Archive for March, 2017

matt schmidt

It is hard to believe that this Friday will mark one year since my nephew Matt Schmidt died in a car accident on his way to begin training as a missionary with Youth with a Mission.  In the blink of an eye his family and friends lives were turned upside down.  The empty chair at Christmas, the birthday uncelebrated, the pictures on the walls and desk that don’t change with time, and the absence of his contagious mischievous laughter remind us that Matt is no longer with us.  At times the grief has been crippling.  The intensity of the grief is simply a reminder of how much he was loved.

The following description of Matt comes from his obituary;

Everyone who had the pleasure to meet Matt during his short life knew he had a big heart. He was always there for anyone at any time, and was quick to give them everything he had. During his life, he was one to always give, and never to take. Matt radiated kindness wherever he went, having the ability to step in and help in any situation. As his final act of kindness here on Earth, Matt donated his organs so that 6 people could continue life on Earth and many more will benefit while his soul lives on in Heaven with his favorite cousin and partner in crime, David.

Over the past year I have wondered numerous times what Matt and David are doing together in heaven.  I don’t think there is much crime there so I am sure they have both had to look for some other type of employment.  I am sure that no matter what they are doing that they are still both serving and loving everyone they come in contact with.

I had the incredible privilege of speaking at Matt’s funeral.  As I was thinking about the way Matt loved and served others, it reminded me of a passage in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus tells a story about those who he will accept into his kingdom.  It says,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”     Matthew 25:34-40

I could hear Matt asking Jesus the same thing?  When did I ever do any of these things for you?  When did I clothe you, feed you, or give you a drink?  And Jesus would say to Matt, “Every time you took time to guide and walk with David, that was me.  Every time you paid for another person’s meal so you could spend time with them, you did it to me.  Every time you called your cousin to simply say I love you or to encourage her to go to church on her own and then afterwards called her to tell her how proud you were, that was me, you did it to me.  Every time you laid aside your own schedule to spend time with your hurting friend or neighbor, that was me.  You did it to me.  And because you did this for me, I welcome you into my kingdom.”

Now Matt would be quick to tell us that it wasn’t because of the good works he did that got him into heaven; it was the result of his faith in Christ.  Matt in turn showed the world how Jesus had loved him by sharing that love with others.  I want to be more like Matt.

fingerprints.jpgAt Christmas Matt’s mom and dad gave everyone in the family a pendent or necklace that had a fingerprint of both Matt and David.  Every time I see them I am reminded of several things:

  1. While they are no longer physically present with us we will one day see them again.
  2. Both Matt and David left their mark, their print in this world.  They lived the dash between their birth and death well and the world is a better place because of them.
  3. I am still living the dash between my birth and death and want to leave my mark by loving and serving others.
  4. Matt and David were unique and beautiful masterpieces made in the image of God.
  5. Brenda and I and Karl and Karen are blessed and thankful for the privilege of being David and Matt’s parents.

I hope over the next couple days you will keep Karl, Karen, Andrew and Sarah in your prayers and thoughts.  I  know they would greatly appreciate it.





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my three sons

My Three Boys!

“How many children do you have?”  It’s a question I ask often as I meet new friends here in Florida, and it’s a question that is often asked of me.  On one hand it is a very simple question to answer.  We have three boys: Christopher, David, and Daniel.  But here is where it gets difficult.  What do I say if they ask, “What are they all doing now?”  Do I say, “Well, Chris is married and has two boys, Daniel is married and finishing up his Bachelors of Arts, and David died seven years ago and is hanging out with Jesus in heaven?”  I know when they hear that my son died they are going to immediately feel sorry for me and most likely a little uncomfortable.  They want to say something appropriate but fear saying something stupid, so the conversation stops or is redirected to who I think is going to win the NCAA Tournament.  As I stand there in that pregnant pause of silence I wonder if I should have simply said, “My two boys are both married to two beautiful woman and we are so proud of them.”  Sadly, when I chose to  exclude the reality of David and his death so others don’t feel uncomfortable, I am once again isolated and alone to grieve the loss of his beautiful presence in our lives.  They miss out and I miss out.  I say all this to prove the point that most of us are horrible at grieving.

A few weeks ago I watched a wonderful five minute video called “The Power of Wearing Your Pain” by Bridget Foley, a woman who lost a child.  My favorite part of the video was her “Wet Chair Wet Pants Method of Grief Sharing.”  She paints the following scenario:  You are out on a walk and your favorite elderly neighbor ask you to join her on her porch to sit down for a few minutes.  As you are about to sit down you realize that the chair is wet.  You know if you ask her for something to dry it off you will embarrass her or make her feel uncomfortable.  She’s elderly, her dog is sitting in her lap, and you don’t want to be a bother.  So what do you do?  Do you just sit in the chair and get wet pants?  Or do you make your neighbor a little uncomfortable to spare yourself a greater discomfort?

You see, a wet chair is a choice a grieving person encounters when they have to decide to either say something that reminds others of the reality of death or to simply choose to remain silent and sit with wet pants.  After seven years I have to say I am tired of wet pants!  The more I am willing to allow others to feel a little uncomfortable, the less I feel alone, the more I heal by sharing David’s incredible story, and the more my story helps another grieving person know it is normal and survivable.

If you have a few minutes watch Bridget’s video, I would love to hear your thoughts.
























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grief 2

I love and hate this quote on grief.

“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love.  The only cure for grief is to grieve.”  Earl Grollman

I love it because it reminds me of how much I loved my son David, my mom and dad, my nephew Matt, and many others who have died and left me to ache the loss of their presence, their touch, their laughter, and friendship. I hate it because it reminds me of how much I miss and love my son David, my mom and dad, my nephew Matt, and many others who have died and left me to ache the loss of their presence, their touch, their laughter, and friendship. The price and cure for loving so deeply is to accept the reality of grief and to grieve.

Yesterday we got a letter from Sasha and Sarah Hallock, our dear friends and one of our host couples. They just moved to New York City to minister to college students with Cru.  They too have loved deeply and are now grieving. They wrote:

“Our biggest realization from the retreat is that we are grieving. We are grieving the loss of our home in Rochester, our friendships, our former staff team, our church and our proximity to family; but most of all, we realized we are grieving over Judah.  The transition has reopened our sense of loss and sadness surrounding his disability, care, and ongoing needs.”

As I read their letter I wept for them. Their letter was raw, transparent, and real. It was not a sign of weakness. It was the result of loving deeply. To be honest it sparked something deep in my soul and I once again found myself grieving for my son. It was as if a scar was opened once again. It was painful and so I grieved.

In talking with my brother-in-law about the loss of our sons, we have gone back and forth on trying to describe what grief is like. You would think after almost eight years of grieving David’s passing I would be able to describe it or define it better. The following is a blog I found that I think describes grief better than anything I have ever read or tried to explain.  You can find the post at https://travelswithmrnimble.blogspot.com/2014/02/one-of-best-descriptions-of-grief-ive.html

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months or years, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”…G. Snow

If you know someone who is grieving, don’t be afraid to jump into the water with them as the waves are crashing over them to remind them they are not alone, that they are not weak, and remind them they have loved deeply.


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Why Me?

Warren Pfohl Headshot.JPGLike many of you I have a morning routine that helps me enter into the day. I get up, grind my coffee beans and make the coffee. While the coffee is brewing, I put out my vitamins for the day and set out everything to make oatmeal later in the morning.  I pour and bring Brenda her cup of coffee, and then I settle into the couch upstairs or out on the lanai to check my email and to stalk all my friends on Facebook. Today as I opened up Facebook I found my picture staring back at me. My first thoughts was, “Wow! I am really going bald!” As I read on I realized Kate had posted the announcement that I am being honored at a Non Profit Awards ceremony for “Outstanding Board Leadership.” I wanted to share a couple thoughts about this honor.


  1. My first thought was, “Why me?” There are so many other incredible well run nonprofits and leaders in the Syracuse area that deserve this honor as much as I do. Much of what I have learned and put into practice has come from other leaders in the nonprofit world. In the early years of our development I stumbled along with the other board members learning from our successes and failures. I surrounded myself with men and women who are passionate, smart, and committed to our mission. Each of these individuals are worthy of this award as well.
  2. My second thought was, “I am grateful!” If this were the Academy Awards Ceremony I would be clutching my golden Oscar with tears running down my face thanking the following people:
    • God: His love for me, my family, our staff, and the families we serve motivates me to want to do the same. He took the brokenness of David’s disease and death and transformed it into the beauty of David’s Refuge. I will forever be grateful.
    • Brenda: Brenda is my wife and best friend. We share the title of Co-Founder for David’s Refuge. We labored and dreamed together to create a place of respite for other moms and dads just like us. No Brenda, No David’s Refuge and No award for “Outstanding Board Leadership.” Thank you Brenda.
    • Staff: Thank you Kate Houck, Rory Lawrence, Morgan Pipes, and Sarah Watson. You make our jobs as board members easy. I especially want to thank Kate for taking on the role of Executive Director and for her nomination of me for this award. I don’t think there is a more challenging role than becoming the Executive Director while the founder is still active in the organization. She did it with excellence and grace and beauty. Thank you!
    • Board of Directors: I am so thankful for the other six men and woman who serve on the board with me. Kent Gillis, Adam Mastroleo, and Donna Richards are founding members with me. Lizzette Donivan, Lori Mccrohan, and Amy D’Ambrogio have joined the board in the last year. Each of these incredible friends are also worthy of this award.
    • The Leading Element: Susan Burgess and Katie Doucette, both Executive coaches from the Leading Element have taught, encouraged, and supported David’s Refuge for the past several years.  Their insight and coaching helped our board grow into a cohesive well organized group.  Thank you Susan and Katie.
  3. My third and final thought was, “Who else will join me?” David’s Refuge is growing in leaps and bounds. The only way we are going to keep up with our current growth and maintain the same level of excellence is to grow our board. We are looking for people with skills and knowledge in finance and banking. We would love to find someone who is entrepreneurial and has had experience in the expansion or franchising of a business. It would be great to find business leaders in Rochester NY, moms and dads of children with special needs, social workers, and people skilled and comfortable in donor development. Do you know someone who might be a good fit? Maybe it’s you? Give me a call.

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Have you ever had a day like Alexander’s, a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?  From the moment Alexander wakes up everything goes south.  He finds gum in his hair, he trips on his skateboard, there is no prize in his box of breakfast cereal, the dentist finds a cavity, the elevator door closes on his foot, he gets pushed into a mud puddle by Anthony and then gets punished by his mom for being muddy and fighting his brother, and to top it all off he has to eat lima beans for dinner.  All Alexander wants to do is move to Australia.

Your story may be a little different than Alexander’s, but it’s still counts as a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  The kids didn’t sleep, the seizures won’t stop, your spouse or partner won’t communicate, the aide didn’t show up, the kids on the bus were mean, the teacher is bullying your child, the insurance company won’t pay for the new and desperately needed adaptive equipment, your request for extra support was denied at the last IEP meeting, and to top it all off you had to eat lima beans for dinner.  Right about now a move to Australia sounds just dandy.

Sadly, having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is a part of living in a world that is comprised of both beauty and brokenness.  No one is exempt from it.  The question is how do you deal with it?  Do you run and hide and hope it will all go away?  Do you try to numb the pain with alcohol, drugs, or some other addiction?  Do you lash out at your husband or wife, blaming them for the deterioration of your marriage and the dream of the perfect family?  From personal experience I can tell you none of these are helpful or productive solutions.

As I look back and remember some of the worst, horrible, no good, very bad days we had caring for David, the only thing that held us together was our faith in a God who is always loving, always present, never limited in power, never changing, and not a bully.  Often it felt as if he wasn’t loving or present or powerful, but that was simply my feelings and not truth.  Almost daily I had to consciously place my hope in the one things that didn’t change and that was God who loved me, David, and my family.

Last week our good friend Shari Freyer stopped over and said, “You have to listen to this new song by MercyMe.  It makes me think of your story and of David.”  I hope you take a few minutes to listen to it and that it will help you if you are experiencing a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  It is a lot cheaper than flying to Australia.  Praying for your ability to believe that God loves you extravagantly.

PS: If all this talk about lima beans has made you hungry, here is a link to an article in the NY Times entitled, “Who Says You Can’t Love Lima Beans.”  There are a couple great recipes you should try.   https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/who-says-you-cant-love-lima-beans/?_r=0


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