Archive for December, 2011

Kesner and I wanted to host a reception together at the Ellarslie Museum in Trenton. Ellarslie is a beautiful Mansion in a park that houses many random Trenton historical artifacts.

The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion

I got the idea for this event a year earlier when my sorority chapter hosted an afternoon reception there on a sunday. The chapter brought in local authors and served wine and appetizers, it was cute. I wanted to re-create the event, but on a friday night with a cover band and cocktails. I shared this vision with Kesner and we soon began event planning.


Kesner hadn’t been to Ellarslie so I invited him to a concert there on a Friday night; there was a Zydeco band playing.


He picked me up at my apartment at 6:00PM looking handsome. He wore charcoal colored pin striped pants and a black valour sports coat. I wore a black cocktail dress with a striking green necklace that Klay had given me for my birthday months prior.

We made an impression when we arrived, both of us over dressed for the casual evening concert. People kept complimenting us as a couple. We enjoyed wine and cheese while walking around and appreciating the collection. And before long we found ourselves in conversation with the museum director who asked us to consider joining the board. Kesner and I both decided that I should be the one to join.

In the museum gift shop we saw a post card with Barack and Michelle Obama on it. Kesner turned and looked at me and said: “you make a man want to run for president!”

He was always saying the right things…

When the time had come for the band to start, we were disappointed to see the audience sitting in chairs. Zydeco is upbeat southern Louisiana folk music with funky beats and Creole roots. It makes you want to dance.  There were signs around Ellarslie that said: “No dancing in the Museum.” So I suggested to Kesner that we go outside and dance on the veranda.

The largest room of the mansion (where the concert was being held) has floor-to-ceiling French doors that open onto a large veranda. The night weather was warm and wonderful. Kesner and I stepped outside and we danced on the amber lit patio. I felt like we were in a movie. I could tell the audience inside of the mansion was enjoying our performance.

Kesner twirled me around. We jammed together to the funky folk beats, just us two. We were in our own world. We smiled and we laughed and we enjoyed another priceless memory in the making: A warm night, a museum veranda, a dance for two and a Zydeco band.

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

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“He’ll definitely propose by Christmas,” my mom and I agreed. Kesner had already asked me what kind of diamond I wanted for an engagement ring:

“A princess cut for a princess?” he’d asked.

A holiday proposal seemed realistic…

My mom was really excited. She’d gone to her latest SportSpine personal training appointment and her blood pressure was through the roof. It’s good stress,” she’d told her physical therapist.

“My daughter’s getting married!”

Every day I called my mom with new developments in my relationship. Are you sure this is the same guy that you said you weren’t interested in?”

It was the same guy and the change had been a miraculous one. And now not only was I in love, but I was in a new season. A season of mother/daughter planning.

“If he proposes by Christmas then we can have the wedding next year in December, 2011,” mom said.

December in Cleveland, are you sure?”

“Yes. Nobody has December weddings. The Club is beautiful during the holidays. There are poinsettias and holiday decorations throughout. It will be beautiful, we’ll pray for good weather.”

A Christmas time wedding..

A year prior, my mom had a premonition that I would be married at the age of 31 (this was after I’d caught the bouquet at Courtney’s wedding). The December 2011 vision seemed to fall right in line with her premonition; it would be two months shy of my 32nd birthday.

“We’ll do it the first weekend in December, before holiday schedules get crazy. We’ll have the wedding on December 3rd.” She said. “The ballroom will be breathtaking with the holiday decor, and we’ll adorn the pub with your fraternity and sorority paraphanalia; that will be the Kappa Alpha Psi/Delta Sigma Theta room.”

And with that a plan was in motion. We had a date. And a groom. Now all we needed was a ring and a proposal. But that would come..

“We’ll definitely be engaged by Christmas.”

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

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The friday after I returned from Camp Dudley, my father got married

In the days leading up to the wedding, I continued with my healthy grief recovery work. I had my second session with my counselor, Monica, that week.  This time we talked about the ‘what ifs’:

“If only I had been there to save Kesner”

“Why didn’t I go inside when I left the groceries for him?”

“That wasn’t like me, we were always together…”

Monica turned the question around. She asked: “what if you had been there? Does that necessarily mean that he would be alive today?And if he did survive, couldn’t he have died sometime later when you weren’t around?”

I hadn’t considered these things. The circumstances were  not in my control. Monica had done it again, she’d gotten me to think differently. If I had been there, would I have known what to do? Outside of calling 911, would I have known if his sugar was too high or too low? Would I have known to give him an insulin shot? Or a candy bar? Or to put an aspirin under his tongue? And what if he had lived, would he still be the same?

I mulled over these things all week. I also continued working with Roberto at SportSpine; and on off days from the gym, I went to Horseshoe Lake and I read. I read a short chapter of  Eat Pray Love every day, and now I had two other books to read…

When I arrived home from Camp Dudley there was a package waiting for me at my mom’s. The package was from Susan Taylor and the letter inside said this:

“Dearest Kim,

If I had one wish that could be granted at this time, it would be for you to feel comforted. It would be for the pain to ease.

But grieving opens up the way of healing and understanding. Understanding and growth are the goals in life. So be where you are. Feel the depth of the loss. Its a mirror of the love in your heart. Cry, beat the pillow, holler if your spirit calls for that. In time- it takes time, dear Kim- the light will shine brightly again. That’s God’s promise.

Know that you are in my heart and prayers. I love you through your dear mother, a beloved soul, whom I love and admire so.

Kim, I’m here in any way you may need me.

Much Love, Susan”

"Much Love, Susan"

Enclosed in the package were two books: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chodron and All About Love, by Susan Taylor.

When a writer that you deeply admire sends you books, you should read them.  I immediately added these two to my summer reading; reading them interchangeably with Eat Pray Love on my afternoons in the park. They helped a lot.


It had been a healthy week and it was now time for a wedding. I was happy for my dad, but I thought he moved quickly. My brother, The Man, and I had just been introduced to his “friend” a few weeks prior when we were home for memorial day.

The following week he called and said “what did you think of my friend?” I told him I thought she was very nice. He said “good, because we’re getting married in July.”

I hadn’t had much time to process this. I got the news on June 7 and two days later I found Kesner dead.

Since I’d been home, I had only seen my father one time. He and his fiancé invited my brothers and I for dinner. I looked sad and my dad gave me a big hug and said “we’re going to make you feel better.” In response to that, his fiancé said “she will feel better when she wants to feel better.”

I agreed with her. She and I are like-minded in some ways; we both read Louise Hay and we both happened to be reading Eat Pray Love at that time. I knew that she was right; there was choice involved in my ‘feeling better.’ But there was another part of me that felt resentful about her comment and its timing.

During that evening I soon learned that there was no space for my sadness amidst their happiness. The subject soon changed to everything wedding, and my brothers and I were given assignments for the day of the ceremony. As we all sat on the back patio that night and talked about wedding stuff, I looked up and saw a star in the sky shining brighter than any other. It was Kesner’s star.

Kesner's Star

Kesner was with me.


And now the wedding was upon us… My father and step-mother got married in a simple ceremony at a downtown courthouse. It was beautiful. The judge, a friend of the bride, decorated the courtroom and it was elegant. My father’s wife wore royal blue and she was stunning. And Dad was happy.

The reception lunch was awkward. In their rush to the altar they’d neglected to introduce the families. I’d urged my dad to organize a barbecue so that we could meet her adult children, but he hadn’t done it. This was painfully obvious at the reception lunch. We were a table of strangers; never properly introduced. It was odd.

During the lunch I got a call from my Links chapter member, Valerie. She had followed up with the managing editor at essence.com and she needed a copy of my bio and resume. This was exciting news, I would get something to her right away.

After the wedding and reception my brothers and I went to Amanda’s house.


I had plans to paint my nails at Amanda’s after the wedding. When my brothers, Mike and Gary, heard this they invited themselves to come hang out. Our God Brother, JT, said that he wanted to come also. So we all went to Amanda’s; Amanda and I painted our nails while hanging out with Mike, Gary and JT.

Gary, me, Mike ("The Man"), and JT... we all hung out at Amanda's that afternoon

I think that moment was less about hanging out and more about needing a space to debrief and de-compress. Our father had just gotten married and we needed to talk about it. Amanda’s was a welcomed place to process…

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

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Kesner and I couldn’t get enough of each other.

Once we’d entered into a committed relationship that was heading towards marriage, we were together every day. Suddenly this other person was becoming a big part of my life and I began factoring him into my daily decisions. I no longer wondered if I would see Kesner that day, but I wondered when I would see him. And where; would we meet at my place? or his? or go out? And what would we have for dinner?  We were planning on being a unit and we began to live that out in our relationship right away.

We’d gotten serious quickly, and It was time to bring a few of my friends into the fold.

Felicia and Talithea - it was time to tell them about me and Kes...

Nobody knew what was going on; my feelings for Kesner had changed so dramatically and quickly and I hadn’t told anyone yet.   When last my friends heard, I wasn’t interested. This had been what I’d reported a year earlier after Kesner took me to his church for the first time.

It was technically our first date: 

I met him in the vestibule before the service began. I wore a pink and black floral print dress with a belted waste. We sat in the back and enjoyed the service. The preaching was clear and sound; a traditional three point sermon. And I enjoyed the music. But our interaction was awkward, I thought.

After church we went to a diner for breakfast. There, Kesner looked at me sternly and asked questions like: “where do you see yourself in five years?”

“He’s so intense!” I told my friends. “Who asks that on a first date?”

“He just kept staring at me with this deep penetrating stare… he’s strange!”

I’d said this to Talithea and Felicia after the church date…

and now I had to eat my words.

I’d judged Kesner early and I was wrong. I had to let everyone know that Kesner was not strange, he was wonderful.

They received the news in the way that good friends do, and immediately included him in our community time. We started to have “family dinners” with Talithea and her husband, Felicia and her husband and Kesner and me.

Is this the power table of the future?”- Kesner jokingly asked the first time the six of us sat down for dinner. I wasn’t sure if it was the power table, but it definitely felt like future. We were forming a community of couples and we would try to have dinner together at least once per week.

It definitely felt like future...

Community was important to us. Beyond our friend community, Kesner and I shared visions for community in general. It was a very political time in Trenton, with local elections right around the corner. It was hard to avoid conversations about Trenton’s political and social landscape, its possibilities, and the efforts needed to address issues of crime and poverty. Kesner and I would go to our Broad Street Diner and talk about these things; we dreamed together of ways to commit our efforts to the city.

Kesner engaged in Comunity Politics

We dreamed of starting a 501(c)3; The name would be Dufresne Community Partners. “You’ll be in charge of it,” he said. That made sense to me, since he would be focusing on the family business, “Dufresne Investment Management” (Kesner had left his job at Morgan Stanley months prior to begin to get his investment management firm up and running).

We disagreed about a few things, however. We disagreed about the focus of our non profit. I wanted to continue to provide services for woman and he wanted to focus on children. We also disagreed about whether Trenton should have a casino. He thought it would be good for the city, I thought it would be bad for the residents; particularly those who had issues with gambling.

These were only small disagreements though, shared over laughter and lunch. Mostly we just enjoyed the exercise of dreaming.


During one of our family dinners Felicia pulled out her son’s baby books. This started a dinner conversation about child birth, with Felicia and Talithea giving full accounts of their experiences. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to scare me away from this experience or give me something to look forward to. But mid-conversation, Kesner looked at me and said, jokingly: “so do you want to have my Baby, Girl?”

‘Yes’ was the only answer.

…with him I could do anything.

we began dreaming about that too.

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

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I’d been home from the Links Convention for less than a week when Jessie (My Soul Friend) sent for me to come visit her in upstate New York. In the wee hours of the morning on that following Friday, I embarked on an eight hour Amtrak train ride from Cleveland to Skenecdady; I was on my way to Camp Dudley.

Camp Dudley

Camp Dudley is an all boys sleep-away camp that sits on Lake Champlain. I never went to sleep-away camp, but it was like the ones I’d always imagined. Being there reminded me of those early scenes in the movie “The Parent Trap.”

The Parent Trap

I’d first heard about Camp Dudley when Jessie was making her moving plans. Her boyfriend, Jason, who is gifted in outdoor leadership, had been hired by the camp to be director of their kayaking program. This meant the two of them would be spending their first few months in upstate New York living on camp grounds.

When this announcement was made in the presence of several women from the Princeton community, there was a lot of excitement:

Camp Dudley is a great camp, my husband went there, and sons..”

“We go back and visit Camp Dudley every year. I love Camp Dudley!”

People really loved this camp. The camp seemed to be the location of many pivotal ‘coming of age’ experiences. There, powerful networks were birthed and a lifetime of loyalty to the camp was instilled.

And now, in my messy whirlwind of grief, I got to go and see what the hype was all about.

I was looking forward to the train ride. The ride was eight hours long and I was looking forward to sitting still. Jessie’d apologized to me about the long ride and suggested that I bring a laptop to watch movies. But I didn’t need a laptop. I just rode silently and looked out of the window.

There were two Amish teenage girls in the seat behind me. They were going ‘all the way’ to New York City. They went back and forth in conversation about the wonders of New York. They spoke with voices of hope for what ‘The City’ would have to offer them. One would say something that excited her about New York and the other would respond with: “oh my word!” And it was back and forth like that for the entire trip: “oh my word!” …. “Oh my word!” Their excitement tickled me, I just hoped the city would be kind to them.


I was happy to see my Soul Friend when I arrived in Skenecdady. We sat and had a quiet lunch before driving an hour and a half to the camp ground. Over fish and chips, I listened to her stories about her first few weeks in the north country and I assured her that it was ok to share her happiness with me.

Friend I don’t want my happiness with Jason to make you feel badly, given everything that’s happened.”

That was thoughtful but I was mostly ok and still able to celebrate the happiness of my friends. There were only a few times when I’d become insanely jealous that their loved one was still alive; but that was an issue between me and God.

I was still mad at God.

When we’d reached our destination we were at a sweet wooden cabin on a hill in the woods. From the cabin there was a partial view of the misty and majestic lake. It was absolutely beautiful. Jessie and Jason’s small wooden cabin at Camp Dudley would be the next comfortable place where I would stay.

Jason (Masta Chef) made kabobs the first night that I was in town. Before dinner, the three of us sat on wooden chairs outside, amidst 100 foot tall trees, and we talked. I was moved by how comfortable Jason was with my sadness. Jessie had already been around it, but I worried that I would make Jason uncomfortable. He didn’t seem uncomfortable and that was nice. He made all sorts of special arrangements so that he could be available to hang out with us during the weekend. That meant a lot to me.

Jessie and Jason

They kept apologizing to me because there was “nothing to do” but I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to be still and theirs was the perfect place for that. I laid on their couch mostly and thought about Kesner. He would have loved it there.

On Saturday morning Jessie and I went for pancakes in town and I lost it at the table. I was a wreck of tears, sobbing into my plate of pancakes. I don’t remember the trigger, but by this time I think I had started with the ‘what ifs’:

‘What if I had been there?’ … ‘I could have saved him…’. It was my fault.

I also remember feeling generally sorry for myself. For how pitiful I seemed, trying desperately to connect with Kesner’s spirit in nature. Was I going crazy??

I was so thankful to be a wreck with Jessie. Jessie is a hospital chaplain and she is in emotion-intense sittuations often. She had the right disposition, questions, and words. Her presence was a comfort and I was helped by her gifts.

That afternoon we bought marshmallow fluff and cream cheese and made a sinfully delightful dip for strawberries. With our strawberry dip and a glass of red wine, we watched romantic comedies in the cabin on her laptop. It was the perfect friendship afternoon.

Jessie and Me (with puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks)

And later Jessie and Jason took me to a small town in Vermont for a lovely dinner and walk around.

One of my favorite moments from the weekend was when a very ‘Campy’ counselor came to visit the cabin. I hadn’t known what ‘campy’ meant before I met him. This guy was so into camp. He was so dirty (muddy) and exciteable. He was probably in his mid thirties and he had gone to the camp as a child. You could tell he really loved working and being there, it was a way of life. As he shared camp stories I began to think about what a wonderful opportunity it is to go to a camp like Camp Dudley.

I began to think about Yanni. Yanni was Kesner’s eleven year old little brother in Trenton’s big brother/big sister program. I’d met Yanni a few weeks before Kesner died. We went to their annual picnic together. In the car I asked Yanni what his summer plans were and he told me his plans were “to do things with Mr. Kesner.” My heart was sad that he was planning his whole summer around one person. And it was even more sad now since that one person was dead.

I wondered how Yanni was processing Kesner’s death. He probably felt even more disenfranchised than me. And he was just a child. I’d asked the Kappas to promise me that they would include him in their youth program (Kappa Knights) when he got old enough, but what about now?

As I listened to the stories of Jessie and Jason’s campy visitor, I thought: ‘this would be a great opportunity for Yanni. I’ve got to figure out a way to get him to this camp!’

The rest of my time there was spent mulling over these thoughts. How would I get Yanni to Camp Dudley? Would they provide a scholarship? Or maybe the funds could be raised in the princeton community? And how would I convince his mother to send him away for four weeks? I would find a way. I would do this for Kesner. And I would make sure that I would come to visit during one of the weeks that Yanni was there. We could go on walks and talk about death and how we both missed Mr. Kesner. It was settled. I would work on this. It gave me something to look forward to; a project.

Before I left, Jessie gave me the book “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I’d been flipping through her copy of it over the weekend. I liked how she wrote. She was talking about serious things but in a way that was anecdotal and funny at times. She was telling her story but was unafraid to laugh at herself. What a gifted writer, I thought. I could tell I was going to enjoy the book.

On Sunday we had a lovely lunch on the water with Jason and then Jess and I stopped at Lake Placid for ice cream cones.

at lunch before my departure

From there we drove back to Skenecdady and I embarked on my train ride home. It had been a pleasant trip. And now I had something to do; I would email the camp director right away! And I also had this book to read..

I got home to Cleveland at 3:00AM and nobody named Copeland was interested in picking me up at that hour. But LOVE never fails. Courtney met me at the station and dropped me off at home. LOVE had traveled with me to Dudley…

and now LOVE and I were home again in Cleveland.

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

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