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Wake Me Up When September Ends?

12 Aug

In a few short days,  the month of September will be upon us.  As I type these words, I can physically feel my stomach flip-flopping and a knot beginning to form.  What’s wrong with September you ask?  Technically … nothing  … I do enjoy the last days of summer and the soon-to-be fall weather.

But my oldest daughter’s birthday and the day she died are both in the month of September.  September brings up so many memories … both the good and the painful.

On September 12th my Elizabeth would be 28 years old.  What would she be doing with her life, I so often wonder.  Where would she be living, what career would she have chosen?  Would she be married?  Would she have any children?  Would she have dealt with the demons that plagued her in the last years of her life?  These are all questions that will forever remain unanswered.

On September 20th we will mark the eighth anniversary of her death as well as the deaths of Amanda and Brian, two of her six roommates.  Three young lives gone in an instant as the result of a fire in their old wooden duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where they were all just beginning their adult lives.  So much promise … so many dreams and hopes gone in an instant.

So, what do I do?  I could continue to focus on what is no longer possible … and, trust me, I do that on occasion.  I think it’s necessary and I owe it to Liz.  To sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened not only is a disservice to my daughter, but it is also a disservice to me.  Revisiting the pain is necessary and part of my grieving process.  The key, however, is only to visit, not remain stuck in it.

What is also necessary is to focus on the twenty years I had with my daughter.  The times she made me laugh, made me smile, made me so mad I could hardly see straight — the good times as well as the bad.  I remember that Elizabeth’s life was so much more than the way that she died.  In the end, all I can do is smile because when it is all said and done the only thing that really matters is how much we love each other.  Love wins out over pain and heartache in the end.

There is a song by Green Day called, Wake Me Up When September Ends.  My husband has commented that he would like nothing better than to go to sleep on August 31st and wake up on October 1st.  And, even though I breathe a big sigh of relief when the calendar turns to October, I would never wish not to have September.

So in a few days I will focus on remembering.  I will honor her each and every day  – in some small ways and maybe even some big ways.  I will celebrate her and love her for what she is and will always be, my beloved first-born daughter.  Death can never change that – nor can it erase the love that we will always share.

“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  Alfred Lord Tennyson


Same Scenario – Different Day

6 Apr

Have you ever noticed that when The Universe is trying to teach us something, if we don’t get it, the same lesson just keeps coming again and again until we do?

Never has that been more apparent to me than in the area of campus fire safety.  When Liz died from a fire in her duplex, I automatically assumed it was just this freak accident that shouldn’t have happened.

However, just this morning I received  notification of another fire fatality in off-campus housing at Eastern Michigan University


Contact: Ed Comeau, Publisher
Campus Firewatch
413-323-6002 (tel)
413-896-5718 (cell)
Student from Eastern Michigan University killed in off-campus fire in Ann Arbor, Michigan
BELCHERTOWN, Mass., April 6, 2010 — A student from Eastern Michigan University was killed in an off-campus fire in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

According to the university, 22-year-old Renden LeMasters was killed in the fire.  LeMasters was a senior in the College of Technology.

In an interview with Campus Firewatch, Ann Arbor Fire Marshal Kathleen Chamberlain reported that the fire was reported at approximately 5:30 a.m. and started in the area of the front porch which contained upholstered furniture, trash and other combustibles.  The fire, which was detected by a passerby, then spread into the interior of the building through a front dormer window and two doors which were left open when the occupants escaped from the fire.  The victim was found in front of the building by the first arriving fire department personnel.  The cause of the fire is under investigation and has not been determined at this time.
The building is a two-story, wood-frame, building that had been divided into three units located in the basement, first floor and second floor.  There were interconnected smoke alarms in the building but no residential fire sprinklers.
According to Chamberlain, the Ann Arbor Fire Department had previously attempted to have an ordinance passed that would ban upholstered furniture from front porches but was unsuccessful.  Before this fire occurred, they were in the process of trying again because of the danger that these conditions present.  “These are incredible fire hazards,” said Chamberlain.
Nationwide, this is the fifth campus-related fire fatality to occur in the 2009-2010 academic year, all of which have occurred since January.  According to information compiled by Campus Firewatch, 140 people have died in campus-related fires since January 2000 with over 84% of them occurring in off-campus occupancies where a majority of the students across the nation live.
Campus Firewatch is a social enterprise focusing on campus fire safety. For more information, visit our website at

Campus Firewatch ● P.O. Box 1046, Belchertown, MA ● 01007 ● 1-413-323-6002 (tel)

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The similarities are stunningly familiar:

fire call comes in 5:30 am

fire starts on a porch in a couch

the building is a wooden two story

How sad that an ordinance outlawing couches on porches was not enacted – perhaps now it will – but does it really take another death of a college-aged student to make it happen?

A Story That is Meant to be Shared!

13 Mar

Those of you who know me well, know that my greatest passions are sharing my stories of extraordinary connections to my daughter Liz and fire safety prevention.

I came across a story today that combines them both.  It is a wonderful story and for all of you skeptics out there, I hope it will make you stop and think, scratch your head, and wonder … maybe there is more to life than what can be seen?