Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 185

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 47
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17


“The Gifts.”

One day, several months after Adam's death, we got a phone call from a woman we'd never met. She got our unlisted phone number from the Friendly's restaurant where Adam worked at the time of his accident. She was unsure that she should call us but as time passed she felt strongly that she needed to share this with us.

She has two very young, unruly children who do not know how to behave in a restaurant so they rarely went out to eat. This one night, though, they went to Friendly's and Adam was their waiter. She explained that Adam quickly realized that these two young girls were "out of control." He decided to pretend that he was an English butler and the two girls were princesses that he was serving. He draped a cloth over his arm, bowed to the princesses, and speaking in an English accent, took their orders.

His act continued as he hovered around their table while the girls ate, and they were quiet and well behaved in their "roles" as princesses. When the dinner was done, the woman asked Adam to introduce himself (the real Adam) and she said to her girls, "Remember this man, because someday we'll see him on TV!"

A few weeks later, the woman saw Adam's obituary in the paper. She was stunned. That night she sat her two little girls down and explained what had happened to the fun and talented waiter from Friendly's. They all cried together.

We really appreciated that this stranger took the time and effort to tell us this story of our son.

Ken Carson, the manager of our comic book-pop culture stores, enabled us to receive another gift. After Adam’s accident, many of our customers wanted to send us sympathy cards but Ken thought it would be even nicer to have customers share their thoughts by writing messages to us in a book. He put this out in the Worcester store and when it was full, he mailed it to us. We were surprised by the messages. We had opened our store with the intention of earning a living but the stores had become much more than that. Our customers had become friends. Many of our customers wrote about their memories of the times when our whole family worked at the special events we held at the store. They shared lots of memories about Adam, especially seeing him grow from a toddler to a teenager. Several customers told us how important the store was to them; thanking us for providing a positive, friendly place to come to, where collectors could gather and feel comfortable. I really treasure this book.

It was around this time that I received another gift. Somehow, word had gotten around the high school that Adam had attended that I had missed seeing Adam perform in his senior musical play, “Working.” (I had been very sick on the one night the full play was performed.) Pamela Griffin, the mother of one of the younger students in the play made a duplicate copy of her videotaping of the full show and she sent this to me! Watching this video of Adam certainly showed how much he loved to perform. What a wonderful and thoughtful gift for us to have!

I also got a small gift from my friend, Wendy Pendleton. Wendy was battling brain cancer but she packaged up this gift for me. It was a cassette tape of music by contemporary Christian singer, Steven Curtis Chapman. Wendy enclosed a short note saying, “I thought you might like this.”

Wendy married Ken Pendleton the same year Mal and I got married and even though we weren’t always good about staying in touch, we remained friends. Ken was a friendly and brilliant man who spent much of his adult life writing technical manuals. He also did some work for me writing role-playing game modules when I organized a big game convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Wendy was a quiet, kind, and thoughtful woman who loved God and loved her family. Ken and Wendy had four children together.

Although I enjoyed a few of his songs that I’d heard, I was not really a “fan” of Steven Curtis Chapman. Wendy must have thought I needed to hear something on this tape. The songs included: Dive, Speechless, The Change, Great Expectations, Next Five Minutes, Fingerprints of God, The Invitation, Whatever, I Do Believe, What I Really Want to Say, With Hope, The Journey, and Be Still And Know.

I needed to do a few errands so I unwrapped the cassette tape and planned to listen to it in my car while I was driving to the store. It wouldn’t play. I tried fast-forwarding it but it still wouldn’t play. When I got home, I tried it in my stereo cassette player, but it still didn’t play. I tried forwarding it all of the way to the end and back but it wouldn’t work. I probably should have thrown it away but I left it on my desk to remind me to contact Wendy to thank her for the gift. (I’m mentioning this cassette tape for a reason that I’ll disclose later)

Next chapter: Hey, Hey…they’re still The Monkees!

Picture: Ken and Wendy Pendleton

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 184

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 47
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17


During the summer of 2001, Dona Lynn Curry, the founder and director of “One Voice,” asked me if I’d be interested in getting involved in the multi-church choir. They were going to be performing soon at a local school auditorium. When I explained that I was not a good singer, Dona Lynn asked if I’d be interested in sharing about Adam during the program. I’m very uncomfortable singing or acting in public and I know I’d be terrified to speak in front of a large crowd of people. But, given the opportunity to tell people about my son, I knew I’d need to overcome this fear.

Now, those of you who’ve actually been reading my overly-long story already know I’m not a good writer. But in this instance, I had a desire to communicate something that meant a lot to me to people who may need the message of comfort. I figured that there might be someone listening who has also experienced loss, pain and tragedy. I began writing and after a few hours it was done.

I told Dona Lynn that it was finished and she asked me to come to a rehearsal and read it as though this was an actual performance. I didn’t understand why she wanted me to sit there for an hour, while the other people were singing, waiting for my time to talk. When it was my turn to come up onstage, I faced front as if there was an audience, with my back to the group of singers. I was quite nervous even though there was no one watching me and I read my message too quickly. When I was finished, I turned to face the people in the choir and I was surprised that many of them were crying! That’s when Dona Lynn explained to me that the choir members needed to be familiar with my message so that they wouldn’t be too emotional and unable to sing after I was done speaking. Dona Lynn is one of the most well-prepared and professional people I’ve ever known.

We had some time before the scheduled concert at the Gilford High School and Dona Lynn and I discussed the possibility of bringing the group to other venues. I called some friends who attended the Trinity Church in my old hometown of Bolton, Massachusetts and they got us permission for the choir to sing (and me to give my message) at their church. This would be my “real” first time in front of an audience.

The choir sang beautifully and when it was time for me to get up to speak I spotted several of my old friends in the audience. I had a tough time, struggling with my emotions while I read my message because I could see my friends feeling my pain; but I got through it. After the service was done the church provided a cook-out for us and their church members. At the cook-out, I was approached by my old friend, Wendy Pendleton. She thanked me for coming and asked how Mal and I were doing. I was more interested in how she was feeling because she was in the midst of battling brain cancer but Wendy kept saying, “Oh…I’m okay. But how are YOU?” After a brief conversation Wendy asked me for my mailing address because she had a “gift” she wanted to send me.

From there, we all went to a church in Quincy, Massachusetts to give another concert. I don’t remember much about it other than my repeated attempts to contact my friend George, who owns a chain of comic book stores headquartered in Quincy. I really wanted him to hear the concert and my message but he couldn’t be located by his staff.

When the time came for our big concert at Gilford High School I wasn’t quite as nervous, but with a full house of over 800 people I was still a little shaky.

Here’s a link to the actual message I gave at Gilford High School back in 2001:


For those of you with a slow Internet connection, here’s the written version:

“This is not just my testimony of God’s love for me...it’s also my son’s
testimony. 2Corinthians chapter 1 says “ Praise be to the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts
us in ALL of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the
comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

About 22 years ago, my wife gave birth to our son Adam. He was born almost 7
weeks early we almost lost him twice when he stopped breathing. Thankfully, he
made it through, and he grew up quickly. He went to Christian schools for grades
1-12 and learned a lot of academic knowledge...but most importantly, his faith
and knowledge of God was constantly growing and reinforced . Adam loved
performing in plays, acting, singing and dancing and he decided to go to
college at The Boston Conservatory of Music to major in musical theater. His
appearance began to change on a regular basis...blue hair, yellow hair, green
hair, and flaming red hair. The world was his stage and every day was another

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
either finish college or find a job so he could “settle down” to a normal life.
Instead, he became involved in the lives of lots of young people that many in
the world would consider lost. You know the types...lots of dyed hair, tattoos,
piercings, baggy jeans...
Adam would call us from Rhode Island, all excited saying "Dad, you won’t believe
it...there’s this kid named Mike who’s been a heroin addict for five years, and
I got him to quit drugs and go to a rehab program!” On one hand I’d be happy for
him...on the other hand, as a parent, I would say, "Get out of there! I want you
to come back home to live with us in New Hampshire." I explained to him how
dangerous it was to be associated with that type of lifestyle and that even a
strongwilled person could be sucked into an unhealthy situation. But Adam
insisted that he needed to be there. After about 6 months, he realized that his
Mom and I were right and he agreed to come live with us for a while to find a
job and save some money to get his college bills paid off, buy a car, and pay
off his credit card. He worked at a couple of different jobs, but he ended up
working at Friendly’s as a waiter. When he moved back in with us, he drove me
crazy with a lot of the typical kid stuff...always being late, strange clothes,
messy room, and his inability to pick up after himself. But through it all, my
wife kept reminding me that Adam’s life is in God’s hands. Adam stayed with us
for a little over a year and then he decided to finish college by transferring to
the University of Rhode Island. In early January, Adam went down to Rhode
Island to register for his classes, secure housing on campus, and straighten
out his student loans situation. He called me at 8:00 o’clock on Tuesday morning
and said “ Dad, I’m up and dressed and I’m on my way home right now...I’ll be
home in time for my car inspection at noon. Adam drove a little over 3 hours and
about 6 miles from our house in New Hampshire, he fell asleep and his car
collided with a truck and he was killed. This is where God’s comfort comes in...

We had a memorial service for Adam a few days later and about 650 people came.
mostly people that had been impacted by Adam’s short but unique life. Some of
our relatives spoke about Adam...some sang songs, and read poems they had
written about him.

My daughter sang a beautiful song and somehow God gave me the strength to give
the eulogy. But the most powerful words spoken that day were from the kids from
the park in Rhode Island! They told us all about how their lives were changed by
Adam...how Adam convinced some of them that suicide was not the answer...a life
of crime was not the answer and that drugs were not the answer. But most of
all, their lives were changed because of the love and compassion Adam had for
them. Adam understood his place in God’s kingdom. He seemed to know that it was
his job to love and support these people who were struggling. He seemed to use
love as a lifeboat for his friends, hoping that they would get strong enough to
find some value in themselves, and eventually find God.

About a month after Adam’s death, we decided to go to the Rhode Island Park and
explain to these sad, grieving kids, what Adam meant to us and what gave Adam the
ability to love them so unconditionally. So on a freezing cold day in February,
Mal, Cassandra, myself and a bunch of our friends went down to the park. We
called some of the kids in advance and told them to spread the word that we were
coming and that we wanted to meet with them. About 60 kids showed up. We shared
with them that although Adam still did some things that he knew he shouldn’t,
he had a deep and authentic love and relationship with Jesus.

A group of our friends performed a short evangelical drama. Many of our friends
made bracelets for the kids that could be used to explain the steps to salvation.
The black bead represents our sin, the red bead is the blood of Jesus shed in our place,the white bead is us as new creatures white as snow in the eyes of God.

We explained to the kids, that God loved them and has a plan for their lives if
they would accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Out of 60 kids...42 of them
gave their lives to the Lord that day.

Because of the frozen ground in New Hampshire, we weren’t able to bury Adam
until June. At the burial service, we handed out little cards with the word “WHY”
on it. It was explained that the question for us as Christians shouldn’t be WHY
Adam died. It should be what are we going to do with this event...how can God
use Adam’s death to change our lives and the lives of others. Losing a child is
the worst thing possible for any parent...the sadness is almost unbearable. We
miss him so much and still find it hard to believe that he’s really gone! But
God is GOOD . At the crash site, we found a note written by a man that worked
with Adam and it says:

“Adam, They gave us cards at the cemetery in case we were still wondering why. We
may all have different answers to that question because you did so much for
everyone. But as for me, I’m on my way to heaven because of you, and I wouldn’t
have been without knowing you. My only regret is that you’re not sitting beside
me blowing bubbles. I could never be grateful enough for what you inspired
within me. I love you for it and I’ll meet you in Heaven to prove it.”

I am now steadfast in my belief that God gives us our children and they are
ultimately always His. I have had to reconcile myself to the fact that He can
call them back whenever He wants. I trust that God’s plans for Adam’s future are
better than our hopes and dreams were for him here on earth.”

Next chapter: My gift from Wendy Pendleton.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 183

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17


The winter of 2001 was now gone and the ground was no longer frozen. It was time to bury our son, Adam. We had picked out a burial lot on a small hill in Union Cemetery. It was an awful feeling, knowing that this would mark the last place that Adam’s earthly body would occupy.

The day of the burial started at our home, with our friend, Meridith, practicing a song written by Dar Williams that she would sing at the cemetery with Cassandra. It was a meaningful song that pointed out that we are all “family” in many ways. Here are the lyrics:

Can you fix this? It's a broken heart.
It was fine, but it just fell apart.
It was mine, but now I give it to you,
Cause you can fix it, you know what to do.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

We stood outside in the summer rain,
Different people with a common pain.
A simple box in that hard red clay,
Where we left him to always remain.

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

The child who played with the moon and stars,
Waves a snatch of hay in a common barn,
In the lonely house of Adam's fall
Lies a child, it's just a child that's all, crying

Let your love cover me,
Like a pair of angel wings,
You are my family,
You are my family.

My brother-in-law Greg picked us up at our house and drove Mal, Cassandra and I to the funeral home so that we could see the casket. Five months before, at the memorial service, we handed out permanent markers and had encouraged friends and family members to write their “good-byes” to Adam on the casket. This was our private time to get to read what was written by the people who knew and loved Adam. After we were done, Greg drove us to the cemetery and I noticed that Laconia Monument Company had delivered the headstone to the gravesite.

When we arrived I was glad to see that the funeral home had put up a large tent over the open grave because it was pouring rain. The funeral director gave out black umbrellas to the hundred or so friends and relatives who came to the service. It reminded me of the burial scenes that were frequently in movies…dark, somber skies with a heavy downpour of rain and a “sea” of black umbrellas. I remember thinking that Adam would have appreciated the image.

After I got out of the car, Cassandra broke down in tears, sobbing for the first time in our presence since her brother’s death.

My memory isn’t very clear about the burial service anymore, but I do remember Cassy and Meridith singing at the front of the group of people. I also remember giving out over a hundred orange roses to the attendees. Then, our friend, Eric Robinson, conveyed an important message to everyone after someone handed out small white cards with the word “Why” on it. He explained that we shouldn’t ask why Adam died. The more important question is “what will we do now that Adam has died?” Will we be angry? Or depressed? Or will we learn to love people more while they are here with us? Eric asked everyone to drop the white cards into the open grave as a symbol of our decision to not ask why.

After the service we invited everyone to the home of my sister Sharon and my brother-in-law Greg. There were well over a hundred people there and while they ate food and shared more memories of Adam, I passed out copies of a videotape I had made that included clips from Adam’s short life. I included bits that had significant meaning to Mal and I…segments from birthday celebrations, holiday gatherings and from his many performances in plays. It had taken me several weeks to put these together and some of the relatives and friends appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Adam through the tapes.

By the time everyone had gone home, the realization had set-in that this was, most likely, the last gathering that would be about our son Adam.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 182

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17


I met my daughter Cassandra at her voice lesson one day during her junior year of high school. Her voice teacher, Dona Lynn Curry, was an experienced singer who travelled around the world in various singing groups for several years. For some reason, she felt the urge to move from south Florida to the “Lakes Region” area of New Hampshire and she began teaching voice lessons. My daughter learned quite a lot from Dona Lynn including vocal control and vocal performance techniques. Dona Lynn had put together a group of singers from several area churches and she called it “One Voice.” This group put on a fun Christmas program each year at a local school auditorium.

Dona Lynn asked me if I’d be willing to donate some money to the One Voice group so that they could purchase some costumes for the next Christmas program. I was happy to help her out with this. Shortly, she would help me.

As the snow began to melt and the ground thawed in New Hampshire, we realized we needed to make some decisions for Adam’s upcoming burial. We talked with the management at several local cemeteries to find out which place seemed best for us. We settled on Union Cemetery, the one that allowed plantings by the gravesite. Mal and I picked out a cemetery plot and ordered a black marble headstone from Laconia Memorial to be engraved with Adam’s “information.” We decided to have the happy and sad “theatre masks” engraved on the stone so that future generations could know how much Adam loved theatre. The engraver wanted thirty days to complete the headstone but I really wanted the headstone to be at the gravesite in time for the June 2nd burial ceremony so he agreed to get this done for us.

We asked our friend, Eric Robinson, if he’d be willing to speak at the burial and he accepted the task. We knew he’d communicate a meaningful message to anyone who would come.

As the school year came to an end we were surprised and honored that the senior class of Laconia Christian School dedicated their yearbook to us! It read:

“Dedication to Paul and Mal Howley:
Since they came to this area two and a half years ago, the Howleys have proved themselves true friends of Laconia Christian School.
Their constant help with fundraising activities, attendance at nearly every sporting event, help with the drama productions, Mr. Howley’s leadership on the school board, and countless other instances of behind-the-scenes aid have improved this school immeasurably.

Therefore, in memory of their son Adam, a good friend and brother who went to the Lord on January 9, 2001, the senior class would like to dedicate this yearbook to Mr. and Mrs. Paul and Mal Howley.”

As the date of the burial got closer, as we expected, it saddened us even more because we knew this would be the final “chapter” of Adam’s earthly life.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 181

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17


Shortly after Adam’s fatal car accident we decided to buy a safer car for Cassandra to drive. It was time to replace our old Dodge Caravan anyway, so Mal and I went to shop for new car for Cassandra. We went to the local Toyota-Ford dealership and picked out a 2001 Ford Escape. It was a cute-looking, small SUV that we thought Cassy would enjoy driving. We called Cassy and asked her to meet us at the Irwin Zone dealership on her way home from school. By the time we had arrived there, Cassy had already decided that she didn’t like the Ford Escape at all. She had been talking with the salesman and he had just gone to bring up a new Toyota Highlander SUV. When it pulled up, Cassy loved it. It was much larger than the Ford Escape and it had lots of nice features. The only problem was that it was priced nearly $10,000 more than the Ford.

While Cassy enthusiastically urged us to buy the Toyota Highlander, I negotiated with the salesman, Noah. I had recently bought a new Toyota Camry from Noah and he was willing reduce the price but we were pretty far apart price-wise. Noah explained that this was the first year for the Highlander and these cars were in high demand with very few available. After a short time, it became clear that we were not able to put this deal together. When I made my final offer of $27,500 Noah checked with the sales manager and they declined my offer. I told Noah to consider my offer if anything changed because I’d really like to buy the car. Cassy was very disappointed, but she realized the car was far more expensive than the Ford Escape so we’d have to keep looking for a new car.

A few days later, during breakfast, Cassy and I were talking about the Highlander. She said, “Dad, you should reconsider your offer for the Toyota. You didn’t make the offer based on anything other than a made-up price. Can’t you call them back and make a deal?” I realized she was probably right so I agreed to call the dealership later that day. Cassy went off to school hoping that she’d get this new car.

About an hour later, Noah called me to see if I was still interested in buying the Highlander at the price I had offered. He explained that another dealership had requested that his dealership trade the car to them because they had someone interested in it. Rather than lose the sale to me, they decided to accept my offer. I went down that same day and bought the car. I was lucky. My patience paid off and now we’d feel more comfortable with Cassy driving this safer car.

A few days later, Mal remembered Adam’s “prediction” that we would buy Cassy a new car.

Within a year, the Ford Escape had over a dozen factory recalls. The Toyota Highlander was recognized by Consumer Reports as the “best” mid-sized SUV.

Next chapter: One Voice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 180

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


After our trip to tour Cassy’s future college was over we needed to get back to dealing with the day-to-day stuff of life. Mal had stopped teaching card-making at Liz Verhoeks’ “Stamping Memories” and she spent more time with her friends who loved her and supported her during this time. I was still involved at Laconia Christian School-- busy with the upcoming drama presentation of “Fiddler on the Roof” and school board related stuff. Thankfully, my two comic book and collectible stores were being run by a very good group of people because I was not functioning at my best. I didn’t need to worry about the stores right now with everything else I was trying to deal with.

Living in our home in Gilford, New Hampshire was strange now that Adam was gone. There were too many memories here, so Mal continued to look for a cottage or house to buy in the area. She found a house in Alton Bay, New Hampshire. This was a run-down cottage located inside the Alton Bay Christian Conference Center. This was a 150-year-old collection of cottages that began as a tented Christian retreat center. Over the years the tents were replaced by primitive structures and eventually they became more permanent seasonal cottages. Very few of these were still in good condition but they were very affordable. One of the drawbacks was that the land was owned by the conference center organization and they leased the land to the home owners. Also, all home owners were required to abide by their strict rules and regulations.

The cottage Mal found had a great location with a nice view of the bay. It was conveniently located near the restaurant, meeting center and chapel. The owner, a 90 year-old man, was asking $69,000 for his cottage. Mal offered him $65,000 and the offer was eventually accepted. At the time, we were told that this was the highest price any of these cottages had sold for! Most of the cottages sold from $15,000 to $30,000.

As it turned out, the process for buying this cottage was more difficult than it should have been. The cottage was no longer actually owned by the old man. It had been turned over to his five children who were now living in several different parts of the United States. We needed all of their signatures on all of the documents to transfer their ownership to us. This took almost two months. We also needed to be interviewed by the Board of Directors of the Conference Center to determine if we would be allowed to live on this property. The cottage sale was contingent upon this approval.

While we waited for the upcoming meeting of the Board to determine if we’d be allowed to move forward with the purchase of the cottage, I continued working to sell the tickets for the school’s performances of “Fiddler on the Roof.” By the time of the show, we had sold out of tickets. We sold more tickets for this show than for any of the other shows the school had performed.

Brenda, the director, dedicated the show to our son, Adam, and allowed us to publicize the newly formed “Adam Dean Howley Memorial Performing Arts Scholarship Fund.” Mal and I used our own money to start this fund and we accepted donations from anyone who wanted to contribute to it. My good friend, Kevin Burns, sent a very generous check and that encouraged me to make this scholarship program an important project for us for the next few years. Many friends and relatives also gave generously.

On April 20th and 21st of 2001, the students of Laconia Christian School put on entertaining and emotional performances of “Fiddler on the Roof.” This play featured Ian Jameson as “Tevye,” Natalie Robinson as “Golde,” Nicole Behan as “Tzeitel,” Sarah Hormell as “Hodel,” Cassy Howley as “Chava,” Kimmy Simpson as “Shprintze,” Sarah Hatfield as “Bielke,” Susie Simpson as “Yente, the Matchmaker,” Paul Johnson as “Motel the Tailor,” and many more. Over 60 students acted in this play along with a couple of dozen students and parents getting involved in the backstage and set building. It was another successful event for the school.

Next chapter: The school year ends.

Pictures: Fiddler On The Roof

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part #179

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


Our daughter, Cassandra, was seriously interested in attending Palm Beach Atlantic University of West Palm Beach, Florida, when she finished high school so we had previously made an appointment to visit the college during her February school break in 2001. Even though she was only a junior in high school, we encouraged her to plan ahead so that her college decision could be completely evaluated without any deadline pressure. Taking a trip wasn’t something that Mal and I wanted to do so soon after Adam’s death but we’d try to make the best of it. My parents spent the winters on the west coast of Florida and we had arranged to meet them, along with my sister Sharon and her youngest son Jake, at Disney World, after we toured the college.

We had decided to drive the 1500 miles each way so that we wouldn’t be stuck with an airline schedule, just in case the trip went badly and we needed to get back home sooner than we had originally planned. We left New Hampshire and by the time we got to Connecticut we got hit with a huge snow and ice storm. The traffic was moving at about 10 miles per hour because the roads were so icy. Our Toyota Camry was pretty good in the snow but mid-way through Connecticut our windshield wiper motor stopped working. We eventually found a Toyota dealership that was able to replace the motor which was still covered by the warranty. Unfortunately, this took most of the day. The weather forecast predicted snow for several hundred more miles along the east coast. Our appointment at the college was two days away and Mal, Cassy and I were frustrated enough to consider cancelling this trip. After some discussion, and with some reluctance, we decided to persevere. We stayed overnight at a hotel in southern Connecticut, hoping the snowstorm would stop. It didn’t. The next morning we continued our long, slow trip.

We eventually arrived at Mal’s sister Ginny’s home near Orlando, Florida. We visited with Ginny and her husband Denis that evening then left very early the next morning to drive the long, boring ride across the state to West Palm Beach.

By the time we reached our hotel, we checked in, showered, changed clothes, and headed to the college for Cassy’s scheduled tour of the campus. As we neared the college, we asked a student for directions to the administration office. The young man introduced himself to us (Mike Dee, soon to be the world-famous singer in the band “Tenth Avenue North”) was very helpful, and as Cassy pointed out, “very cute.”

The campus was comprised of mostly new buildings painted a pinkish-coral-color (very south Florida-style!) and the grounds were filled with beautiful, expertly trimmed exotic plants and palm trees. The temperature, for mid-February, was a nice high-70’s. As we explored the campus, Cassy remarked, “This place is like Disney World!” She was sure this was where she’d go for college. She knew her grades were sufficient to qualify for admission (she had a straight-A average in high school) but to get accepted into the musical theatre program she’d need to return to the college next year to audition. She’d worry about that the following year. Right now her decision was made. Cassy would be moving to Florida when she finished her high school.

After the college tour was over we headed back to Mal’s sister’s home. The next morning we met my parents, my sister, and her son Jake, in Disney World. I don’t remember much from the time we spent there. One memory is still quite vivid though. We watched the performance of the musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Mal and I were both struck by how much the lead female actor reminded us of Adam’s girlfriend, Meridith. Mal and I held hands and cried together. Almost everything we saw during that trip to Disney World reminded us of Adam. This was no longer the “happiest place on Earth” for us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part #178

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


After our meeting with Adam’s friends in the park in Newport, Rhode Island, we were all invited to go to Alletta Cooper’s parent’s home for lunch. Alletta’s parents owned a beautiful home in the heart of Newport and they were especially kind to us all. Privately, they told us how much they enjoyed Adam.

It was a good time for us to listen to Adam’s friends tell stories about how he affected them and changed their lives. It was clear that these young people really loved Adam.

Alletta presented us with a large photo album filled with pictures of Adam and his Rhode Island friends. Some of his friends wrote:

“I will never forget the first time I met Adam. He was different from everyone and that’s what this town needed.”

“Adam was always the light in the darkness and he was a beautiful person. I’m glad I had the opportunity to know him. I’ll always miss the beautiful poet that he was.”

“Adam was the most beautiful person I knew. We love him very much and will always remember him.”

“Thank you for bringing such a beautiful person into the world.”

“Adam, every time I close my eyes I can see your face. So I close my eyes a lot.”

“Adam, you were a blessing to everybody…exactly what we needed.”

“Adam, you made a lasting impression on me and you are someone I’ll never forget.”

“Adam touched so many of us in such a short time and it is hard to believe he is gone. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for raising such a great man.”

We were very grateful that Alletta took the time to put this together for us.

Next chapter: Life without Adam must go on.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part #177

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


“Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, Life Goes On.” Part Three.

On that freezing-cold day in February of 2001, thirty-nine friends from our church in Laconia, New Hampshire joined us as we anxiously waited for Adam’s friends to arrive in the park of Newport, Rhode Island. As the “Park Rats” arrived, we encouraged them to sit on the tarps we had set up on the frozen ground and they huddled together to try to keep warm. Eventually, about sixty young people who knew our son Adam came to hear what we all wanted to share with them.

Mal began by assuring the kids that Adam had really loved them. She explained that Adam understood the importance of love because of the love that God had for him--perfect love with no conditions, a free, undeserved gift from the creator. Mal explained the concept of the beaded bracelets that our church had made for Adam’s friends and she gave them out to all of the kids.

We invited some of Adam’s Rhode Island friends to come up and share about Adam. A few of the kids shared some poetry they had written about Adam. I read a poem Adam had written during his stay in Newport.

Some of the teenagers from our church performed a short play called “The Doors Drama.” In this short, nearly wordless play, a young woman moves from door to door, seeking fulfillment in her life. She tries drugs but finds that path to be an empty promise of happiness. She tries materialism but that is also unsatisfying. After several more options, she opens the door that the Creator of the Universe offers and finds purpose and fulfillment. “Ask and it will given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7)
“So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Our friend, Eric Robinson, stood and shared a message with the kids. He explained that he understood their reluctance to conform to what “society” wants them to be like and related their feelings and ideas to his own teen-years as a rebellious non-conformist. Eric let them know that the void they felt in their lives could not be filled with drugs, sex, or money. But God, the Creator of all, can fill our lives with direction and purpose. Eric urged the kids to consider this, not because they thought Adam would want them to, but because they truly wanted to explore a deeper relationship with God. He asked anyone interested to come up front so that we could pray with them and talk to them about the spiritual possibilities that this could open up for them. Out of approximately 60 kids, 41 of them came up front to hear more.

We had contacted a local church to ask if they would be willing to be at this meeting to offer support to any of the kids who wanted more information. They did come and they recorded the names and contact information of the kids who expressed interest.

Because of Adam’s death, a seed was now planted in the hearts and minds of dozens of kids.

Pictures: Adam in a car in Newport, Rhode Island (one of my favorite pictures…he looks very happy here!)
Adam with some of his Rhode Island friends.
Adam with his friend, Aleeta.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 176

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


“Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.” Part Two.

A week or so after Adam’s memorial service, Mal felt the need to communicate with Adam’s friends in Newport, Rhode Island but she wasn’t sure how to go about it. She discussed her thoughts with church friends, Ronnie and Christine St. Cyr. They offered to organize a group of church members to go down to the park in Newport to speak with the kids. Knowing that we wouldn’t get too many opportunities to do something like this, we began to design a meeting that could get a message across to the “Park Rats.” Mal wanted to let the kids know why Adam loved them so much.

Ronnie suggested that Mal and I go with him to the park area to pray for some guidance about what we should present to Adam’s friends. We also spoke to the local authorities to get the proper permission to hold a meeting in the public park. One of the people in the City Hall knew about Adam and she helped us get the permission. Once we established a date, we began contacting some of Adam’s Rhode Island friends and asked them to spread the word about the upcoming meeting. Meanwhile, our church prepared for the meeting. Knowing that the Park Rats loved wearing jewelry, someone thought to create bracelets for the kids using colored beads that represented important things. The black bead represented our heart darkened by sin. The red bead represented Christ’s blood shed to redeem us. The white bead represented us as new creatures cleansed by Christ’s sacrifice. The green bead represented our growth in Christ. The gold bead represented our new eternal life with Jesus Christ.

While these bracelets were being made, a group of young people began to practice a short drama titled “The Doors,” depicting the many choices we have in life and how unfulfilling these choices can be. Our nephew Jesse would play the role of Jesus and several of Cassy’s friends would play the other characters. Cassy would play the “seeker” character who went from door to door, desperately seeking something meaningful in this life. Things were coming together for our upcoming presentation for the kids in Newport.

On February 11, 2001, on a freezing cold day, thirty-nine people from our church in Laconia, New Hampshire loaded into several vehicles and drove the three hours to Newport, Rhode Island. Mal and I rode with Ronnie and Christine St.Cyr on the way down. I vaguely remember a conversation someone started about my thoughts on human cloning. Of course, I’d spare no expense to bring Adam back, but a human clone, although similar, wouldn’t be the same person. He wouldn’t have shared the same life experiences that made Adam who he was. Would a cloned human being even have a soul? What a strange conversation!

We had no idea if there would any more than a handful of Adam’s friends showing up for this meeting, especially because of the below-freezing temperatures. We eagerly began to set up tarps for the “Park Rats” to sit on so they wouldn’t have to sit directly on the frozen ground. We set up a small amplifier so that our voices could be heard throughout the small park. While this trip had been organized by Ronnie and Christine, (and they really knew what they were doing!) they were very gracious and allowed Mal and I to take over and run this as we wanted. I only hoped that we’d draw a receptive crowd.

Next chapter: The Park Rats.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 175

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


“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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 174

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business." But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16

“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:


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.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 173

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business." But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:

Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


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
Aand 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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Life With Comics: Part # 172

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


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.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 171

A brief introduction:
My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” But that all changed as of January 9th 2001.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 46
Adam Howley: my son, age 21 (referred to as “Skaerie Adam” because in college there were four students named Adam and while they were deciding how to differentiate between the Adams, he slipped out of sight and when he returned someone remarked “Oh, that was scary.” Adam changed it to this phonetic spelling and the name stuck.)
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 16


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 were 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 was 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: Local tributes to Adam.