Doreen’s View of Will’s Bench

Christmas Cookie Tray

Christmas Cookie Tray

Every so often I enjoy posting seasonal photos of Will’s Memorial Bench at Lake Elise in Middlebury, CT. Most photos I take myself, but on occasion I share gifted photos from friends who enjoy spending time at the bench with Will. Typically, the photos feature the beautiful scenery of the lake or some flowers left behind, a dog frolicking in the water or even an American flag flapping in the breeze.

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However, a couple of weeks ago I received a photo of a different view, one I would have never imagined. Haley, one of William’s oldest and dearest friends visits the bench often. On this particular day she instant messaged me from there:

“Hi Lisa, I went to visit William today. I found a note left on his bench for you and I want to make sure it got to you. Love you!”

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Yup, it made me cry. Does anyone know Doreen? She’s Joe’s mom. I wish I could hold her hand. I wish I could sit on the bench with her and learn more about her son. It’s what us moms want. To talk about our sons. To share their story…our story.

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2009. I still decorate with those Santa’s he gave me.

I want to tell Doreen that this time of year is extra hard. I want to tell her she is not alone and that she will get through it and that although we are two strangers we have so much in common. There are lots of moms like us, but I think she knows that. Isn’t it bittersweet how we try to take care of one another? We are mothers that share an unspeakable heartache. We “live with the pain” and in all of Doreen’s she still has the energy to reach out and offer comfort in a letter. To someone she doesn’t even know, yet, she knows me better than anyone.

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Doreen’s Heart

Thank you, Doreen for writing. I am happy you found  peace and beauty in your visit to Will’s Bench. I wish that each day brings you more joy in the memories of your son.

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So how did I get through the holidays? Cookies. Lots of cookies. All from scratch and never frozen. Some get cookies early in December (hello, my favorite UPS guy) and some get them later. Always fresh and sometimes still warm. What a joy. Bake-Share-Repeat—it works for me. What works for you?

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Blackberry Herbed Rugelah

Now I know you don’t need another cookie recipe, so today I am sharing one of my other favorite nibbles. These nuts are addictive and going into the new year just might be considered healthy. Try them with a glass of your favorite holiday bubbly. I’ll take a flute of Enza Prosecco please.

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Inspired & Spirited Spiced Pecans

3 cups pecan halves

1 egg white

1 tablespoon whiskey (Jack Daniel’s of course) or bourbon

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of cayenne pepper

few grates fresh nutmeg or 1/8 teaspoon jarred stuff

fleur de sel

Place pecans in a zippered plastic bag. In small bowl, lightly beat egg white and whiskey; add to pecans. Coat pecans with egg white mixture. Mix sugar, cinnamon cayenne and nutmeg; add to bag and shake to coat pecans well. Spread pecans in a single layer over parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle evenly with fleur de sel making sure each pecan gets some. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring, every 10 minutes, so nuts bake evenly and don’t stick to each other. Cool. Store in airtight container.

14 thoughts on “Doreen’s View of Will’s Bench

  1. My sister Janice and I went out to Will’s Bench three Saturdays ago after we decorated Meghan’s and Eileen’s graves in the nearby cemetery. I already knew that someone had put a wreath on the bench from an earlier FB post on your site, but we decided to still bring our wreath and find a place nearby to hang it as our “gift” to Will. It was growing late in the afternoon and we were going to have to hurry to get to the bench if we were going to get to church on time.

    With my bad left leg and the uneven ground, I sent Janice on ahead. Needless to say, she got to the bench well before me. A woman was passing the bench coming from the opposite direction and, on a whim, Janice asked her if she might help her tie our wreath to a tree near the bench. The sweet woman agreed, and told Janice she walked the Lake Elise path daily. Janice told her about Will and about Meghan. By the time I got there, they had all but completed the work.

    We thanked the woman and she headed on her way, telling us she would think of us all every time she passed by and saw Will’s Bench and our wreath on her daily walks.

    Her name was Meghan.

    • And “her name was Meghan”…lots of magic happening in those beautiful woods of Lake Elise. Once again thank you for taking care of my boy and sharing some Christmas spirit with him. Please thank Janice, too…or if you are reading THANK YOU, Janice! I have since learned who Doreen is—the magic of the internet!

      • HI Lisa – Visiting Will’s bench has become an important part of my holiday adventures with my brother, Rich (Beebe). I could sense peace during my visit last year, despite a goose who wanted to be my friend. But this year I learned angels are present. Magic … oh yes! May the new year bring continued peace to you, Rich and Doreen. Hugs …

  2. Lisa, I do know Doreen. When our children were very young we were part of a moms’ group/playgroup. Ironically, she lives very near your Middlebury home. We lost touch as the kids grew and our lives got “busy”. When I read her son’s obituary, I wrote to her remembering her sweet Joe as a toddler. Doreen is a strong woman -as you are – and from her response to my own letter and then reading the note she left for you…I know she has grown more loving and stronger from walking through the pain and sorrow. Let me know if you want me to send her address…would need your email address also.

    I also rememer your Will when passing his bench. In my memory he is still that beautiful boy with a smile that could melt your heart.

    ❤️ Maureen

  3. Wow, that didn’t take long for you and the lovely Doreen to connect. The Internet truly is amazing.

  4. xoxo, Lisa. Glad you were able to enjoy Christmas. I was moved by this writing about Will’s bench and I hope you and Doreen will be able to meet soon. Here’s to a very Happy Healthy New Year and I hope to see you again soon!!!!

    • Happy New Year to you Ronna. May you always be surrounded by the love of your beautiful family as you surround me my dear friend.

  5. Hi, Doreen’s daughter here and Joe’s big sister 🙂 Thank you for being so kind to my mom. Can you put me in touch with your daughter? I started a group for sibing’s grief (http://joessister.com) but haven’t found anyone to connect with yet through it. I have a lovely friend who I met at a Sloan Bereavement group who lost her brother which is helpful, however, I haven’t been able to meet anyone who now also is an only child. Joe and I were 22 months apart and it was just us. Thank you! My email is: LisbethGarassino@gmail.com. Wishes for peace and love xxoo Lis

    • Hi Lisbeth. I am so sorry about your brother, Joe. I listened to the song you wrote which is really beautiful. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate him than in your song. I will email you later today. Yes, I imagine it is difficult to connect with other siblings.Peace to you dear girl.

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