Happy Sunday everyone!
Those of you who have followed me here on this blog or elsewhere in the widowed community probably know by now that July 13th will be twelve years since the sudden and life-altering death of Don Shepherd. You may also know that on the first year anniversary, at the suggestion of my grief-counselor at the time, Caitlin, I started what would grow into a yearly tradition. “Pay it Forward for Don Shepherd Day.” For any newer people that are here reading, the concept is simple. Every July 13th, I ask friends and family and even total strangers and social media friends, to perform an act of kindness for someone/anyone, and if they can, tell that person a little bit about what the day means, and ask them to continue the chain by paying it forward too. Each year, I set up a “Pay it Forward” Facebook page which is public and open to everyone, and when people do their acts of kindness on the 13th, they post on the wall of that page, or on my main Facebook page, with a description and maybe a photo of what they did. The last piece of this is that I take all of the acts of kindness, type them up all together, and create a “Pay it Forward for Don Day: An Avalanche of Kindness” blog, which is posted in my personal blog (can be found at my site www.akelleylynnlife.com), and links to it on social media.
Why do I do this? Several reasons. When I started doing the PIF Day, that first year, it was purely about survival. It was about: “how the hell am I going to get through this awful, horrific day – how will I even breathe on the anniversary of the day that I woke up and my person was dead? HOW?” Well, that first year was certainly rough, and there were moments when I didn’t think Id make it through. And then Id go onto Facebook or check my emails and see all these posts, all these amazingly kind things that people were doing in Don’s honor. I would read about and see photos with people going to local animal shelters and volunteering their time for Don, or gifting a little boy who loves music a guitar lesson in memory of Don, or making a donation to a non-profit, bringing pizzas to their local EMS team, so many different things. Something about going online and seeing these acts of kindness, back to back to back, and many from people who didnt even know Don – it is inspiring. It is a beautiful thing. Putting some good out into the world and then watching it grow is such a wonderful thing to witness. Love Grows Love.
So, now that it’s been a dozen years since sudden death came knocking at Don’s door, this year – on the 12 year death-a-versary, I’m going to do one dozen Acts of Kindness, starting today, and leading up to July 13th. I can split them up however I want, and I may save a bunch for July 13th itself, or maybe even save the last one or two for sometime that week. I don’t know yet. That is part of the fun of this exercise, is finding the acts of kindness. Sometimes I plan them, but more often, they come to me, and I do them spontaneously, when I see the moment arising. I will share each of them with everyone by posting on my Facebook page, starting today. And of course, all the stories from everyone else who participates again this year will be published in the Epic Blog of Kindness, a bit later on, after I collect them.
I invite you to join me in Paying it Forward for Don Shepherd this year – to honor both him, and also to honor someone you have lost to death. Each time this day comes around, I am profoundly sad at the reality that Don Shepherd lived such a short life, and that I don’t get to see him anymore.
And also, I am equally stunned each year, on that day, at the snowball of kindness that others provide, at the chain reaction effect of goodness it seems to have on people, and at all the many ways that Don’s love for me and his kind character and generosity continue to echo inside the various facets of my life. He is here. Not at all in the way I had imagined or pictured, and yet, he is here in ways that are deeper and more meaningful than I ever could have believed possible.
Love Grows Love. A dozen times and counting.
Join me in spreading kindness, on July 13th, in honor of all things love and life.
Pass it on.