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.