The ragged-edged piece of notebook paper arrived days after our son died, folded in four and tucked inside a card. It was a note he had written at age 7 to our family dentist -- some 22 years earlier:
“Dear Mr. Brendl, I lost both of my ‘teth.’ I was happy. Your frend, Brad.
“And my new tooth is comein out.”
Brad printed the letter in black Magic Marker and drew stick figures, labeled “me“ and “my mommy.”
Accompanying it was a photograph of a spiky-haired kid leaning against his grandmother’s tree at Easter, wearing a light gray sport coat, red necktie and a toothless grin.
Bruce and I cried and laughed at the same time.
That our former dentist’s office would keep such a note for so long, long after Dr. Brendel had passed from cancer and long after we had moved on, was one of many amazing acts of kindness that comforted us following .
If you’ve ever wondered whether one card or one call could make a difference, we can tell you it can. If you’ve wondered if your presence at a funeral would matter, know that it does. Losing a loved one, especially a child, can be devastating. It’s gestures such as these that enable us to greet a new day.
Sometimes, what so touched our hearts were condolences from strangers or folks we hadn’t seen in years: high school classmates, other parents who lost children, families still struggling against addiction. Many told us, “I don’t know what to say.” We didn’t either.
Space prevents us from recalling every gesture that helped us through this first month, but permit me, if you will, to count some of the ways in which kind souls have been saving ours:
* Hugs from an emergency responder who arrived with the ambulance and coroner’s office.
* An “angel” who offered to spend that first night with Bruce’s mother so we could grieve and also rest, knowing Brad’s grandmother wasn’t alone. (A friend who continues to call and visit with her.)
* Family and friends who stayed by our side day after day, sharing stories of Brad and grieving with us.
* Friends, neighbors, co-workers who baked or brought food, paper plates and napkins to our house for when we got hungry or had guests.
* A former colleague who e-mailed from Cairo.
* A line of mourners and supporters who stood and waited for more than an hour to hold our hands, give us a hug, be there for us.
* More than 150 sympathy cards.
* More than $3,000 in donations to the Lehigh Valley Drug & Alcohol Intake unit in hopes of helping other families avoid such pain. Among the contributions: $155 from Brad’s handful of co-workers, many of whom make minimum wage and receive no health benefits.
* A hand-written letter from the parents of the girl Brad fell in love with at college and thought he was going to marry.
* Brad’s former girlfriends who came to the service and back to the house.
* Brad’s best buddies who spoke at his service about happier days skateboarding and learning power chords.
* A $100 contribution and delicious pastries from a former boss who had to let Brad go when he relapsed before.
* A gift certificate for a couples massage from an understanding spa owner, expiration date “never.”
* Friends who drove 12 hours to be by our sides.
* Neighbors who offered to dog sit, walk with us.
* Flowers from former colleagues who moved away and from people we know from work but didn’t know cared.
* A friend who spent hours at our house the day of the service to get things ready and give us peace of mind.
Our only son died June 20 but his spirit of kindness lives on.
Note: Ann Wlazelek is a Patch contributor. Her husband, Bruce Wlazelek, is Upper Macungie Community Development Director.