Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I am one of ten classmates on our tenth reunion committee and we are making calls and emailing our classmates to encourage attendance at Reunion and to ask them to make a donation in honor of our 4 years spent together at 28 Westhampton Way. I should be a pro at fundraising and encouraging attendance at reunion because I have been raising funds for Mike's scholarship since May and am proudest Spider you will ever meet, so without a doubt, I'll be back on campus and would love to see all of my classmates as well.

If I'm really honest, I went back for our 5 year reunion and didn't have the best time.  The University has completely revamped the way reunions are run, and I mean I know I am on the committee, but y'all, it is going to be FANTASTIC!  If you are a UR'04 Spider, you should be super excited to come!

As I set down the phone, I got to thinking about what it means to honor.  To me, it means a couple of things.
  • You are acknowledging what your time on campus meant to you.  Maybe you met your spouse, forged indelible friendships, acquired the skills and knowledge that have contributed to your success today or just had some epic parties at The Row (I hope The Row is not all UR meant to you, but whatever it takes!)
  • A donation, no matter the size, is a way to ensure future Spiders are able to have those same experiences that were so memorable to you.  Or, dare I say, your gift could be allowing them to have an even better experience.  Either way, past, present and future Spiders all share a common experience and that wouldn't be possible without the help of those that have gone before us. 
One of the reasons I wanted to establish the scholarship fund for Mike was to honor his life and the incredible impact he had on our campus.  He would want to help future Spiders share in the academic and extracurricular experiences and friendships he held so dear. With your help, we can do our part to impact the next generation of Spiders for years to come.  Right now, legally I am not allowed to give a lot of specific details about the scholarship, but I will say that it will not be a one-and-done type deal.  While the fundraising campaign will end on May 8, 2014, the funds will be given for years to come.  It will impact more than just one Spider.

So, as you think back on your time on campus, as you think back to your friendships/classmates that/who may have contributed to those fond memories, consider giving to University of Richmond and specifically, the Mike Clements Memorial Fund. Your donation will get you a ticket to the party in the Greek Theatre on May 30 (if you are Class of 2004). And you should know, the University makes me aware of your generosity, but does not divulge the amount of your contribution.  As far as I am concerned, every dollar counts and I am just so thankful you would be a part of something so special.

If you'd like to help, go to, select "Other" and type in Mike Clements Memorial Fund.  All of the donations are tax deductible. If you've already donated, THANK YOU doesn't seem like an adequate expression of my gratitude.  We currently have a little over $15,000 thanks to you. 

Honor your time.  Honor your classmate/friend, Mike.  And, of course, GO SPIDERS!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The First Time

Yesterday was a difficult day.  My parents and I drove up to Washington, PA to attend Jim’s (Dude’s dad) funeral.  Jim passed away on Saturday, November 9, after a long but well fought battle with Alzheimer’s.  I remember the day I learned that Jim had Alzheimer’s.  I remember exactly where I was (and what Dude was wearing – strange).  He and I decided that we would go check out this new cupcake place that had just opened up by me.  We had just had a fun night with our friends in DC, but as we sat across from each other munching on our cupcakes, his face got long and the conversation turned very serious.  The fun that we’d just experienced was miles away.

“My dad has Alzheimer’s.  We have to close the practice. “
“What?!  Your dad is 55.  What the heck does that even mean?!”
“I don’t know, Jess, but it’s bad.  It’s going to be bad.”
In that moment, neither of us understood the impact Jim’s illness would have on the family, and on Dude, in particular. In the succeeding years as Jim’s illness progressed, I was excited when Jim still remembered who I was and was touched by the fact that Dude visited his dad in the nursing home as often as possible, lighting up as he would tell me about the moments he shared with him each time.  We both understood the importance of constant contact with Jim and I’d encourage Dude that, no matter the circumstances, that contact was essential.  He agreed.  The last email Dude ever sent to me contained a photo of his dad at Falling Water, an outing the two of them shared just shortly before Dude died.  I remember the excitement in Dude’s voice as he recalled the fun they had visiting that landmark and then he exclaimed, “I’ll email the picture I took!”  He was close to his dad.  And, as Jim’s illness claimed more and more of his mind -- but not his spirit, sense of humor or faith – Dude struggled, too.

I always knew I would attend Jim’s funeral.  I had never imagined attending it without Dude.

As I drove up yesterday, I anticipated things.  I looked forward to seeing all of the family.  I didn’t think the funeral would be as hard on me, but it was incredibly difficult.  Not only was it the first time I was attending a family function without Dude, Dude and his dad were so much alike that as I listened to the eulogies, I felt like they were talking about Dude.  Technically, Dude’s funeral was the first family function without Dude, but I was in such shock, I didn’t remember my name and can’t really recall one detail of that whole day.  This time, I was alert and it was painful.  Really painful.  I cried for his mom and brothers.  I cried because I always thought Jim would make the best grandfather and he didn’t get that opportunity.  I cried looking at photos of Dude when he was little and remembered the stories Jim would share.  I cried because as much as Jim was not my father, he was a part of my life for 12 years, I traveled this long road with Dude and now it was over.  I cried because the two of them were reunited in heaven.

 Dude’s family has always been welcoming to me, but they’ve been even more loving and supportive in the wake of his death.  It was wonderful to spend time with all of those with whom I was familiar and to meet a few I hadn’t met.  This time I ate my whole lunch – at Dude’s funeral, I didn’t touch it – and the reception was full of love and laughter and

Then it got hard again.  Ava asked if I wanted to go see Dude.  Of course I did!  I tell her at least once a month that I need to come up and see him.  Yesterday was the day.  The first time I would get to see Dude’s grave. I expected pain that would split me in two to creep into my heart.  I even asked if I needed to stop on the way to get a bottle of wine and a bucket of Sarris chocolate to make it through this experience.

As we drove up to the cemetery, we passed his high school.  At Trinity High School, they are named the “Hillers” because their school sits on a hill.  And, Dude was King of the Hill – class president, prom king, you name it.  Just past his school, we approached these beautiful gardens that held tombstone after tombstone.  We found the undertaker’s house and went in to find out exactly where Dude was.  He highlighted a map and off we went.  The mausoleums were right by a lake – just a beautiful spot.  As we were getting out of the car, we looked up, and this graceful deer ran right in front of us.  I reached for my phone to take a photo and the deer was gone.  The sun shone down, and despite what the thermometer said, it did not feel cold.

I walked up to the first mausoleum and opened the door.  There were walls of marble slots with names and birth and death dates.  My parents and I looked and looked and didn’t see Dude.  This was the one the undertaker said he was in, but we couldn’t find him.  We went inside the little room contained within the big building and looked.  No Dude.  We went in the building next door.  Again, we searched and searched to no avail.  There were a bunch of chairs in the middle of the room, so I sat down and pivoted to try to get a better look.  Frustrated, I called Ava, but she didn’t answer.  Back to the other building we went to look again.  This time in the little room, we find a note someone left and family photos of him and a candle with his name, but where on earth were his ashes?!  Now, I am getting really mad and Dad offers to go back to the undertaker’s house to ask again.  He does, and comes back and says Dude is up high.  We look and look.  No Dude.  At this point, I sink into the chair tucked in the corner leaning up against what look to be empty graves because there are no names on them. I yell “Dude, where ARE you?” and just relax my hand on one of them and continue to look.  About 30 seconds later, the door opens.  It is the undertaker.  He runs in saying that he had totally forgotten that he just moved Dude into a bigger grave last night and has yet to put his name back on the grave because he is about to put his dad in and will put both names on at the same time. 

“Where is he? I asked. 
“Right where your hand is”, said the undertaker.    
 It was a very difficult, but very special day. 
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