Lisa grew up in a small town in upstate NY. It was a place where houses are separated by acres of farm fields. She was the oldest of 5 siblings and became very nurturing at a young age. Lisa was extremely intelligent and put herself through all of her post secondary education. Upon graduating from Albany State in 1988 with her Bachelor’s degree she quickly became a successful sales representative at the corporate sales level. However, what she truly aspired to be was an educator. In 1996 she earned her masters degree from Brandeis University in hopes that she would someday become a teacher herself. She had planned on just working a few more years in corporate sales and then wanted to switch paths to become a teacher. Lisa always said “Life is too short” so that’s why she earned her Masters Degree while holding down her sales career which included frequent long distance travel. She put her dream of going into teaching on hold so we could start a family with solid financial base for our household. In 1997 she gave birth to our son and we started out our new life together as parents. Both Lisa and I grew up with a number of siblings and felt that another child would really round out or family so in summer of 2002 we again became expectant parents with a our second child. Lisa never did get the chance to pursue a career as an educator due the AFE she succumbed to on March 27th 2003.
As for me, her husband, companion and friend ..I simply say is that she was always a spark for all those in her life. Lisa always inspired and always made those around her better just because they knew her. She had a way of making you want to be better at every part of your life through her encouragement. Nothing was handed to Lisa while she was growing up. She earned everything she acquired in life. Lisa was truly self-made. She had an abundance of gratitude for what she had. Her favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. We had come to be the place where family gathered for that. One of the traditions in our family, that was started by Lisa, is Thanksgiving Gratitude notes. The idea is that before mealtime everyone writes down on a small piece of paper what they are grateful for during the year that is coming to a close. You put the paper unsigned into a basket and before desert we pass the basket around and everyone pulls a piece of paper out and reads aloud what that thankful note says. Yes it can get silly and at times guest do try to figure out who said what on the notes. However, in years like 2001 after 9/11 or at times when the family is facing challenges it can be very comforting and very emotional. This is a tradition that lives on as does many of the plantings as result of her time here in this physical world.
So after things settle down a bit some months after I brought our daughter home for the hospital I started looking online for AFE information and really was looking for other dads who landed in this life boat too. The only thing I found was an online AFE Survivors support group out of Canada that operated like a chat room. That group was mostly all surviving moms and maybe a couple of those moms husbands. It was less than 50 members total. No other single dads had been involved at that point. That group showed so much love and support that it really did help carry me through that early stage. As my daughters first birthday approached and also the 1st anniversary of my wife’s passing the group was very concerned how I was going to be for that day. I told them, “I’m treating that day just like any other child’s birthday. Its a celebration of their life but I will at 9:15PM that night, after the kids are in bed, have my closets family members over for a candle vigil in Lisa’s garden”. One by one the members started posting messages. “I’ll be lighting a candle also at 9:15 EST here Quebec”, “I’ll be lighting one in Montreal”, “ I’ll be light one in Arizona”, etc..Its was very very moving and very very comforting. The next year that group decided to make March 27th the groups own remembrance day and to continue to light candles at 9:15pm as symbol of unity to honor all those lost to AFE. Thats the group that evolved into this AFE Foundation through efforts and determination of the Foundation’s Executive Director and AFE survivor Miranda Klassen. For me and my family its incredibly humbling to know that AFE Awareness Day stemmed from the overall symbol of support we received way way back in 2004. I actually lost touch with that support group a couple years after joining as it still didn’t have any single dads, I was getting more and more bogged down with parenting challenges and my life moved on. It wasn’t until spring of 2017 that I looked online to see if that group was still around and found out that this Foundation had evolved and it was still observing March 27th as AFE Awareness day.
Now that it is almost 16 years since 2003. Our daughter is just about a full grown woman herself and is aware of what happened to her mom. Let me end on this message from how Lisa’s mother as she reflected on her passing back in 2003 – “I know the measure of each life has nothing to do with years. Lisa’s life was one of the great and beautiful accomplishments that we and our world are so much better for because of her presence. I fully believe that she is in a perfect place to accomplish more on a finer and higher level now”. As for me, Lisa’s husband and father of our children being 16 years down that I can attest to this as too many times, Lisa has made her presence felt. Be it through an out of the blue thought of events from the past or be it the unexpected email, text or phone call from someone who turns out to be critical to the immediate future. I don’t know what it exactly is but it always makes me stop and think.
We love you and we miss you Lisa..your loving husband, Danny