This past weekend…by Keith.

What an emotional weekend! Michelle’s birthday on Saturday, and Father’s Day on Sunday. It has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. It has been quiet moments of reflection in solace and surprise acts of kindness from dear friends.

Patty and I were informed in advance of a celebration of Michelle’s birthday planned by her friends and their parents. This took place on Friday night on the end of Scenic View, and at midnight, they launched luminaries. Patty and I were invited to participate, and after much discussion, we made the judgement that this was something for Michelle’s friends and we did not want to take anything away from them. We did not want to cast a pall on the event. Instead, Patty and I arrived at the cul-de-sac a few moments before midnight to watch the launch of the luminaries from the street. Patty and I sat quietly and reflected as each light floated into the sky and drifted toward the Cincinnati skyline.

The next morning Patty and I were up early to participate in the NKYHH walk at Simon Kenton High School. I don’t pretend to have the answers to the problem with addiction. I can attest to the grief shared by the families’ mourning the lost lives resulting from the problem. Michelle was deeply impacted by the death of her cousin Jacob. She saw the ripple effect of sorrow and loss felt by our family. I just hope these events can bring awareness to the problem. That anyone with an addiction can find the love and motivation to find a path to recovery. That anyone that is facing a temptation that would lead to an addiction would clearly see the path of sorrow they are about to walk.

After the NKYHH walk we came home via the Highland Avenue bridge over 471. Some wonderful ribbon ninjas decorated the bridge with blue ribbons and large “M”. When Patty and I saw this, (and the recently placed ribbons throughout Fort Thomas), we are reminded that others still care. They care about Michelle. They care about us. They care about the life that was unable to be fulfilled. They care. This reminds Patty and I that Michelle has not been forgotten. That we are not alone in our grief.

We next gathered at Patty’s parents’ house to celebrate Michelle’s birthday with family. Angel food cake and strawberries. Patty and I struggled with what to do on Michelle’s birthday. We decided to do something low key and personal like this.

Later that night we went to 4:30 mass at St. Catherine’s. It was a mass of intention for Michelle, arranged by our friend Patty Rust. We first met this dear woman in the oncology suite as she provided care support for her cousin. We were joined there also by our amazing friends, Chris & Stacey Rust and their boys. It was a wonderful spiritual way to bring a close to an emotional day. I was especially captivated by Fr. Stef’s homily as he discussed the parables of the Kingdom of God.

On Sunday morning Patty and I got up early and visited Michelle’s grave. We were greeted by the work of more ninjas. There were acts of love that celebrated Michelle’s birthday and support to me on this Father’s Day. Patty and I sat by Michelle’s grave and prayed the rosary together. Whenever I visit Michelle’s grave this is what I like to do. Pray the rosary or chaplet of divine mercy. Through prayer I feel connected to Michelle.

In addition to these acts of love from this wonderful community we have received cards and gifts expressing love to us for Michelle’s Birthday and Father’s Day. Even our boys were not forgotten in their sorrow. These acts of kindness this weekend are another way I feel connected to Michelle. They remind me of things Michelle would do. When someone else is doing it, I feel her spirit remains alive through them.

It truly was an emotional weekend. I thank everyone for making it special. Throughout the weekend I kept thinking about how bright our future is with young people like this in the world. Heartfelt thanks to all.

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