About Manda

The following 500 words or so is a snapshot of Manda. I believe it provides for an appreciation of her character and spirit


Manda's senseless death from a lethal dose of heroin brought crushing, oppressive grief to Phyllis and me. Ironically, it was the advice given to me by Manda a couple of years before she died that has provided solace to us. It involved my father.

My dad had deteriorated mentally and physically the last two to three years of his life. This strong, witty and confident man succumbed to dementia, weight loss, weakness and eventually aphasia before dying on Apri128, 1999. I had taken some photographs of the two of us in the nursing home during his last few weeks of life. His gaunt, expressionless face reflected his life force fading away.

After he died, I kept those pictures in a wooden photograph holder near my desk at home. Several weeks later, I noticed a couple of additional pictures had been placed in the holder. They were from Manda's third birthday party. She was standing in front of my father and he was holding a pink dress in front of her which she had received that Day as a gift. My dad was vibrant, smiling broadly, his eyes twinkling. Next to this photo was a small Post-It note in Manda's handwriting that read, "Remember the fun times, too".

Those contrasting pictures of my dad with Manda's message nearby were impactful and poignant. Since then, Phyllis and I have followed Manda's simple advice to remember the fun times, too. Those fun times temper our sadness and dull the sharp edge of our grief.

Two examples of simple, subtle fun times are included below:

Manda erupted into convulsive laughter when she first saw the picture. It was a photograph of her mother, Phyllis, and me holding our several days old daughter, Manda. We were standing in our driveway--just home from the hospital with our newborn child. Our faces beamed with joy. Our family was home for the first time. Except for a transitory bout with jaundice in the hospital, Manda was healthy, thriving and beautiful.

So, what feature in this photo triggered this explosive howling from our middle school-aged Manda? The detail that struck her was my circa 1970's red, white and blue plaid pants!