Guest Columnist Richard Haddad: Welcome, Alex Nicole, My Granddaughter, You Hypnotic Beauty You

 

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Richard Haddad, who lives in Westminster, Maryland with his wife Valorie, is the father of five children, Steven, Jason, Ashleigh, Jonathan and Erin. Recently retired, he has written on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. The letter below was prompted by the birth of his first grandchild, Alex Nicole. Previously, Richard contributed guest columns to this blog about all of his children, including letters to his daughter Ashleigh and his son Jonathan on the days they were born, and a four-part series about his disabled daughter Erin. Links to those columns appear at bottom (in between two more photos).

My Dear, Beautiful Alex Nicole,

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was completely unprepared for the effect your birth would have on me. Naturally, throughout your mom’s pregnancy I was really excited by the prospect of becoming a grandfather for the first time, and I was also very happy for your mom and dad who were obviously already in love with you. But I was totally surprised by the emotion in my reaction when you were born. I’ll never forget that day.

Your dad had been doing a great job of keeping everyone in the family posted on details like when your mom would be admitted to the hospital, and how your delivery would be managed by the hospital staff. That was important to all of us because we all lived out-of-state and wouldn’t be able to be there ourselves. And then on the night your mom was admitted, he began sending us a stream of in-hospital photos that just erased the hundreds of miles between us.

But I still didn’t expect to be so mesmerized by your face in the photos he sent starting about a minute after you were born the next day, or the emotional rumbling inside me that would follow. Your perfectly adorable face – your petite features, your dark hair and striking dark eyes – played a role in that reaction, I’m sure, but the realization that you were a part of my offspring – my son’s daughter, the first in the next generation of my family, just hit me like a rock.

And then the couple of days we spent with you a few weeks later when we visited you at home, cuddling you and touching your silky skin and kissing you and just staring at you for hours at a time (hypnotized as if we were staring at a roaring fireplace, as Grandma Val said) were just incredible. I couldn’t come up with the right words when trying to describe that experience to my friends afterwards, but that didn’t matter to those who are also grandparents because they knew exactly what I meant.

Another thing that so impressed me on that first visit was how lovingly and tenderly your mom and dad handled you and looked at you and looked at each other. Your dad has loved children from the time he was a boy himself and there was never any doubt in my mind that some day he would have a family of his own. He actually began practicing being a dad at the age of fourteen, when your aunt, his sister Ashleigh, was born, and we could see then what a loving parent he would be some day by the way he interacted with her.

With a mom and dad as devoted as your parents are, you are going to have a fantastic upbringing, my dear Alex Nicole, and I’m excited by the prospect of being a part of that. You already have a large extended family in your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and we’re all very family-oriented people, so growing up is bound to be a full and busy and loving experience for you.

I’m so happy to have you in our family, and just a little more than a month old, you are already a major presence my life and in the lives of other family members. Thank you for being. I love you.

Grandpa Rich    

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http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l

http://letterstomykids.org/thanksgiving-guest-columnist-richard-haddad-l-14224

http://letterstomykids.org/guest-columnist-richard-haddad-brothers-and-s

http://letterstomykids.org/guest-columnist-rich-haddad-your-brothers-and

http://letterstomykids.org/guest-columnist-rich-haddad-your-brothers-and-94081

http://letterstomykids.org/guest-columnist-rich-haddad-guest-columnist-r

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Guest Columnist Craig Podell: How We Played Then, How We Play Now

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Craig Podell, who lives with his ex-wife Lesly (they married in 1982, got divorced in 1993 and have reunited) in La Quinta, has two children, Scott and Jessica. Scott, 28, works in music management, production and promotion on both coasts. Jessica lives in the East Village and works with Steiner Sports Memorabilia in New Rochelle, New York.

 

Dear Scott and Jessica,

 

As a little boy, from the ages of 5 to 11, I walked to my elementary school, Radburn School, without fear of being abducted. We had no security issues. After school, I ran home to change into my “grubbies,” only to race off to a ballfield.

Every weekday from 3 to 6 in the afternoon, we chose up sides and got up a game, whether baseball, football or basketball. Playing sports — that’s what our gang always most looked forward to doing. So much so that in the winter we would shovel snow off the basketball court so we could play.

That’s how it was growing up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. I had a childhood filled with such enjoyments. It also afforded me the opportunity to establish middle-class values.

On Saturday afternoons in autumn, the big feature in town was high school football. As you approached the field, you could smell the raked-up leaves burning. Somehow that fragrance always aroused my appetite for those 25-cent hot dogs boiled in steamy water on a fresh bun with lots of mustard.

 

Watching the Fair Lawn High football team play in 1966-67 turned out to be a real treat. Our star player and toast of the town was a highly recruited kid named Bruce Jankowski. Jano ended up going to Ohio State University to start for the legendary coach, Woody Hayes.

After 1967, my Mom and Dad moved away from Fair Lawn. Dad had a good measure of success in business. We moved to a nicer home in Wyckoff, 10 miles from Fair Lawn. Though my folks drove nicer cars and we were more financially secure, my sisters and I always maintained our middle-class values.

Fair Lawn was, and still is, very different from your hometown of Calabasas, California. You led a different life from mine. You grew up with Atari, PlayStation and a computer. Your high school classmates drove cars nicer than 90% of the faculty. That you grew up with such excess — well, let’s just say I never envied you.

 

As for me, I never rubbed shoulders with the elite. We had no paparazzi around at our local supermarkets, much less Kim Kardashian cropping up. We had a broomstick and a pink rubber ball. If we were lucky, we drove used cars, and that in and of itself was really cool. We parked on the street.

 

And competing in sports was ever so much fun. “Would I make the team?” I asked myself as a kid. “Or will I get cut and wind up an object of ridicule?” You see, back then only certain kids made the team, and only the champions received any trophies.

I still remember how it felt playing on those cold, long-ago days with my friends. “Gotta go now,” I would announce, knowing the street lights would be going on soon. “My Mom wants me home.”

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Dispatches: The Mortality Effect (part 2)

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Time is on our side, at least for now. But here’s a fact that life – and especially parenthood – tends to drive home: someday we’re all going to die. We start to calculate how many days we’ve already used and estimate how many we may have left. We feel a sudden need to get our affairs in order, clear our consciences, and generally lay the groundwork for posterity. In short, if our mortality is staring us in the face, we stare right back. And so we write a letter to our kids.

Ralphie May, a comedian, wrote goodbye letters to his two children after serious health issues threatened his life. Last November, he came down with walking pneumonia, only for a pulmonologist to discover, fortuitously, a clot in his leg. Within six hours of a procedure to locate and filter the clots, the doctors would know if the effort would succeed. “My life changed in that six hours,” Ralphie says. “I wrote a letter to my children.” http://www.sj-r.com/features/x1780478502/After-health-scare-comedian-Ralphie-May-comes-roaring-back

A mom who is also a Marine and a lawyer, yet declines to identify herself, started writing letters to her two young children, all to be made available only in the event of her death. “As much as I plan to be the great-grandma with the best stories and the huge garden when I’m really old,” she writes, “I have to face the fact that I could just as easily be taken in a car accident on the way home.” She posted a blog piece about her plans, asking her audience, “What would you say in this kind of letter?” Now, thanks to the advice and encouragement she received, she plans to keep a journal for each of her kids. http://cheapwineandcookies.blogspot.com/2012/03/if-i-die-letters-to-my-kids.html

Donna Pagano of Los Angeles started writing letters to her three children more than 10 years ago. She intends for her kids to read the letters only after she’s gone. Her motivation for writing the letters: proximity to death. A close friend of hers, the father of two young children, suffered a fatal heart attack. Eventually the certified financial planner co-authored a booklet, “The Family Love Letter,” about what parents should leave behind. It has a section strictly about family history and remembrances. “It’s not only what’s in your bank account,” Donna writes, “but also what’s in your heart.” http://www.familyloveletter.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8&Itemid=3

Dispatches: The Mortality Effect

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Time is on our side, at least for now. But here’s a fact that life – and especially parenthood – tends to drive home: someday we’re all going to die. We start to calculate how many days we’ve already used and estimate how many we may have left. We feel a sudden need to get our affairs in order, clear our consciences, and generally lay the groundwork for posterity. In short, if our own mortality is staring us in the face, we stare right back. And so we write a letter to our kids.

Velinda Peyton of Los Angeles decided the night before undergoing surgery that threatened to end her life almost 20 years ago that she should write letters to her children. “If I died in surgery, I would never have had the chance to say goodbye to my children.” Only recently has Velinda compiled the letters in a book, “This River Called Life: A Letter To My Children.” She reflects on her difficult childhood – how, for example, her father abducted her and her brother, only for her mother to hire a private detective who luckily found both. http://velindapeyton.com/my-book/

Tim Lott of the United Kingdom decided to write an open letter in The Guardian to his children. His reason: why wait until he’s on his deathbed to do so. “I should write a letter to my children before I go,” he writes. Besides, “I can never get my four daughters to listen to me on such matters without sniggering. So I’m going to write it down instead.”Here Tim takes the opportunity to dole out advice about how to make time count. “The present is all you’ve ever got . . . Living is tricky, everything is a guess . . . Be strong but be flexible.” He concludes with a lesson he learned regarding fatherhood about why sometimes “being wrong is fine.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jul/14/tim-lott-company-of-women-letter

P.S. – please see part 2 tomorrow.

Guest Columnist Jennifer Scalise: The Day My Life Went Off A Cliff – And How I Climbed Back Up (part 4)

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Jennifer L. Scalise, a former Fortune 500 executive, is a single mother who lives in St. Charles, Missouri with her two children, Blake, 17, and Paige, 9. To honor her daughter Brooke after her death, Jennifer established the Brooke Scalise Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has awarded more than 120 church camp scholarships to junior high school youth. She is the author of “A Mother’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Life Beyond,” the inspirational true story of her fight for survival after the tragic death of her daughter (www.JenniferScaliseAuthor.com). She is a member, speaker and writer for several national grief organizations; raises awareness about the dangers of traveling to third-world countries, and is a spokesperson for Concerned Families for ATV Safety.

Dear Paige,

 

Before I became pregnant with you, something deep in my soul told me I needed to have another child. Even then, I feared that something could happen to Blake or Brooke. I knew right away that my pregnancy with you was God’s plan.

 

You were an easy baby and your brother and sister loved to help take care of you. Brooke looked after you like a little Mommy. She changed your diapers, fed you, and put you to bed, enjoying every minute. You grew up extremely independent, determined to do everything on your own.

 

You had just turned six when we went to Costa Rica. Like the rest of us, you were having a blast there. You spent a lot of time with Brooke, following her everywhere and even sleeping with her at night. She never complained about having you with her so much, even though most girls her age would have.

 

I know sometimes you struggle with your memories of the accident that day. You were right there with us, there on the cliff, when your sister vanished, never to be seen again. Losing Brooke and then seeing me so panicked and hysterical was a lot for you to handle at the age of six. I’ll never forget how you soon expressed the fear that someday one of your own children might die.

 

Yet you somehow managed to comfort me during my mourning. I would tell you how much I missed Brooke and get upset and would wish I could hug her. You would simply tell me I still could hug her and to do so. We would swing on the swing set and you would tell me Brooke was right there with you. You shared your memories of her with me – the remarks she made, the fun times you had together; how well you remembered so many details — and reminded me, on my darkest days, that I never had to let her go.

 

You suffered through your sister’s death, but the hardship gave you resilience and strengthened you. You understand that tragedies happen and life sometimes hurts, but we still have to go on and keep fighting. You joined gymnastics after we lost Brooke and quickly became an outstanding gymnast, in part because of your lack of fear. In a short time you reached levels that many others work years to achieve.

 

That’s because you already recognized the reality of death. If you’re fearless, you feel you have nothing to lose. Only then can you truly attain greatness.

 

So brave are you that you’ve worked beside me to offer support to other bereaved parents. Because life can be dark, we must supply our own light. You’ve personally served as a light for a mother dealing with both the murder of her son and the death of her husband. You’ve accompanied her to their graves, holding her hand and whispering encouraging words. You’ve helped her to smile and laugh again.


In recognizing the reality of death, you’re also wise enough, at only nine years of age, to understand the fragility of life. Because you’ve endured so much pain, you have a vast capacity to experience total joy from the simple beauty you see around you. You stop to admire the clouds in the sky, the birth of baby birds, the sunset. You love freely with all your heart, and value your time with those you love. People marvel at your constant smile and happy demeanor.

I’m sorry your childhood has gone so much harder than those of most children your age. Thank you for always being such a trooper.

 

Today, I see so much of Brooke in you. How you, too, love to do good deeds without expecting anything in return. How you, too, realize there is always something to be thankful for. How you, too, see all people as beautiful.

 

Let Brookie live on in your heart. If you do, Peanut Butter, I promise nothing will ever hold you back as you reach for your dreams.


Love forever and ever,
Mommy

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Guest Columnist Jennifer Scalise: The Day My Life Went Off A Cliff – And How I Climbed Back Up (part 3)

 

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Jennifer L. Scalise, a former Fortune 500 executive, is a single mother who lives in St. Charles, Missouri with her two children, Blake, 17, and Paige, 9. To honor her daughter Brooke after her death, Jennifer established the Brooke Scalise Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has awarded more than 120 church camp scholarships to junior high school youth. She is the author of “A Mother’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Life Beyond,” the inspirational true story of her fight for survival after the tragic death of her daughter (www.JenniferScaliseAuthor.com). She is a member, speaker and writer for several national grief organizations; raises awareness about the dangers of traveling to third-world countries, and is a spokesperson for Concerned Families for ATV Safety.

Dear Blake,

It’s hard for me to believe you’ll be turning 18 in just a few months. I see it as the end of your childhood years, but I know you must feel your childhood ended that tragic day in Costa Rica in 2009. It’s hard to believe, too, that what seemed the perfect family vacation could turn out to be such a nightmare. We were having so much fun on the ATV tour that day. And then the guide led us up the dangerous road and your sister Brooke missed the turn.

No child should have to endure what you endured. You had to wait and wait after I went down the cliff to look for Brooke. You had to hear your worst fear confirmed, and then leave before I came back. You had to return to the condo without her, alone in a foreign country, with no phone, no family, still in shock over the accident. It’s beyond my imagination how awful you must have felt.

And yet during those hours alone, you got on the computer and posted a PowerPoint on YouTube asking others to pray for our family. You had the presence of mind to notify Brooke’s best friends online about what had happened. You were only 14 years old. You stepped up to lead our family at a moment when your father and I were broken and frail.

Thank you for that, buddy.

Later, you reassured me Brooke was fine, pointing out that this life is short compared to eternal life. You were there for Dad, too, spending many nights by his side caring for him as he suffered a severe emotional breakdown. Your encouraging words gave me strength. Your faith was stronger than ours at that time. Your support for Dad and me left you no chance to grieve properly, and a year later you suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

Before you were even born, my first child, my love for you had already surpassed any love I had ever before experienced or imagined. I would spend hours in the rocking chair in your room singing to you and imagining our life together. Maybe because you were born premature, weighing only three pounds, two ounces and requiring extra care and attention, I’ve always felt especially protective of you. You were so small, so very small. You had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for three weeks. I had to leave the hospital before even getting to hold you for the first time. But then we brought our miracle home. After the first few months, you turned out to be an easy baby. We knew we wanted another child soon, though, because I had hated being an only child until I reached 13, and Dad had always loved being so close in age to his brother, your Uncle Jeff. By the time you were nine months old I was pregnant again. I felt guilty, secretly thinking I could never love another child as much as I loved you. But when Brooke was born, I realized I was mistaken. A mother loves each of her children uniquely.

You and Brooke bonded instantly. Even at only 18 months old, you did everything you could to help with your baby sister. You would rub her head affectionately. You would put her pacifier in her mouth. Later, when Brooke was only one year old, you pushed her around the kitchen in her grocery cart. You buckled her in beside you in your play Jeep and drove around.

You and she made quite the pair. One minute you would both be wearing football helmets and jerseys, and the next – because she would get her say, too – you would be decked out in Princess dresses. We seldom called out your name without hers, too, or hers without yours. “Blake and Brooke! Brooke and Blake!”Your younger years had so much fun and love and laughter. We had a perfect family.

Then your Dad and I got divorced. And Brooke died. Your childhood ended too soon, much too soon. All I had ever wanted to do from the very first was to protect you, and I was unable to. I am so sorry, Blake.       

Yet you’ve survived tragedy a better person. You appreciate life now more than most people do, including all the so-called little stuff others take for granted. Your pain has strengthened you, your sadness taught you to value happiness, your tears made you braver.

You’ve also become far more confident in yourself, and know you’re capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to. You’ve gained a sense of independence, and have even decided to attend college in another state, where you literally know no one. There, you’ll get the fresh start you need, and have the fun you must have missed in high school.

You’re an amazing son, and I’m proud of you, more so than you can ever imagine.

Soon you’ll be away. My wishes for you are simple. Live life to the fullest. Love freely and take chances. And please, please, let us always remain close.

Love always,

Mom

P.S. – Please see part 4 tomorrow.

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Guest Columnist Jennifer Scalise: The Day My Life Went Off A Cliff – And How I Climbed Back Up (part 2)

 

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Jennifer L. Scalise, a former Fortune 500 executive, is a single mother who lives in St. Charles, Missouri with her two children, Blake, 17, and Paige, 9. To honor her daughter Brooke after her death, Jennifer established the Brooke Scalise Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has awarded more than 120 church camp scholarships to junior high school youth. She is the author of “A Mother’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Life Beyond,” the inspirational true story of her fight for survival after the tragic death of her daughter (www.JenniferScaliseAuthor.com). She is a member, speaker and writer for several national grief organizations; raises awareness about the dangers of traveling to third-world countries, and is a spokesperson for Concerned Families for ATV Safety.

Dear Brooke,

In the days after the accident, pieces of your life quickly came together as if in a puzzle. As close as we were to each other, I discovered a lot about you only after you passed. Your worship journal sat in your room, unopened. I had never opened it because you had written, “please do not read” on the outside. Now I looked inside.

There, you thanked God for always loving you. You wrote, “I will help spread the word about you to people because I know that is what you want me to do.” Over and over you thanked God for coming into your life, and mentioned wanting to go to church more. You wrote of your love for your family, saying that we all meant the world to you. You also said, “Most importantly, You God are in my life.”

It seemed you had left behind some sort of message for everyone in your journal. The most recent letter, written less than two weeks before you passed, gave me peace. It also convinced me that deep down, your soul always knew your time here would be short and you were already prepared for your journey Home.

You wrote, “God, thank you for everything. I know you are here for me every second of the day. You still love me even though I have sinned . . . Please let my mom realize we were made for you.”

You wrote that God was who you loved most, listing God before your family and friends. You wrote something else that gave me comfort. You described your favorite place, the ocean in the mountains, the very place you passed.

What we found – surprising considering you grew up without a religious upbringing – touched us all.

Since then, so much has happened that convinces us that your spirit lives on. Our phone, for example, rang at exactly midnight on your birthday. It was hard to believe that was mere coincidence. The night I woke to the sound of the TV playing Faith Hill’s song “There You’ll Be” I listened to the lyrics and heard messages from you. These events enable me to feel close to you. They make me feel your presence. I see so much of you in your siblings Blake and Paige every day it’s amazing.

I have to confess that at times I feel selfish. I wish more than anything that you were still here, living your life. I feel robbed of everything we’re never going to get to do together, of all the milestones you’ll never reach.

Even so, I set aside quiet time each day to connect with you. To do this, I close my eyes and reach inside myself and feel our love and cherish the wonderful memories from our 12 years together. I remember our joyous times and create new times. Sometimes doing something as simple together in my mind as locking arms and spinning in circles in a beautiful meadow puts me in Heaven with you. This process helps me feel happy even when I am sad. This gives me strength I never new I had which has helped me find peace so I can heal.

I have learned our hardships awaken us to new understandings we could never see otherwise, shaping us into the people we are meant to be. Through this lesson I have found out who I really am, my true being, my soul. You have taught me that in the worst of circumstances, it is up to us to reach out to God for his hand to give us the strength and courage to survive. I know my purpose is to share your story. Thank you, princess, for guiding me.

Today, your legacy lives on, mainly through my book and your foundation. The Brooke Scalise Foundation has awarded 120 church camp scholarships in your name. I receive emails and letters from people all around the world – family, friends and strangers, including other bereaved parents – whose lives you have touched. It’s clear to me your life had a divine purpose. I’m blessed God chose me to be your mother, and long for the day we can be together again.

You are my sunshine, princess, and I will always love you.

Mommy

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

Guest Columnist Jennifer Scalise: The Day My Life Went Off A Cliff — and How I Climbed Back Up

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Jennifer L. Scalise, a former Fortune 500 executive, is a single mother who lives in St. Charles, Missouri with her two children, Blake, 17, and Paige, 9. To honor her daughter Brooke after her death, Jennifer established the Brooke Scalise Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has awarded more than 120 church camp scholarships to junior high school youth. She is the author of “A Mother’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Life Beyond,” the inspirational true story of her fight for survival after the tragic death of her daughter (http://jenniferscaliseauthor.com/jenniferscaliseauthor.com/INTRO_PAGE.html). She is a member, speaker and writer for several national grief organizations; raises awareness about the dangers of traveling to third-world countries, and is a spokesperson for Concerned Families for ATV Safety.

Dear Brooke,

Up until the accident, those last days we vacationed together in Costa Rica in the summer of 2009 were perfect. All week, you were so carefree and happy, laughing and playing, determined as usual to live life to its fullest.

We saved our biggest adventure, the rainforest zip-lining/all-terrain vehicles excursion, for the end of our trip. Our long-time family friends the Bietschs, your siblings Blake and Paige, and my significant other George as well as his son Little George were all there with us enjoying the fun. We stopped for lunch and you danced in front of the camera smiling and laughing. I captured what would be the last images of you alive.

After lunch, we hopped on our ATVs and headed back. You were on the ATV in front of me, and Paige and George were on the one behind me. As we neared the bottom of a steep road you stopped for a moment as if you somehow knew what was ahead. The back guide had strangely disappeared and we trailed so far behind the guide in front that we could no longer see him. We sped along the steep road with no warning signs of danger or guard rails for protection from what lurked below.

As I rounded the sharp turn just a few seconds behind you, I saw your life-long friend Emma standing in the road screaming hysterically. The rest of the group had driven on without realizing you had missed the turn and gone careening off the 260-foot drop. I began to panic. I had no idea what to do. George pulled up behind me, immediately secured his ATV and took off to find a way down the cliff to you.

My brain struggled to process what was happening. Something inside me felt different and my heart told me you were gone. I was terrified to look over the edge of the cliff for fear of what I was going to see. As I slowly peered over, all I could see was the ocean sparkling far below. I kept screaming for help as I literally rolled around in the middle of the road in worst pain imaginable. Instinct took over and for some reason I called Daddy back home and told him, I knew I needed to let him know.

Everyone was trying to figure out how to get down to you. I saw George walking back up the road looking completely deflated. His body language said it all. He could barely look me in the eyes. I asked him if you were gone, and he nodded. I begged him to take me to you.

Once we finally made it down the cliff, the police, who had come by boat, were there, guarding the site. They refused to let me near you and they did nothing to try to help you. I sobbed and pleaded for them to let me hold my baby. After being ignored for 30 minutes, I sent George back up the cliff again to get more help and to bring the camcorder to prove that they were doing nothing and keeping me from you.

All I could think was, “What if you are still alive?” I screamed hysterically until I could only whisper hoarsely.

Then George came back with the EMS workers and they coldly told us you were gone. I rolled in the sand in misery screaming for them to let me hold you. It started to rain. Unable to make it back up the cliff now, we had no choice but to leave by boat. Leaving you there that day was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. At first I refused, throwing myself into the ocean, but the Coast Guard pulled me out and forced me to leave.

I dealt with the Embassy, trying to claim your body and see to it you were returned to the states, all of it a nightmare. It was so hard to come home without you. I was in disbelief. Surely this was happening to someone else.

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

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Guest Columnist Michele C. Hollow: Dear Son, Why I Had To Say No To Kittens

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Michele C. Hollow lives in South Orange, N.J., with her husband, Steven; son, Jordon, 12; and their two cats—Chai and Karma. Michele works as a freelance writer and is the creator of the pet lifestyle blog Pet News andViews (http://PetNewsandViews.com).

Dear Jordon,

When we adopted Chai and Karma from the local animal shelter this past December, you were so happy. You wanted kittens because you were afraid that an older cat would not be around as long as a kitten.

I know the passing of Mr. Earl Gray, our cat who lived to be 20, was hard on you. When you were born, Earl was eight. You came into a house with a cat, and became fast friends with Earl. You also developed a fondness for animals.

So, we waited a bit after Earl died before getting another pet. We all miss Earl, and in time we all thought about getting another cat. I was opting for an older cat because kittens usually get adopted quicker than older cats.

Dad and I talked with you, and you made a great case for getting a kitten. I decided that we should get two so they could have a constant companion when we are out of the house.

The local shelter chose two sisters—an all-black cat, which we named Karma, and a tortoiseshell named Chai. We immediately bonded with the kittens. You even said, “Kittens are more fun to play with than dad’s iPad.”

They are great cats, and now they are almost six months—a perfect age to get them spayed. As you know, I write about pets, and I preach about the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs.

Each year between four and five million cats and dogs are euthanized at animal shelters around the country. When we went to the pound to adopt, after playing with Chai and Karma, one of the volunteers asked me if I wanted to see any other cats. I let out a big “No” because it breaks my heart just thinking about all of the animals that we left behind.

I know you said you wanted to see our cats give birth to kittens that we could keep and give away. Unfortunately, there are so many—too many—cats (and dogs) that are in need of loving homes. I won’t support breeders just because I think it is wrong to intentionally bring more cats and dogs into a world when our animal shelters are overcrowded.

I tell people all the time that if they desire a specific breed, they can find one at a breed-specific rescue. There are rescues for so many different types of cats and dogs. My first dog was a rescued poodle, and my first kitten was a stray Siamese.

And if you want to see babies being born, we can watch a video or read a book about kittens being born.

Spaying lengthens the life of a female cat (or dog), and helps to prevent breast cancer. The cost of spaying or neutering (a male cat or dog) is cheaper than caring for and raising a litter of kittens (or puppies).

Most importantly, I am going to have them spayed because of the millions of cats and dogs that enter shelters each year that are euthanized. These high numbers are a direct result of unplanned litters.

So just recently I took Chai and Karma to the vet to be spayed. Though I know you want babies, they could each have had four. And that would have given us 10 cats in all, too many for us to live with, much less care for.

Here’s what I now ask you to try to understand: with so many cats and kittens in need of foster homes, getting Chai and Karma spayed was actually an act of kindness.  

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