Monday, December 7, 2009

Part 175

Part 175

“Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.”

After the memorial service, my sister Sharon and her husband Greg invited family and a small group of our friends back to their home. I don’t remember much of what went on there, but I know we were glad to share this time with this group of people. After everyone had left, we eventually had to go home and begin our life without Adam.

We still had an abundance of food that was prepared for us by friends and members of our church and that’s what we ate for several days. We invited some of our closest friends over to help us eat up the remaining food but we eventually needed additional items from our local grocery store. I went by myself to do a quick shopping but as I went down each row I was overwhelmed with memories of Adam. His favorite breakfast cereals. Fruits and yogurts. Cheeses. Lots of cheeses. When I got to the juice aisle I saw the individual small cans of V-8 vegetable juice and remembered when we used to buy the large container and fill Adam’s thermos each day for his school lunch because it was cheaper than the small cans. I know this probably seems silly, but this memory was too much for me. I needed to get out of the grocery store right away before I totally broke down. I left the cart, full of food, right there in the aisle and rushed home.

When I was a kid, my father taught me that happiness in this life is mostly about our attitude. We can choose to be miserable or make the best out of our situation. I didn’t want to be miserable but losing Adam seemed overwhelming. It seemed like no amount of positive, wishful thinking could make me truly happy again. But I needed to try. I needed to be strong for my wife. I needed to be strong for my daughter.

I was fortunate that I was allowed to be a school board member at Cassy’s school. It gave me something to do that seemed worthwhile and it filled up lots of my time. The students, staff, and teachers were very caring people who were instrumental to my healing process. Spending time at the school with Debbie Monnell, Roger Allen, Brenda Carney, Belinda Simpson, and Jim Morel and others, gave me another purpose and reason to try to function normally. But my “normal” was now going to be very different for me. It’s hard to explain.

Mal spent many of her days with Liz Verhoeks at Liz’s “Laconia Pottery” store. Mal had been teaching rubberstamp card making classes at the store for a while but she wasn’t up to socializing with strangers so she decided to take some time off.

We were invited out for lunch one day with a couple we knew. Both are very nice people who wanted to comfort us. But at one point during our lunch, the wife (trying to empathize with our pain) explained how much she misses her oldest daughter. She said that there are times that she missed her so much that she’d wear one of her daughter’s sweaters just to feel close to her. We understood what our friend was trying to communicate but it just didn’t work. Her daughter was attending college about two hours away. Our friend could see or talk to her daughter anytime she wanted. Our son was gone.

Cassy’s life was very busy. She had lots going on at school with sports, studies and the upcoming school play. She felt the need to dive right back into school as soon as possible. I still remember the sick feeling I had as I watched her drive off to school on her first day back.

Right after Adam’s accident, Cassy’s old boyfriend, John, begged her to break-up with her current boyfriend. John assured Cassy that he regretted previously breaking up with her and that he wanted to “be there” for her in her time of pain and sorrow. We encouraged Cassy to seriously consider this before she did anything. It’s not a good idea to make important decisions while you are very emotional. She said she understood but she was determined to get back together with John. It didn’t take very long for the “real” John to come back and he broke her heart again. This is not what Cassy needed right now.

Mal had a growing urge to do something to help Adam’s friends from the park in Newport, Rhode Island. She wanted the “Park Rats” to know more about Adam and explain why he loved them. She discussed this desire with church members Ron and Christine St. Cyr.

Next chapter: Our church makes a plan.

Part 174

Part 174

“The Memorial Service for Adam Dean Howley”

We opened up the memorial service for anyone to share their thoughts about Adam and several of his long-time friends and co-workers came up to speak.

James Gray recalled that he always enjoyed playing with Adam when they were kids. One day when James went to Lexington Christian Academy he was bullied by an older student and Adam stuck up for him. Adam’s love of other people inspired James to work with young people. A co-worker from “Friendly’s” explained that Adam was not only a good worker, but a good friend. Even though Adam was very busy getting ready to leave for college, he took the time to go to the assistant manager’s home to try to help her fix her computer. She appreciated his unselfishness. Adam’s friend Phil Doreau (wearing the bright blue satin suit that matched the purple suit that he and Adam wore to their high school prom) told a funny story about hiding in the basement of our Massachusetts home for two days without us even knowing he was there. Adam snuck pork chops and other food down to him by hiding the food in his pockets!

I don’t remember if any other friends or family got up to speak, but after a few minutes went by, a young 17-year old girl from Rhode Island slowly walked to the front of the room. She wore brightly colored clothes and her hair was dyed a bright purple. She explained that her father had died when she was only 15. For the next two years she wore all black clothes and her hair had been dyed black. Then she met Adam. Adam’s love of people and his love of life brought “colors” back to her life.

Another Rhode Island boy, who spoke with a heavy speech impediment, explained that almost everyone made fun of him and many people thought he was mentally retarded. But things changed when he met Adam. Adam wouldn’t allow anyone to tease him anymore. His life was better because of Adam.

One of Adam’s favorite Rhode Island friends, Victor, explained that he used to be a violent kid, picking fights and releasing his rage on anyone who crossed him. Adam taught him to love and to be more patient.

I was grateful to hear that Adam had a positive effect on his friends and co-workers.

To wrap up the time of sharing, Adam’s Uncle Greg Demund and Adam’s cousin Emily came up front. Greg read a poem he wrote for the service:

“Six weeks premature Adam was born,

Bright blond hair his head did adorn.

He beat his cousin Em by just three weeks,

So the race was on, their lives to compete.

Whatever the task, or the race may be,

The two fought fiercely the winner to see.

Tricycle races were a major event,

Adam beating Emily with as fast as he went.

Report card grades were always there,

Each one comparing so as to be fair.

Adam never liked that Emily was taller,

But consoled in the fact that Cassy was smaller.

High School graduation finally did arrive,

Emily graduated first to Adam’s despise.

Two knives were used to cut their cake,

Adam cut first, this prize he did take.

Adam was a joy for all to see,

A smile on his face and wild shoes had he.

He could dance, and he would sing,

The world was his stage, always performing.

In musicals and plays he was at home,

The theatre he loved as his life has shown.

Paul and Mal watched with great delight,

As Adam performed in a play just right.

Red, yellow, green and purple hair had he,

The rainbow every week we did see.

Now through Heaven’s gate he has gone,

One last race he beat Emily on.

In the presence of the Lord he may stand,

Dance Adam dance, as only you can.

Stand at the feet of the King most high,

With your hair aglow and your hands raised high.

Sing with the angels your praises join in,

Although a Frank Sinatra tune is not a good hymn.

And when the Lord our God finally looks down,

He may truly wonder when he created a red crown.”

Emily read a section of a book titled, “A Gentle Thunder” by Max Lucado:

“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. (John 14:1-4)

“What kind of statement is that? Trust me with your death. When you face the tomb, don’t be troubled—trust me! You get the impression that to God the grave is a no-brainer. He speaks as casually as the mechanic who says to a worried client, “Sure, the engine needs an overhaul, but don’t worry. I can do it.” For us it’s an ordeal. For him it’s no big deal.

“The other night I did something that every parent has done dozens of times. I carried my daughter to bed. Five-year-old Sara fell asleep on the floor, and I picked her up, carried her up the stairs, and put her in bed. Why? I knew it was time for her to rest, and I knew that rest was better up there than down here.

“Doesn’t God do the same? Doesn’t he, knowing more than we, carry us to the place of rest he created? For God, death is no tragedy. In God’s economy, the termination of the body is the beginning of life.

“Can you imagine if Sara’s sisters objected to my decision to carry her upstairs? “Don’t take her. We’ll miss her. Please keep her here so we will all be together.”

“How would I answer? “Oh, but she’ll rest so much better in the room I have prepared for her. Besides, you’ll be coming up yourselves soon.”

“By calling us home, God is doing what any father would do. He is providing a better place to rest. A place he has “prepared for us.” Heaven is not mass-produced; it is tailor-made.

“Sometime ago I indulged and ordered two shirts from a tailor. I selected the cloth. The tailor measured my body. And several weeks later, I received two shirts made especially for me. There is a big difference between these two shirts and the other shirts in my closet. The tailored shirts were made with me in mind. The other shirts were made for any hundred thousand or so males my size. But not these two. They were made just for me.

“As a result, they fit! They don’t bulge. They don’t choke. They are just right. Such is the promise of heaven. It was made for us in mind. Elsewhere Jesus invites us to ‘receive the kingdom God has prepared for you since the world was made.’ (Matthew 25:34)

“The problem with this world is that it doesn’t fit. Oh, it will do for now, but it isn’t tailor-made. We were made to live with God, but on earth we live by faith. We were made to live forever, but on this earth we live but for a moment. We were made to live holy lives, but this world is stained by sin.

“This world wears like a borrowed shirt. Heaven, however, will fit like one tailor-made.

“By the way, I’ve often thought it curious how few people Jesus raised from the dead. He healed hundreds and fed thousands, but as far as we know he only raised three: the daughter of Jairus, the boy near Nain, and Lazarus. Why so few? Could it be because he knew he’d be doing them no favors? Could it be because he couldn’t get any volunteers? Could it be that once someone is in heaven, the last place they want to return to is here?

“We must trust God. We must trust not only that he does what is best but that he knows what is ahead. Ponder these words of Isaiah 57:1-2: ‘The good men perish; the godly die before their time and no one seems to care or ponder why. No one seems to realize that God is taking them away from the evil days ahead. For the godly who die shall rest in peace.’

“My, what a thought. God is taking them away from the evil days ahead. Could death be God’s grace? Could the funeral wreath be God’s safety ring? Why does an eight-year-old die of cancer? Why is a young mother taken from her children? As horrible as the grave may be, could it be God’s protection from the future? Trust in God, Jesus urges, and trust in me.”

Mal’s sister Madeline got up to introduce a special song. She said:

“About six months ago, my sister played the following song for her friend. She explained that her plan was to record this song on a cassette and tape it to Adam’s steering wheel in his car. The note attached would read: “Adam, this is to be the song we dance to at your wedding, Love, Mom”

“Although this event will not happen here on Earth, someday there will be a dance in Between Mal and Adam.” (to hear this song, please click on the link below)

For those of you who are unable to click on the above link, here are the lyrics to this song:

Up To The Moon

I love you up to the moon,
And I love you big as the sky,
I love to watch you when you sleep,
I love to hold you when you cry,
One day when you’re older and
Taller than me,
I’ll say I watched you grow
Like a beautiful tree.
I love you up to the moon,
And I love you big as the sky,
You’ll always be my little man,
I love you the best that a mama can.
And one day if you rise up and
Call me blessed,
I’ll say it was a joy to give you my best.
‘Cause I love you up to the moon,
I love you big as the sky,
I love you up to the moon,
Love you up to the moon.

We closed the memorial service with an emotional song by Kathy Troccoli titled, “Goodbye For Now.”

Here are the lyrics:

Goodbye for Now

I can’t believe that you’re really gone now,

Seems like it’s all just a dream.

How can it be that the world will go on,

When something has died within me.

Leaves will turn. My heart will burn

With colors of you.

Snow will fall, But I’ll recall your warmth.

Summer wind, breathing in your memory.

I’ll miss you.

But there will be a time,

When I’ll see your face,

And I’ll hear your voice,

And there we will laugh again.

And there will come a day,

When I’ll hold you close,

No more tears to cry,

‘cause we’ll have forever,

but I’ll say goodbye for now.

I can’t imagine my life without you.

You held a place all your own.

Just knowing you were beneath the same sky,

Oh, what I joy I have known.

On rainy days, in many ways,

You’ll water my heart.

On starry nights I’ll glimpse the light,

Of your smile.

Never far from my heart,

You’ll stay with me.

So I’ll wait.

And there will be a time,

When I’ll see your face,

And I’ll hear your voice,

And there we will laugh again.

And there will come a day,

When I’ll hold you close,

No more tears to cry,

‘cause we’ll have forever,

but I’ll say goodbye for now.

Click here to hear the song:

As this song ended, Adam’s casket was carried out to a waiting vehicle, which would deliver the casket to a storage facility until the frozen ground could be opened for his burial in June. The afternoon sky was a brilliant red color as we watched the hearse drive away.

Part 173

Part 173

Pastor Jim Morel opened the memorial service for our son Adam with a prayer and then Mal's sister Carol sang a song (written by an old friend of ours, Lawrence Chewning) titled, "The Anchor Holds."

I have journeyed through the long dark night out on the open sea
By faith alone, sight unknown, and yet His eyes were watching me.

The anchor holds, though the ship is battered.
The anchor holds, though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas.
The anchor holds in spite of the storm.

I've had visions. I've had dreams.
I've even held them in my hand.
But I never knew they would slip right through
Like they were only grains of sand.

I've been young but I am older now
and there has been beauty these eyes have seen
But it was in the night, through the storms of my life,
Oh, that’s where God proved his love to me.

The anchor holds, though the ship is battered.
The anchor holds, though the sails are torn.
I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas.
The anchor holds in spite of the storm.

This song meant a lot to us. We would need to rely on our faith to survive this loss and we'd trust that God would be our comforter.

We invited friends and family to go up to the casket to write their "good-bye" message to Adam. As a line formed, we began to play the tape of music that was important to Adam—and to all of us. The following songs were included:

"I Love You So Much" by Barbara Milne

"Happy Birthday, Cassy," "Little Bunny Foo Foo," "Once There Was A Little Kitten," "Pledge of Allegiance," "Our Beautiful Flag," and "God Bless America," all sung by Adam age 5.

A few songs sung by Adam and the Imago School Chapel Choir from 1991.

"As The Deer" by Denise Seymour
"Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon
"Under My Bed" by Joe Scruggs (This is a song that Adam sang at The Imago School Fine Arts Revue)
"Animal Crackers" by Peter Alsop

We played the phone message that Adam had recorded for our home answering machine

"Sue Me," a song Adam sang to Meridith when they were both starring in "Guys and Dolls"

"Sounds of Silence," by Simon and Garfunkel
"Summer Love" sung by Adam and Cassy on our family cruise in 1998
"I've Got You Under My Skin," sung by Adam in 1998
"Santeria," by Sublime
"With Or Without You," by U2
"Send In The Clowns," by Frank Sinatra
"Help Me God," by Kathy Troccoli

When the music ended I gave the eulogy that I had written.

“Adam surprised us in 1979 by being born 6 ½ weeks early. It was just about the only time in his life that he was early for something. He weighed only 3 pounds, 8 ounces. We almost lost him because he stopped breathing twice. He stayed in the hospital pre-natal intensive care unit for three weeks until he reached about 5 pounds. Once we took him home though, he grew rapidly in mind, body and soul.

“We read books to him almost every night at bedtime and it became a special time together. It helped develop Adam's lifelong interest in reading. By the time he was 4 years old, he was reading to us! He really was a brilliant boy. When he went to the local kindergarten he was shocked that his classmates were still learning their colors! When he was in pre-school he began his acting career with a starring role in "Caps For Sale." He performed in plays every year since!

He attended The Imago School for grades 1-8. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Imago, it is a small private and very conservative Christian school. Every year they had a "Fine Arts Revue" with talented students playing violin and lovely piano pieces, but Adam shattered that tradition by performing funny, wacky songs.

“In his early teen years, he enjoyed writing and singing songs with his little sister and his cousins Emily, Jesse and Jacob. He also enjoyed making video action movies with his good friends Nathan Daman and James Gray.

“He attended Lexington Christian Academy for high school and he received the "Headmaster Scholarship For Academics." He was elected class president in his sophomore year. He played soccer and he was on the wrestling team. He won a Massachusetts Drama Award in his junior year. It was during his high school years that he developed his truly unique fashion sense. One day he would dress in a business suit, next day he'd be wearing 1970’s polyester pants and shirt. One day in his senior year, Cassy was going to Lexington Christian Academy for an entrance interview. Cassy was hoping to make a good impression and was dressed very conservatively. Adam arrived at school wearing 1970s brown polyester pants tucked into high-top military boots, a blue frilly tux shirt, his hair was in pig-tails, and he was wearing eye make-up. That was Adam. Always different.

“Adam seemed silly on the outside, but his heart was very concerned about his friends' needs. Here is a prayer that he wrote about a friend in school:

‘God, Thank you for revealing yourself to me in ways that I have no choice but to believe. Thank you for the miracles You have performed in my life. I pray today that you would do the same for Kelly. Show her proof that she cannot refuse. Open her heart and let her see that she has strayed and can come back to You. Give me the strength and words to show You to her. Help me to answer the questions she has. I pray for healing in Kelly's body, Lord. Take her disease and send it back to where it belongs. Rebuild her health and give her the peace of mind that comes from healing. If I cannot help, lead her to people who can. Show her that there are people who love her, that want to help. People who are willing to help. Break down all her defenses and leave her vulnerable to Your words. Let her feel the pain so she can begin her healing.’

“After high school, Adam went to The Boston Conservatory of Music to major in musical theatre. His appearance changed on a very regular basis. It was Adam and the Amazing Technicolor Hair. Blue, yellow, green and flaming red. The world was his stage and every day was another play. He loved to act, sing, dance and have fun.

“Adam decided not to return to the Conservatory for his sophomore year. He wanted to take some time to enjoy life in Newport, Rhode Island and work on his poetry. Mal and I weren't too thrilled with this choice. We had hoped that Adam would become a grown-up responsible adult. Instead, he became involved in the lives of lots of young people that many in the world would consider lost. Little did we know that Adam had unknowingly decided to go into ‘missions work’. He didn't choose some exotic land or third-world country. Adam did God's work in Rhode Island. Last night, the so-called "lost" kids of Newport, Rhode Island held a candlelight memorial in the park for Adam. The principal of the local high school spoke about the lives that were changed by Adam. He rescued kids from suicide and drug addiction. He convinced criminals to turn away from their ways. He taught many people how to have fun and enjoy life. He was a responsible, caring and loving adult after all.

“At our request, Adam spent the past year living with us in New Hampshire, but his heart longed for Newport. He recently decided to go to the University of Rhode Island for the second semester that would have started yesterday.

“About a week ago, I had the chance to sit on the couch with Adam. I told him how much I loved him and asked him not to go back to Rhode Island because I didn't think he was ready. I wanted him to be with us a little longer.

“In my life, I married young and although I still go to my Dad for advice, my father's parenting chores were done, allowing my father and I to become best friends. Adam and I were just entering the friend stage of our relationship. I had hoped for a longer time as friends.

“Two years ago, Adam didn't have any money to buy us a Christmas gift so he wrote us this letter. It has become the best gift he could have given us. He wrote:

‘As we grow old, time moves quickly. Too quickly for parents and children.

Mother, we have lost the time when I slept in your arms. There are many nights when I am alone, that I imagine myself sleeping on your lap, but still I do not call.

Father, time has moved on, past cars on the braided carpet to cars in the driveway. And my memories of games and stories, have, over time, become tainted with arguments and things muttered under our breath.

As a child, I missed so many chances to tell you I love you. Now, as an adult, I will not. I love you both.’

“I'm thankful for the time we had with Adam. We loved him and he loved us. We also know that our beautiful boy is now dancing in Heaven with his amazing flaming-red hair. I'd like to share a poem of Adam's that he gave his Mom to read late one night. This will give you a glimpse into Adam's thoughts.

"When I was small, I flew once.

Built up speed and caught the wind

And just flew.

No one believes me but I did.

There was nothing to tell me I couldn't.

Soon after, I began to discover that the more I learned, the more I grew, the less I could remember

What it felt like to glide across the yard.

Now recently, I have been remembering my flight.

I would give anything to be free again,

But of course it's impossible.

The adult brain is filled with laws; rules; formulas.

But once, when I was small, I flew.

No one believes me,

But I did.’

After this eulogy, my daughter Cassy, and her friend Nicole, sang "Wind Beneath My Wings." Cassy was confident that she could sing this by herself without crying but Nicole offered to stand with her to help, just in case Cassy couldn't get through the whole song.

Mal's sister Madeline shared the following:

"C.S. Lewis once surmised that each person is created to see a different facet of God's beauty. Something no one else can see in quite the same way, thereby blessing all worshipers of God through all eternity with an aspect of God they could not otherwise see.”

“Today, my wish would be that we all think about the facet of God that Adam so brilliantly showed us. A God that is all-loving; looking beyond what is seen by the mortal eye.

“Through Adam's creativity, many hair colors and many characters, we know that our God is watching, possibly entertained, yet meeting each person where they are. Yes, there are people who only through Adam's light, caught a glimmer of a wonderfully unique God. Our job is to never forget Adam's unique light; to carry it on even if that light is a glow-stick."

Our good friend, Barbara Foote, shared this poem that she wrote:

“A wild and crazy loveable boy,

Who brought everyone so much joy.

You saw the laughter in his eyes,

While waiting for the next surprise.

Wild T-shirts, chain belts, pierced eyebrow. But jeekers,

I remember when he came home with his new orange sneakers.

You saw vibrant colored hair with maybe a different part,

But did you see deep into Adam's heart?

Today you must laugh, joke, dance and sing,

Cuz you do not know what tomorrow will bring.

Look all around every which way,

See clearly what the Lord has for you today.

Every day, if we have not danced at least once, we should consider it lost.

Giving your heart to Jesus Christ is such a small cost.

I have been so weary that Adam's life has come to an end,

I have cried and cried to God, "What can I say to my friend?"

He gently wraps His loving arms around me and says, ‘My child, do not roam.

You must see I have taken Adam home.

When all is so weary and you feel you cannot stand,

I will hold you up with My very gentle hand.

You miss his smile, his craziness, his act for all to see,

Be calm my child for he is dancing here with Me!

‘In Me, place your heart and believe.

Be open and expect to receive!’

Paul, Mal and Cassy; this poem is what I do,

And know forever, we are here for you."

Adam's closest friend, Meridith Burkus shared her thoughts about Adam and she sang the song, "No One Is Alone" from the play, "Into The Woods," accompanied on the piano by Adam's High School drama teacher, Christopher Greco. Meridith's brothers, David and Andy, (both were good friends of Adam) joined her up front to sing "I Will Sing Of Your Love Forever."

Adam's friend Alletta began to cry as she read a poem that she wrote and Meridith stood with her for support.

Next chapter: We open up the service for anyone to share their thoughts about Adam.

Part 172

Part 172

   Saturday, January 13, 2001 was the day of our son’s funeral-memorial service. Lots of people were involved in putting this service together. Our church had members, Ken and Ellen Braley, Artie and Carol Boudreau, and David and Carolyn Lincoln, who volunteered to handle things like preparing the school gymnasium for however big a crowd may show up. We had no idea how many people would come to the service because we had moved away from most of our long-time friends in Massachusetts and it seemed unlikely that people would drive over one-hundred miles to attend. Our church volunteers also made sure there was enough food to feed the attendees. Ellen Braley handled the design and printing of the memorial program that I kept changing even up to the morning of the service. Family members had sorted through hundreds of photographs of Adam and planned a photograph display. Scott Bixby, another church member, offered to handle the music portion, starting and stopping the cassettes that my brother-in-law Greg and I had put together.

   I wasn’t sure what I wanted to wear to Adam’s memorial service. I’m not comfortable in a suit and I rarely get “dressed up.” I decided to wear blue jeans and one of Adam’s sweaters. Mal wore a long, black skirt and a gray sweater that Adam had given her as a Christmas gift. Several friends and relatives had asked us what would be “appropriate” and we assured them that anything they’d like to wear would be okay with us. (Not that it matters, but Adam would have approved of anything from suits to t-shirts. He loved clothes.)

   Even though the service wasn’t set to begin for several more hours, Mal and I decided to go there early to make sure that things were set up the way we had envisioned. There were already several people there. Dean, from the funeral home, was already there and he had about 350 chairs set up. The casket was in the front and several beautiful flower arrangements were on display, bringing much-needed color to the gym. The school principal, David Borchers, made sure we had colored markers for people to write their messages on the casket. Scott Bixby did a quick run-through of the music and made notes so he’d know when to start and stop the music during the program. Jim Morel, our pastor, was also there early to help out in any way he could. He agreed to speak a little bit at the beginning and the end of the service and he gave us the freedom to do the rest of the service as we wanted. By 9:00 am, there were about fifty people in the gymnasium. I remember pacing the floor, nervously hoping that everything would go as smoothly as possible, so that this final “tribute” to Adam would be meaningful.

   We had a memorial table set up off to one side and Mal arranged some photographs of Adam and some of his personal belongings including his favorite pair of shoes, some clothes, his guitar, a favorite book, his Bible, and a quilt that Mal had made for him several years ago.

   By 11:00 am there were probably 200 people there and the service wasn’t supposed to begin until 1:00pm. A friend asked me if I was having the memorial service videotaped and I replied that I’d never want to re-live this day.

   By noon, our close group of friends, including Liz Verhoeks, Jim and Barb Foote, Russ and Jeanne Sample, and Eric and Linda Robinson, all managed to sit together. The gymnasium was nearly full. Mal, Cassy, and I sat in the front row on one side. Adam’s friend, Meridith sat in the front row on the other side and she reserved the seat next to her for Adam’s current girlfriend, Alletta.

   By 12:45pm the gym was really packed with people and there were people still steadily arriving. People were standing 3 or 4 deep all around the gym because all of the seats and the bleachers were filled. Just before 1:00 pm, the chartered bus arrived filled with the kids from Newport, Rhode Island. They were a colorful group! Most had brightly colored or unusually cut hair and almost all of them were wearing huge, baggy pants. They were crying and carrying arms full of flowers. Most had orange-colored ribbons either tied in their hair or dangling from pierced earrings in their ears. One boy, with a mohawk haircut and lots of tattoos, came up to Mal and me and proudly showed us his newest tattoo on his forearm. It was Adam’s nickname, “Skaerie.”

Next chapter: The memorial service begins.

Part 171

Part 171

We got a phone call from one of the parents of the kids from Newport, Rhode Island, asking if it would be okay for a bunch of the “Park Rats” to come up to the memorial service on Saturday. They planned to rent a bus so they could all ride up together. Of course, we told them that they’d be welcome.

Mal came up with an unusual idea to help the “Park Rats” say good-bye to Adam. Because of Adam’s love of words and poetry she thought of an interesting way for friends and family to express their final thoughts. We went to the Wilkerson-Beane Funeral Home and we bought a silver casket that had a surface that would allow people to use markers to write “messages” to Adam. Mal, being far more compassionate than I, knew this would help the kids deal with the loss of Adam. I, on the other hand, was partially blaming these “Park Rats” for Adam’s death. My resentment of these kids and my personal grief was making it nearly impossible for me to think clearly enough to write the eulogy that I wanted for the memorial service.

We still had some relatives staying with us at our home so there were a lot of conversations going on most of the day. I remember very little of the content of the conversations but I know that we welcomed the diversion. We were still trying to finish putting together the music portion of the memorial service when Mal’s sister Madeline suggested a beautiful closing song that was a favorite song of Mal’s. Mal worked with several other relatives, sorting through our family photo albums to create a display for the memorial service. Things were pretty hectic. It was during the quieter times that the magnitude of our loss was the most intense. As evening approached, without thinking, I got out a blank videotape to record one of Adam’s favorite TV shows for him (“Ed” starring Tom Cavanagh and Julie Bowen).

Friends continued to stop by bringing more food and offering their condolences. One woman, who had recently lost a child, shared a Bible verse with us. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”

We began receiving condolences through email and lots of cards. Two emails from women Adam had known. One said, “I really have no words to express how much Adam will be missed. He was an excellent friend and probably the most charming person I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. I know how much he hated sadness and everyone here in Newport is trying desperately to make him proud. This morning I saw the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen and we all know in our hearts that it was Adam’s way of saying he’s okay. I can see him now, having the time of his life up there. All of the people he loved keeping him company until we can see him again. If anything, this has renewed my faith in God. Adam was most definitely the epitome of all that is good and he loved to make people smile. He will be remembered forever by all of the people who were fortunate enough to have known him.”

Another wrote, “When I think of Adam I see his smiling face. I see him dancing around enjoying whatever music is playing at the time. Whenever I needed something done and I asked Adam to do it for me, he was always willing to help. My thoughts and memories of Adam are all good ones and happy ones. His smile is the first thing that comes to mind whenever I hear his name mentioned. He was a really good friend and I will miss him. We will all miss him. I’m glad I had the chance to know him and work with him.”

A manager at the restaurant wrote, “I personally wanted to tell you that I am deeply sorry. Adam is and will be always loved by everyone he has touched. He made the lonely feel like they belonged and he made the sad happy again. His wonderful personality, humor and regard for people’s feelings will be remembered forever. He made our days at “Friendly’s” easy to get through.”

Later, as I drove through Laconia, New Hampshire, I discovered that the large sign at “Friendly’s” that normally advertised food “specials” had been changed to read, “We love you Adam.” Our friends, Mike and Liz Verhoeks (owners of Laconia Pottery), used their store sign to say, “We love and will remember you Adam” and “Our love goes out to you, Paul, Mal, and Cassy.”

We got a phone call from Alletta (Adam’s friend from Newport) inviting us to attend a candlelight service that the Park Rats had organized. The kids wanted to do something special in memory of Adam and they didn’t want any trouble with the local police so they actually got permission from the city. The city insisted that the kids have at least a couple of responsible adults there during the service so they arranged to have the local high school principal there to keep things under control. Mal and I really wanted to be there but it would have meant that we’d have at least seven hours of round-trip driving and we knew we’d need to be as rested as possible for the memorial service the next morning. My brother David and his wife Stacy lived a short distance from the Newport park where the candlelight service was going to be held and he offered to go to represent our family. He also offered to videotape it for us.

David called me as soon as he got home after the candlelight service ended to share with us what had happened. He emotionally explained to me how much Adam was loved by these kids in Newport and how much of an impact he had on them. When our conversation was over, I felt differently about these kids. I no longer angry at them and I no longer resented them. They were mourning the loss of Adam too. I went to my computer and began working on the eulogy. There were only twelve hours before the memorial service the next morning.

There was an article in the Newport Daily News the next morning about the kid’s candlelight service. It said:

“Victim made big impression.”

“About 100 people held a vigil at Queen Anne Square to celebrate the life of Adam ‘Skaerie’ Howley, who spent the last two summers in Newport and died in an accident Tuesday in New Hampshire.

“Adam Howley lived in Newport for only a short time, but he left behind an army of friends. Howley, 21, died Tuesday in an auto accident in Laconia, New Hampshire. On Friday night, 100 or so of his local friends gathered in Queen Anne Square to remember Howley in a festival of warm feelings on a cold night. The crowd was made up mostly of teenagers from Aquidneck Island’s three public high schools.

“Some wore white T-shirts printed with Howley’s picture. Others were decked out in orange, his favorite color. The mourners gave speeches, sang songs, held candles, laughed loudly, hugged one another and shed tears.

“Howley lived in New Hampshire in recent years, but planned to attend the University of Rhode Island for the upcoming semester, He lived in Newport during the past two summers and made an impact on the kids who frequent Queen Anne Square—the skateboarders, punk rockers and hackey-sackers, the kids who often live on the fringe of the high school social whirl.

“During Friday night’s memorial service in the park, crowd member after crowd member shared an anecdote or positive wish. One boy told how the upbeat Howley helped him through a tough stretch after his mother died. A girl said she knew Howley only slightly, but that he befriended her when she ran away from home.

“Some talked about how he taught them to appreciate and respect each other’s differences. ‘He was the kind of guy who was there if you needed anything,’ said Chris Kennedy, a Rogers High School sophomore. ‘He was just a great man. Everyone really respected him.’

“Evan Sims of Newport started to sing, ‘It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday’ by Boyz 2 Men, but got choked up during the first try. He gave it another shot and faltered again. At that point, several other youngsters joined him on the lawn, wrapped their arms around one another and helped Sims finish the song.

“Victor Thomas of Newport and Tim Dyer of Middletown wore ‘Skaerie T-shirts’ and talked about their friend. Thomas said Howley lived with him for awhile. ‘He was a great guy, a talented guy,’ Thomas said. ‘He changed the lives of all the people here.’

“Dyer said Howley was an upbeat person, who befriended people and encouraged them. ‘He taught a lot of kids what life is all about,’ Dyer said.

“Rogers High School Principal Victoria Johnson attended the vigil. Howley never attended Rogers but he was friend to many students.

“‘We honor the people we love,’ Johnson said. ‘That’s what life is all about.’

“Barbara Pothier is godmother to Howley’s girlfriend, Alletta Cooper. Pothier said Howley was a talented poet, and told the group she wondered if he would have become a politician or an actor. ‘A great person,’ shouted a boy in the crowd, to great applause.

“As the tribute wore down, many sang, ‘I’ll Be Missing You,’ the tribute that Puff Daddy and Faith Evans recorded in honor of rapper Biggie Smalls. The mourners raised candles to the night sky and one boy yelled, ‘Hail to the king! Long live Skaerie!’”

Next chapter: The Memorial Service.


Pictures: Signs around Laconia

The candlelight memorial service in the park in Newport, RI

Part 170

Part 170

My old friend, Allan Traylor, came up to our home in New Hampshire to share our grief. He brought Paul and Barbara Weatherbee with him. Paul and Barbara were very important to us because they helped lay the groundwork for our strong Christian faith. I remember the three of them standing in our kitchen patiently listening to us talk about Adam. I think I read them some of the poetry Adam had written. They shared some memories of Adam with us too. It was very meaningful to Mal and I that Allan, Paul and Barbara came to be with us. But I mostly remember how difficult it was for me to talk about Adam without crying. If I couldn’t hold myself together in my own house with close friends who loved us, how on earth could I stand up in front of dozens of people at the upcoming memorial service?

My youngest brother, Rick, came up and he went to the accident site with my brother-in-law Greg to gather up the items that were scattered on the ground during the process of the rescue squad getting Adam out of the wrecked car. They also went to the junkyard where the car was taken (Greg knew I wouldn’t want to see the crushed car) and recovered all of Adam’s stuff. There were piles of clothes, lots of trash, hundreds of music CDs, and the briefcase I had given him when he was a young kid containing some beads and his autographed picture of Davy Jones of The Monkees. Most of it was still soaked with diesel fuel so not too much was salvageable. Greg brought it to his home and spread it out on tarps in his garage so we could go through it. We kept Adam’s CDs, a few items of clothing and his briefcase.

Greg and I spent many hours putting together music for the upcoming memorial service. We listened to old audio tapes of Adam singing at his elementary school and watched hours of home movies on video tape, trying to determine what would be the most meaningful songs and snippets of dialog to celebrate Adam’s life. The people who would come to the memorial service knew Adam at various points in his life so we thought we should share a broad range of songs that reflected his whole life. Seeing Adam on videotape made this an emotional time for us all, but we knew we had to finish this soon.

When the local newspaper was delivered, the front page featured the following story:

“Gilford man, 21, dies in crash”

“A Gilford man was killed on Tuesday when his car collided head-on with a dump truck on Route 106. Police say that the man was in the process of making a U-turn when the accident occurred.

“According to a press release issued by the Belmont Police Department, Adam Howley, 21, no address given, was transported to Lakes Region General Hospital by the Belmont Fire Department ambulance where he was pronounced dead from injuries suffered in the collision.

“The accident occurred at 11:19 a.m. while Howley was traveling north in his Honda Accord near the intersection of Lamprey and Farrarville Roads.

“Police say that Howley’s vehicle crossed the center lane of Route 106 just south of the intersection and struck the side of an unloaded dump truck driven by Christopher Fortin, 44, of Belmont. Fortin was traveling south when the accident occurred. He was uninjured in the crash, police said.

“Once on the scene, police found that Howley’s vehicle had spun to the side of the road in the northbound lane, while the dump truck had spun in the opposite direction, landing in an area just off the southbound portion of the roadway.

“Traffic on a portion of Route 106 was detoured while police and firefighters picked through large amounts of debris that were scattered all over the road.

“According to the police report, Howley’s vehicle was totally destroyed and the dump truck received substantial damage to the driver’s side.

“‘It appears that the car that was headed northbound was making a U-turn to change directions when it went in the path of the dump truck traveling in the opposite direction,’ Belmont Police Chief David Nielsen said at the accident scene. ‘The vehicles collided in the southbound lane causing the car to spin into the northbound shoulder of the road, and the truck to spin into an area off of the southbound lane,’ Nielsen said.

“According to the Belmont Police, Howley is from Gilford and was attending an out-of-state university. No further information on him was immediately available. Belmont Fire Department, the Gilmanton Police Department, the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department and the New Hampshire State Police all assisted Belmont Police Department at the scene.”

When I first read this, I was stunned by the headline referring to Adam as a “man.” I had not thought of him that way. To me he was my child, my kid. Then, after thinking about the story, I became more upset. I had talked with the Police Chief Nielsen and based on the truck driver’s statement, he knew that Adam was not trying to make an illegal U-turn. Adam had fallen asleep and his car slowly drifted across the lane. I called the newspaper reporter and asked him to correct this story. During our short conversation the reporter lamented that the police wouldn’t let him close enough to the accident scene to get a “good” photograph of the wrecked car. I ended my phone call before I lost my temper with him. This is what he wrote:

“Accident victim may have dozed off.”

“While police initially thought a U-turn was to blame for the motor vehicle accident which claimed the life of 21-year-old Adam Howley of Gilford, officials and the driver of the dump truck which was hit now believe that it is more likely that the victim fell asleep at the wheel or was distracted.

“There is no question from police or the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident that Howley’s Honda Accord crossed the center line before it struck the side of Christopher Fortin’s unloaded dump truck.

“The questions which remain are why Howley crossed into the southbound lane of Route 106 and why he failed to see the large truck traveling in the opposite direction.

“Fortin, who watched the accident unfold in front of his eyes, maintains that Howley wasn’t in the process of doing a U-turn when he swerved and struck the truck. He talked about what he saw through the windshield of his dump truck moments before it was hit. ‘I can’t say exactly what happened, but it seemed to me like he must have been asleep. I saw him come into my lane and I pulled into the breakdown lane. When something like that happens, the first thing you do is to give the person the entire road to get corrected and I moved over as much as possible,’ said Fortin.

“He added that Howley’s vehicle continued in its path with the driver unresponsive to the dangers which lay ahead.

‘“He was in my lane for a long period of time. I have been driving for a long time and I have never seen anything like it. I don’t think he knew my truck was even there. Looking at this right in front of me was very unusual and scary,’ remarked Fortin.

“While Fortin’s testimony points toward Howley having fallen asleep at the wheel, local authorities say they can’t be sure why the car traveled into the southbound lane. Detective Steve Crockett of the Belmont Police Department was on the scene following the accident.

‘We aren’t sure what caused him to cross the center line. We investigated the matter and concluded that there were no mechanical problems in either of the vehicles that would have caused them to enter into each other’s lanes. He could have dozed off or he could have been distracted. We just don’t know for sure,’ said Crockett.”

After this poorly written article, the same reporter sloppily (and with some misquotes and factual errors) wrote another article about Adam:

“Young man killed in crash remembered as ‘gifted’, artistic.”

“The parents of a 21-year-old local man, who was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Belmont on Tuesday, say their son was an aspiring actor who was preparing to leave for college in the spring.

“‘Adam was enrolled to start college in the spring semester at University of Rhode Island. He was going to leave on Friday for school,’ said Paul Howley, Adam’s father.

“Adam Howley, 12 Williamsburg Ave., Gilford, died at Lakes Region General Hospital from injuries received when his car crossed the center line on Route 106 and collided with a dump truck.

“On Wednesday, his father talked about the loss of his son saying that when the accident occurred, Adam was returning from an appointment at the University of Rhode Island.

“‘When you hear about something like that you are just in shock. He had called me in the morning from the school at 8 a.m. and he said he would see me in a little while,’ lamented the father.

“While a definite answer as to what caused the accident that claimed Adam’s life has not been made, his parents say they have only begun to deal with the sudden loss of their son.

“‘We are making arrangements today to take care of everything, but it is really tough to be taking out old pictures and looking back at his life,’ said Paul.

“Paul and his wife Marilyn are originally from Massachusetts, where Adam graduated from Lexington Christian Academy.

“‘When he got out of high school, Adam went to school for one year at The Boston Conservatory of Music majoring in theater,’ Paul explained. ‘He has always been in plays ever since he was five years old and he knew what he wanted to be. He loved to sing and dance, and it comforts us to know that now he is dancing in Heaven.’

He also said Adam was an extremely gifted individual.

“‘He was a really brilliant kid. He won the Headmaster’s Scholarship for Academics when he was in high school and also won a Massachusetts Drama award. He was a fun-loving and truly caring person. Adam was always happy and we will really miss him,’ Paul said.

“He said Adam had been working at Friendly’s Restaurant on Union Avenue in Laconia since July. Personnel who worked with him at the establishment said that Adam will be missed very much.

“‘Sunday was his last day because he was returning to college. He was a prep cook here and a waiter. Around here, he was one of the gang and everyone loved him,’ said Mike Kearney, general manager at Friendly’s.

“‘He had a really great personality and was truly funny. Last Sunday he dyed his hair red because of a play he was doing. He was a very young man and this is very sad,’ Kearney said, adding that approximately 300-400 people are expected at Adam’s memorial service.”

Next chapter: preparations for the memorial service.

Picture: The accident scene

Part 160 - 169

Part One Hundred & Sixty

I was sitting in the Belknap Mall in New Hampshire in the booth space I had rented in the center of the mall which was set up as a display of rare and valuable collectible toys, trading cards, comic books and model kits. My advertisements had been running for a few days in a few local newspapers and I was anticipating people coming in to sell me some interesting items. A few hours passed and no one came in with anything for me to make an offer on or to appraise. Mal, my wife, came by around noon to bring me a lunch and to see how things were going. I was disappointed that I hadn’t bought anything yet. Perhaps the local newspaper ads were just too small to be noticed.

When I closed up the booth at 9 pm, I hadn’t bought anything. The day had been wasted. Frustrated, I called the two major local newspapers the next morning to try to encourage them to write an actual article about my appearance at the mall and was told by both of them that they’d try to send a reporter out to interview me at the mall location. I suggested that they may want to send a photographer too because the selection of rare collectibles would make an interesting photograph for the upcoming article.

I returned to the mall and set up the booth display again. (I couldn’t leave such a valuable collection overnight in the open space of the mall) During the morning I bought some not very valuable record albums and some vintage Hot Wheels cars still sealed in the original packages. I paid $75.00 for the six Hot Wheels cars assuming I could sell them for about $125.00 for the lot. Since I didn’t have any samples of these cars in my booth display, I added them into a prominent location. Later in the day, these Hot Wheels cars caught the eye of two guys, Jim Blackie and Dan Schroeder. Both of them hung around and chatted with me about collectibles for a couple of hours. I would have been very bored if they hadn’t come by. (Both of these guys are still friends of mine many years later!) By the end of the day I had given appraisals and purchased everything that had been brought in to me including a few comic books from the 1970s, the Hot Wheels cars, some Matchbox vehicles, some record albums, and a very nice lot of original 1960s G. I. Joe dolls in their original boxes. I was disappointed that the local newspaper’s reporters never came by to interview me but at least my advertisements were noticed by some people. Some of the money I had invested in this mall rental would be recouped once I sold the collectibles I had just bought.

The next day I was surprised when my son, Adam, and his then-girlfriend, Alletta (who was staying at our house for a couple of days), stopped by for visit. Adam was dressed up as a punk rocker. I was so happy that he was expressing an interest in what I was doing and took the time to come to see me that his outlandish “costume” didn’t bother me. Adam was constantly changing his appearance by dyeing his hair bright colors and he’d go from wacky clothes to conservative clothes depending on his mood. They stayed and visited for quite a while and it was very enjoyable.
The next morning, before I went to the mall, I called the editors of the local newspapers to remind them that I was still hoping they’d do a short story about me and they assured me they’d send a reporter that day.

Shortly after I got to the mall, a man and his wife came by to tell me about some vintage items they’d be interested in selling to me. They hadn’t seen my advertisements but had been referred by Karen Fogg, a fellow school board member and a friend of mine. This couple had a few things that interested me but I was not sure of their accurate current value was so I suggested that they allow me to try to sell a few of the items for a small commission. They agreed to this and I told them I’d contact them sometime in the coming weeks to make arrangements.

Later that day, both newspapers sent their reporters out to interview me. The reporters also took several photographs of me with my collectible display. Neither of them could guarantee when these stories would appear in their newspapers but I urged them to hurry before my week was done! It wouldn’t help me if the stories ran when my mall rental was over! Two days later, the stories still had not appeared in the newspapers.
Next chapter: With only two days left of my time in the mall, the two newspaper stories appear.

Picture: Adam and Alletta

Part One Hundred & Sixty One

After several phone calls to the local newspapers in Laconia, New Hampshire, they finally sent reporters out to interview me about my interest in buying collectibles while I had my display of rare toys set up in the Belknap Mall. Both reporters asked the “right” questions and it encouraged me that it could be quite good for me if they really published articles about me in their newspapers. I had some success buying items already because of the many advertisements I had purchased but no advertisement is as effective as an article with photographs. Days passed and no articles appeared. Now my rental time in the mall was almost done.

Then, with only one day left, I checked both local newspapers when I arrived home from the mall that night. To my surprise, there were huge articles, with photographs, in both of the newspapers! The Laconia Citizen wrote:

“The Art of Buying and Selling Collectibles”
“Stanley and Dodie Pike of Belmont walked away with $141 in their pocket from Paul Howley’s kiosk-like display at The Belknap Mall for the sale of old photographs and magazines they found 15 years ago in someone’s trash.

“Howley, 45, of Gilford, has been a collector, mostly of comic books and toys, since he was a teen-ager. During the years, he has turned his fascination into a profitable career, and now, with his wife Mal, co-owns two collectibles stores named That’s Entertainment in Massachusetts, the largest in the country.

“‘I started off in the low end of the high-tech field, and when I decided to make this career change 21 years ago, my boss at the time thought I was nuts. Now, he’s probably working the same job, and I’m volunteering my time in my daughter’s school, serving on the school board, and doing what I love,’ he said.

“‘I explain to my kids (Adam, 21, and Cassy 16) I never have a bad day because I love what I do,’ Howley said laughing, ‘and I get paid for it.’

“Howley retired from the day-to-day operation of That’s Entertainment six years ago, having moved to Gilford two years ago. He explained that he has 12 full-time trustworthy employees who proficiently run the stores, allowing him time to dabble in the retail market as he chooses. Howley has been offering free appraisals at The Belknap Mall kiosk since Monday and will continue the service until Sunday. It is the first time he has offered this type of service locally, and he explained the items he has on display were shipped from his stores in Massachusetts where they will be returned upon the kiosk’s close.

“Those who bring items such as old books and magazines, model kits, G.I.Joe and Barbie dolls, old CDs and videos may have free appraisals on their treasures and opt to sell them to Howley.

“‘I have $250,000 to spend on these types of items this week, and I’d like to spend it all,’ Howley said. His business has been successful, Howley said, because of his honesty with people and making savvy financial decisions. ‘I choose to make a little money on items people buy rather than gouge them,’ Howley explained. ‘I would rather have them come back to see me several times instead of just once.’

“To prove this point, Howley told of one person who has been a customer for all of the 21 years he has been in business. ‘And now I’m starting to sell items to their kids, it’s kind of a scary thought,’ he laughed.

“As far as the financial decisions, Howley spoke of the purchase of the 20,000 square-foot building in Worcester that houses one of his stores. ‘It was during the 1980s, the building was on the market for $750,000. You can’t pay three quarters of a million dollars and sell funny books; it just doesn’t work that way. But my timing was perfect—about a month later, the real estate crash came into play, and I made the purchase for $200,000.’

“Howley believes his business has also thrived because he provides a service to people. ‘When I tell them their G.I.Joe doll, for instance, this one I bought while I’ve been here,’ he said, picking up the boxed doll, ‘is worth $225, I’m being honest. I offered them $150 because I know it’s an item I can sell tomorrow,’ he said. ‘To get the $225, they could post it on Ebay and sell it for that amount. The difference is, all that takes time. With me, they walk away with $150 ten minutes later and they don’t have to bother. It’s a done deal.’

“Howley said he really cannot say why people become collectors. “You’re either a collector or you’re not.’ But with him it started in 1959 with comic books and accelerated with toy items from the popular TV series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ‘I co-wrote a book called, The Toys From UNCLE. It was self-published and originally sold for $9.95,’ he said. Recently Howley has seen that same book posted for sale on the Internet for $35. ‘It’s become somewhat of a collectible itself,’ he said.

“Howley is especially proud of winning the prestigious ‘Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Award’ in 1997 which named That’s Entertainment the best comic book and collectible store in the world.

“‘It’s like winning an Academy Award, it carries that much significance in this business,’ he explained.

“Aside from the passion he has for the collectibles, Howley also enjoys the people-element of his operation. ‘I have a common interest with most everyone I deal with,’ he said. During the days he’s been at the Belknap Mall, Howley said he has had one gentleman visit the kiosk three times, not to do business, but to talk. ‘It’s been wonderful—I now have a new friend.’

“Howley’s plans for the future are to simply continue doing what he’s doing.

“‘It’s my passion, I love it. It just couldn’t be any better than it is. It’s been fun to spend the week here at the Belknap Mall. I’m sure when the week is over, I’ll have a lot of dusty old stuff. It’s great!’”

Next chapter: The other newspaper’s article.

Part One Hundred & Sixty Two

The night before my last buying day in the Belknap Mall, the two major local newspapers ran articles with photographs. This is the article from The Laconia Daily Sun:

“Old Toys May Bring New Treasures.” By Lin Hourihan

“Who would have ever thought that taking such good care of his toys and comic books for over 40 years could have afforded him to spend $250,000 this week on those treasured collectibles?

“That’s just what Paul Howley, local collector and dealer, is doing at The Belknap Mall this week. He’s on a mission to hunt down comic books, old toys and games, old books and magazines, model kits, G. I. Joe dolls, Barbie dolls, and many other interesting items. He’ll tell you what your collection is worth and possibly might buy it from you.

“This is one hot collectibles dealer, owner of That’s Entertainment, New England’s largest collectible store located in Worcester, Massachusetts. However, Howley, who now resides in Gilford, has brought his business to the Internet through the wonderful world of Ebay and now sells internationally.
“Among his prestigious lists of accomplishments in his toy story is his winning the 1997 “Will Eisner Spirit Of Comics Award,” a beautiful cut-glass award and an international recognition for comic retailing. In 1996 Howley came in second to a company in Australia.

“‘It was great for us, and we had to prepare all of the documentation for it all,’ said Howley. ‘We’ve also been written up in INC.Magazine, a national business magazine, and I co-wrote the book, “The Toys From Uncle,” which is a take off from The Man From Uncle. That was my favorite TV show. I wrote the book in 1990 and was selling it for $9.95. But now it sells anywhere from $35 to $55 on Ebay,’ said Howley.

“Toy trends vary with the times, depending on the generation reminiscing of their yesteryears. The generation now recapturing those long-lost memories seem to be those people from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

“‘People generally buy in their childhood span. But things can change quickly. Two years ago Star Wars was the hottest thing in the business, now it’s slow,’ said Howley.
“‘Collecting toys is not as volatile as the stock market, but you do have to be careful on investments. We have a gigantic customer base that is based on the market right now, not on the future or the past,’ explained Howley.

“‘We’ve never had any cash problems. Now we’re a very successful company. Our website is but we do most of our Internet sales with Ebay. That started five or six years ago. Three years ago that was the single most visited Internet site in the world. Now 16 million people use it everyday,’ said Howley

“This week Howley can be found in the center of the Belknap Mall, somewhere between his huge display of toys and collectibles others are bringing in for him to appraise. ‘I’m looking to spend $250,000 this week,’ he said.

“‘I don’t suggest investing in new toys. You can’t get anything more dead than Beanie Babies,’ added Howley.
“In addition to giving free appraisals and giving away free comic books this week, Howley said he is also looking for sports cards dated prior to 1975 and video tapes and music CDs.

“‘As a kid, I was very meticulous, and my room was very organized. My comic books were in order, in alphabetical order on the shelf. I still have many of the original toys I had as a kid. I played with the other kids in the neighborhood with my toys but no one ever touched my comic books,’ chuckled Howley.

“Included in his interesting collection of toys on display is the second Barbie doll ever made, now a $1000 value. If the doll was loose, it’d be worth $300, but the original box is key.

“‘I have the Man From Uncle attaché case. It was then sold to cash in on the James Bond era. It sold with this cardboard sleeve that most people threw away. In 1965 it was worth $9, now it is a $2000 item,’ said Howley.

“There are paint by number sets, dated from 1967 now selling for $250 and a model kit of The Munsters that sold for $1.98 in 1965 that is going for $2500 now. Remember the Batman card game from 1966 or the Kiss Colorforms from 1979? Well, they are going for $75 and $50 respectively.

“‘I was the first kid in my school to have a G. I. Joe. A G. I. Joe then in 1965 was $3. Now it is worth $75 and because I have it in the original box it is worth $150,’ Howley said.

“Howley’s store is in its 21st year of operation, now employing 12 full-time people who get a very good benefit package and profit sharing.

“‘Our employees are there because it is a career for them. Most of our employees have been there for ten years or more,’ said Howley

“‘I retired from the active day-to-day operation almost six years ago. I knew when I was twelve years old that I did not want to work past 40 years old. I have achieved everything I have ever wanted,’ said Howley.”

Next chapter: The results of these two newspaper articles.

Part One Hundred & Sixty Three

The two major local newspapers finally ran articles and photographs about my eagerness to buy collectibles while I was set up for a week in the Belknap Mall in New Hampshire. With only one full day left of my rental time, I was curious to see what kind of results these two articles would have as far as motivating area residents to bring their items to sell to me. The previous six days had been profitable because of a few nice lots of items I was able to buy but most of each twelve-hour day I spent alone in my booth and it was boring.

I decided to get to the mall even earlier than I had been getting there because it took me about an hour to set up the toy display each morning. I assumed that we’d have a few more people than usual showing up with stuff for me to look at and I was happy that my wife, Mal, insisted on coming with me that morning. By the time we arrived at the mall there were already about twenty people carrying boxes and pushing shopping carts full of collectibles waiting for me!
Mal and I quickly arranged our display of collectibles in our booth and I began to look through the items that the people had brought into the mall. The first few had toy trucks and Matchbox cars. The next had some old magazines. I made offers on all of these items and the people were satisfied enough and they sold them to me. The next man had a very large plastic storage container filled with comic books from the 1960’s. I asked him if he had an idea of how much he wanted for the whole lot and he said he’d like at least $50 for the lot. I started to search through the container and found several interesting comic books that I knew I could sell for $5 to $10 each. Then I found a copy of “Amazing Fantasy” issue # 15 featuring the very first appearance of Spider-Man. It was only in “good” condition because of some creases on the front cover, but I knew I could sell this for about $750. When I offered the man $600 for just this one comic book he was shocked but he was very happy. It took me about twenty minutes to calculate my offer on the whole lot of four hundred comic books but when I offered the man $1200 for the collection he was thrilled!

As I was appraising and buying stuff from the people in line, I could see that the line continued getting longer as more people carried boxes and bags of old things into the mall. I wanted to hurry through some of the appraisals but I didn’t want to be rude to anyone, so I did my best to explain the true value of each and every item. One man, who was about 15 places back in the line, yelled up to me. As I looked at him he slid a group of 1940’s comic books out of a large envelope. I told him I’d get to him as soon as I possibly could but he said he couldn’t wait any longer. He’d already waited for almost an hour. I explained that I wouldn’t be set up in the mall after today and I gave him my business card and asked him to call me the next day. He assured me that he’d call. He never did. It still annoys me that there is a large collection of rare golden-age comic books sitting somewhere in the area. I should have gotten his phone number!
The crowd was finally gone by about 4 pm and I had large piles of merchandise piled up inside my booth. I also had a few good “leads” on potential additional collections that people didn’t want to bring into the mall. One of these consisted of almost 25,000 comic books from the late 1970’s-2000. I finally completed a deal on these a few months after my mall experience. These were not particularly valuable but I did eventually sell them all.
Overall, this buying experience was exhausting but it was a profitable venture and I have a few new friends because of it.

Next chapter: We travel to New York City to feed the homeless.

Part One Hundred & Sixty Four

In November of 2000, our daughter Cassy signed up through our church to go on a trip to New York City to help distribute food and clothing to the homeless. Mal and I decided to sign up too. Adam couldn’t go because he couldn’t afford to take time off from his job.

The church Evangelism leaders, Ron and Christine St. Cyr, had made many trips to New York City over the years to help the homeless through an organization in the heart of Manhattan. They also organized overseas trips to help build churches, hospitals and orphanages.

Ron and Chris really knew how to organize these trips down to the smallest detail. They required anyone interested in going to attend several instructional classes where we were briefed on the potential dangers of this kind of outreach program. New York City was not like Laconia, New Hampshire. We practiced several potential scenarios so we could reduce possible troubles. Ron firmly explained that if at any time, he sensed a dangerous situation; we were to immediately follow his orders without hesitation.

In early December, we packed several vehicles with the winter coats, shirts, socks, gloves and mittens that we collected to give to some of the people who were homeless in New York City. We drove to a building that had large rooms upstairs for us to sleep in and a soup-kitchen-function room on one of the lower floors. The men in our group occupied one floor and the women were on another. My bunk was near one of the men from my church in New Hampshire who snored so loudly that I was actually awake almost the entire first night.

Over the next couple of days many of us prepared hundreds of sandwiches and packed up bags of toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other personal hygiene products to give to as many of the homeless people as we could find. As we met the people, we explained that there were people who cared about them and we encouraged them to seek out the help of some of the local food pantries and shelters in the area. Most of the people we found were really “in need” but we were surprised when we discovered one man living in a large box with a working television and a microwave oven. He had found a way to hook up to someone’s electrical service! Still an unpleasant way to live, but he had a good sense of humor about his awful situation. Facing a very cold winter outside, he gratefully accepted our offer of food and warm clothing.

Mal and I went with a group of other volunteers to serve hot meals at another local food pantry where it was suggested that we should try to make direct physical contact with the people by hugging them or holding their hand. Many of them would go without any physical contact for weeks or months. They needed food, but they also needed to know that others cared about them. We were saddened to see the dozens of hungry people in line waiting for a simple meal. The people we served seemed so thankful for what we were doing but we were really getting even more out of this experience.

Our daughter, Cassy, went with another group to help coordinate a “Sunday School” for several thousand inner-city children. The church would send busses around the city and parents would just put their kids on the bus so they could be brought to this church. Kids as young as three-years old were sent, alone, to the church program.

On Sunday, we all went to an enormous church service held at The Times Square Church, pastored by David Wilkerson. Then, after Ron St. Cyr reluctantly led us on a fast-moving thirty-minute sightseeing tour of the Rockefeller Center area, we headed back home to New Hampshire. Our son, Adam called our cell phone to see if we were on our way home and Mal told him we’d be back home within a few hours. But we hit an area of tremendous rain that made our driving very treacherous so we ended up several hours behind schedule. Adam called us again, worried that we may have slid off the road. He knew that Ron and Chris usually had everything on a tight schedule so it was very unusual for a trip to be this late. When we finally made it home, we were exhausted but still excited about what we had done and learned on this trip. We looked forward to going again next year as a family with Adam.

Next chapter: Christmas
Part One Hundred & Sixty Five

In October of 2000, while working on compiling all of his poetry that he’d written, Adam’s old computer “crashed.” He lost everything he had done but, since he had all of his poetry written in several small notebooks, he could start over if he had a new computer. So, for his birthday, we bought him a new state-of-the-art, very expensive computer. We didn’t ordinarily spend large amounts on birthday gifts for our kids but we knew this computer would be something Adam would use for many years. After it arrived, Adam worked on retyping all of his poetry when he had extra time. He asked me several times if I wanted to see it, but I put him off, agreeing to read it once he had it all done. In truth, I do not like most poetry so I wasn’t that interested.

As Christmas of 2000 approached, since we had just recently got him the computer, we had no idea what to buy Adam as a gift. We briefly considered buying Adam a new inexpensive car so that he’d have something very reliable for his frequent trips to visit his friends in Rhode Island. After checking out the Kia line of cars we thought the small Kia SUV might be a good idea. But after thinking about it for a while, we realized that Adam wouldn’t really take good care of a new car. Adam had bought my Honda Accord from me and within six months the car was no longer in excellent condition. He just wasn’t good at taking care of things. We’d have to come up with a better idea for a Christmas gift.

Both of our kids usually gave us a Christmas “Wish List” with some serious items, some goofy items, and a few jokes. Adam usually requested “Monkey-bacon.” One of the “joke” requests that Adam put on his list was “pay off my student loans.” Sorry kid, I don’t think so.

Mal loved Christmas. She enjoyed shopping for gifts for people, she loved Christmas music, but most of all, she loved decorating our home for Christmas. This particular Christmas season was busier than normal because we had scheduled a Laconia Christian School staff Christmas party at our home and Mal had a Christmas party for her women’s Bible study group there too. Mal set up and decorated four different Christmas trees that year but the fifth tree, in the family room, would be the one that we’d decorate with the kids. Mal had already put the lights on the tree and put the star on the top but, with the hectic schedules of our kids, there just wasn’t time to all be together to put on the rest of the decorations until a few days before Christmas.

Shortly before Christmas, Adam told us that he had decided that he wanted to go back to college. He knew he didn’t want to go back to The Boston Conservatory so he was looking into transferring to the University of Rhode Island to pursue a degree in Theatre. We wanted him to go back to college so we encouraged him to get as much information as he could before he made a decision about where he should go.

One day, after I came home to find Adam’s dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, I asked Adam to sit down and talk with me. I started by telling him that I loved him and that I was probably the only parent around who didn’t want his son to leave for college. I didn’t think he was mature enough or responsible enough to spend more time around his young friends in Newport, Rhode Island. I believed that they were a very bad influence on him and I questioned his motive for choosing a college in Rhode Island. Adam told me that the University of Rhode Island had a very good Theatre Department. He also explained that he felt it was important to be near his friends. He insisted that he knew what he was doing.

He had a lot of details to work out if he was going to be able to enroll for the January semester. He’d need to work out another student loan, get his transcripts from The Boston Conservatory, enroll in the required courses, and most importantly, he needed to secure housing. This would be the most difficult because transfer students get “last priority” for on-campus housing. Mal and I certainly didn’t want Adam to end up staying with his friends, “the Park Rats,” anymore. If he was to go back to finish his college education, we didn’t think it would be a good idea for him to be too distracted by his friends.

As Christmas approached, Adam began to work on the details for the college transfer and gave his notice at “Friendly’s,” the restaurant where he had been working. He planned to work there as close to the beginning of the January semester as possible because he really needed the extra money. Mal and I saw that Adam was concerned about having enough money to pay for his current student loans while he attended the University of Rhode Island. So, for his “big” Christmas gift, we decided to pay off his largest student loan. He was certainly shocked and happy when he opened that gift on Christmas morning! Later, when he found out that we had briefly considered buying him a new car (but decided not to because we knew he wouldn’t take good care of it) he said, “Yeah, but I bet you’ll buy Cassy a new car.” No Adam, I had no intention of buying your sixteen-year-old sister a new car.

Shortly after the start of the New Year, Adam still had no commitment of a room at the University of Rhode Island. On Thursday, he decided he’d call to insist that the college make room for him in a dormitory. He called them in the early afternoon and he was told by the voice mail message, “Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.” Adam sat on the couch with the phone held to his ear, waiting for his call to be answered by a human being. After several hours of being on hold, a new message came on saying, “The office is now closed. Please call back during regular business hours.” Adam wasn’t pleased. Since there was just about one week left before the January semester was to begin, Adam decided that he would drive to Rhode Island and take care of things personally. He told us that he would go to the college on Monday morning and stand in the office until they promised him a room.

Believing that most college administration-types would give more consideration to a nice, clean-cut looking guy, at our urging, Adam reluctantly agreed to return his hair to his normal brown color from the bright red color it was at the time.

On Friday, Adam packed up some clothes for his weekend trip to Newport, Rhode Island, but he first had to work a full day at Friendly’s. He planned to leave for Newport right after he got out of work that day. Mal and I came up with a short list of things that Adam needed to do while he was in Rhode Island over that weekend. He needed to find a local doctor to give him the school required physical, get information about available student loans, he needed to dye his hair, and he needed to get a promise of on-campus housing. I wrote these things on a piece of paper and brought it to him at his workplace. He promised to take care of these things as he folded the paper and put it in his pocket. He needed to be back in Laconia, New Hampshire by noon on Tuesday because he had an appointment to get his annual, State of New Hampshire required, car inspection and he assured me he’d be on-time.

Next chapter: Adam calls me on Tuesday morning.

Part One Hundred & Sixty Six

Winter in the “Lakes Region” of New Hampshire is always harsh. For five months there is lots of snow and cold. The winter of 2000-2001 was even worse than normal. The snow started in November and piled up so fast that we had to hire a company to come and truck it away because there was no more room along our driveway. But, on Tuesday, January 9th, 2001, it was a clear and snow-free day. Adam called me at 7:45 am to tell me, “I’m up and ready to get in my car so I’ll be home in time for my car inspection.” I didn’t ask him how his trip to Newport, Rhode Island went. He had a list of important things he needed to get done so he’d be able to start taking classes at the University of Rhode Island in mid-January but I didn’t ask him about these. I’d ask him when he got home.

Mal spent most of the morning preparing for a party she was hosting that night. It was her turn to have the group of women over for the monthly “Pokeno” game so she was baking up a bunch of pastries and cakes.

As it neared 11:45 a.m.we were surprised that Adam hadn’t gotten home yet. If he left when he had said he was going to leave he should have already gotten home in time for his scheduled car inspection. I called Belknap Tire and asked if I could take Adam’s allotted inspection time since it appeared as if he was going to be late. I drove to Belknap Tire and visited with my friend, Jim Foote, while my car was being inspected.

While Jim and I were talking, he got a phone call from our friend Liz who asked to speak to me. Liz told me that Mal was on her way there and I needed to be ready to go with her right away. Mal arrived a few minutes later and as I got into the car she told me that shortly after I had left the house, a state police officer had knocked on our door to tell us that Adam had been involved in a serious car accident. The policeman offered to drive Mal directly to the local hospital where Adam was being brought by ambulance but Mal knew it would be better for her to drive our car so she could pick me up to go with her to the hospital. That way, we’d have our car there so we wouldn’t have to call someone to come pick us up later on.

The policeman was unable to give Mal any details about the accident so we had no idea of the nature of Adam’s injuries. Even though we were only a few minutes away from the Lakes Region General Hospital, it seemed to take a long time to get there. We tried to prepare ourselves for the worst. We both hoped Adam’s legs were not hurt. We knew how much he loved to dance. A cassette tape in the car played “Help Me God,” by Kathy Trocolli.

Next Chapter: The hospital

Part One Hundred & Sixty Seven

“In the blink of an eye” our lives changed.

Mal and I were on our way to The Lakes Region Hospital after the New Hampshire State Police officer came to our house and told Mal that Adam had been in a serious car accident. We had no idea how serious Adam’s injuries were so the short ride to the hospital seemed to take far too long. We pulled up to the Emergency Room entrance, jumped out of the car, and ran into the entrance.

“Hi…We were told that my son Adam Howley was brought in here by ambulance. Could you tell me where he is?”

“Let me check. Oh…I’ll be right back”, the receptionist said.

A few minutes later, the receptionist returned and asked, “Could you describe Adam for me? Does he have any tattoos or piercings?”

“No. He doesn’t have any tattoos…but he does have his ears pierced. Oh…he has one eyebrow pierced. Why are you asking this?”

“I’ll be right back,” she said (without answering my question)

When she returned she asked, “Are you sure he doesn’t have any other piercings?”

“I’m pretty sure, but I’m not positive. Please…we want to see our son.”

“Well, the doctors are working on him right now. I’ll go talk to the doctors.”

“Please…we want to see him now. How serious are his injuries?!”

“I’ll be right back,” she replied.

“If he’s still alive I want to see him right now,” I insisted.

She ignored me and walked away, apparently to talk to the doctors who were with Adam. A few minutes later she came back with a doctor who said, “I’m sorry, but Adam had severe chest trauma and there was nothing we could do.”

Mal’s legs buckled but I held her up. “Please…I want to see him,” I implored.

“Give us a few minutes to clean him up,” the doctor replied.

Mal and I stood in the hospital corridor, she in stunned disbelief, while I was trying to hold myself together, thinking that Mal would need me to “be strong.” While we were waiting, the hospital Chaplain approached us to offer his condolences. “Helluva way to go,” he said. “Was he an organ donor?”

“No…I don’t think he was. This isn’t a good time right now,” I suggested while Mal cried.

“Oh. Sure. If you change your mind let me know, okay?” he said.

I ignored him. I called my sister Sharon and told her, “Sharon, Adam was killed in a car accident.”

“Oh Paul, that’s a terrible thing to say…don’t even joke about that!” She said.

“I’m not kidding. We’re at the hospital right now.”

Sharon burst into tears.

About ten minutes later Sharon’s daughter Emily rushed into the hospital. She sat next to Mal, holding her, while Mal rocked back and forth saying, “Oh, Adam, oh Adam, my baby, my baby.”

It wasn’t long before several other friends came to comfort us including our pastor Jim Morel and his wife Pam, our neighbor Lisa DiMartino, Jim and Barbara Foote, Adam’s cousin Jesse DeMund, and Emily and Liz Verhoeks. I called the main office of Laconia Christian School and told Judy Downing about the accident. “Judy, could you please get Brenda Carney (the Drama teacher) to get Cassy out of her class and use our van to bring her and her cousin Jacob to the hospital. I don’t want Cassy to know what happened because she might be too upset to drive herself here,” I explained. Judy took care of it right away and I soon met Cassy at the entrance to the Emergency Room. We embraced and she cried before I brought her in to see Mal. The news of Adam’s death spread quickly, so it wasn’t long before several of the students from Laconia Christian School came to be with Cassy. As the crowd grew, the hospital Chaplain suggested that we all move to a different area of the hospital so he brought us to a more private room away from the reception area.

Someone from the hospital asked Mal and I if we’d want to see Adam. I was reluctant but I knew I had to. We held each other and went with Cassy into the room. Adam was lying on a table and he still had the tube down his throat the paramedics had put in to try to revive him. Even though the hospital staff had “cleaned him up,” he smelled like diesel fuel (spilled into his car from the dump-truck he collided with) and he had dozens of small, bloodied cuts on his once-handsome face. His forehead and left eye was bandaged, covering some of his most serious injuries. We touched his face and I was surprised at how cold his skin was. ( For the next several months I could still remember how this felt to me.) I ran my fingers through his bright-red dyed hair and I was shocked at how coarse it felt. I hadn’t really touched his head for several years and the frequent color changes must have damaged his previously soft hair. We stood there, mostly in silence, until my sister Sharon and her husband Greg asked if they could come to see Adam. We cried as they said goodbye to him.

At one point, when I left the room where Adam was in, the Chaplain approached me and asked, “Have you reconsidered donating his organs?”

“No, I’m not donating his organs. Don’t ask us again. You’re upsetting my wife.”

My memory is blurred around this time so I can’t be sure of the “order” of things, but at some point I went back to the hospital nurses station and asked if I could use the telephone again. I called my Dad and Mom in Florida. “Dad, Adam died today in a car accident.” My father replied with an unusual, sad sound, and he assured me that they’d fly up to be with us as soon as they could. Then I called Adam’s closest friend Meridith. When I told her what had happened she told me that she was sound asleep when I called and was having a dream that Adam had come to her and he explained that everything would be alright. I told her that I’d call her back later.

I called Adam’s current girlfriend, Aleeta, but looking back, I wish I had given the news to her mother so that she could break the news to Aleeta. I just blurted out, “Adam was in a car accident and he was killed.” She cried. “I’ll call you later to talk about it,” I promised.

I called Mal’s sister Madeline but she didn’t believe me. I insisted that it was true but I had to eventually put Cassy on the phone before Madeline really believed me. I think Madeline called the other family members to give them the awful news. I can’t remember who else I called while I was at the hospital, but I know the word got around quickly.

The hospital Chaplain came by and said, “Hey, we need that room now for other people. Are you almost done?”

Next Chapter: The details

Part One Hundred & Sixty Eight

“The Details.”

The annoying hospital chaplain was trying to usher us out of the hospital. How could we just leave Adam’s body in this hospital? We knew we had to, but it seemed so strange. Eventually we left. I don’t remember much from the rest of this day but here’s what I do remember. Once I got to my home, I called several of Adam’s friends to let them know about Adam’s death. At some point I spoke to the New Hampshire police and they told me what the truck driver who collided with Adam’s car had told them. He said, “The guy was slouched over in his car, as if he had fallen asleep, and he just drifted over into my lane. I blasted my horn but he didn’t respond and as I swerved to avoid him, he crashed into the side of my truck.”

Adam was killed instantly. I was relieved to learn that my son didn’t suffer.

The police asked me if the Honda Accord that Adam was driving had any mechanical problems that could have caused the accident but I explained that the car was in excellent condition. After the police fully investigated the accident they had the wreck towed to a local junkyard.

At some point, Mal’s sister Ginny and her husband Denis were told about the accident and without hesitation, they made arrangements with their employers, packed up their car, and began to drive the 1400 miles to be with Mal and I. Mal’s sisters Carol and Madeline made travel arrangements right away to fly from Georgia and Colorado to New Hampshire. My sister Sharon and her husband Greg arranged to pick up the relatives who were flying in to the Manchester, New Hampshire airport, even the ones who were arriving very late that first night.

People from our church brought food for us that afternoon. Lots of food, but we didn’t feel much like eating. When we were eventually left alone at our home we were in a daze. Mal and I went into Adam’s bedroom and for some reason we felt the urge to clean it. We packed two large trash bags full of trash and tried to straighten up his room by putting his clothes and shoes into the drawers and closet. We found the empty two-pound bag of pistachio nuts that we had given him for Christmas and a huge bowl of pistachio nut shells on the floor. We found several small notebooks full of Adam’s hand-written poetry. I suddenly realized that I had never read any of his poetry before. Now I’d never have the opportunity to share this with him. I shut off his computer and closed his bedroom door.

Our daughter, Cassy, had gone to a Bible study at a friend’s home and when she came home she went right to sleep. Mal’s sisters Madeline and Carol arrived very late that night. I couldn’t remember anything else that happened that night but recently Carol recalled:

“ I spoke with Madeline the other day and she confirmed that we arrived the night of Adam's death. I remember that her flight was coming in around the same time as mine and that Greg picked us up. I remember that when we arrived at your home...there were flowers and baskets everywhere for Adam (Your brother Jay had made some kind of wooden basket filled with gifts of handmade soaps and breads). There were also pictures all over the table of Adam. You both were horribly distraught and I remember thinking that I could hardly see Mal's eyes because she had cried so much. Mal took Madeline and I through the story of what had happened...and told us about the "Newport" kids.”

The next day, Mal’s sister Ginny and her husband Denis arrived and we told them the story of what had happened. My Mom and Dad came from Florida to be with us but since our house was getting crowded, my sister Sharon convinced them to stay at her house for the next week. Our pastor, Jim Morel, came over to discuss our thoughts about a possible funeral or memorial service. He guided us through the basics, using his experiences with past services and he was very helpful. Jim suggested that we consider hiring Wilkinson-Beane Funeral Home to handle the arrangements so I called and set up a time to meet with them. I don’t like funerals and I’ve always heard about the predatory practices of funeral homes. They take advantage of highly emotional, grief-stricken people to sell them services, caskets and burials that are primarily a waste of money. When my grandmother died a funeral home tried to pressure my mother into buying a deluxe casket with a “quality inner-spring mattress guaranteed for twenty years.” But this guy was different. He wasn’t emotional, but he was understanding and sympathetic. He listened to our thoughts and made very few suggestions. We weren’t ready to buy a casket but we came up with some rough ideas of the cost for a normal service. We’d try to come up with definitive plans over the next few days. He helped us write the obituary and he made sure it was published in the local New Hampshire newspaper and our old hometown of Bolton’s newspaper. It was an odd task to describe Adam’s life in such a short obituary. This is what we wrote:

“Adam Dean Howley, 21, died at the Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia on January 9, 2001, following a motor vehicle accident.

Mr. Howley was born October 10, 1979 in Framingham, Massachusetts, the son of Paul B. and Marilyn L. (Daher) Howley. He was a graduate of Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, Massachusetts, and attended The Boston Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He had been accepted for the spring semester at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island, as a theatre major. He starred in his first play at the age of five. He loved to sing and dance and he loved the theatre. He was very active in summer theatre and directed the play, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” in the summer theatre in Groton, Mass. He also enjoyed spending time in Newport, Rhode Island. Mr. Howley had lived in Bolton, Mass. For 17 years and also lived in Boston, Mass. before moving to Gilford, New Hampshire a year ago. He had worked at Friendly’s Restaurant in Laconia since July. Mr. Howley was a member of the Trinity Church in Bolton, Mass. and the Laconia Christian Fellowship Church in Laconia. Survivors include his parents, Paul and Mal Howley, his sister Cassandra Howley of Gilford, his paternal grandparents John and Marion Howley of Bolton, Mass, and his maternal grandparents Richard and Helen Daher of Florida, 24 aunts and uncles, many cousins and great cousins, as well as his very close friends Alletta, Meridith, Phil, and Victor.”

Shortly after we got home from the funeral home, Meridith and her mother came up to visit. Meridith shared lots of very personal thoughts about Adam with us that touched us deeply. After a while, we all went into Adam’s room together. We wanted Meridith to take the large stuffed dog that she had shared with Adam and she appreciated it. We told her to take anything else that would be helpful for her but I don’t remember if she took anything.

After Meridith and her Mom left we got our mail. In it was a letter from the University of Rhode Island confirming that Adam had a room on campus for the upcoming semester. If the college had mailed the letter a few days earlier, Adam wouldn’t have had to drive down there to get the college to commit to assign him a room.

Next chapter: The memorial service.

Part One Hundred & Sixty Nine

“Meridith Remembers”

Meridith Burkus, Adam’s girlfriend, told me, “I had a job interview at a restaurant in the Prudential Center on the morning of Adam’s accident. It was snowing on my walk home and I had nothing else to do so I randomly decided to go back to sleep. I was asleep when Adam fell asleep at the wheel and that’s when I had the dream. In my dream Adam and I were together and he said, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t do it to hurt you (referring to Rhode Island) I love you.’

“Adam and I had spoken at length on the telephone that weekend. He was telling me all about how his plans to go back to college in Rhode Island were coming together. It took every ounce of self-control to not blurt out, ‘I love you so much’ but I didn’t because I knew that could veer him off the new course he was successfully on. I wanted him to start school on his own. We had decided to ‘take a break’ shortly after his 21st birthday because I knew that I would get too wrapped up in helping him get into school and get things together at the expense of my own studies. We were so attached and I felt that we needed to accomplish things on our own and then come back together a little less co-dependent. I’ve gone back and forth on this choice but in the end I spent two or three months working on myself by reconnecting with Mr. Greco and his church in Cambridge and really focusing on my studies. I think I developed the strength to get through what was about to happen. I’m not sure where I’d be if I hadn’t made the decision to do some soul searching that fall.

“You called my parents’ house in Groton and told my brother David about the accident and he gave you my telephone number in Boston. I remember exactly what you said to me. ‘Hi Meridith. It’s Paul Howley. Adam died today. There was an accident.’ Unfortunately, this has played over and over in my head so many times so I never forgot it. I remember trying to tell you ‘He was my best friend’ but I couldn’t breathe or get words out. I do remember being able to offer to call Phil Doreau but you said you wanted to contact him yourself. So, I hung up the phone and called home. I spoke to David who just said, ‘I know. Mom’s getting dressed. She’s coming to get you.’ Most all of my friends were away from Boston, on vacation, so I was pretty much all alone. I called the only person I knew was home (our mutual friend Rita) and I told her I needed to find Tori because she’d understand. Tori’s father died the year before. They told me to meet them at a fast-food place called The Wrap. I ordered a smoothie and they walked me back to my apartment. When I got there, my Mom, David, my brother Andy, and my friend Kenny and his girlfriend were waiting for me. I think someone in my family had called Kenny to tell him and he just got in his car and drove to be with me.

“When I arrived at my parent’s house I didn’t get further than the kitchen sink before I started vomiting uncontrollably. It’s probably the only reason I remember ordering a smoothie at The Wrap. I couldn’t stop. While I know that no one else slept that night, I remember forcing myself to pass out to stop throwing up. It sounds crazy, but I felt Adam’s hand on my shoulder. I held it and immediately fell asleep.

“The next morning, flowers were delivered to me. They were from my high school English teacher who remembered Adam fondly. My hometown of Groton lost three fellow students in the time Adam and I were dating, all of whom Adam either knew or knew their siblings. At the last funeral, during my freshman year of college, my English teacher said, ‘Let’s make this the last one.’ The flowers told me that she remembered that too.

“We then drove to Laconia to see you and Mal. Mal answered the door. As my Mom’s often retelling of that day, she said that Mal collapsed in my arms. My Mom says the rest of the day Mal was trying to be strong and was guarded for all of the people who came to the house that day. But with me she could actually cry freely as if she knew I had a piece of what she was going through. Perhaps that’s my Mom being poetic but she’s said it enough that I thought I’d include it in my memories of that time.

“Your parents were there and Sharon and Greg and others. I can’t recall what was said but I do remember a touching moment when your Dad talked openly about how brilliant he thought Adam was. I don’t remember what else he said but I remember his eyes that day. It was like he had lost a best friend, not his grandson.

“While I was at your house I only wanted to see one physical thing of Adam’s- his poetry book. When his interest in writing poems was sparked as a result of assignments in his first semester liberal arts at The Boston Conservatory I bought him a blank green journal. I knew that he had completely filled this book with his writings so I was glad that we found it. Adam’s cousin Emily Demund took my Mom and me to Wal-Mart to photocopy every page. I still have these copies. They are in a file cabinet in the folder I have marked, ‘I’m so sorry you’ve been reduced to a file folder.’ I like to think that title would amuse him. There’s lots of things in there like caution tape, candy necklaces, newspaper clippings from high school and printouts of emails he sent to me. Emily was concerned about me, knowing how sweet Aleeta was. I knew where Adam was at this point in his life, so I knew her without ever meeting her, but I understood that Emily’s concern was valid under the circumstances. I also particularly remember Emily seeming to not know where she fit. She was obviously in a lot of pain over Adam’s passing, but where did a cousin fit in with so many who were suffering? It had seemed like Adam had spent most of his time in New Hampshire trying NOT to fit in with Emily’s friends despite all of Emily’s efforts to reach out to him.

“Later that day, you took me back to Adam’s room and gave me the huge stuffed puppy that was on his bed. It really didn’t leave my side for quite a while. Actually, it’s sitting under the window in my room right now.

“You had already set the date for the memorial service and on my way home I made the decision to sing and read for the service. I contacted Mr. Greco and asked him if he’d play the piano for me and he agreed to do it. He also spread the news to the people at Lexington Christian Academy.

“When I got home I found that David had been sent home from school. He had gone into school but partway through the morning he sought out Mr. Byrne, Groton High School’s drama teacher, who knew Adam very well. David told him about Adam’s death and Mr. Byrne said, ‘You can’t be here, you need to go home, David.’ The rest of that week he was excused from classes to sit in the computer lab and create the poetry books that were given out at the memorial service. David was really destroyed that week.”

Next chapter: The memorial service.