Happy New Year………or maybe not. Every new year for the first five or so years after my son was killed in an accident, I would go to the cemetery and wonder, “Really, you’re still gone!?!?!” I believed that I had to take one step at a time, one day, one month, and like all journeys I would come to the end where I could stop and rest. But the grief journey does not provide a stop sign or a pinnacle to place a flag. Each step leads us to another step, not a last step. We move ahead, still stunned, slowly more accepting. But like all long walks, this one builds strength, helps our hearts get healthier; not healed, but stronger.
The founders of COPE, bereaved families themselves, got stronger and, for twenty years while walking on their own grief journey, have built a community where all bereaved families can catch their breath, find comfort in their new companions in this transformed life, and help us get stronger. They invited people to join the board, hired the first part-time staff, and started programs and events that have endured for years.
For this column, I would like to offer thanks to all who have helped COPE come to another anniversary.
First, our board of directors, all smart, generous and tireless volunteers: Lilly Julien (founder), Richard and Judy Berg (co-founders), our executive committee: Larry Mergentime, vice-president of the board, Dr. Sherry Radowitz, our treasurer and chair of our finance committee, Lilly Julien, president emeritus and chair of our program committee; Jane Bell, chair of our family advisory committee, Esther Bogin, Bill Cooperman, Ron Jasser, chair of our fundraising committee, Billy Slovin, chair of our golf outing committee and technology committee, and our two newest members, Doug Newton and Josh Weiner, both with decades long ties to our founders.
I want to thank our staff: Our executive director, Adam Rabinowitz, and our director of clinical services, Michelle Graff, LCSW, our first full-time leadership staff; our Camp Erin staff, including Ann Fuchs, our camp director and Dr. Jamie Greene, our camp psychologist; our financial officer, Marianne Bujacich, and our bookkeeper, Patricia Cocchiarelli; and of course, our group facilitators, including Jonathan Glotzer, Lauren Jukofsky, Marilyn Kohn, Diane McNamara, Maryann Stein, Lisa Vitucci and Janet Zimmerman. Each and every one has contributed to helping our organization grow stronger this year.
I thank all our supporters who attended COPE events this year: the annual Golf Outing, COPE Walk, Labyrinth Memorial gathering, Camp Erin NYC Bowling Event, our first COPE Brunch at Cedarmere, the lucky few who enjoyed the great shows at the Argyle Theater in Babylon, and our workshops and healing programs. I want to thank the community leaders who have joined us in roundtables and programs and look forward to more partnerships next year.
Mostly, I want to thank our COPE families. Every day you trust us with your pain and sorrow. At every group meeting you are generous and kind to those sitting with you. At every event you bring friends and families, tears and laughter, and gratefully, hope and love.
This is also the end of my first year as board president. To all with whom I work, staff and volunteers, thank you for your patience, trust, and hard work.
Looking forward to next year.