This new version of life.

This life that exists in the now.

The one where my husband,

is no longer my husband,

by law.

Because he is dead.

And you can’t be married

to a dead person.

By law.

You might still FEEL married,

like I did,

for almost 4 years,

after his death.

You might feel as if even looking

at another man

is cheating,

and it feels wrong

and awful,

and you feel like a terrible wife,

like I did.

You may still wear

your wedding ring,

or his.

Or maybe you move it

to your other hand.

Or have it made

into a necklace.

Which is your right.

And an honor

to do so.


you lose it,

or you notice one day,

that when you look down

at your hand,

to do that thing

you always do,

where you roll your thumb

over your ring

because it’s oddly

and stupidly


that the ring is missing.

Its not there.

Its gone.

Disappeared into thin air,

just like your husband.

And your hand is naked.

And you go numb for awhile.

And then you cry

until you cant breathe.

And you feel guilty for months.

And you feel like he just died

all over again.

And nobody understands.

And you get accused

of being over-dramatic.

You get told

to get over it.

You get told

that you aren’t




because he is dead.

You get told

that losing your

wedding ring

was “a sign”

that it’s time

to “move on.”

And you want to punch

the person who said that

right in the eyeball,

and then kick them

over and over again,

until they hurt

until they bleed

until they scream

in pain,

as much as you do,


But you know

it wont help.

You know

they will never

get it,


they get it.

Until they find


running their


along the finger

where their

wedding ring

used to be.

Because their husband

is dead forever,

and the ring,

the symbol of that

great love,

one of the only things

that comforts them,

is physical proof


that he existed.

Because sometimes,

lots of times,

they have to

remind themselves

that their love



That they



imagine it.

And the ring

is the perfect reminder.

Until it’s not.

Until it’s gone.

Until you find yourself,

in a corner,

looking through

your wedding albums,

peeking at

your wedding video,

hearing the sound

of his voice.

Watching him smile

and laugh,

and dance,

and then running

into the bathroom,

to throw up.

To have a meltdown.

To shake

and panic.



Because your husband,

no longer smiles,

or laughs,

or dances.

Those are just video clips,

from a time,

that is gone.

And seeing that,

watching that,

up close,

is heart-wrenching.

But you miss him


that you keep watching,


even though,

you know,

it will bring you torture.



is better

than the nothingness

of him




Six years later.

2 days ago,

in fact.

Your new love,

has gone a few hours,

without responding,

to your texts.

You were

supposed to talk,

later that night.

But he goes silent.

Hours go by.

You leave voicemails.

Text him.

You pace.

You worry.

Panic sets in.

You know the drill.

People disappear.

They die.

With no warning.

You start talking

to yourself.

All the what if’s.

Maybe he had

a heart-attack,

with no symptoms,

no warning.

Just like

your husband.

Maybe he collapsed,

and was alone,

for too long,

to be saved.

And maybe

you will have to

go through

all the guilt

and the pain

the torture

All over again.

Who would even tell you,

if he died?

You aren’t his wife.

You love him.

He loves you.

But the relationship

is new.

And not many people

in his world

know yet,

who you are,

or know your number,

to call you,

and tell you,

that your world just ended.

So you panic.

Because you


go through

this again.

You cannot

lose this person



And so,

six years later,

you find yourself

rocking back and forth,

sitting in your dead husband’s

recliner chair,


but the silent kind of


where it just happens,

without any effort,

or sound.

And your thumb,

starts to slowly move,

out of instinct,

over and over

that finger,

where your

wedding ring,

used to be,

and hasn’t been,

for 4 years,

since it went missing.

But now,

that naked skin,

it oddly comforts you,

to stroke it,

even though


is there.

It fans the


to a dull roar.

It forces you

into a rhythm,

of breathing again.

“It will be okay.

It will be okay.


will be okay.


Later on,

the next morning,

when he finally calls you,

and tells you that

he simply fell asleep


the night before,

you breathe

a sigh of relief,

and feel almost


for all the panic.

But you know,

what you know,

and this is just how it is,

in your mind.

And you wonder,

how the hell,

am I going to do this,

how am I going

to lose

someone I love,

to death,


One day.


I might have to


that out.

I might have to.

But that


is not



I take comfort,

in the naked skin,

where my love



a beautiful ring

on my finger,

and we smiled,

and cried,

on that snowy night,

in the cold,

one week

before Christmas.

And we lived.

We existed.

And we loved.

We love.

And the fact

that I can love

this man



so much,

that I cannot bear

to picture life

without him,

is Evidence,

along with

the nakedness

of my finger,





Right now.


In this second.








“(of a vessel) in a good enough condition to sail on the sea.”

Sometimes, something unexpected happens, and it gives you a new look at something, or a new look at yourself maybe. Sometimes, everything just lines up in the way it is supposed to, so that the universe can deliver to you, exactly what it is that you need in that moment. I want to tell you all a story, where that happened.

So, I recently returned home from Tampa, Florida – where I attended as a presenter once again at Camp Widow. It always seems impossible to even begin to describe the experience of what goes on during those few days at that Marriott Hotel, because it always feels so special and so big and so life-changing, and something that just cant be seen or felt or understood, unless you were there inside of it. Each and every time.

And I figured out the reason for that. It’s because we are living life every day. Sometimes we are living life poorly, other times we are barely hanging on, and still other times we might feel like we could be doing okay. The pieces of our life are in constant movement. Each time we attend camp, and are surrounded by a couple hundred other widowed people – our tribe – things have changed in our own lives. We are in a different place than we were the last time, even if its not a good place. Grief does not stand still – its always shifting – as is life, whether you fight the changes of it or not. They still keep happening. So each time I attend, I receive brand new messages, gain new knowledge, and walk away with something I didnt have just a few days earlier. I also meet more new people that are on this path of loss, and I reunite with my friends that I met there last year. Not to mention I have the amazing honor of providing laughter to a room filled with widowed people – and widowed people laughing, has become my very favorite sound to hear.

At each camp, the founder of Soaring Spirits International, my dear friend Michele Neff Hernandez, widowed at age 35 when her husband Phil was hit by a car while cycling – delivers a Key Note Address. It is always the perfect message for us to go home with, and always something to make us think in a new way about something. As it turns out, this one hit home for me, in ways that were quite unexpected. She normally uses some type of metaphor or image as part of her overall theme, and this time, that image was boats.

Michele spoke about how common it is to hear people comparing grief to the ocean. She then noted that she liked to think of it more as a boat. That when our loved one dies, we are left with this boat (our grief, our “after” life, all of it), and it is our mission, eventually, to make sure our boats were seaworthy – in good enough condition to sail on the sea. She talked about what a ginormous task this was, and how all of our boats were in different conditions and some of our boats had other passengers to take care of (children), while others were completely alone in their boats. She talked about having to fix our boats over and over, and how new holes would appear and how we had to keep starting over, and how sometimes, you just wanted to sit there and tread water and not deal with this boat or deal with anything. Or how you wanted to just give up and sell your boat, but you couldntt, because you have the deed and its yours forever. You had no choice but to take your boat, your life, and make it seaworthy.

Later that day, after the Key Note Address, I did my presentation, which went very well, and then attended the big party that night where we both honor our forever loves with a message release, and celebrate our own lives, and love and life itself. Everything was great, and I felt such a sense of life-affirmation and hope – the way I always feel when around my widowed family.

The next night, Sunday, I was hit with a huge emotional breakdown. A panic attack. It happened at a random moment, while sitting in my hotel room alone. The reasons as to why it happened aren’t important here and cannot be shared here, so I will only say that it was an extremely emotional week for me in Florida, and it was very difficult being there for personal reasons. My heart was hurting all week long, and in that moment, it all came to a head.

So, on that Sunday, I found myself on the floor of my hotel room, crumpled up in a corner, sobbing hysterically and barely able to catch my breath. It was that kind of crying where you start hyperventilating, and where you are absolutely positive that the severity of your crying and your pain, will indeed kill you. You are positive that you will die from this pain, and you sort of very much want to die, in that moment. Here I was, 5 and a half years from my loss, and still, grief and life and pain was attacking. But because I am over 5 years from my loss, I knew enough, somewhere deep inside, that I was having a panic attack, and that I probably would not die from it. I knew enough that I needed a friend to help me breathe through this, and I needed to talk with someone I could trust with all of this pain. So I texted Michele. It just felt right. She was the person I needed in that moment, to say the words I needed to say out loud, that would be kept between only us.

I got through the night somehow. I cried hysterically for a long time that night. Hours, maybe. With the help of a sleeping pill, I finally drifted off into crying sleep. On Monday morning, I woke up with a headache, and a return text from Michele that she had been asleep the night before and just received my text now. I was still in a very bad place, and asked her if she could somehow spare even just a few minutes for me in person, because I felt as if I was going to collapse from pain. I wasnt sure how to get through the next minute, never mind the day. This woman, this beautiful friend of mine who was literally in the middle of packing up all of Camp Widow into trucks, several meetings, and things other than my sobbing ass – scheduled a private conference room for us to meet in, and was there waiting for me when I arrived at the appointed time.

I sat down next to her, and just collapsed into her. I let myself cry horribly and loudly. I let everything that was inside, come out. And she sat there, holding me, and giving me the space I so desperately needed, to let all the hurt escape out of me. I needed a private place to feel safe, away from everyone and everything, and she gave me exactly that. We talked for a long time, and many things were said that I can’t get into in a public forum, but this was the part that is important to this story, that I will share here.

She looked me in the eyes, as I cried and cried and cried, and she ordered me to go outside. “You can cry all you want, but you are not allowed back into your room until tonight, to sleep. I want you outside in the fresh air. Take a walk, sit by the pool, whatever. If I find out you went back to your room, I’m going to be really upset with you.You have to find a way to release this from your heart, at least until your TED talk is done at the end of the month. You have to focus on that. This is a huge deal, a huge opportunity and platform, and you cannot let this thing, steal that away from you.”

I cried some more, and she wiped my tears and asked me if I had any sunglasses. I shook my head no. She took her own beautiful sunglasses, and put them on my face gently. She said: “Here. These are yours. Now you can go outside, and see yourself through my eyes. Youre beautiful. Youre so worthy. You cant see that right now, but I can. Look through my eyes. You are allowed to grieve and mourn and feel everything that’s happened, but do it outside, and put these on so you don’t have to face questions about why you’re crying. When you get outside, you never know what could happen, who you might run into, what new perspective you might see. Go outside. I love you.” I walked down the hall, still crying, and said: “I love you too.” And I went outside.

Minutes later, I got a text from one of my widow friends, Leah. “A few of us are going on a boat cruise around Tampa Bay. Wanna come?” Without thinking about anything other than the words that Michele had just spoken to me, I texted back: “Yes.” Because I was ordered to stay outside. And because her Key Note was all about boats. So the idea of a boat ride seemed absolutely perfect.

So off we went, onto this boat ride, which was supposed to be a dolphin watch, but there were no dolphins. There was a captain, and a co-captain. The co-captain was at the back of the boat, where me and my friends were sitting, and he was chatting it up with us and being friendly and personable, because that’s his job. I was telling my friends about how I never took my late husband’s last name, Shepherd, an how I was going to now use it as a pen name in my book about him – Kelley Lynn Shepherd. The co-captain/2nd mate heard me and commented: “Thats a really beautiful way to honor him, by taking his name for the book. Wow. I like that.” He then asked us if we wanted to request any songs for the boat tour, so I requested “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. He yelled out to the captain my song request, and the captain responded: “You got it, Phil.” Then this man, Phil, who has the same name as my dear friend Michele’s late husband – just minutes after she ordered me to go outside and I ended up on a boat – says out of nowhere to me: “I love your sunglasses. Those are really great sunglasses.” Really.

When the boat tour was over, my friends and I started walking down the pier after saying our farewells to the captain and co-captain. He shouted out to me, something about “next time, I hope I can be your shepherd.” And then winked. My friend Rhonda turned to me and said: “Wow. He was really into you, huh?” “What?”, I responded, completely clueless. Leah and Tara agreed. “How could you not know? It was so obvious! He was listening to everything you said. He was standing over by you the whole cruise, talking to you.” I was stunned. “Really? I thought he was just doing his job and being nice. You really think he was flirting with me?” “YES!!!!”, they all practically screamed at me in unison.

So, with my new sunglasses on where I could see myself through Michele’s eyes, and with my new-found “who gives a shit and why the hell not” bravery, I said: “Well, I dont think he was flirting with me at all, but if you guys really think so, Ill go back there and give him my card. Why not, right? He was super nice. And his name was Phil! And he commented on my sunglasses that Michele just gave me. On a boat! Just like her Key Note! I mean, come ON. That HAS to mean SOMETHING!” So I fished through my bag to find my card, and then sprinted back toward the boat. But it was too late. The next cruise was already taking off – they had literally JUST left the dock. “Dammit!”, I said, genuinely disappointed.

We walked back to the hotel, and sat outside on the patio, because I was ordered to stay outside. Leah came up with a plan. “Lets find the boat tour company, see if they have a Facebook page. Then find him, and send him a message that you just took the tour and thought he had a great sense of humor, and that you were wondering if they give private group tours, because its something you may look into for our widowed convention next year. This way, if he wasn’t flirting with you, then you wont feel like you’re putting yourself out there or feel silly. And if he was, it will be obvious.” So I did. And I was pretty damn proud of myself for having the courage to walk back there and give this total stranger my card, AND follow it up by reaching out with this message.

The next morning, he did not reply, so I assumed that I was correct and that my friends were crazy for thinking he was into me. But the morning after that, after my flight had been pushed back a day due to snow back home, he did reply. Saying that yes, they do private group tours. He then asked me if I had some time right now to talk about it further. I was in the hotel, with a couple hours before having to leave for the airport to head back home. So I said sure. And then my phone rang (apparently people can call you from the Facebook Messenger thing, without having your number. I had no idea because I suck at technology).

And then, we were suddenly talking, for a very long time. The subject of boat tours only came up for a few minutes, if that. The rest of the time, he asked me about my late husband, and about the widow convention, and he noted how it must be “very comforting and validating in a way” to be part of an event such as Camp Widow, and to know that you aren’t alone. I then decided to take a chance and just come out and ask him if he was, indeed, flirting with me during the tour. Because I still didn’t really know for sure. Because I suck at knowing those types of things, and I suck at reading men and their intentions, apparently.

So I asked him. “My friends insisted that you were flirting with me on the cruise. I told them they were crazy.” He paused a few seconds, as if collecting his thoughts, and then said: “Oh, I was totally flirting with you. You’re absolutely beautiful. I have a thing for sexy brunettes with long hair from Massachusetts, who change their name to author a book about their husband, and who have a great personality and sense of humor and gorgeous eyes, and who are half Italian and half-Finnish. Oh, and the cleavage didn’t hurt anything either. ”

I could literally feel myself blushing through the phone. He really WAS listening to everything I said on that boat. To be feeling so horrible and awful and low and hopeless just hours before and the day before, and be literally crumpled up on the floor not wanting to do anything but die in my sorrow – and then to hear these words, coming from a total stranger named Phil, who has nothing to gain by lying to me, who I met on a boat, with my new sunglasses on, – it was magic.

It was the universe giving me the exact thing that I needed, at that exact moment. We talked about how I love sunsets, and how they do a nightly sunset cruise on the boat, and how beautiful the sunsets are in Florida. We talked about how we didn’t see any dolphins on our dolphin tour, and he lightly mocked me for being in a bathing suit and tank top on a “chilly” and windy day in the high 60’s, while all my friends were literally covering themselves up with blankets and coats and things, as I yelled out mockingly to them: “Wimps! It’s beautiful out here!” And then he said: “Its too bad you have to leave today. I’m off work, and I was going to see if you wanted to spend some time together.”

In talking with him further, his life situation is extremely complicated, and it’s the kind of complicated that makes him rather “unavailable” – and because of that, I doubt this will ever be any kind of relationship with us. And just a week before leaving for Florida, I had a first date with someone I recently met on the dating sites here in Massachusetts, and our date went quite well, and I really like him and would like to see him again. And that situation, or THIS situation, or ANY situation, could all turn out to be absolutely nothing.

And if there is one thing I have learned over this past year or so, in the most painful way possible – it is that you can spend a whole lot of time and emotions and put your whole heart out there on someone, only for it to turn out to be absolutely nothing. And so Phil, or the really nice guy from back home, or anything else, at any given time – could all be just a whole lot more nothing. But that does NOT erase the moments that happened. It does not mean that what you experienced and what you felt and what happened, was not 100% real, when it happened. Moments like that are real, and they are fleeting, and they live in my heart, and nobody can ever take that away from me. You can NEVER take that away.

What’s important to me is this: Phil and I have kept in touch, and he has been sending me nightly sunset pictures from the boat cruise, and they make me smile and feel peaceful and calm and tranquil. And he sent me and my friends a video of jumping dolphins from the cruise the other day, with the message: “Now you can see your dolphins.” And he called me beautiful. And on a boat filled with lots of other people, he chose ME to flirt with, he chose me to interact with. And when that was pointed out to me by my friends, I took a chance and tried to give him my card. And when that didn’t pan out, I took another chance and sent him a message. And that felt brave, somehow. Because just hours before, I was crumpled up in the corner, and I truly felt like nothing, and like my heart would fall right out of my chest, and I just wanted nothing more than to die right there in that room.

And then I went outside.

So even if all of this, all of these situations, all pan out into nothing,
– they are still not nothing.

The universe giving me hope and a new perspective, in a moment where I felt like everything was gone,
is never nothing. It is the furthest thing from nothing.

And in those moments,

with the wind in my hair,

and the music sounding like a lullaby,

and the water drinking up pieces of life and sky ….

In that one moment,

for that one measure of time,

I was more than Enough.

I was Alive.

And I was Seaworthy.

You Said You’d Protect Me, But You’re Not Here

This week, I released a piece in this blog, sharing that 20 years ago this year, in the middle of the night, in my apartment, I was raped. (if you want to understand more about that post or why I chose to speak up about it now, you can find it right here, in the post previous to this one, or all over my Facebook page by doing a quick scroll)

The reactions to this piece, and to what I went through, have been, for the most part, unbelievably supportive. I have heard from family members, friends, and people I haven’t spoken to in years, in some cases, sending me private Facebook messages or emails or comments on my blog, just to say slightly different and heartfelt versions of “I’m so sorry this happened to you. I had no idea. ” It has felt like one big, giant hug, at a time when I definitely most need that. In addition to that happening, I have also received countless private messages and comments and texts, from other women who read the piece, and who, in return, chose to then share the details of their own horrific and heartbreaking stories of rape, sexual assault, harassment, and other awful things that happen to women every single day. I have also heard from men who are fathers, brothers, husbands, or just really good and decent men who love and protect the women in their lives and who hate that this is happening anywhere, to any woman. Ever since writing the post and publishing it, which was an absolutely terrifying thing to do, I have had the craziest mix of emotions going on inside my head and heart. I am equal parts thankful, humbled, intensely sad, angry, shaken, fearful, worried, determined, disgusted, scared, anxious, nervous, inspired, and nauseous.

I am also unbelievably exhausted. I’ve had an off and on migraine since publishing the piece, and my heart has been pounding outside of my chest in a field of anxiety and panic. I feel rattled and re-awakened to the traumas of what actually happened, because sitting down and writing it all out took so much out of me, and was so very hard. What has been even harder, is reading all of the countless stories from others, who bravely shared them with me, and who continue to do so. It is my honor to read them and to hear them, and to be that person who finally makes it feel safe enough to let it out – because I went for so long without that, and so I know how invisible that feels.

But hearing story after story about sexual trauma – the details, one after the other, the horror of it all – it hurts my heart. It stings at my soul. It makes me ache in a way that is not possible to describe. On Wednesday, after reading through and responding to the 11th or 12th or 23rd story that day, I finally lost it. I just sat in my room and cried. I cried for that girl that I used to be before this happened to me. I cried for the way that I have to live now; a life-long insomniac who freaks out at any sound in the night and who flinches with terror when someone touches her suddenly. I cried for all the many, many women out there like me, who have been living with the deep dark secret of having been molested, or attacked, or abused. I cried, I cried, and I cried…..

This thing that happened to me 20 years ago – it is not something that defines me, nor is it something that I even think about most days anymore. In fact, most of the time, it just sits in the back corner of my soul and my person, lying dormant. But now, it’s back again, because I made the choice that didn’t really feel like a choice, to bring it back, and with it, comes all of those old feelings of trauma and triggers and terrors in the night and feeling unsafe in the world. Except this time, I’m alone.

And before you say anything, such as “you’re never really alone”, or something like that, please just don’t say that. I know that I have so much support from so many people, and believe me, that does mean the world to me. But none of those people are there with me in the middle of the night when I cant sleep, or when I wake up sweating or feeling like I’m being choked or restrained. None of those people hold me when I wake up screaming, stroking my hair and gently repeating: “Youre okay. Youre safe. I’m here, and I’m never going anywhere. Nobody is going to hurt you like that ever again. I wont let them. I will always protect you.” None of those people have sat with me for minutes or hours, in total silence, just holding me or letting me cry, after an unexpected trigger or flashback of the trauma occurs.

Do you know who did all of those things?

My husband.

Don Shepherd.

My knight in shining armor. The man who saved my life, in all the ways that matter, every single moment that I knew him. He sat with me in that darkness. He wiped my tears. He dealt with my crazy. He was my safe place, my tranquility, in a world that was filled with chaos and bad things and no hope at all in sight. He was that little light that kept shining, when I thought that I would never see light again. He lived with me and accepted me and loved me, when I had no ability or desire to love myself, or anyone else. He loved me into believing in love again. He sat with me in the place where I was, and waited until I was ready to move. He reminded me over and over that he cared, and that he wasn’t going anywhere. He was my anchor. My life boat. My raft.

Today, as I deal with all of this trauma that is once again re-emerging, and all of the emotions that have overwhelmed me, he is not here anymore for me to lean on. When I wake up in the middle of the night, its just me. When I need to be held and told that I’m safe, nobody is there to tell me that. And all of the people who have been so supportive and wonderful and amazing – they keep telling me over and over again how strong I am. “You’re the strongest person I know”. I have heard this over and over again this week.

But its not true. And I don’t like hearing it. Because I don’t want to be strong. I don’t want to be this pillar of strength. I just dont want to. I dont feel like it. It took everything inside of me to simply put all those words down in type, and write that post, and put that out there to the universe. THAT took every ounce of strength that I had left.

And now, I would just like to sit in a comfy room and be wrapped in a blanket, and be left alone for awhile. Just until this feeling of nausea passes. Actually, that’s not true at all. I don’t want to be left alone. I want to be with my husband. God-fucking-dammit, I want to be with him, and for him to lay with me and whisper in my ear as he strokes my hair that it’s going to be okay, and that I’m safe, and that I will be safe forever because he will make sure of it. But that’s not true, is it? It’s just not true anymore. Because he’s dead. He said he would protect me forever and not let anything happen to me ever again, but it’s kind of hard to protect someone when you’re dead. Why did I have to go through this awful, terrible, horrible thing in my life – and then meet someone who I FINALLY felt safe with, only for them to DIE??? Why??? The whole thing just seems incredibly unfair.

The only thing I want, the ONLY thing, just happens to be the only thing I can never have again- to be in my husband’s arms, my head resting on his chest – knowing that everything will be okay, that we are together, and I am safe. And I cant ever have that. Not ever.

Who is going to lay in bed with me, and love me through this now? Who is going to be the strong one, so that I don’t have to, because I don’t want to? Who is going to care, really care, that this is a dark and awful piece of my life that isnt ever going away, and that because of that, I will always need to be handled and treated with extra kindness, tenderness, and in a gentle way?

Our “would have been 10 years” wedding anniversary is this Thursday, and the churning inside my stomach has already begun. I need him more than ever, and more than I have in a very long time. I need to feel safe, in this world where I suddenly feel so unsafe. I need for somebody to make me feel safe and to tell me I’m safe and to just sit with me and next to me in the dark spaces and let me just BE, in that silence. For some reason, whenever my husband sat in the darkness and told me simply: “You’re safe with me”, I believed him. I always believed him. And therefore, I was.

Now I just feel wide-open, lost, and alone.

Happy Anniversary, my beloved husband.
Why the fuck did you have to go away?

Sexual Assault Survivors – Stand With Me – Say NO to Trump

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo.

There are only 3 people in this universe that know the entire, full story, with details, of what happened to me 20 years ago this year. One of those people is a dear, fellow widowed friend, whose very presence in my life makes me feel safe and protected and heard. The other is my incredible therapist and grief-counselor. And the other is my beautiful, but forever dead husband. And now, today, in just a few minutes when I hit that “publish” button after writing this, however many of you read it, will also know too. The details surrounding what happened will still remain in the confines of these above 3 people, for now, but the rest of it must be said out loud. Or typed out loud. Finally. Today. Before this election happens.

My hands are shaking, and each individual finger is shaking, as I type this. I’m pretty sure my eyeballs are sweating, and the inside of my throat has the texture of 900 cotton balls, sitting stagnant.. Every time I try to breathe in and out with purpose, it feels as if I have swallowed a nail. I’m absolutely terrified of the varied and shocked reactions that will certainly come from many friends, family members, and lots of total strangers on the internet. There will be judgments, assumptions, people who just will never understand, and probably even some cruel and horrific comments. Some people might even accuse me of using my trauma to further my political opinion or “agenda.” But those people would be very wrong. Despite the title, and despite the topic, this is NOT a political piece. It is a piece about the human heart, and about preserving and protecting our collective soul as a nation. Which is why I genuinely feel that I have a responsibility, as a female, a voter, and a human being, to type the following truths, through my very shaky fingers, and to express the importance of how those truths pertain to the upcoming election. Despite all my many fears, today feels like the exact right day, to let free this caged and horrific monster of a secret. So here goes …

20 years ago this year, in 1996, while living in my first NYC apartment and just 2 years out of college, I was raped. It happened inside my apartment, while I was sleeping, in the middle of the night. It happened by the hands of someone whom I was dating for a few months, and had just broken up with a week prior. In my post-break-up haze and innocent ignorance, I had forgotten that I’d recently given him an extra key to my place. Or, to put that more clearly, I had forgotten to get it back when I ended our relationship.

Things between us were a whirlwind from the start. It all happened so fast, and it shouldn’t have happened at all. He wasn’t my type. He was very quiet, kind of mousy and small-framed, and a rather serious, humorless, business man on Wall Street. A little bit possessive, a lot entitled. The only thing I saw back then, however, was that he was interested in ME. Everything else, I was blind to. We had almost nothing in common, but he made me feel wanted and pretty and sexy, and I was insecure, frumpy, and awkward. He would say things like: “Your eyes are going to get me into trouble one day”, or “I can’t control myself around you. You just give off this vibe that makes me want to do things.” I was too young and too inexperienced and too green to know that what he was saying, was a form of control, and dangerous. A few months into the relationship, he had casually asked me one day if he could have an extra key, just temporarily, so he could get into my apartment while I was still at work, and surprise me with a romantic dinner. I gave him the key, the dinner never happened. A couple weeks later, a series of events took place within a few hours, that opened my eyes to the reality that I had been dating a pathological liar, and someone who was quite possibly psychotic. So I had a very hard conversation with him, where I ended things between us. He said he understood, but he walked away with a cold and unfeeling look in his eyes. And, unbeknownst to me at the time, he still had my key.

Four days later. My roommate had gone away for a week to visit family, so I was alone in the apartment. Apparently I had told him this weeks before, or he knew of it, or something. I don’t recall. I went to sleep that night sometime around 2 a.m. or so. The next thing I remember is lying in my bed, with a long t-shirt and underwear on, and my eyes opening to the sound of a key in the door, then a hand clasped over my mouth, and a sweaty body lying over my own. As I slowly realized what was happening, I tried to scream, but it came out silent. I think I kept screaming, but everything sort of went white, and I was only half awake. He was holding something over my mouth and nose. A rag or something, with it pressed up into my nostrils. It smelled like chlorine or alcohol rub, and I was in and out of consciousness. My insides were begging to get up from under him, but my legs felt paralyzed, like jello. And then it got a lot worse. He took a lighter, holding it onto different parts of me for a few seconds at a time, creating fear and scarring and skin irritations that are still there today, and emotional scarring that will last even longer. I don’t know why he was burning me, but he was burning me in slow motion, placing the fire for just a second or two at a time, underneath my breasts, on my hips, and around my labia area. I felt like I kept falling asleep, and so I would wake up in the middle of this horror, over and over again. I don’t know how to accurately describe what that is like, to keep waking up, literally, in the midst of hell on earth in full attack. Somewhere in between fog and half awake, he took my key, the one that he used to break into my home with, and he shoved it into me violently, over and over and over. I kicked and I yelled and I cried, and noises came out of me that didn’t sound human, but it all felt quiet and muffled and ignored. I was invisible forever, and nobody could see me.

He started talking as he held me down and forced himself into me. I will never forget lying there, tears sitting still on my cheeks, half-seeing my floor lamp and focusing my eyes on it, trying to form a plan to grab it and hit him on the head with it. He saw my stare, and he moved the lamp so that it was out of my reach. He took my one escape plan. And then he raped me and he stole every piece of my soul with his violence and his illness and his blackness. He said that I was nothing. That I was a fat worthless pig. I was a bitch and a whore and he had been lying to me for months and sleeping with his ex and living with her off and on. And how dare I break things off with him, when I should be honored and grateful that someone like him, would even sleep with someone like me. That I should be dead, and that he would leave me for dead in my own apartment and nobody would care, but that I wasn’t even worth killing, so instead, he would just leave me torn up and bleeding and broken everywhere, forever. That if I told the police or anyone at all, he would come back and find me and actually kill me. He said that if I told anyone, he would find my family and harm them or kill them. He told me these things as he was choking me and hurting me. I don’t know how long it went on, because time became meaningless, and it just kept happening. I remember wondering when he was going to end my life. I think he got off on the promise, the threat of doing so, because it just kept going. And then he spit on me. He SPIT on me. Like I wasn’t even a human being. Like I was this pile of trash that he was forcing himself onto and into. I was this “thing” where he could dump his liquid sickness, his disease and his evil. And in that moment, I died. I just died. I lost the person that I was before that night, and I didn’t know how to get her back again. She was gone, and nothing would ever be the same again.

In the days and weeks and months and years that followed, I told NOBODY, except for when I tried reaching out on a rape hotline, and it was a total disaster. When I told the person on the phone what happened, they implied that it was my own fault for giving him my key, and that because he used that key to get in, it was never a break-in at all. Nobody was interested in helping me. Nobody said things that didn’t sound condescending or like they were somehow blaming me for what happened. I stopped looking for help, I became silent, I told nobody. I became a different person. A dark one. A person my friends or myself did not recognize. There was emptiness in my eyes. I spiraled and gained almost 100 pounds and acted in destructive ways with more horrible men that I met in destructive places, and put myself in more horrid situations that were dangerous or just plain stupid, because somewhere inside, I thought that is what I was worth. My life felt pointless, and his threats to kill me or hurt my family stuck with me and kept me from speaking out loud. I felt useless and stupid and non-human and humiliated and like I was made of all things bad. My life was spinning out of control. I didn’t even know who I was, and I was fatter than ever. Over 300 pounds. Probably more. 350. I was sick in every way that you can be sick. I just wanted to disappear.

And then one night, in the darkest of darkest places in my life, I met the beautiful man that would become my husband. Don Edward Shepherd. He made me feel safe and protected and loved from the minute he typed hello in the 1980’s Music Chat Room on AOL, and he made it his life’s purpose to take care of me in all the ways that you take care of someone’s soul when you love them the way that he loved me. Something about him, his heart, his patience, his energy – made me know I was safe with him, and I could tell him what had happened to me. So I did. And when I was done, he said: “You’re safe with me. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to leave you or abandon you. You’re safe and you’ll always be safe with me, from now on. ” This became his mantra with me. No matter how many times I warned him to run away from me, no matter how fucked up I felt or was, he wouldn’t go away. He refused to leave me. He told me I was beautiful, worthy, smart, sexy, and that one day, I would feel like me again. But until I did, he would just have to keep reminding me.

Our relationship was beautiful, our marriage, a love story. We were 4 years and 9 months into our amazing and precious life together, and we were so unbelievably, nauseatingly happy. And then, on an ordinary Wednesday, July 13th, 2011, my husband left for work, and never came home. And for the second time in my life, I was jarred awake to the most horrific thing a person could ever imagine – in this case, a ringing phone over and over and over, that would lead me to the news that this beautiful man who saved my life everyday that he was in it, was unfairly and forever dead. And me? Well, I was dead too. Again. And creating a different version of myself has taken years, and will be something I keep doing for the rest of my life. My safe place, my sense of safety in the world, was stolen from me. Twice. I cannot imagine it being stolen from me a third time, by having a Commander in Chief, who makes me feel uneasy, and unsafe.

When a woman is sexually assaulted or raped, there are many reasons why she might not come forward, why she might not tell a soul. There are so many valid reasons why a person might not say one damn thing for a year, or five years, or ten, or even twenty, like me. It is terrifying. It is embarrassing. Sometimes your job is at stake. Or your reputation. Or there are fears, such as your rapist threatening you or your loved ones. Or you stayed silent for too long, and so now it feels almost pointless to mention it, because people will question you or make you feel even dumber for your decisions. Or the person who assaulted you is famous, and you are not. Nobody will believe you over them, nobody will care. And when these thoughts are reinforced by the very people who are supposed to be helping you, that is what leads to hopelessness and darkness and feeling like the loop of hell will never end. When society’s first reaction to a victim coming forward is doubt, accusations, and pointing fingers back in her direction – you come to a place where you almost assume that saying it out loud will only lead to more awfulness.

When the Republican candidate for President of the United States, is accused of sexual assault by multiple women, just weeks before one of the biggest elections in our time, and the victims are met with these same type of judgments and questions from the public about “why are you coming out about this NOW?” – it becomes easy to ask yourself where this country and this society places the value of females, and our voices. It becomes easy to feel invisible once again, powerless once again, and violated once again. When people question the truth of the fact that a Presidential candidate who refers to women as “pigs”, “disgusting”, and as objects that he can just kiss by force or “grab them by the pussy”, can and does in fact bring back very specific moments of a victim’s own personal rape or assault, it becomes easy to lose faith in the empathy and compassion of mankind. When that same Presidential candidate’s reaction to the accusations is not to apoligize, but to comment and further insult these women with: “look at her”, implying that said victim is not attractive enough for him to sexually abuse, this reinforces the idea that rape and assault have anything at all to do with sex or with being “attracted to” a person. They don’t. They have nothing to do with that, and everything to do with the need to have power over someone, and to make someone feel small and insignificant, while under the spell of that power. When the male candidate who is running for President, speaks about women with such absolute carelessness, disgust, and aloofness, it is easy to not only worry for what this orange lunatic might do in a place of power with access to that nuke button, but also what he might do to the collective souls and hearts and spirits of females in this country. Not to mention the men in this country, and the boys and girls who are growing up and looking at our next President as a role model, or something to aspire to. Having a President who refers to a woman as “piggy”, or rates women with numbers according to the size of their chest, seems like something out of The Twilight Zone.

So why did all these women come out now, so close to the election, with these allegations on Trump? For the exact same reason I wrote this blog piece, 20 YEARS after this horror happened to me. Because it was eating at my soul not to write it. Because him saying “grab em by the pussy” DID, in fact, bring up all that trauma from two decades ago, and I couldn’t just let it sit there, like a nail in my throat. Because we cannot have someone of this ridiculous and insane character, in our Oval Office. Because this very dangerous person, in many more ways than one, is just weeks away from either being our next President, or going back to whatever wacky universe he lived in before. Because, we, as Americans, have the choice to either create a chain of hatred, violence, and sexism – or a chain of love, empathy, and compassion. Because our First Lady was right in her speech, when she said: “Enough is enough.” Because when a Presidential Candidate doesn’t stand up for me and who I am and what I hold dear, then it’s time for me to stand up against him and speak my truth. And I hope I am not the only one who will do so. For I truly believe that when we have the courage to tell our story, our deepest and darkest story, it gives others permission to do the same. Maybe if everyone who is reading this who has also been through a sexual assault or trauma, would be brave enough to speak up and say something in the comments or in their own blogs, then we could use our collective voices as an instrument of power. We could show people that this is not a joke, or casual “locker room talk”, but an actual and very damaging thing that is happening to women, every day, all the time. We could demand to be heard and demand to be seen, and for society to stop making us appear invisible. We could share this piece all over the internet, and we could keep adding our own stories to it, creating a gigantic wave of powerful truths, that demonstrate what beautiful strength humans are capable of, when faced with adversity.

As I said at the start of this blog, this is not a political piece. It is a piece about the human heart. It is about the power of what can happen when we make a decision to move toward light, or toward darkness. Donald Trump represents everything dark and bad and frightening in our world. He comes from a place of divisiveness and anger and temper tantrums on Twitter. If he is leading our country, then that tone is being set for every single one of us, on a minute to minute basis. We will become a country of ugliness. We will destroy ourselves. We will suffer a Soul Apocalypse. Why am I telling my story today, right now, before this election? Because if I wait any longer, it just might be too late. We might find that we suddenly have a man in charge, who doesn’t wish to hear our voices, and who refuses to listen. And he will continue to ignore us, until we slowly disappear into nothing. That kind of regime terrifies me, and I’m quite sure I am not alone in that terror.

I am only one person, and my story is just one small story. But if you tell your story, then we are two people, and then three, and four, and ten and eleven, and on and on and on. My story is your story, and your story is my story. Whenever we connect as humans, we usually come to find that our similarities are greater than our differences. And as we sit inside of that knowledge, that our collective stories can help change the world, we have to know that we deserve so much more than Donald Trump. We have to know that hate grows more hate, and love grows more love. And just 20 seconds of insane courage, will always bring something great.

When you vote on November 8th, please keep all of the above in your heart, and bring that 20 seconds of insane courage with you to the polls.

Thank you for reading, and thank you to anyone who joins me in telling their story, or in sharing mine.

The Scenic Route

I just ended a relationship with someone I had been seeing for about 4 months. Like me, he is widowed, and I met him on a dating site. I guess you could say we “broke up.” Is that still what the kids call it these days? I have no idea. I didn’t word it that way when I ended things between us. The phrase “breaking up” almost sounds too childish and immature and teenage-like, for everything that we both have been through in our lives up to this point. “Breaking up” doesn’t really gel for two middle-aged people who have suffered through individual trauma, grief, loss, illness, and the death of their beloveds.

No. Instead, I worded it like this: “I think it’s time that we transition this relationship into more of a friendship, and no longer a couple. I don’t see a future for us, and it feels unfair and wrong at this point to continue in this way.” It was all very mature. I was mature, he was mature in the way he handled it, everything was mature. But it still hurt. Inside of my soul and my heart, it did hurt. It hurt him, I am quite sure, even though he downplayed it. And it truly hurt me to be the cause of pain to a fellow widowed person, and someone I care about very much. But if we had stayed together any longer, with me not being able to reciprocate the feelings in that “you have my heart” way that everyone deserves, the pain would have been multiplied down the road, and so I ended it.

But please don’t spend any time feeling sorry for me or feeling sad for me, or for him. Yes, it was difficult. And yes, I will miss a lot of things about dating this person, and the time we spent together. However, we mutually feel like there are good things waiting on the horizon for the both of us, individually – things that are still yet to be discovered, that haven’t fully formed yet, or that can’t quite be seen at the moment, because they are too far off in the distance – hiding behind the foggy mist of fear and uncertainty. And this person and myself – we will remain friends – always. Which is why I prefer to call this a “transition.” Not in that Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner way, but in that “adult and widowed” way that two people have to collectively decide what is best for them, and their hearts.

To be completely honest (and when am I ever NOT in my writing), I am very proud of myself, and it usually takes a LOT for me to say that. The first four years after my husband died, I had no interest in dating, and the very idea of “someone else” made me sick to my stomach. Nauseous. And even though all around me, other widowed people were getting into relationships and dating and finding ways to “get out there again”, I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t even think about it. For over four years, thoughts of intimacy or loneliness or being part of a couple again, didn’t even cross my mind really. I was much too busy grieving, and in massive amounts of pain from the loss of my husband, my forever love, to even consider the idea of anyone else. People judged me constantly. I was asked weekly and sometimes daily by strangers, friends, family, EVERYONE, over and over and over again: “So, are you dating yet? Why not? You should be dating. Be happy. You’re not getting any younger. He would want you to be happy.” Yes. He would. I do know this. But he would also want me to do things when I’m ready, in my own time, when it feels right, and not on some fictitious, made-up timeline, or because people who are well-intentioned but clueless, are pressuring me.

So I waited. I lived my life. I tried to get by. I existed and breathed in and out as best as I could. And then in June of 2015, I received a beautiful email from someone who had just found my blog, and who happened to be widowed also, and who also happened to know and worked with my husband , many years ago, as fellow EMS / paramedics. He told me he found my blog, and he thanked me for the words in it. He said lovely things about my husband, and told me how him and his wife who died and my husband who died, all knew one another and worked together all these years ago. And we started talking via email, and then on the phone. And thus began what has turned into a lovely connection, a wonderful friendship with so much potential for more, one day. We met in person, in March of this year, and it was organic and natural and real. It was effortless and familiar and new. It was a blanket of warmth and safe things, and all things good. It was that place that felt like home.

We spent a few days together, hanging out, connecting, getting to know each other more. The connection we had on the phone was even more undeniable in person, and we marinated inside of the moments spent honoring our forever loves, while also finding peace and joy in one another’s company. But because we are “adult and widowed”, emotions are complicated, and hearts are damaged from ill-intentioned people and the wake of self-doubt and darkness they leave in our souls. And so, our connection and our bond and our “what could be” remains in neutral, idling in the driveway – or like a pot of Sunday sauce, that just needs to simmer a lot longer before it’s truly ready.

In the meantime, meeting this incredible person made me realize that I was now in a place where I was missing having intimacy, dating, being part of a couple, having someone to do things with, having someone to hold hands with and share kisses with, and cuddle with, and hang out on a weekend with and watch movies or walk around a lovely neighborhood on a nice summer day with. Just having those few days with this new person who felt so familiar, made me so very aware of life again, and of that feeling when someone makes you feel alive. So because he wasnt ready to further explore that with me, I did something I never in a million years ever thought I would do – I joined dating sites. Plural. Three of them. All the free ones. I started chatting with people. I met some people. I had dates. Some were total disasters. Others were total assholes who literally called me “fat”, and others would build a phone relationship with me for weeks, only to completely fall off the face of the earth and stop all contact. I learned, in the dating world today, there is a term for this. It’s called “ghosting.” How ironic, for a widowed person to be ghosted. I also learned that some people just plain suck. The site called “Plenty of Fish” should be called “Plenty of Fucking Douchebags”,but that’s another story altogether. There were endless jerks and weirdos on these sites, and a whole slew of people who just want to crawl into bed with anything that moves. Or doesn’t move. I don’t think they much care, as long as it’s female.

But while sifting through all of the garbage, I was able to find a bit of my own self-confidence again. I was able to SEE firsthand, actual proof, that there were real men out there in the universe, who actually found me attractive. And lots of them were very nice men, too. We didn’t click or connect or things didn’t work out for whatever reason, but they were good, decent men, who thought I was beautiful. This shocked me. One of my biggest fears after losing Don, was always that not only would I not be able to love again, but that nobody out there would ever love me. I was pretty convinced that nobody would be interested in old, overweight, broken, traumatized and with issues, PTSD and anxiety-ridden, forever in love with my dead husband, weird, me. But the more people I talked to, the more I understood that having someone who was actually attracted to me again, might be possible. Maybe Don isn’t the only person in the universe that doesn’t find me repulsive, but who thinks I am special and worthy and pretty and amazing. Making that discovery was worth all of the douchebags I had to meet along the way.

And then, after a few dates with others on the site, I met the guy who I just ended things with, and we were the exact right thing in each other’s lives, in the exact right moment. There was a chemistry there from the start, and it felt so incredible to feel wanted again in that way. We gave each other confidence again. We gave each other confirmation that others would find us desirable again. I had my very first relationship post-loss, my first full intimacy, my first entering into the world of being a couple again. We also helped each other heal in many ways, and provided each other with some new tools on the road of widowhood. And now, I am very certain that the dating I have done and the experiences I have had these past 5 months or so, were all necessary for me in my process. It was time. I was ready, and now because of these experiences, I know with absolute certainty, where my heart lies. It was not easy. It was extremely messy. I didnt know what the hell I was doing. There were times where I was getting to know 3 or 4 guys at the exact same time, and I didnt know how to stop it. I didnt understand how this was all supposed ot work. But I was doing it anyway. There were lot of tears, triggers, grief-attacks, and mistakes made. But I have never really put much stock into “mistakes.” All they are to me, is the universe telling you that you are supposed to be somewhere else. Sometimes you just have to take the scenic route to get there. But you do get there – in time. When you’re ready. When the time is right. And when you grow tired enough of where you currently are.

So, I’m proud of myself. Anyone that knew me in my first 3 years or so of widowhood, could tell you how cynical I was and how negative and non-believing I was, at the idea of even the possibility of ever loving or being loved again. But what I have learned is that sometimes, you have to go the wrong way for a really long time, in order to find the right way. A different way. And that “wrong way” isn’t even wrong, technically. It’s just not the right path for you. So after all of this traveling down all of these scary and foreign paths, I now know for sure, where my heart wants to be. And it’s going to take awhile to get there, because it’s still very far off in the distance, and there are never any guarantees. There is no guarantee that I will get there at all, or that I will be welcomed with open arms when I do get there. Nothing is guaranteed, and there is a whole lot of this that I have zero control over. I might get my heart shattered into a million pieces. But the heart wants what it wants, and feels what it feels. I am powerless to stop it. And so I’m willing to take that risk.

Because my heart, my intuition, and my beautiful dead husband, are all pointing me in that direction – to that place that felt like home. So I don’t much care how long it takes to arrive, or how long that Sunday sauce needs to simmer – because being inside of the adventure and appreciating every tiny moment of what it is right this very minute, is really all that matters to me. I will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Right now, I just want to stay inside this warm blanket place, where my heart feels everything good.

For I keep hearing my dear, dead husband’s voice, whispering in my ear:

“You’re on the right track now, Boo. Keep going. I got this. It’s going to be okay.”

A Path Built on Love


I will be leaving NYC.

I will be leaving my apartment, my teaching job of 16 years (that one hurts), and the greatest city in the world – the only city I have known and called “home” for the past 26 years, since I was 18 years old and moved here from small-town Groton, Massachusetts.

I know this is the right decision for me at this time, and I know it is a decision and a choice that will bring better things to me and to my life – but that doesn’t make it any less sad or hard or heart-wrenching. What is keeping me sane and keeping me from crying my face off every second of the day in sorrow, is the knowledge that I have built a family here in NY – and that family will welcome me back, and NYC will welcome me back with open arms, whenever that might happen.

It has ALWAYS been a struggle living here. This city likes to make life impossible, and that “impossible” became excruciatingly harder when my husband died 5 years ago. It is SO much harder doing this alone, on one crappy income. The dreams that we had for our future, are much more realistically chased, when you have another person who can hold down the fort while you go on that audition – or who can work extra shifts and get you both through the summer, because you lost your summer job unexpectedly. So, I am not giving up on my dreams. NEVER. I am merely shifting them a bit in order to make them more reachable, for the life that I have today. I’m taking a slightly different route to get there. Let’s call it the scenic route. And it will be a terrifying, beautiful, and absolutely poetic adventure.

So where will I be going, you may ask?

I can finally announce and say with absolute confidence, that the book I have been off-and-on writing for the past 3 years, will be published and released, sometime in 2017. How do I know this? Because I have a plan. This will be my last semester teaching at Adelphi (again – still can’t talk about that without crying. Told my boss and friend of 26 years, Nick Petron, yesterday, and it was so emotional for both of us. Going to miss those kids/students like mad …) This year, when I go home to mom and dad’s for Christmas break, I’m not going to be returning to NY. Instead, somewhere around December 20th or so when the semester is over, I will be packing up a U-Haul one more time, with my 2 kitties and everything I own that I don’t choose to throw away – and driving it home to mom and dad’s house in Massachusetts. For the last 2 years, ever since I did the fund-raising campaign for the book, I have been super-stressed out about writing it and finishing it. When Im not working multiple jobs teaching, writing, directing shows, just to get by – Im STRESSING about NOT working, and trying to find work. I can’t write in a constant state of stress.

The portions of the book that still need to be written, is our love story. How we fell in love. Our dating life together. Our engagement. Our wedding. Our marriage. The highlighted beautiful moments that live in my heart. These parts must be written from a place of joy and happiness, and absolute hope. I can’t get to that place, emotionally, when the space around me is filled with stress. So I can’t write. And when I can’t write, I stress out about not being able to write, and I stress out that I OWE YOU PEOPLE A BOOK – all these beautiful people who donated and who believed in this book. All the beautiful people who continue to read and follow this blog page. I kept saying over and over these past couple years, that if only I could have a few months of sanctuary – where I could just write my book in peace and quiet – with NO worries of job or money or bills – then I could FINALLY get it done.

Enter my wonderful parents. My dad called me one night with an idea. Knowing that I have been feeling restless lately about NY, and about just wanting something different, and knowing that I want to finish the book desperately – he said: “Why don’t you come here and live with us – temporarily – for 3 or 4 months or however long it takes – with the specific intention and purpose and goal of FINISHING THE BOOK. You’d have your own room / home office to write in, your kitties can come with you and we will take them in, and no worries about bills or rent. Plus, you could see your niece and nephew more, and be home with family for awhile. You could treat it like your full time job. Get up 5 days a week, and just write, until its done. Once it’s done, then you decide what comes next, where you’ll end up, what you’ll do. Hopefully all of that will become more clear once your book is out there. It might open up new doors.”

As soon as my dad said these words, I could literally FEEL the stress slowly leaving my body, just at the mere thought of having the tranquil space and time and luxury of no job or bills hanging over my head – to write in peace. It made me feel so calm, and that is how I knew, it was the right decision. When something or someone gives you that feeling of peace and tranquility – that feeling of calm – it is my opinion that you should keep that thing or that person close to you, and bring that thing even closer.

So, I will be in NYC until late December, and then going home to complete the book. I’m guessing I will be there until March or April, but I’m not really going to worry about it. My goal is to finish it, and then continue down whatever path appears in front of me. There have been many signs pointing me toward Chicago lately, as a possible city for me to attempt life in for awhile – so that is a very big possibility. There also may be a specific gig / situation happening in Florida (another top secret thing I can’t talk about just yet – but if it happens – it would bring me to that state eventually), so I could end up in a number of places, and right now, I feel open to all of it. The future is in front of me, and the unknown path awaits.

I’m terrified. I’m anxious. I’m incredibly excited. And I’m ready.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I’m following my intuition, my heart, and a path that’s been built on love. Isn’t that what life is all about???

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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“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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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:

I Am Not What I Feel

A few days ago, I returned from Camp Widow San Diego, where I attended and gave my 10th comedic presentation. Since 2013, I have been a presenter at Camp Widow in all three locations; Tampa, San Diego, and Toronto. Last weekend was my 10th time standing in front of over a hundred widowed people, and hearing them laugh. It is truly one of my favorite sounds.

The week that I spent in San Diego was incredible. It was filled with friendships, old and new. I learned lessons, I experienced realizations about my grief and my process, I had moments of helping another person through their tough emotions. There was dancing and drinking and swimming and relaxing and healing and laughing and crying and loving. It was absolutely wonderful.

And then I had to come home.

There is this feeling that those of us who attend Camp Widow refer to as “Camp Crash.” It is a very specific sort of deflated and depressed feeling that one gets, after having been in the supportive, loving, understanding “everyone here is just like me” bubble of a camp widow weekend. It is a very real and powerful set of emotions, and it can truly mess with your head. Well, my crash began the second I stepped outside of the Marriott Hotel in San Diego, about to get into the cab to the airport back to NYC. As I stepped into the taxi, my face felt the PERFECT weather of San Diego, and instantly I got very sad.

Then, on my red-eye/overnight flight home, the WiFi wasn’t working. I was seated next to a couple who argued and fought with each other in a cruel manner, the entire 5 hours. The TV’s weren’t functioning either, so I had no way to escape my own panic and anxiety that comes with every single flight. I hate flying with a passion. It terrifies me.

Suddenly, in mid-air, and seemingly out of nowhere but not really, I started to miss my husband who is dead. I mean, I really started to miss him in that visceral, all-consuming, pit-of-your-stomach way, where you just want to find the nearest corner and sob your guts out. Except I was in mid-air, on a plane.

My husband Don was in the Air Force. Years before I met him. He was Flight Crew Chief and Mechanic, for the F-16 planes. He made the planes safe, just like he did with everything else. His job in life was to make things safe, and he made me feel safer than anything, just by being near me. When we flew together, he would put his arm out and say: “Just hold onto my arm, Boo. I got you. Nothing’s going to happen to you. Just squeeze my arm, or dig your nails into it. Whatever you need to do. And if something scares you, ask me about it and I’ll explain it. Nothing is scary once you understand it better.”

But those days of grabbing my husband’s arm and feeling safe were gone. This time, I grabbed at the arm-rest to my right in the aisle seat I was in, as I tried really hard not to cry out loud. The couple next to me kept arguing and screaming at each other with the attitude and clueless-ness of two people who know nothing of the sudden shock of death, and I sat there, like a child, on the verge of a tantrum stemming. Suddenly, I couldn’t think of any other thought than how much I missed my husband, and how much I wanted him and only him back, right this minute. Suddenly, the unfairness of how HARD my life is now without him, how hard EVERY SINGLE THING is, and how exhausted I feel after doing every goddamn thing ALONE and by myself for 5 years, came rushing into me. Suddenly, I just wanted to run far away, except there is never anywhere to run when you are in mid-air on a plane, and your husband is forever dead.

The last 90 minutes or so of the flight were awful. There was something like turbulence, but worse. I don’t even know what it was really. The plane kept dipping over and over again, dropping really fast in altitude, and making my stomach do flips. Nobody else seemed to notice or care, and I was alone in my panic, holding onto the arm-rest for dear life. The plane shook and made weird noises – noises that my patient and loving husband would have explained to me in a calm and non-condescending voice, if he were alive. Noises that wouldn’t stress me out, if he were still here to make sense of them. Nothing is scary once you understand it better.

Once we finally landed, my luggage ended up on the wrong carousel for almost 2 hours, and when I finally retrieved it, I had to walk with it half a mile throughout the airport to find where the taxis were to get home, due to construction in the airport. My phone was dead and not functioning right, and my brain was even worse. I plopped down in my bed, fixated on the picture of my beautiful husband in his EMS uniform that says “Everyday Hero” in the frame that his work gave him, and sobbed my guts out.

Suddenly, and finally, I couldn’t stop crying. This was more than just camp crash. This was life crash. I lost my Summer teaching job last month, so I have no job or income until September. I’ve been stressing out about this for the past month, and looking everywhere for work before my cash supply officially runs dry, and my stress and emotions finally came to a head the second I landed in NY. As did everything else. The reality of my situation. The exhaustion of living life without my husband for almost 5 years. The confusion of dating and trying to find love again, and being in situations that involve other people’s fragile emotions, and that I have no control over. Wanting things that I can’t have, and not knowing how to make my heart feel differently about them. Knowing that the heart feels what it feels, and I can’t stop it. The frightening thought of hurting someone, or hurting myself, or trying to do everything right and still ending up alone anyway. Trying to just be in the moment, but always terrified of the future and what’s around the corner. The feeling of having absolutely no idea what I’m doing, where I want to be in life, or what comes next for me. In life, I feel exactly as I did up in that plane – suspended in mid-air, and terrified.

I feel like a failure. I feel scared. I feel like I should know what Im doing by now, or like I should have it more together than I do. I feel like a fraud – like someone that people look up to, and really they shouldn’t , because I’m just as clueless as everybody else. I feel tired of making decisions, and I feel sick of struggling. I seriously feel like I cant make one more decision, after 5 years of making EVERY decision, big and small. I just want somebody to say: “Relax. I got this. Let me take care of this for you.” I feel like dirt when I can barely support myself. It feels bad. When you don’t know how you will pay your next bill or next month’s rent, it makes you feel less human. I feel shaken up by life and trauma and grief, and I feel like that shaky feeling will never leave. I feel like having a temper tantrum. I feel, I feel, I feel …….

And then I remind myself, I MUST remind myself, that I am not what I feel. I am not my feelings. They are just feelings, and they matter, and they are revealing, but they don’t mean that is who or what I am. Just because I feel like a failure right now, does not mean I am a failure. Just because I feel terrified, does not mean I will be terrified my entire life. All of these feelings and thoughts are frightening for me right now, because I have never felt them before, and therefore, I dont understand them. And things that we don’t understand are scary. Nothing is scary once you understand it better.

I no longer have my husband here to make me feel safe in the world. And that sucks. Sometimes it REALLY sucks. And I don’t have him to lean on when I’m scared, or to help me when I can’t pay the bills, or to say: “Its okay, Boo. I’ll pick up some extra shifts this month, and we’ll get through this together.” That is no longer a thing. Nobody says that anymore. And I do not want to go through the rest of my life with nobody saying that anymore. I can’t do it. I want to have that teammate in life again. But until then, I need to remind myself that I am not what I feel.

Maybe if I keep repeating it enough times, I will finally, actually believe it. Or, if anything, I will understand it better. And nothing is scary, once you understand it better.

The Champ

So let’s get right to it. For the first 3.5 years after my beautiful husband died, the very idea of dating or “someone else”, literally made me sick to my stomach. It made me feel physically ill, and I couldn’t even discuss it without having a slight panic attack. The idea of someone else talking to me, touching me, or being anywhere near me, made me want to vomit. That’s just the way it was, and I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I was in way too much grief to even come around to THINKING about how freakin’ lonely I was.

Then, around the beginning of year 4, there was a slight shift inside me, for no reason whatsoever, or because it was finally time for that shift to happen, that went from feeling physically ill – to feeling sort of “okay” with the idea, but still not willing to actively pursue anyone. Then, about 10 months ago, someone appeared out of the blue. This person was not pursuing me, and I was not pursuing them. But they appeared in such a way and at such a time that it felt like it was meant to happen. This person was not only a fellow widow(er), but also knew my husband. We started talking, and over time, building a budding and wonderful friendship. We met in person in March, and our connection felt more real, because now I could touch it. I could look into this person’s face, and in it, I saw not only kindness and a beautiful soul, but also being around this person face to face gave me this overwhelming feeling of protection and safety – like Don had specifically chosen this man to protect me, because he could no longer do it himself. The details of why I feel this way don’t matter here, because I want to protect this person’s privacy, but the time we spent together over those few days was meaningful, beautiful, and the perfect mix of familiar and brand new, all in the same moment.

When I returned home, I was very excited about this connection. Several people, even total strangers, told me over and over again that I was glowing, asking me point blank: “Have you met someone?” I thought the answer was yes, because when I left this person, we seemed to be on the same page as far as continuing things at a turtle’s pace – but as it turns out, this person is nowhere near ready for a relationship or commitment of any kind. This person is not in a place, emotionally, to move forward with me. He is very aware of how I feel, and he agrees that there is something between us, but now is not the right time. So, we continue to be wonderful friends, and I have chosen to trust in the outcome, and to have faith in the possibilities and potential of what we might become. I’m kind of a romantic like that. Plus, I really do feel this is coming from my husband Don, and he would never steer me wrong. He has sent me sign after sign after sign, that this is him who sent me this person. And I am listening.

Meanwhile, the act of spending time with this person and going out with them to dinner and breakfast and many other things and places – it gave me just a tiny taste of remembering what it’s like to have that special person in your life again. It reminded me what it’s like to spend time with someone who thinks you are special or pretty or who holds the door open for you or kisses your hand and forehead. (Seriously – who does that??? This amazing guy, that’s who.) When I got back home, I started to think to myself just how much I MISS all of that in my life. Having someone to do things with on weekends. Go to dinner with. See a movie with. Holding hands. All of it. So, in a conversation with my incredibly smart friend, she suggested that while this person that I very much care about can only be my friend right now and nothing more, that perhaps I would be a better friend to HIM, if I were getting my own needs met elsewhere; i.e; going out on a casual date now and then. Perhaps if I could have that back in my life again here and there, I would be more content, and therefore, not be pushing my friend to go places he isn’t ready to go right now. This seemed like the most insane idea in the world to me when she suggested it, but the next day, I got an email from a popular dating site, offering one month free membership. Next thing I knew, I was creating a profile and putting up my pictures. That was about 4 weeks ago.

And let me tell you, the past four weeks have been a complete shit-show. (one of my dead husband’s favorite terms, so I figured it was appropriate here.)

Here is what I have learned in four weeks:

Dating sucks. Dating on dating sites sucks even more. The last time I “dated” was decades ago. As in, the mid 1990’s. NOTHING is anywhere near close to the same anymore. First of all, nobody speaks to one another. Nobody knows how to have a conversation. People no longer talk on the telephone. They text. As in, right away. And if you ask them to speak on the phone, they type back in a little box that they “dont have time for all that.” Really? But you have time to sit here and type back and forth like robots? The way this particular site works is that it shows you pictures and profile info about a member, then you click YES or NO on if you’d like to chat with them further. If the feeling is mutual and you both want to talk, the chat box opens up and you can type back and forth. The purpose of this is to keep everything anonymous and safe at first, so you can chat within the confines of the site without giving out phone numbers or even names until you are more comfortable. (most members use a screenname instead of their actual name.)

At first, only seconds after I joined, I was feeling a bit cocky and good about myself, because I was getting a BOATLOAD of chat requests. “Well this isn’t so bad”, I naively thought to myself. Then I started clicking on them. This is when I quickly realized that this was going to be a train-wreck of epic proportions. Here is just a short sample of a few of my first day chat conversations. And no, I am NOT exagerrating or joking. These are 100% real. Names have been changed, obviously. Everything else, real:

John: Hey gorgeous

Me: Hi there, how are you doing today?

John: I’ll be better when you’re pressing those titties on my face.


Greg: Hey Darlin … sup???

Me: Doing okay tonight, how about yourself?

Greg: I don’t have time to talk on here. Here’s my digits. Hit me up right now 714-6**-****. Ill be waiting.

END CHAT. (this was 90% of the chats. They DEMAND your number or demand to give you theirs IMMEDIATELY.)

Carlos: Hey baby, I love brunettes. You got nice curves too. Any chance you are kind of bossy and could boss me around and tell me what to do, insult me a little?


Carlos: Oh yeah, that’s so hot …..


Tom: Hey Sweetie. Love your long hair. I hope you don’t have any of that going on below though. I like my women to be nice and clean , totally shaven. Hit me up (phone #)


Yeah. WOW.

That is just a small sample of the moronic crap I’ve been dealing with the past few weeks. Most of these people, as you can see, just want something sexual, with someone they don’t even know at all. Then there is the category of men who chat with you, call you on the phone, have a number of nice conversations with you, and then completely disappear forever with zero explanation. This happened to me with 3 different people I was talking to.I am told by others that all of this is “normal”, and that you have to weed through all the crap in order to get to the good and decent guys that are supposedly on these things. It’s sort of like shopping at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. You gotta spend 3 hours rummaging through 18 racks of awful clothes to find one pretty good pair of jeans.

There are no manners in today’s dating world. No class. No sense of building a foundation of some kind. No courtship of any kind, which is disappointing, because I really do love romance and courtship. The person I met a couple months ago is such a true gentleman, and I absolutely love that. He doesn’t realize just how rare and special he is, but I do, especially now. Today’s dating world is thoughtless. Just mindless and pointless texting that leads to more nothingness. The whole thing is extremely depressing. And just when you think you MAY have found a decent one, you still haven’t. There was one guy who seemed normal, sweet, and we had a nice long chat online. He gave me his number and I called him, and we had a nice phone call too. Our phone call was not sexual in nature by any means, but after we hung up, he sent me a text telling me how sexy my phone voice is. I said thank you and left it alone. Then, two minutes later, he sent me a long-winded voicemail where he basically “got himself off” while describing all the things he would do to me. I WASN”T EVEN ON THE OTHER END OF THE PHONE!!! Later, he left another one. In this one, he referred to his penis, several times, as “The Champ.” As in, “The Champ is so ready and big for you right now. The Champ is monstrous. The Champ is standing at attention.” Finally, I texted him back and told him that “The Champ” would be getting a call from the police soon, if he didn’t stop leaving me these sick voicemails. He stopped. “The Champ” finally threw in the towel.

And then there was my first date. An actual human male that I met for drinks and dinner in person, a couple of weeks ago. We had talked in the mindless chat box, then on the phone twice, and he lives local-ish, so we agreed to meet up in the city at a Cuban restaurant. The evening was nice, but there was no spark between us. It had a friendship vibe, but we laughed and talked and had a seemingly nice time. I would give it around a B- if I had to rate it. At the end, we hugged each other goodbye, and I got back on the subway to come home. In that moment, all I could think about was how if this was my friend that I met in March, he would have been a gentleman and made sure he put me in a cab home, would have made damn sure I got home safely. This guy held the doors open for me at the restaurant, but it didn’t feel genuine. It felt like he was showing off. By the end of the night, once he realized in his own head that he wasn’t into me or that he wasn’t “getting any” or whatever, all the “gentleman-like” behavior stopped. By the end of the night, he was over it.

The next morning, I woke up, and I decided to leave him a message on the site just thanking him for the date and saying I had a nice time, and maybe we will do it again some time. You know, because that is what a polite person does. A few minutes later, I received this message response:

“I will not be seeing you again. I do not date fat girls. You do not look fat in your pictures on the site, but you are fat in person. And I don’t go out with fat girls. Bye.” When I tried to respond back, he had made his account so that I could no longer reach him. He had disappeared with no explanation, as these men seem to like to do.

I was crushed. Not because I give a shit what he thinks – I didn’t really even like him. I was crushed because this is what is out there for me. Crushed because some men are so shallow and mean. Crushed because I didn’t want to do this in the first place, and it was supposed to be fun, and I was supposed to have a lighthearted and fun time with it. Crushed because talking to these idiots and trying to navigate these stupid conversations and figure out what their agenda is and who is being honest and who is going to disappear after a really nice conversation – is really exhausting and not what I want to be doing with my time. Crushed because I’m 44 years old, and I am so tired of being alone. Crushed because NONE of this would be happening, if my husband wasn’t forever and always DEAD.

On my drive to work that morning, just an hour or so after this had happened, I spoke to my friend on the phone. I had to pull over to talk to him because I was sobbing and felt like I was having a panic-attack. I told him what had happened, and told him about why I’ve been doing the dating site thing, and how none of these clowns even come close to the true gentlemen and beautiful soul that he is – and he listened and he said all the right and supportive and lovely things that a good friend should say. And it was the most real and meaningful conversation I have had in weeks – just sitting there pulled over in the car, talking with my beautiful friend – which is right where I wanted to be in the first place.

Love after loss is not for the weak of heart, folks.

Strap yourselves in. It’s going to get extremely bumpy.


Slight update: Since that awful first date experience, I have talked with and met one really nice guy through this dating site stuff, and we had a really nice time together and will probably hang out again at some point. I have also been talking with a couple others that are very nice people, and it’s been interesting, to say the least. My friends and family keep saying how “proud” of me they are, for “getting out there again”, for trying this, for daring to open my heart again, and for not waiting around for someone who isn’t ready, and instead, putting myself first and getting this dating thing out of my system.

But the truth is, its extremely exhausting. The truth is, I’d rather be talking to my friend on the phone, than going out with most of these people, or spending time trying to navigate all of this. I’m not sure how much more energy or time I really want to devote to this little project. It was supposed to be fun – a way to just be part of the social dating world again for awhile and feel human again and loved again, because I’m finally ready for that and longing for that. And because the person that I want those things WITH isn’t in a place to be able to do that with me, so I’ve been trying to find pieces of that magic in other places. But the truth is, you can’t re-create magic. What I have with this person, is special between US, and will remain between us. I won’t find pieces of that by looking for it somewhere else. So I’ll just have to hold onto it and keep on keeping the faith that one day this person, who is most likely reading this right now, will realize that I AM FUCKING AWESOME, and he should just be with me already because life is really fucking short and why not help each other through it and have some joy within our pain. In the meantime, this dating stuff is starting to feel like work, and I’m not even getting paid for it. It really is like shopping at a flea market or yard sale, and I always hated yard sales. Too much junk.

All I wanted was to go out now and then on a Saturday night, and have a date and be treated nicely and have that feeling of slight euphoria when you come home, at the thought of something new. It doesn’t have to mean anything or go anywhere, except just two people who are hanging out together, because they are tired of sitting home alone with their cat. Is that really too much to ask for? Apparently, it just might be. I wanted this to be SIMPLE. But nothing about dating in today’s world is simple. It is cruel, dismissive, and thoughtless.

And people wonder why so many people drink. Or eat cake.

I’m gonna need a lot of cake to deal with these clowns.