“Irish Investigations” has awakened my passion for writing and for telling stories that matter. Starting and feeding this blog has rekindled my spirit and my optimism.
Along the way, I’ve met some people who are truly inspiring, and I’ve gotten to know old friends and acquaintances on a deeper level. I hope I’ve done them justice here.
“Irish Investigations” will continue in 2014, but first … a couple of “outtakes” and updates to some of my favorites from 2013.
Cpl. Kyle Schneider
Because of fellow runner Ellen Brunet, I ran the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon wearing a shirt in honor of Cpl. Kyle Schneider of Baldwinsville, NY. Kyle, born the same year as my oldest son, was a Marine who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
I had the privilege of meeting his mom a week before the marathon, and she gave me one of Kyle’s prayer cards. I kept it in my pocket all 26.2 miles.
During the marathon, I heard a lot of encouraging words when people saw the back of the shirt with Kyle’s face on it — none more moving than when I passed a runner who called out, “God bless Kyle.”
Always for Africa
You just never know what baristas do when they’re not taking orders for lattes and whatever. Gabrielle Romano is an inspiring young woman from Central New York who is passionate about helping the people of an African village.
She wasn’t able to make her usual trip to Africa this year or in 2012 because of health issues, but she’s more determined than ever to get back to where her heart is and get her hands dirty.
Gabrielle’s working at a different coffee shop these days, so I don’t get to see her as often. But her passion and benevolent spirit remain in my thoughts. More information about her efforts, and how to help, is on her site, kamalatu.org.
Friend of the Motorist
Dick Flaville lives in Ithaca, NY, home of Cornell University, and I’d be willing to bet he’s read more books than most people on that beautiful Ivy League campus. Dick ran tire stores most of his adult life, and has packed a lot of reading — and living — into his 84 years.
He is a model of how to survive anything and everything that life throws at you. His cancer survivor group meets every Friday morning for breakfast. Dick said last week’s gathering was a bit somber, because the group paid tribute to six members who have died in 2013. Still, he keeps fighting the good fight and finding as much joy and humor as he can.
After we spoke on the phone last week, Dick was going to take his daily nap. I went to lunch. I came back to an excited voice mail from Dick, who wanted to make sure I didn’t miss Steve Rushin’s column in the newest Sports Illustrated. He enjoyed the writing so much, as he does with most things in life, I wonder if he was able to sleep.
The Memory Garden
Rachael Ristau lost her dad to liver cancer when she was 12 years old. To help deal with her own grief, she formed a support group for other kids who had lost a parent. Then she grabbed hold of an idea for a “memory garden” and made it happen.
Now in college, Rachael is still involved in this wonderful endeavor that has helped so many in our community heal, including my family. There are too many familiar names on the memorial bricks in the garden, especially the names of young people — including my sons’ good friend Matthew, my little buddy Wayne (both lost to cancer) and my nephew Caidin, who died at 17 in a car crash in 2009 just a few days after he graduated from high school.
Wayne and Jay
Finally, “Irish Investigations” has allowed me to pay tribute to two good friends who also left us way too soon.
Wayne taught me that every man should have a soft side. Jay was the best kind of friend — supportive, non-judgmental and wicked fun — to everyone he knew. Writing about them has helped me stay connected with Wayne’s wonderful mom, and with Jay’s many friends.
Two regrets: I never got to say good-bye to Wayne because I didn’t realize just how sick he was, and I didn’t attend Jay’s memorial service in Buffalo, NY. I hope writing about those two wonderful people helped keep their generous spirits alive. See you in 2014.