asked people to donate to in Greg’s name after he died. They provide toys, books and games to kids in hospitals. And it was started by gamers! YAY! You can donate money to them directly or buy items from a “Wishlist” for a local hospital in your area. It’s kinda like a gift registry, but for hospital kids. Neat.” – Izzy Grossinger, CO

“I spent time with a couple of the teen boys from my church . We had lunch and we walked on the sea wall. It was great getting to know them better.” – Sandra Sommeso, Wakefield, RI

“In honor of this day and your Don, I made a donation to Soaring Spirits International. Through a twist of fate, I found you, Kelley, and in turn found Soaring Spirits about a year after I lost Albert. Meeting you, and finding Soaring Spirits and the wonderful community I met through attending Camp Widow, has made this horrible nightmare a little bit easier, through support, validation, and most of all, the message of Hope, and knowing I am not alone in this. You are in my thoughts today.” – Lori Caruso Raia, Louisiana

“In honor of Don I made a donation to a charity called Friends for Life. This charity tries to make the lives of the elderly and adults with disabilities who are alone with no family to help them a little better. Below is an example of someone they are trying to help. Elizabeth is blind. Recently widowed, she needs help. She wants to stay in her own home because she memorized every part of it as she was losing her sight. She needs rides to the doctor and someone to help her with grocery shopping. Her house deteriorated during her late husband’s illness and she needs us to make her home safe. She wants us to read the Bible to her.
In this county over half of the people living alone who need help, don’t get help. They want to stay in their own homes but need a little help to do it. If you help, we can give rides to the doctor, make minor household repairs, replace lightbulbs for them, run errands and grocery shop for them. We’ll reassure them so they won’t be afraid, call and check on them to make sure they are okay and remember them on birthdays and holidays. With your help, we’ll make sure they have someone to care for them.”
-Paula Tamburro, Glastonbury, CT

“In honor of Don, I made a donation to Operation Backpack. It’s an organization that helps homeless children and those in foster care receive the supplies they need for school in September. My nephew and I also stopped at our local military recruitment station, brought cookies and thanked the service men for their dedication to our country.” – Jenn Mastromarino, New York

“My own celebration on this day is twofold. Earlier today, I paid for the coffee for some police and EMTs that were taking a break when I was down on one of my breaks.. Whilst it may not seem like much, considering all of the recent events, it was my small way to pay it forward, but also give those in emergency services more than just a thumbs up. The second part shall be tonight, when I will be there for mi querida, at the gathering / toast with friends in honor of her husband’s life.” – Herberto Clavel , New York

“One of my widowed sisters had asked me to cat sit for her adorable kitties. I’ve never done this before. In honor of Don one of the kitties is named Sami. I actually was talking to Sami and Priscilla about your love. Sami is more affectionate and comes very close to me.

My second Pay it Forward was in Publix , Don’s favorite place for Florida groceries. I saw a young woman with her little boy. Knowing that Don loved and adored kids. She didn’t want to give out their names but agreed to a photo. In turn she will be doing an Act of Kindness today. Sending much love to you Kelley today.” – Judy Kaan, Boca Pointe, Florida

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“I drive an ice-cream truck, and on the 13th of July, I was in the Flushing Queens area, pulled over at the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. A woman came up to me and handed me a paper. She said “I don’t want any ice-cream, but if you could just promise to read this and also buy the next person’s ice cream with this, Id appreciate it.” She gave me $5 and the paper an ran off. I didn’t get a chance to read it until about an hour later cuz I got really busy with a lot of back to back customers. I forgot about it. But once it slowed down, I took it off the passenger seat and started reading . I thought it was pretty cool what this girl was doing. A lot of people can just get so depressed after losing someone they love. I just lost my niece a couple months ago. She was being bullied at school and harassed by some kids for a long time, and she decided to end her life. I still cant believe it. I keep asking myself if theres something more I could have done to make her feel like she was loved by her family. Its just such a helpless feeling. Since it happened, our family is so separated. Its like nobody wants to believe it really happened or say anything about it. For some reason reading this woman’s paper made me feel like staying quiet about stuff isn’t the way to go. I need to find ways to make sure her life meant something. It really made me start to thinking.

Anyway, right when Im thinking about my niece Jill, the next customer came up and it was a girl with her mom. The girl looked maybe 15 or so, and if I didn’t know my niece was gone , I would swear this was her. I had to catch my breath because this girl looked so much like her. It was like she had a twin or something. Right then, I decided this had to be some kind of sign or something, so I would use the $5 plus some of my own pocket money to pay for this mom and daughter’s two cones. I gave the mom the flyer to read, and told her that their ice-cream was already paid for by this lady who wrote the flyer, and by me too ,as my pay it forward. The mom got a bit emotional and said “oh my god, really? That is so nice. Thank you so much, sir. “ She looked at her daughter and said: “Jill – what do you say to the very kind man and this woman who bought your ice cream today?” My heart kinda stopped as this girl who looked just like my niece and whose name was also Jill – looked away from her phone, looked me right in the eye and said “Thank you. Thank you very much.” As I said “you’re welcome”, it was all I could do to not bawl my eyes out right in front of them both. I don’t know what all that means exactly, but I believe in signs, and I think my niece in heaven sent someone to tell me that she knows how much I love her, and to thank me for that. After that happened, I felt this peacefulness the rest of the day. Wow is not a big enough word to express how this affected me.” – Gary Yonhura, Brooklyn, NY

“Today, I tried to think of what I could do to Pay It Forward that was different from my usual donations and stuff. The phone rang and a friend said she wanted to show me something. A donation to this rescue in Don’s name seemed to have just fallen into my lap. I think Don would approve. ” – Karen Block Breen, New York

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“I work in a small pharmacy drug store type place in the city, and a girl gave me a flyer paper about her husband and doing acts of kindness for him because he died. Theres a copy machine in my store, so I took the flyer and made 20 copies, and I left them on the counter so people could grab one on their way out . At the end of my shift, all of the flyers were gone, so I felt good that I wasn’t lying about not throwing it away. Ha! May God give you good things.” – Corina, NYC

“Just now, in memory of Don, I snagged Starbucks for my colleagues & paid for the car behind me in line.” – Amanda Pace Dickinson, Virginia

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“On this Pay It Forward in honor of Don Shepard, I have chosen to pay it forward with love and kindness that would honor both Don and my beloved Michael. Because Don’s career was in EMS, I presented 2 gift cards from Tim Horton’s Coffee and Bake Shop totalling 40.00 to the Brockport Volunteer Ambulance and EMT staff. My beloved Michael, a Sergeant with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office performed his job of serving and protecting people with such passion as did Kelley’s Don. He also had many strong connections to our town’s volunteer fire department and ambulance and EMT staff.
Pictured with me is Mike Corey. Mike is the President of the Brockport Fire Department. Mike is also a part time deputy and my husband was his boss years ago. Mike informed me that the EMT staff will be doing a day long drill next month and he will use these cards to provide for the members on this day. Sending LOVE to you Kelley Lynn, as you honor your love Don on this 5 year anniversary of his untimely death.” – Barb McCambley Pratt

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” This year I celebrated by making a donation to Paul The Cat Guy. He rescues kitties round Astoria. Check out his FB page to see some of the photos of his cats and kittens. 😊 Here is what I wrote to him: “Hi Paul,
I thank you for the work you do. Please accept this donation in honor of Pay it forward for Don Shepherd Day. He was a cat lover and kind human who left the planet much too soon. Thank you! You have my love and support as you continue living your life and sharing your story. ” –Sharona DiCostanzo, New York

“So today, i’m completely changing my plans . .to supervise a foster dog that went thru heartworm treatment Monday & Tuesday. My son & daughter-in-law are coming into town this afternoon. Staying here was not what i planned to do. but all lives are important! this little man trusts us to take care of him.” –Belinda Bishop

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“I love Summer and love flowers and gardening. Each year, I buy in mid May and the greenhouse gives you Kitty Cash. You can redeem this mid June to July for up to 1/2 of your purchase. This year I had about 150 to spend.
So, today I went and got some flowers to replace ones killed by hail. I also took my Kitty Cash and was able to pay 1/2 of the purchases for four different older couples who didn’t know about the rewards program. It was fun! I told them all it was in memory of Don, and of Lanny, the best father in law anyone could have ever had, who was killed by a drunk driver 6 years ago July 10. This is always in memory of them and as an act of gratefulness that my husband, mother in law and myself survived.” – Cyndi Harvey, Colorado

“I bought two nice older (funny I have to say older now instead of plain old) ladies their lunch today. The women were a mother and daughter, the mom had to be in her 90’s, so the daughter was at least in her 70’s. Anyway, when the young lady behind the counter was ringing me up, she asked if there was anything else. I said, yes, please include their lunch as well. The woman was so kind and gracious. She asked why, and I gave her a brief description of what was happening. She said that she would return the favor to someone else. Love blooms in Pompton Lakes NJ. Have a blessed day Kelley Lynn.” –Tara Riley Berberich

“Pay it forward in memory of Don Shepard for July 13. i donated to PAWS to CARE🐾🐾🐾🐾🐶🐯🐺 (animal rescue) during Aqua Zumba fundraiser in HKelley Lynney Lynn in memory of your beloved Husband” –Karen Merryl Koenig Barash VIDEO

“Since Russell and I moved to Las Vegas, we have repeatedly noticed a homeless couple and their dog on Tropicana Ave not far from where we live. She is in a wheelchair and he is constantly with her, getting them to the places they are heading without complaint. We noticed them and their dog one day while in a thrift store, and we decided to go over to McDonald’s and buy 10 of the double cheeseburgers (two without condiments or cheese for the dog) and 3 large, cold waters. We went back to the store and proceeded to hand the food and water to them. They were so appreciative and we told them about our friend’s husband who was a humanitarian and animal lover and this was just a small thing we could do in his name. They graciously accepted the items and were so appreciative. They continued to say “God Bless” over and over. They asked for the name of the man in whose honor we were doing this and we told them Don Shepherd, organized by his widow Kelley….they said they will be sure to include you both in their prayers of thanks.
Update: a couple of days ago, we were driving to meet friends after dark and saw them on the side of the road…we have a case of bottled water in the back of our SUV and I made Russell pull over so I could give them some water as it was still over 100 degrees at 9pm at night. I jumped out with about 8 bottles of water and the light changed, so Russell had to drive on and turn around to pick me up. They said they have been including us and Don and Kelley in their thanks and prayers and that this just showed how the power of prayer is working for them. Russell was also at the store two days ago and saw another homeless man and he went and bought him a full meal for him and the restaurant gave him 10% off because they thought it was so nice. Thank you Kelley for involving us in this event every year…we love you!” –Nicholas Cenimo, Las Vegas, Nevada

“Someone gave me a flyer about paying it forward while I was on the subway. When I got off, I gave the homeless guy I always see on my corner a few bucks and also a cold bottle of water. Usually I ignore him, but I didn’t feel right reading that paper and then doing nothing.” – Billy, NYC

“Hello Kelley. I read your posts often and was especially amused by your post this evening. I have thought a lot about paying it forward and random acts of kindness and acknowledging others. I am making a point to try to make a difference in the lives of those around me and will continue to do so. I guess I could make a point of doing more public acknowledgements. I want you to know that I read many of your posts and think that you are doing great things to help others and I appreciate you.” – Wants to Remain Anonymous

“I am writing this sitting at a park in my old neighborhood. I have to check mail and such still. A nice man who does odd jobs at the Los Amigos bodega and stays around Here walked by me and I opened the window to talk. He’s been in dire straits lately and as we talked I saw that he needed my last $20 way more than me. I saved it from my electric bill deposit refund for a hair cut today but didn’t go because my hairdresser didn’t work today. I told him I was in the middle of talking to you about Don and told Drew that the money for food, a bicycle tire inner tube and the bus to get it was from Don. Drew has done work for us in the past and is a good a kind hearted man who has always returned my kindness. I’m so glad I was here when he walked by just now.

Also, A newly widowed Marine Vet who is terminally ill but his wife had handled everything and did the processes for him to get his chemo treatments and her income supported them so now he’s on the streets. I passed his red, white and blue (rather extensive and unusually spread out set up) turned around and went back to give him almost all of the change from my ‘silver change’ jug I took with me that day for gas. His big blue eyes were all teary when he thanked me and told me that I made sure he ate that day. I told him Don made sure he ate that day. His name is Daniel. Oorah!
A man and his wife and their two small daughters were at the pharmacy asking for help to pay for a place to stay that night because his car washing gig had been so rained out. I gave them half the money I had on me. Thankful for all the love and the healing and for my Dad, he is who made all this giving possible by helping me when I need it most <3 I would not have had this healing without you and Don, Kelley. Thank you, I love you both dearly." – Shannon Tara, Florida "Sorry I am so late about this but I had literally no idea what to do for a pay it forward! But today I had to go to the train station to buy a ticket and on the way there I had an idea: there's a project for people living on the street. They print and sell newspapers with topics concerning the problems of people living on the street in order to raise awareness. But the great thing is that it's sold by those very people and they get half of what they can sell. Normally one of them is selling in front of the train station and normally I don't buy anything. But today was a good day for it and instead of the 6 swiss francs the newspaper costs I gave him a twenty. He was like "so much? really? are you sure?" I was actually a little embarassed but also pleased. Hugs and love to you." - Anne Eiermann , Basel, Switzerland "Dear Kelley and Don, Good Evening. I just wanted to let you know that I thought about Don all day on July 13th because I knew this was the "Pay it Forward" event although I didn't exactly know what I was going to do. Then-on Monday two days before the event something happened to me that made me think of Don a lot. I stopped off because my son had to go to the bathroom in some little town in Pennyslvania on my way back to NYC. When I got I there I realized I was inside of a mom and pop restaurant. Come to find out the restaurant was an old strip club made into a diner. Interesting. Well- as I sat there at the counter, a man came in who had a wife and three kids and their car broke down completely. He needed a ride 49 miles to the airport. Everyone was kinda looking at each other and I wished I could of done the deed. So many times I've wished like that but in today's world you have to be safe. This one wasn't for me. But as I sat there, the lady behind the counter ended up telling me it was her restaurant and her husband passed away a few years ago from lung cancer. Then she said in these times literally....." People helped her so that is why she would like to be able to pay it forward." Immediately I thought about Don and even though I had to pass this one up, what would I do this week. Confessional, I haven't done a big deed yet. I really have only done little things like be the listening ear to my neighbor or be the better mom to my children. But in his name yesterday, I decided the way I will honor him is I am going to change my attitude and take time to pay it forward more often in a genuine way as it seemed like he naturally did. I want to pay it forward as often as I can. I will let you know how it goes. UPDATE: As I sat there a bit longer, a trucker offered to give the family a ride to get help. The whole thing made me smile." - Jessica Lyons Baity, New York "I have been waiting all week to find just the right thing to do in memory of Don and it happened this morning!! Seattle has a lot of people on corners with signs asking for money or "help". Today I came saw a woman with her dog and her sign said "all we need is dog food". As I sat and watched her interact with her dog - keeping it on the shade and giving it water from a water bottle I realized I can help! I yelled for her, we stopped traffic and I gave all the cash in my wallet. She said "thank you sister" and I had to go or get hit! No one even honked at us for stopping traffic. It wasn’t much money, but I did it in kindness for Don. Hug to you!" – Karen Brenno Norbeck, WA "Hi my love! Thank you for your message. You, of course, have been on my mind. I'm sorry I didn't' get a chance to reach out to you….but you and Don were deeply on my mind. I spent the entire day doing kind acts in Don's honor. Honestly, it was no different than any other day. But, it is the day that I do it with someone else in mind. And to continue my pay it forward….I'll be making dinner for my friend Mike's wife, and also giving her the information for your Widow's group. Much love to you xxoo " – Lori Sommer, New York "I lost my only sister to cancer last year, so when I read the flyer that was handed to me on the street in the Restaurant Row area of Manhattan, it really hit a chord. My husband and I were on our way to go eat dinner, and we were in NYC on a 3 day business trip / mini-vaccation, and this nice woman stopped and chatted with us for a minute before handing us this flyer. Once we read it and decided on where to eat, we thought it would be nice to buy a round of drinks for the 3 people sitting at the bar there, as our pay it forward. So we told the bartender/server that their next drinks were on us, just because. It was kind of funny. One younger man who seemed to be a regular there, and who was also rather effeminate , was confused as to why my husband and I were buying him a drink. The bartender said “your beer is on this couple over there.” Pointed to us. The guy looked at us and then walked over and said bluntly and loudly: “Why are you buying me a drink? Im not into that kinky swinger stuff, you know! One man at a time for me!” I almost spit my wine out. He thought we were hitting on him for a threesome!!!! Once we explained everything, I think he understood, but he still seemed very suspicious. Now we have a hilarious story to take home to our friends in Connecticutt, and I will forever tease my husband about the gay man who thought he wanted to sleep with him. Im still laughing." – Marian and George, New Haven CT. "Here's our Pay it forward. Dylan donated from his own money to the 3rd Annual Sean King Dance-A-Thon. A fundraiser organized by his summer camp Adventure Day Camp to raise money and awareness for the The Sean King Fund for Inclusive Practices. Sean was a beloved camper at ADC. We are also participating at the 5k run /2K walk that will benefit the childhood cancer research at Children Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) . We walk in honor of Ehan Chin Kuchler, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 2 months old, and got his wings at 3 years old. And we left a gift card at our neighbor's mailbox. Thanks for doing this! Hugs." –Jasaida Zaya Snyder "Hello, Kelley. Guess where I am? Wrong. But that's a good guess. Jen and I are in the midst of a long road trip, stopping in WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, and FL. In Georgia, I encountered some car trouble which altered some of our FL plans a bit, but it didn't completely stop us from doing a pay-it-forward for Don in Florida. Our backup plan worked out well and we're happy to let you know that we visited with a branch of the Animal Aid foundation, an adoption center and clinic, in order to make a donation in Don's name. The charity organization is based in southern Florida and includes a fundraising thrift store we visited to pay it forward for Don. We met Judy, a retiree who has run the store for six years. She's a wonderfully pleasant lady who loves animals, and was very happy to hear of Don, his love of animals, and work as an EMT. We purchased a few items for ourselves and made a separate cash donation to Animal Aid in Don's name. I have included photos of Judy, an Animal Aid Thrift Store card signed by her, and the banner which appears on their website. Our best to you on this 5th annual Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day!" - Armando and Jennifer., PA pif armando one

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“Hi Kelley, I’ve been thinking about you all day today. I’m personally having a tough week and didn’t have much planned, but had to at least brighten someone’s day in a small way. I simply went through the drive through and paid for the person behind me. I told them to let them know it’s Pay It Forward Day in memory of my friend’s husband Don.
I intend to bring some treats to the fire station down the street, but that will happen next week.
Thoughts for you all month.
Much love.” – Stacey Riggs, California

“Hi Kel, thinking of you today and how much we miss Don more and more every year. I want you to know that I am having a meeting this morning and am giving the consultants who are attending, a really pretty necklace in Don’s honor. I never give them a gift just for coming so they will know why ,as I will sing his praises at the meeting. Have a great day of memories of Don with your friends. Love you and lots of hugs. Love. Mom” – (Christine Niemi, Independent Sales Director with Mary Kay, Massachusetts)

“For my friends, Don and Kelley. Thought it was a sign that my first time ever in Falmouth /Cape Cod, fell during July, and that I happened to be in Falmouth, where Don and Kelley spent their honeymoon, 10 years ago. So I wrote this in the sand. I’m also taking Kelley to a Yankee game later this season, for the rest of my pay it forward. Love you, Kel! And you know I believe in signs!” – Vanessa Branco, New York #LongLiveLove #Falmouth #CapeCod — with Kelley Lynn and Don Shepherd in North Falmouth, Massachusetts

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“In memory of Don Shepherd, I just made a donation to Soaring Spirits International.” –Lori Bartok

“Still paying it forward… Made a donation to Elayne Boosler’s Tails of Joy. Also gave a burger to a homeless man at McDonalds. The way it occured, it felt like it was meant to be. When we ordered, they gave us an extra burger, by mistake. Then we saw the homeless man with a “just hungry” sign, so we gave him the extra burger that was just given to us!” ‪#‎meanttobe‬ ‪#‎karma‬‪ #‎payitforwardfordonday‬ – Joyce Jefferson

“I gave my husband’s sports jacket to a man in need, in memory of Don. I haven’t parted with any of my husband’s clothes yet.” – Sheila Slaw Muller, New York

“My pay it forward was the same as last year – sent Kelley 2 dozen pink roses. But they aren’t from me. They are from her husband, Don. Since he is unable to order them and send them himself from where he is, this has become my job, as his sister. Love you, my sweet brother, and I know we will finally meet one day.” – Cynthia Shepherd, Colorado


“I donated to a charity, but that was not what I had planned to do. Today an opportunity presented itself, and I acted upon it. The woman ahead of me in the grocery line had three kids and a very, very elderly woman with her. It was obvious that she was buying her food with Food Stamps. She did not have enough food stamps and began counting out cash and then change and still, not enough. Instead of feeling annoyed as she started putting things back I realized that my pay it forward opportunity was right in front of me. I gave the cashier the needed cash, about $7.00 and the problem was solved. This mother, struggling to feed her family, was very appreciative; as was everyone else in line. So here is remembering Don, a man I never met, whose wife I have only ever spoken to once, and then briefly.
Thanks to Kelley Lynn for inspiring this random act of kindness.” –Kathleen Piowaty Fredrick (2nd pay it forward)

“So Kelley Lynn, here’s mine for Don, as I paid my Denis a visit to the cemetary today for his B-Day, I randomly watered about 20 other plants and flowers in Dons name.” – Judy St Pierre Fournier

“Hey Beautiful, here’s what Tails of Joy did yesterday for Pay It Forward For Don Shepherd Day. Rescue orgs. don’t usually get many puppies, but Vidor Animal Control in Houston, TX took in six, six week old puppies that were dumped. Vidor is a kill pound, with very few resources. Vetting them and getting them shots was the only way an independent rescue org could save them from death at Vidor Animal Control, as they had to guard against Parvo, etc. Even though we are out of funds (I totally understand your post, if you got a 5% response rate you are way ahead) we offered to sponsor all six puppies; getting them shots, vetting, etc. etc. Well, the Houston Humane Society said they would take all six puppies if we paid for everything. So, six little lives saved, and our only request will be that one will be named Don, and one will be named Kelley. Thank you so very much for suggesting Tails of Joy as one way to Pay It Forward For Don, and if anyone ever takes you up on it, I’ll be sure to post it here.” – Elayne Boosler , Legendary comedian, friend, and Founder of Tails of Joy.

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“I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday, but PIF for Don made it here. Yesterday I was just about to head off to a personal training session when I had the opportunity to instead take the time to comfort and support a friend who was in upset after leaving an awful relationship and was feeling it was her fault. Late to PT, but who cares, kindness was more important. Thanks Don for reminding me of that.” – Carren Stapleton

“Pay it forward for Don Shepherd Day. I’m honoring his memory by making a donation to Live the List. One Fit Widow and you inspire me everyday to keep my head up and keep moving. This is an inspiring thing you are doing Kelley, making something good from tragedy… thank you….helping you remember a great man today.” – Anne Southard Blankenship

“I am one of the servers at the restaurant, where Kelley and her friends had a reservation for a couple tables on our patio, to honor her husbands life with a toast and friendship. Kelley had given her flyer to a bunch of us working that night, and their entire party was great and almost everyone tipped us very well. (they did separate bill tabs) I read the paper, but couldn’t think of anything to do. Later that night, when my shift was over and I was walking home, my phone rang and I picked it up. I never pick up my phone, but it was my friend/coworker , who wanted to see if I could pick up her shift the next day, which was my only day off in a week. She wanted the day to herself because she just went through a bad break up, and just didn’t feel like she could take being in public and being nice to people . She said please please please … so I was going in my purse to get a cigarette and that damn flyer popped out, and I remembered the pay it forward. So I muttered back “Oh ALRIGHT! Ill do it. Ill pick up the shift. Ill do it for Don Shepherd!” She said, “thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!! I owe you big time!!!! (pause) Who the hell is don shepherd?” hahaha!!!! Later on she texted me out of the blue. “Seriously who is that?” I told her to google him and gave her the blog site address. It was awesome. ” – Keira, NYC

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pif toast to don

“Yesterday, as I was approaching the toll booths on the Garden State Parkway, I didn’t go to the left and use my EasyPass. NO…I detected the cash lane with the MOST cars headed towards it and (okay I kinda cut off the 1st driver to get in front of him) pulled up and gave the attendant a $10 bill asking her to use it for everyone behind me. I also asked her to apologize to the guy I cut off to do it. I pulled away MUCH more slowly than I had approached the booth, and he sped up to pass me and flew me a wave of thanks instead of his middle finger. Then as people came out of the booth, everyone sped up towards me…horns tootin’ etc. Shared glances of thanks and connected-ness…all is well here in NJ! And God Bless Don Shepherd and his legacy to so many of us. Long Live Love!!” – Debra Morrison , NJ

“Took a widow out for lunch. She needed to get out. New place for her, hour+ drive each way for me. I need some gas! BTW, we laughed, cried, talked family & understood each other. Little over a yearr for her.
This is the lady who brought TZ down to Atlanta! So Glad to take her hand & help walk each other home!” – Colleen Bjerg

“I took flowers to a friend.” – Margaret Stevenson

“Today at the bank I overheard a woman (who appeared to be in her 70s) tell the teller that she was consolidating some accounts since her “husband passed away”. Her voice broke when she said it and the teller just sat there. On our way out of the bank I stopped this stranger and explained that I understood her sadness. She was 3 years out, tears were still coming. I told her that I’d just passed my 5 year mark. We stood in the bank parking lot telling each other our stories, exchanged names. I hugged her and promised her it will get better. Widowed people need to reach out and stick together. Posting today for Don. Kindness, keep it moving.” –Julie Corrigan

“Saw a paramedic at the gas station tonight and tried to rush up and pay for his purchase but couldn’t make it in time. I’m thinking I’ll have to change my pay it forward plan. Grrr” – Destiny Crabb, Kansas (it’s the thought that counts!)

“Kelley, I should have shared this yesterday, but since I haven’t done it yet, it felt weird to post it. Right now I am studying all the time for my next CPA exam which is a week from today, so my free time is non-existent, but next weekend when I am done, I am going to get flowers and go visit my next door neighbor, who lost her husband about a month ago. The two of them always loved it when we would come visit with them, but we have been so busy that it has been a while, and now she is all alone for the first time in 45 years. I would have done it yesterday, but I wanted to be able to give her as much time as she wants, without feeling like I needed to get home and study. So, in advance, that is my pay it forward for Don activity.” –Liza Beam

“I didn’t get to post this yesterday. It wasn’t something I planned, but I saw your post about the Pay it Forward in honor of your husband, and yesterday while on my daily walk, I passed an older couple walking, pulling a small cart. We nodded at each other and said hello as we passed. About 4.5 miles into my walk, I saw them again and I realized they were headed to the grocery store and then it hit me, they have to walk all the way back, but this time drag their groceries. As I passed them the second time, I asked them if they would like a ride home after they finished their shopping. I promised them I wasn’t a serial killer and jokingly asked if either of them were! They were truly grateful. I told them I would meet them at the store once I went home and got my car. I finished my walk, met them in front of the store and helped them with their groceries. I came to find out they are on a very limited income and were having car trouble that they couldn’t afford to fix. We have no public transportation in our city and therefore, the only way they could get groceries was to walk. They had no one to help. It was my pleasure to pay it forward in honor of Don! PS. I told them about your husband and pay it forward, maybe they will do something for someone else too! – Amy Currey

“My pay it forward will be a little different than most and wasn’t planned at all. I came down with a cold…started with sneezing and sore swallowing and progressed from there last night. I normally power through these things and ignore myself, mostly because when I’m still and quiet the grief hits with a vengeance. But I was feeling SOooo bad. Then I realized…the supporter each of us lost would have us taking the kind of care of ourselves they did. I rested, slept, and texted/messaged friends and caught up on a week’s worth of Facebook left alone for a kids’ camp and work catch-ups. Don, I feel much better this evening, and this is in honor of your memory.” –BettyGail Danielson

“Since i’ve moved to Delaware and helped open up the coffee shop. I have become a “widow magnet”. 😉 At first I was a bit uneasy with all these widows/ers coming to the shop. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this new place to know I was widowed. I moved to get away from it all, but… still followed me (shocking how that happens).

Yesterday I got a call in the middle of our morning coffee rush. It was a woman who has been coming into the shop over the past year. She is in her 60’s and has been widowed almost 3 years. She asked if I would be in the shop yesterday morning and if I could sit down with her to talk. At first I was a little frazzled because we were busy, but something clicked in my body. I could tell by her tone she wasn’t doing well. I of course told her to come in any time and I would make the time to sit with her. She came in 30 minutes later and I got her a coffee and we immediately headed out to my coffee house patio.

She wasn’t doing well at all and began crying immediately. She woke up yesterday morning and started her day as usual. Somewhere in her “new” usual routine it dawned on her. It was her wedding anniversary and she had completely forgot. She ended up having a panic attack with me and I sat there, held her hand, and walked her through breathing so she could talk to me about her husband and their wedding. She just needed to cry and talk, so that is what we did for about 45 minutes.

Later that day she called the coffee house and thanked Chris, who is the owner of the shop, for letting me sit with her in her time of need. Today she came back in with one of her oldest friends. The friend pulled me to the side and hugged me tightly. She said to me, “Jan came over yesterday evening and all she could talk about was how you saved her yesterday. Thank you for being there for my friend when I couldn’t.” then she hugged me again.

This is my pay it forward to you Don. What an honor it is to be able to create a safe space for other widows & widowers.” – Erin Dresler Looper

“Stopped to talk to a homeless man tonight on my way home from being with you.
Gave him this, because of Don. He kissed my hand.
Long live love.” – Janine Teague Eggers, New York (and Texas)

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“For Pay it Forward Day, I have made a donation to Broken No More, an organization dedicated to providing support to those who have lost loved ones to substance abuse, as well changing the way society treats and views addicts.” – Christine McNulty

“I was honored to participate in your event today and bought breakfast for the gentleman behind me in line this morning. Paying it forward In memory of Don and Tom…. Long, Live Love!” –Stacie Stahl Roloff

“Its been a chaotic few weeks, but I did do something small. I made it a point to thank people who don’t normally get thanked, a few times, last week. One woman who was opening the door and getting extra chairs for everyone for a free class I took… basically she was not the one presenting the class, but just worked there in the office and offered to help when we had way too many people than chairs. So after the class I went and said thank you and how much I appreciated her hard work. I know its so tiny, but just a way to show appreciation for some people who probably rarely receive any.” – Sarah Treanor, Ohio

“Paying it forward in the form of lunch for Don’s EMS brothers and sisters in Largo Florida, from his family at Sunstar Paramedics. (This is where Don worked EMS while living in Florida years ago) We miss him everyday, and those who knew this gentle giant recall the grace and honor in which he served. We thought one of the best ways to “pay it forward” would be to treat others to his favorite cuisine. Yes….the awesome turkey sub from Publix. Don raved about this sandwich and literally ate it almost every day while living in Florida. We will all mark this day with somber remembrance and a willingness to look forward and serve in the manner that had become his hallmark. A kind, soft spoken, huge hearted paramedic – that was our brother. His wife Kelley is slowly changing the world we live in through her various, wonderful, and soulful publications. Today, we pay it forward for Don….with HIS Publix turkey sub.” –Robert E. Lanoue , Palm Harbor, Florida

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I am going to end with a story an a Pay it Forward, that relates back to the person who posted the above Pay it Forward story, with all the pictures of the EMS communications members / team enjoying Don’s favorite sub. Many years ago, Don worked for Sunstar Paramedics in Florida. At the same time, Rob Lanoue, who posted the above PIF story, also worked there. At the same time, a beautiful woman named Barbara also worked there. Barbara and Rob were friends, would date each other, and would become husband and wife. The three of them – Rob, Barbara, and Don – all worked together and knew one another. A few years later, in 2005, Don would leave Florida and move to New Jersey to come and be with me. Meanwhile, in August of 2009, Barbara would die suddenly, leaving Rob a widower in his forties. Just two years later, in July of 2011, Don would die suddenly, leaving me a widow at age 39. While Rob and the others were informed of Don’s passing through supervisers and such, Rob had no knowledge of me or who I was or anything about me.

Fast-forward to sometime last June, 2015. Rob is at work – at Sunstar – having a particularly bad “grief day.” He decides to google and see if he can find something, anything, written by a widowed person. Someone else who understands what he is going through. The thought in his head as he is googling, is: “what happened to the life I knew? The life I had? Where did it go?” He types this phrase into a google search, and up comes my blog, THIS very blog you are reading – He cannot believe what he is looking at. There, on this blog, are pictures of his friend and former co-worker, Don Shepherd. He begins to read, and soon begins to understand what is happening – that he is reading the words of Don Shepherd’s wife/widow. What are the chances that he would A: type in the exxact same phrase that I thought of years before, when creating the title for my blog, and B: find the blog written by the friend he worked with’s WIFE??? He sends me a beautiful email detailing what has just happened, I respond, and we begin talking over the phone. We meet up in person in March, and a beautiful connection forms. A friendship develops that is a lovely mixture of knowing someone new, and feeling very familiar.

July 10th was Barbara’s birthday. She would have been 63 years old. My friend Rob shared with me that he felt saddened that nobody except him acknowledges her birthday , or other milestone days, anymore. Nobody left flowers at the cemetery for her, except him. This made me incredibly sad, because I know what that is like, to feel like everyone has forgotten. So in my head, I vowed to make Barbara part of MY pay it forward. Since nobody gave her flowers on her birthday, except for her wonderful husband, I would pay forward her favorite flowers (roses) to someone I felt looked like they really needed them. I did this in conjunction with the 50 flyers I had printed up to take with me into the city, on my way to celebrate Don’s life with some friends.

I stopped at the local florist and got a lovely bouquet of roses, lilies, and tulips. I put one of my flyers inside the packaging, and I got on the subway. As I sat down, I searched with my eyes to find the perfect woman to give my flowers to. It had to be the perfect person, someone who really needed them. I found her almost immediately. The train was packed, but she had somehow found a seat with nobody next to her. She sat there, eyes glazed over, looking like the world has just collapsed on top of her. She was young, maybe mid-twenties or so. She was lost. She was the one. I walked over to her, put the flowers out toward her, and said: “I know this is strange, but these are for you.” She smiled with her mouth but not with her eyes. I explained about Pay it Forward Day, and I explained that this past week, it was my friend’s late wife’s birthday, and since nobody brought her flowers, I wanted to pay them forward to someone who needs them. She invited me to sit in the seat next to her, moving her bags. I did. Her eyes were on the verge of waterfall. She asked me to tell her a bit more about this person whose birthday was ignored, simply because her physical self was no longer here. This is a portion of our conversation:

Her: My mom just died. It was pretty sudden. Only a few months after the diagnosis, and that was it. She was my best friend. Im going through a horrible divorce, and mom helped me with everything. Now Im alone. Im on my way home from arranging the funeral services. I just don’t even know what to do. These flowers are beautiful. Tell me more about your friend’s wife who died. When was her birthday?

Me: It was July 10th.

Her: Really? That’s when my mom died. Sunday. July 10th. That’s amazing. And you just picked me out of the blue, at random, to give these to …

Me: I did. But I don’t believe its random. I believe I was supposed to choose you, and we were supposed to meet today. Im so very sorry about your mom. That is so hard. Can I ask how she died?

Her: Lou Gehrigs Disease. It took her so fast. I still cant believe it. She was only 63.

Me: Stop it. That’s how old Barbara would have been on Sunday.

Her: (not following) Barbara?

Me: Yeah. My friend’s wife. She would have been 63 -same age your mom was .

Her: And her name is Barbara?

Me: Yes, why?

Her: (at this point she is crying, but they are tears of disbelief, not sadness) Barbara is my mother’s name.

We sat there, and we hugged one another, and she let herself cry as we hugged. Two total strangers, meant to meet one another, meant to send messages from a mom to her daughter, and a wife to her husband. All while paying it forward.

We are all connected. Those who have died always find ways to let us know, that they love us, they see us, and they want us to live. Not only did I get to give flowers to someone who needed them, but I got to give flowers to BARBARA, or I got to give flowers to a woman ,from her mother, and from a husband to his wife. It was as if Barbara and Don conspired from wherever they are, and made sure that I chose THIS person – this woman who just lost her mom, who was 63, on July 10th, whose name was Barbara. To let me know that, yes, living DOES make a difference. To let Rob know that, no, his wife was not forgotten on her birthday, because this woman vowed to remember it each year. I do not believe any of that happened by accident. I think they know and they see what we are doing, and they try and find ways to let us know that – to create unexpected connections. The connections are everywhere, and the people we love who have died, they live inside of those connections. Each time we decide to live, that is where they can be found. That is where they, and we, are born once again.

Thank you to everyone who continues to participate in paying it forward. It matters to me greatly, and now you know why. Keeping people alive is our job – those of us with the honor of living longer. I will pay it forward for Don, and I will love him until the day I die, and even still, much longer than that.

Long Live Love.

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The Agony of Defeat

Lately, I feel as if there are no more words left in the universe to properly describe how I feel. The words and phrases just don’t exist, or I’ve already described them multiple times, or I’m tired of describing them, or it’s repetitive and nobody wants to hear about it anymore anyway, or it’s just incredibly exhausting to constantly try and explain this grief crap. To explain WHAT THIS IS, and how its just ALWAYS there. Always, always, always.

Even when you think it isn’t there anymore, or you think: “Wow. I have done so much progressing!” Or your life feels happy or joyful for awhile, or something new happens or comes upon you and its a nice thing. Still, even then, that thing …. that thing of grief that I no longer know how to describe … it’s there. It’s just there, and it always will be.

I suppose that once I learn to just accept the idea that the “grief thing” will always be a part of my life, that my life will be a lot easier to shift through. And honestly, I do accept that I am forever changed by the life and the death of my beautiful husband. How could I not be? It’s just that, on some days, in some weeks, during some months, it all just feels like too much to handle. Life just overwhelms me for long periods of time, and I find myself back in that place where I’m just too exhausted to put the effort in. I slog along through the days, not feeling inspired and not feeling much like inspiring anyone else, and it’s all I can do to not fall apart. Still. After 5 years. Does that feeling ever go away? I’m guessing I already know the answer.

Wednesday, July 13th, was the 5-year mark. I did my usual Pay it Forward for Don campaign, and went out with some good friends that night and toasted to Don’s life, to love, and to friendship. It felt nice. But since coming home that night, I have felt very “blah.” I have felt very lethargic, very lazy, very much like a hermit who could sit here alone for days and days and days and not really mind. July is killing me. July is my enemy, and its really doing a number on me this time around. I have seen friends. I have gone out here and there. But I have to force myself. Its not helping that I lost my summer teaching job back in May, so I’ve been temporarily without work. It’s been extremely frustrating, and Im spending most of my days on the computer or out trying to find work. I’m scraping by lately, and whenever I barely have enough funds to get through the month, it always makes me feel like I have failed somehow. Like, this is NOT what Don wants for me, to STILL be struggling this way. He wanted so much more for me, and so do I.

I have been toying with the idea of leaving NYC. Staying with my parents in Massachusetts, where I wouldn’t have to worry about rent or bills for a few months, and finally finish the book I have been writing for over 3 years now. I wouldn’t stay there forever – maybe for 3 or 4 months – and then I would either come back to NYC and start over here, or I would maybe try a different city entirely. Maybe Chicago. Maybe the area of Florida where my husband used to live, where I feel closest to him. Is that crazy? It might be. But I feel crazy lately. And of course, any or all of these moves would require getting a new job, new apartment, new lifestyle, but I feel like I need something different. Something else. Something that forces me into a new pattern. Im becoming bored with my own life lately. Its such a strange feeling.

I would be leaving my teaching job if I did this – the one I have had for 16 years. And I would be leaving NYC. And that would be VERY hard. These are big decisions, and right now, they are only in my head. I haven’t decided anything yet for sure. And none of these things would happen until late in the year, around Christmas, or early 2017. So whatever I do or dont do, Im still here in NY for at least the next 5 months. But that restless feeling keeps growing inside, and yet, my brain is very tired. 5 years of making every single decision , without a life partner to help, is extremely daunting and hard. I wish I could rest. I wish I had the type of life where I wasn’t always struggling, and where I could just jump on a plane and take a vacation from my own life. That’s what I need. But I don’t have that luxury. And so I’m tired. And I no longer have words.

Except to say this: it feels as if I have been defeated. It feels as if, for now anyway, grief has won this battle. I’m too tired to fight or put up my fists right now. Everything is making me tired. I feel like a slug. The smallest thing lately, takes the greatest of efforts. I just want to sleep, and I don’t mean that in a “permanent” way. I just mean it literally. Lately, I just want to sleep and lie in my bed and not do much of anything. It’s not a great feeling, but I also know enough about myself and about grief, to know it will pass. Eventually. But until then, I feel beaten up by life and by death, and the defeat is agony.

We Can Do Better

So, there is something I want to say about my “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd” project, and something I want to say about people, and grief, in general. My personal blog page feels like the perfect place to say this.

This past Wednesday was July 13th, the 5 year anniversary of my husband’s sudden death. This is the 5th year I have organized the PIF project. It began on the one-year mark of my husband’s death, as a suggestion from my grief-counselor as something to help me get through that day, while also creating something that would be the very definition of who he was and always will be.

This is what I want to say, and it isn’t a judgment or me being upset or angry at anyone – it is simply FACT. The “Pay it Forward” project would not exist, or would have fizzled out, or would not have the chain reaction of kindness that it now has, if it weren’t for my friends in the widowed community. Why? Because every single year, not only do I create a PIF Event Page on Facebook, post the link several times – but I also send out multiple group emails to everyone I know, in the weeks leading up to the event. I also post about it here in my blog, and pretty much everyone that knows me KNOWS that this is happening, and that it’s important to me.

Despite all of this, every single year, the project has the participation ratio of (estimating) 90% widowed friends, and about 10% other, non-widowed friends/family. And of that 10% friends/family, I’d say that only 5% – 7% of that are close/immediate family of mine or Don’s, or close friends of mine or Don’s. The rest fall under the category of online friends, or friends I’ve made over the years at work or in other places. Another words, the people that knew and loved either Don or me or both of us MOST, are the very people who (generally speaking, there are exceptions) choose not to participate in this project. Again, I am NOT saying this as a way to make anyone feel bad or guilty, and I do realize people cope and grieve and show their love for someone who died in their own way and all that, but I do think it’s very telling.

It is telling because it means that the majority of people who are honoring my husband on this day, are people who DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HIM. As in, they have never even met the guy, and some of them have never even met ME. It is telling because it means that my fellow widowed peeps are, generally, the ones who REALLY comprehend WHY this project is so meaningful to me. Why I do it. They understand how vital and beautiful it is to hear the name of the person you lost to death spoken and said out loud, or to have an act of love done in their honor. They understand that when a couple hundred people choose to honor my husband, it speaks volumes to the universe about a life that matters, and will always matter. And they understand the power of others who loved him saying to me: “Yes. I miss him too. No. He hasn’t been forgotten. He never will be.”

It is telling because the REASON these widowed people understand this so well, is because they have felt the same from their own families and friends. They have sat through birthdays or anniversaries or milestones of the person they love who died, where they have received no acknowledgement from anyone. Nobody saying: “Wow, this must be a hard day for you – your 10th wedding anniversary. ” Generally, the only other people who say this to us, are other widowed people. And no, we don’t expect everyone to remember all the milestone dates of the person we loved that died. Of course not. But, when it’s put out there for people to know or acknowledge, and still gets largely ignored, it just feels bad. It hurts, and it FEELS like you are ignoring us, and ignoring the person that died. As time marches on, there are generally less and less people who mark these types of milestone days, or who reach out to US, the surviving partner or spouse, to express some form of acknowledgment or empathy. And in this way, as time goes by, we begin to feel more and more isolated in our eternal love of this person.

This is very telling about grief, and the way we as a society treat death, and those who are forever missing someone they love. If you are a friend or family member of mine or Don’s, and you choose to participate in this once a year project that requires nothing but a few minutes of kindness, that tells me that you care and you understand that these things help in healing my heart. It also tells me that you are still thinking about Don, and that makes me feel really good. So if you have participated in this years or past years Pay it Forward campaign, OR if you are one of the very few friends and family members who actually follow this blog, I will say this – it means EVERYTHING. Every. single. thing. Thank you.

I was talking with a good widower friend the other day, and he was feeling extra sad because it was his late wife’s birthday, and when he went to the cemetary to put down flowers at the end of his day, he noticed that nobody else had been there. And nobody called him, or acknowledged the birthday in any way. Not her family, not her children, nobody. I said to him: “you must be so hurt and disappointed.” He said: “I’m way past disappointment now. It’s been years. I know now not to expect it. I know that the only person that will acknowledge these milestone days, and acknowledge her life, is me. Nobody else remembers or seems to care, really.” So on Wednesday, I remembered his wife for him, and made sure to include her in one of my Pay it Forwards, because I truly get how empty it feels when you are literally THE ONLY ONE who is acknowledging and remembering the person you love who died. It is a truly terrible feeling.

So I will say this: This is NOT okay. This is not the way we should be treating people that we love, who die. Guess what? Every single person reading this blog piece is going to die. And every single person reading this is going to experience the mind-numbing, soul-crushing hell of losing the person you love most. And you will also lose other people too. Some of you will lose a whole lot of people to death. And it will keep happening, over and over and over. Like my friend Michele says, “if you love humans, they are going to die. Humans die.” This is not how we should be honoring and remembering the people we love. By placing them on a shelf somewhere and never speaking of them again. By shaming people who sit beside their wife or husband at a cemetery, telling them to get over it or stop going there. By letting the person we love who died become further and further away with time, because we choose to ignore it, as if it’s some awful thing in our past that we should let go of.

No. I will NEVER let go of love. I will carry it with me and let it be the wings that make my future soar. I will not forget love. I will not forget my husband. And I will continue to find ways, always, to create beautiful things that create an avalanche of exactly what and who he was – PURE LOVE. To me, to do anything less is unacceptable. And when we find ways to take the love we have for that person, and spread it around – that is when we feel closest to them once more. That is where they live – inside the love.

So, to my widowed community family, THANK YOU for being the fuel to keep this project going, and thank you for truly getting it. And to my friends and family and Don’s friends and family who HAVE participated in this once-a-year thing that I request from you, thank you with all of my heart. It means so very much to me, and it is noticed by me each and every time you choose to remember him or share a memory of him with me or say his name or anything else that keeps him here with us. I cherish those stories, and I cherish you.

All of the above is just me using my P.I.F. campaign as just one example of a way to say this: We, as a society, can do better. Yes, death removes the people we love from earth – it takes their physical form away from us, and forces us to have a different relationship with them. And it hurts like hell and it changes us, forever. But It is not DEATH that takes people’s soul away from us – it is us. We are doing that. We are making the choice to do that. By our actions. Our words. By our decisions on how we choose to stay connected (or not) to the people we love who have died. We are the ones making the people we love disappear through death. And it’s not okay. They deserve better. They deserve more. When I die, the people I love better talk other people’s ears off about me, and find ways to keep my soul alive, or I’m gonna be pissed. Because to me, anything less is shameful.

We can do better. The people we love who died should remain a part of our lives always. They are NOT part of our past. They are forever connected to us, and we can keep them closer to us by keeping them alive. In our stories. In our hearts. In our very breath. Just trust me on this. My husband is only really “gone” when I make choices that don’t keep him part of my life. We are connected to the people we love, forever. Death is just death. Don’t give it more power than it already has. Thank you for listening, and thank you for helping me change the world, one tiny change at a time.

(All comments are so very welcome and appreciated. I love comments. Also, if you would still like to do a PAY IT FORWARD act of kindness in my husband’s name, it is not too late. Simply put your story of what you did along with any pictures, right here in the comments, or email it to me All your stories of kindness will be published in an EPIC blog of kindness piece right here, next week. Thank you. )

Only 2 Days Left Until 5th Annual PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON DAY

Hi Friends,

July 13th, 2011, is the day that rocked my world forever. That is the day that my dear, sweet husband died very suddenly of a massive heart-attack at age 46, after only 4.5 years of a beautiful and loving marriage together. In 2012, I started the first ever PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON SHEPHERD DAY. My husband was the most kind and selfless person I have ever met, and his love for all things music and animals was like nothing I have ever seen. He loved to take care of people and animals, and make sure they were safe, and his passion for all things music, especially guitar, was truly a beautiful thing, and was what originally brought us together. He was amazing.

Pay it Forward for Don Day not only helped me get through the horrors of reliving that awful day that he died, but it has also helped many other people, in his name. It is something I will do every single year, on July 13th, for the rest of my life. In the past 4 PIF events,, over 150 people participated in this day each time, sharing their stories of kindness in words and pictures, all around the world.

The concept is simple:

On July 13th, do something kind for someone else, in Don Shepherd’s name. Big or small. Stranger or friend.

This next part is important. Tell me what you did. Write it out on my Facebook Wall/page on that day, or send me an email with your story. ( Be sure to include what you did, any details about it such as what it was like or how it felt, any pictures you might have about what you did or video, and your name and where you are from. All of your stories will be written in this blog ( , and the most creative Pay it Forwards from the past 4 years will make it into a TOP TEN LIST of the Most Memorable Pay it Forwards, in my Book, which is tentatively scheduled for a 2017 release. (Yes, I know this date keeps changing. Lol. Im doing my best!!!)

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 husband’s 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. Go to her site to donate, and make sure you let her know your donation is for DON DAY. She will know what you mean.

My friend Michele Neff Hernandez is the founder of CAMP WIDOW and the incredible nonprofit organization Soaring Spirits International, the largest known community to connect widowed people worldwide and provide them with coping and living skills to survive this new life. I have been doing work for them for the past 3 years, including being a weekly writer for their blog – being a Regional Leader for the NYC Social Group, and being a presenter for their 3x a year Camp Widow Event. A donation to their organization would mean more funding to provide others with the opportunity to attend events like CAMP WIDOW, which are life-changing, 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 Again, PLEASE make a note somewhere in your donation that it is in honor of PAY IT FORWARD FOR DON 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 – thats the fun of it.

July 13th is just TWO DAYS AWAY, and since this will be the 5-year mark of his death, I want to really make this one extra special. Start thinking about how YOU want to pay it forward for Don. Don’t forget to post to ME on the Facebook Event page, my personal Facebook page wall, or in my regular gmail, 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.

Just a few things about Don Shepherd, in case you want to make your Pay It Forward/Act of Kindness in the theme of something that was special to him or part of his life:

He was Flight Crew Chief in the Air Force, and loved airplanes. His time in the military meant a lot to him. He served in Desert Storm, in Japan, and many other places.

He was an EMT for many years, both at Sunstar in Florida, at Ambu-car in Jersey City, NJ, and at Hackensack Medical Center / Vanguard in NJ. He loved his job, and always felt like people in this industry were underappreciated, so any acts of kindness toward people in EMS would be awesome.

He loved music, and played guitar. He loved old classic rock, a bit of blues and some jazz. He loved tennis and was a self-taught very good player with a killer serve. He loved cars and history and science, and building things, and tearing them down. Typical guy. He loved the Yankees a LOT. A friend of mine got his name on the Yankee board at Yankee Stadium for her Pay it Forward a couple years ago – it was amazing. He loved animals and wanted to rescue and save them all, especially kitties. He was and is a man with the biggest heart I ever knew, and a soul that will never die. This is the best way I can think of to honor his life and to keep his soul alive, and I will do this forever as his wife and his widow. It is my honor to live my life in color, because he doesn’t have that same option.

I cant wait to hear your stories. Thank you so much !!!

The Facebook Page for the Event:

Fight Hate With Love



Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

So many others.

So many lives.

So much violence. So much racism. So much hate.

Not enough listening. Not enough hearing. Not enough empathy.

The words that follow here will not be ‘political” in nature, though I will be sharing my political opinions a bit.

Despite this, I choose to see my words that follow as human – a human being talking to other human beings. As part of my talking, or writing, I choose to mention things of a political nature, because that is what is in my heart right now. I don’t much care if you agree or disagree with my opinions – which is what makes them what they are – opinions.

I say this to warn people, because somehow, we have become a society of people who no longer listen to one another. We have become a people who react in rage and anger. We have become a people of tremendous violence and apathy. We have become lazy in our hearts. We have forgotten how to co-exist. We react to everything, to every opinion, on the defense. If I dare say in this blog piece which candidate I may be voting for in November, or how I feel about something politically, surely I will be met with several angry comments. Some people will call me an idiot, or call me stupid for the candidate I choose to support. Some will make assumptions about why I support them, instead of hearing me, or just trusting that I’m an intelligent person who knows what she is doing. I may absolutely despise the candidate you are choosing to vote for, but I would never dream of calling you a moron or telling you that you are a stupid person for supporting them. We have become a country of people who can no longer communicate with each other in a productive way. We delete, unfriend, and block people out of our lives, and out of our thoughts. We have become a people of little patience, and in times of horrific death and pointless murders, we are turning on each other.

Stop for a moment, and think about that.

For a moment, just stop talking.

Stop talking and arguing and creating more noise.

Just listen.


The traumas that come with life are so much harder for me to handle, without my husband here. All of these endless acts of violence, and people just constantly killing people – it is an awful lot for my heart and soul and brain to cope with.

My husband’s very presence in my life was a forever blanket of safe. My husband was an Air Force veteran, a paramedic, and a man who spent his free time volunteering to help with pet adoptions. He was kind and patient and beautiful. He was, quite literally, the most decent human being I have ever met.

He was a Democrat who had a few opinions on the more Conservative side. He voted for George Bush Sr., but not George W. Bush. In 2008, we voted together for the first time ever, for Barack Obama. We stood in the lines together, we hoped for change together, we shared healthy discussions together. That was something I loved so much about our relationship – the variety of world events we could discuss together, and share similar viewpoints on. The few times that we did disagree politically, there was never anger – never a condescending tone. My husband was a Master at debating. He would talk and make his points patiently, and with equal parts emotion and fact. He debated calmly and passionately, somehow at the exact same time, with a lot of my very conservative Republican family members. Me being a Democrat, bordering on liberal – would sit back with a smile, just watching him and feeling proud of the genius way he would put words together. Often times, he would change my mind about something or get me to see it in a different way. He did not put up with racism or hatred or prejudice of any kind, and he would put people who demonstrated such things in their place, and always with a touch of class. He was sarcastic and witty and absolutely hilarious at times, but he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. His heart was so filled with love, and with the hope that a world would exist with more love in it.

Today, and lately, I often try to think to myself or ask myself what he would think of all the horrors going on in our current world. What would he say about all of it? There are some things I know for sure, because of past discussions or comments he made years ago. I know he would be a Hillary supporter, as I am, because somewhere around 2009, he predicted out loud to me that she would be the first female President, and he often spoke about how much he admired her and how incredibly smart she was. I also know that he would be shaking his head with utter confusion and disappointment, at the very idea that Donald Trump is even a candidate. He would be finding the whole thing hilarious and frightening at the same time, much as I do. I know that in this world of racism, hatred, and prejudice that seems to be getting worse by the hour – he would find a way to help, to take action, and to stand up for his brothers and sisters of color, and in the LGBT community. My husband’s nephew is gay, and when Don found out, he told him he was and always will be proud of the man he is and has become. My husband would have also stood by and stood up for the GOOD cops out there, and most of them are very good – and he would not have put up with the few bad ones who have a God-complex or who are trigger-happy or who hate people because of the color of their skin. My husband, as always, would have taken combat to the hate – with love. That is who he was, and that is who he will always be.

Again, I say these things not to get overly political, but to try and make you see, dear reader, how very difficult and heart-wrenching it feels, to have to live through these violent traumas and murders in today’s world, without the loving and safe arms of my wonderful husband. When he was here, with me, I felt like no matter what happened in the world, everything would be okay. I would be okay. He made my world a safe place. Whether or not I was actually safer doesn’t even matter. What matters is that I felt safe. I felt validated and whole and loved, knowing that my partner in life shared similar values and beliefs as me, and knowing that this person of tremendous character and love, would always have my back.

Now, in this world where simple opinions cause tension and rage, I long for an intelligent dialogue with my partner in all things life. I crave the smart intellect of his thoughts, and the big-hearted ways in which all of his ideas came from. I wish for nothing more than to be in his comforting arms, and have him telling me over and over again: “You’re safe, Boo. I got you. Everything is going to be okay.” Because even if everything wasn’t going to be okay, even if we were on the brink of World War 3 or impending disaster – in that moment, and all the moments I was with him, I had the illusion that all was well.

These days, that is a greater comfort than anyone can ask for.

Thanks for listening.

The Tsunami of July

We all have one. Well, those of us who are widowed people. And most likely, anyone who has lost someone they love dearly, to death. However, since I am a widowed person, I can only speak from the widowed lense, and I can tell you with 1000% accuracy, that we all have one. For me, it’s July.

We all have our month on the calendar. That month that used to just be a month, but that now, in this new version of life, is the month when our world changed forever and we no longer had that life we knew – the month they died.

It’s funny the amount of power that lies in numbers or days on a calendar. Okay, maybe not “Ha Ha” funny, but something to ponder when you’re sitting around thinking about life’s oddities. People who haven’t been through this will try to convince you that it’s all in your head, that you should just think happy thoughts or think positively, and don’t let that month hold so much power over you. And while this is true to an extent, there is also a lot I cannot control about what the month of July does to my heart and soul.

Today is July 1st. The world I knew ended on July 13th, 2011. In less than two weeks, that day will come around all over again, and will fall on a Wednesday, which is the day of the week he died. A few days ago, my body broke out in hives. Stress-induced hives all over my arms and legs. They look as horrifying as they feel. They are physical proof of what the stress and exhaustion of grief and death does to us, over and over again. I got these same hives a few months after my husband’s sudden death. I remember the doctor asking me: “Anything particularly stressful going on in your life right now?” My robotic response: “Yeah. My husband just died.” “Well, there ya go”, he said. “That’ll give ya hives. The stress makes them worse. The anxiety. Try to relax.” Try to relax??? Was he joking??? My fucking husband was dead and Im supposed to relax??? Ive got news for that guy. I haven’t been able to truly “relax” since July 13, 2011. At least, not in the same way that I used to. That word, like all other words in my world, now means something entirely different.

For me, in the midst of year five of this life, July comes in like a tsunami.

It thrashes around me, over me, under me, and especially inside of me. The tidal waves just crash and crash, followed by a burning sensation in the pit of my soul. The flashbacks. The things I don’t want to remember. The casket. The way he looked all puffed up and not like my husband, sitting in that death box. The well-wishers, saying insensitive things and not looking me in the eye. The phone call – the one that rang and rang and rang in the early hours of the morning, telling me that my very world was about to change forever. The 98 degree temperature and the awful humidity that seemed to be matching in tone with the cruelty of his being gone. The cab ride to the hospital that was 3 minutes but felt like 3 hours. The not knowing what I was going there for, or what I would be walking into. The animalistic sounds that came out of me when I heard the nurse say: “I”m so sorry. We did everything we could. He didn’t make it.” Running into the bathroom to throw up. Being left alone in a tiny room with my dead husband, and not having a clue what to say or do with him. Having that feeling like I was watching a movie, or like this wasn’t really happening to me, and everything would be fine later on. Convincing myself that he was just taking another nap. He was fine, and I would see him tonight at home. Leaving that tiny hospital room. Leaving him there in that hospital, as I drove away with my friends to begin all the horrors that would follow. The trauma of hearing ambulance sirens afterwards, or seeing other men in EMS uniforms. The sick feeling I got upon realization that these ashes in my hand, are what is left of my husband. The endless sobbing. The numbness. The fear of dying. Wanting to die. Not wanting to live. Forgetting how to breathe. Not remembering how to exist. Living inside a tornado. Being made to suffocate in this version of life, and knowing that everything was forever different.

We all have our months.

I will feel however I feel this month, I will do my best to get through it, and I won’t apoligize if I’m an absolute mess for awhile. I have every right. My world died five years ago, and it takes a hell of a long time to pick up all the pieces of that. Sometimes it takes forever. Or at least it feels that way, when you’re churning inside the tsunami.

Boo ambulance