Helping me to find gratitude from pain and loss – “She had the same habit as Casey, twirling her hair with her left hand”

Helping me to find gratitude from pain and loss – “She had the same habit as Casey, twirling her hair with her left hand”

Casey, Christmas Day 2008

Casey, Christmas Day 2008

I gave a distracted driving talk Tuesday at The Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. One of the students was blonde and she looked a little like my daughter, Casey. And she had the same habit as Casey – twirling her hair with her left hand. Following the talk, the school was getting out for Thanksgiving and many were leaving directly with family to travel for the holiday.

As I drove home I thought that if Casey were alive she, like all the girls at the talk, would be coming home to be with us for Thanksgiving. I would always pick her up at the train station in Philadelphia as she came home from college in NYC.  I would see her before she would see me and  I would look forward to that instant when she would first see me and smile – a smile just for her Dad.  I was really feeling down and missing Casey and thinking about how our Thanksgiving would not be so joyous. I thought about how I missed so many things about Casey, including her smile and how she twirled her hair.

Often when I finish a talk and am alone in my car I get emotional but, it was more so on Tuesday. I got home and continued to be deep in thought about how much I missed so many things about her. I thought of all that Casey had lost out on and all that we had lost. It was hard to feel thankful.

Then I received an e-mail from a father of one of the students at the school and it turned everything around for me emotionally. The father’s e-mail included the following:

My daughter just texted me that she found your presentation at her school to be a real eye-opener… she doesn’t text me often to comment on speakers she hears in class, but I think she was deeply moved by your experience, and so I write to you now.

I knew about your upcoming visit from an announcement, and at dinner last night I encouraged my daughter to be receptive to you. I got the usual rolling eye response that she’s heard it all before. She is a senior, and immersed in the more pleasant aspects of her life.

Thank you for making distracted driving an issue that we are all now concerned about. From your own unspeakable personal loss, I am sure that you are preventing many other tragedies. Your work is not only in the highest tradition of the lawyer, but the epitome of a human being who improves the lives of his neighbors.

When I read the email I realized just how much I did have to be thankful for: for my family and friends; for the support of so many wonderful and caring people; for the incredible 21 years I had with Casey;  for that young blonde student whose hair twirling prompted great memories of Casey;  and, for being able to tell Casey’s story everywhere to teens who are passionate, compassionate, energetic and so receptive to my message about distracted driving.

I am also grateful for that father’s email, as it prompted me to count my blessings on this Thanksgiving day.


Joel Feldman is the father of Casey Feldman and founder of the Casey Feldman Foundation and its sponsored project, He has been a practicing attorney for 38 years and a shareholder in the law firm of Anapol Weiss in Philadelphia. Joel has given more than 1,000 distracted driving presentations to students and adults across the country and is confident that we can make distracted driving socially unacceptable.