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Grief, Friendship, Remembrance

John Harwood in for Tom Ashbook

Brendan Ogg was just 20 when he died of cancer. His friends share a remarkable story of friendship and remembrance.

was majoring in English at the University of Michigan when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor during his sophomore year. He died in 2010. (Jackie Ogg)

was majoring in English at the University of Michigan when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor during his sophomore year. He died in 2010. (Jackie Ogg)

Losing loved ones is a universal human experience; millions of Baby Boomers are sharing it now as their parents pass away.

But it’s far different for young adults of Generation Y to lose one of their own.

How do teens and twenty-somethings cope with their grief -– and keep alive memories of those taken so early?

We’ll talk to a mother who lost her son –- and two friends who found comfort and meaning in art.

This hour On Point: Grief, remembrance, and perseverance in the face of heartbreaking loss.

-John Harwood


Jackie Ogg, Brendan’s mother.

Rachel Kopilow, Brendan’s friend

Tommy Hester, Brendan’s friend

Dr. Stuart Goldman, psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital Boston.


You can find out more about Chase,  a film based on the life of Brendan Ogg, here.

Words as Legacy: Words as Legacy honors the life and work of Diane Granat Yalowitz and Brendan Ogg. Both were gifted writers. Both lost their lives to brain cancer. And both lived in the same community of friends.

Click here to view a trailer from the movie Chase

From The Reading List:

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  • Dave Cardillo

    Dear John Harwood,

    You are one of mymost favorite CNBC reporters.  Your measured point ov view are drfinite reflections of your values, which I appreciate as fair and balanced.  Good to hear you on one of myfavorite radio shows.

    Dave Cardillo
    Clarksville, TN

  • David M

    Must be nice to have friends.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I had a friend in college who died a few years later of a brain tumor.  During college, she had epileptic seizures, different brain events, that did not disable her or even frighten her, actually.  She and I could hit it off because we both seemed tethered to another set of life challenges than most others.  At the time, it was just that we found the world totally laughable.  We would have a picnic and dissolve in laughter.  I remember she told me to put raw rice in the bag with the chicken, and I did so, and she had meant to put the rice in the salt shaker to keep it dry, something like that.  Oh, the tears of laughter. 
        I saw her a few times after she had tried her wings I think at Oxford, and then who knows where.  She was just as full of laughter, but it had a zipper on it then; the underlying detachment we had shared was so obviously tragic.  She was alone with a deadly curse, and I couldn’t help her.  
        What an anchor it is to recall laughing together at everything as if a spring would go off in both of us at the same time, without explanation.

  • Naomi Bindman

     I admire these young people holding their friend present in their hearts;  keeping his life and gifts “alive.” I deeply empathize with the need to do this. My daughter, Ellen Bindman-Hicks died in a car accident two years ago. She was 17 and like Brendan, a poet, actor, also an artist and a rising singer/songwriter. Like Brendan she possessed wisdom beyond her years. She had just recorded a CD with 12 of her 50 songs. I have been playing and singing her music at open mics, trying to keep her spirit and name present. Ellen’s friends have been a source of strength and inspiration for me.  This is the link to her music: http://www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.aspx?epk_id=209919 I hope as many people as possible will hear her voice and wisdom.

    • Pamela Courtot

      Thank you Naomi for sharing your story.  I am listening to Ellen’s lovely voice now as I write this.  What a terrible loss. My sincere condolences.


      • Naomi Bindman

        Oh, thank YOU, Pamela. Please share the link with any others you feel would appreciate it.  There is contact info on the site in case anyone would like a CD. Knowing that people are listening and appreciating her lyrics, melodies and voice brings some slight solace. ~Naomi

        • Shannon

          Her voice is angelic.  Thank you for sharing her.

    • Ronald Chuck Hernandez

      Naomi, I hope that, if only for a moment,this surprise,brings you some “joy and happiness”, after all you have gone through. This is Chuck Hernandez, from Englewood, letting you know, I miss you and I feel your grief, concerning the lost of your daughter. Just like you’ll always remember your loved ones, I’ve never forgotten you. I am stuck with words due to the circumstances, but I admire your strength and words of wisdom you share with the other readers.  I would’ve loved to know your daughter personally, but from what I’ve read about her, she must have been a dream come true for you. Her voice is so angelic. Her looks are just the same. Just like you. The videos of her singing brought tears to my eyes. I can feel your pain and sorrow again. It has me asking God, “Why is he putting you through this”? But, who am I to ask? I’m sure God’s plan in affect, creating miracles.  
      Although, I am sure you have a wonderful husband who is supportive and gives you the much needed strength, I would love to hear from you, one way or the other. You can call me at 917-4117-5317 or e-mail me at: Ronsexterminator@aol.com. As you probably know, I live in NYC,. That is where I lived before I met you in Englewood. I remember your mom took us to the movies in NYC once. I also remember going to Bennington, VT.,during Christmas time, in your mom’s little sports cars. Grandpa Irving cut down a Christmas tree on his property for the house. Wow, what memories! Bye.

  • Dsnicholls

    I lost my son three weeks ago a passenger in a car accident. He was 18 full of life and off to College in Mass.
    They say the car driven by another boy who was unhurt, was doing 88 mph in a 30mph zone.
    The lawyer is spinning their tale – i anticipate a bad period getting worse.
    My wife and I are lost in time and space.

    • Naomi Bindman

      I understand… so sorry… hold on, and keep speaking his name and honoring his life.

    • Dawnrpharm

      Saying Prayers for You and Your Wife, My Friend, I am sorry. So sorry. A terrible loss you have suffered. I am a Mother to a 12 year old little boy…I am FEARFUL of letting him drive someday. I have my own griefs as to why. Time is getting closer to that age. I can not imagine your loss. My Deepest Condolences and Prayers to You…
      Much Love to You Both,

      • Dsnicholls

        Thank you all.
        All I can say is where there was life there is “a black hole”.
        Where there was energy there is stillness.
        When there was joy there are tears.
        None of the worlds “so called” problems command respect.
        Life is all.

        • Naomi Bindman

          this resonates so clearly with me…

    • Ellen Dibble

      “Lost in time and space” is a fine description, I think, in that it encapsulates the experience as well as the realization the experience goes on without end.  There is no more solid ground, no reflection coming back in the usual ways.  There is no mitigation.  Do you tell yourselves, after some span of time, that by the way, your son was all about life, and would want you to re-root yourself in the human family in other ways?  Or maybe there are un-finished bits of his life with you that will never really let you get to that point?  I suppose you have to go beyond space and time far enough to find all those unfinished bits and…

    • Linda

      I am so sorry for your loss.  My brother lost his 13 yr. old daughter to a 3-time drunk driver almost five years ago.  Sami would’ve been 18 in May, and off to college with her cousins.  The driver finally got life, as he killed not only my niece, but her best friend’s dad, who was taking Sami and her friend for an ice cream on a warm August evening before a sleepover.  My brother didn’t go to every court appearance - he didn’t want to be too much a part of the angry and gut-wrenching proceedings; but when he did, he sat silently in the courtroom holding a picture of his beautiful daughter for the driver to see whenever he looked across the courtroom.  It doesn’t get much easier, and sometimes when I come across a card or letter from her it just takes my breath away . . . and, life somehow moves on.  We celebrate Samantha’s birthday every May, watch videos, and talk about all the wonderful moments she brought to all of us.  It’s all we can do.  Take care.   

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

        This tells of social-forenzics: young people are having fun in a different environment.
        Meanwhile a loose cannon is merging on ‘his street’. GPS and crime-proof technology ‘could’ demobilize the random, without a ‘taxi defensive mentality/fear’

    • Swinn

      I am so sorry for your loss.  I have some friends who lost their precious 21 year old daughter in a car accident last november.  She was the happiest person with the biggest smile you would ever meet.  She was nearing graduation of college to become an art teacher.  Jessica was a huge part of our church and the young people there. Our entire youth group was shaken from stem to stern over her death. I never knew a young person could touch so many lives but Jessica did.  I sat in amazement at her funeral and watched over 4000 visitors come thru for her visitation and again the next day as people stood outside the church during the funeral as the auditorium was packed, the hallways, the foyer etc….they were lined around the drive of our church and the parking lot.  Police were called in to direct and handle traffic.  What a wonderful testimony to Jessica this was.  Her parents are still grieving but try to celebrate her life as much as they can.  They shot off fireworks at her graveside on July 4th as Jessica always enjoyed those so much..  They have established a memorial fund and our youth group remembers her often.  People still leave her messages on her cell phone as well as her facebook.  Tho the pain is deep, keep your son alive in your hearts and souls.  He is there with you and watching over you.  God bless you and you continue this journey of healing over this great pain and vast hole in your life…..but try to fill it with all the great memories and cherished moments.   You will be in my prayers.
      Scott Winn
      Herrin, IL 

    • June_bug_200135

      my prays are with your famly i lost my son to and time and space is the only thing that keeps me sane to hold on to god cuz this lawyers stuff get MEAN. Keep your head up.

  • Sofia

    Thank you for addressing this very important topic. Sadly, we have whole neighborhoods in our cities where young people are grieving for friends and (young) parents taken too soon. There are few resources for counseling services (which would need to be low-cost or free) to enable young people, especially young men, to grieve and come to grips with their many losses. Is it any wonder that many then have the attitude “Nobody really cares” and erupt in anger? Who is organizing the poetry readings and other artistic venues for expressing grief in our inner cities when so many have been touched by violence resulting in young death? Parents are overwhelmed, as are religious leaders, as are friends who are burying far too many too soon.

    My heart goes out to those who have lost children and friends. We are not a nation that generally talks much about death with our children, so it’s no wonder we may feel lost in how to cope and honor the memories of those who have died but left their mark on our hears.

  • Andrew Hubbard

       I had a good friend who passed away two years ago in a tragic car accident. It my friends and I completely by surprise. I had dealt with death many times before having lost both my grand fathers, aunts and uncles so I thought I had some understanding of death. But the death of my friend was like someone pulling the rug out from under me. It was hard to even believe that a kid that I had just seen a few days before could be torn from this world. In this time I found it very tough to even talk to anyone about his death. I was angry and frustrated with the world, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. However I finally found comfort with my friends who were also grieving with me. They helped me so much that I don’t know what I would have done without them. 

       So far every year His family has a get together for all of his friends and we all just sit around remembering the impact he had on our lives and others. In fact my friend was an organ donor and his heart was given to a man saving his life. The gentleman was there last year and everyone there took a turn listening to his heart beat, everyone cried. Yet there was a this great feeling that even though our friend was dead he was still able to save others.

       Over time I learned to honor his memory in my own ways. He was the friendliest person I had ever met and at his funeral there were two hundred of his friends, I always thought that was a number you could only see on Facebook. Yet here was a kid who had touched so many lives. He didn’t judge people and always welcomed people with a smile. He often said that if he could do one thing it would be introduce everyone in the world to each other and if anyone could have it would have been him. In my personal life I have adopted this type of mentality and have made many great friends because of it. Though to this day I still stay close with many of those that were there to help me get through that difficult period.

  • Dawnrpharm

    First time listener of On Point, and now a fan of the show… on break in my “mobile office”, as I was having lunch…I really took in this broadcast from Brendan Ogg and his Friends and His Mother, it touched me…brought tears to my eyes…as I remember loosing 2 friends at the same time at very young age in high school, 16 years old, to a freak car accident after a school field trip. I still visit their grave sites for the past 22 years. I sit and cry, I never did get over it or had the proper help to channel my pain, I was in shock and blocked everything and everyone…hearing this broadcast today, as I remember the very day in school our friends announcement over the intercom that they were gone, both of them just like that and going to a school sponsored grief counseling session…as it was yesterday. How very important it really is to get the proper support and time needed to heal, never forget, but to heal…it is pain that you never do really ever forget…to My Dear Friends, Lisa Lis and Katie Denise. You will never be forgotten. 
    and Thank You On Point…for My Thoughts today…and to know that I am not alone.
    Dawn Pasquariello
    New Milford, CT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Bayne/100000090408760 Steve Bayne

    I heard a large part of this program about Brendan while driving this morning. It was heartwarming to learn that Brendan’s friends were there for him. My condolences to his family and friends. Steve Bayne, Montreal Qc.

  • Mindi Englart

    I called in to the show today. I’m a creative writing teacher at an arts high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Because writing is such a healthy tool for people to explore and express feelings, and because so many teens have been losing their friends due to gun violence in America’s cities (including New Haven), my students decided to write a book entitled “A Better Place.” They did an amazing job of putting together a book-length collection of remembrances (poems, letters, stories, photos) from students and their friends and family members that will be published in the fall. We read texts and met with professionals that educated us about the grieving process. Since the kids had to encounter and share their own grief as they wrote, the project ended up being quite cathartic. In the end, these brave, creative students helped to strengthen our community by giving needed space to themselves and others to publicly remember their lost loved ones. Suffering through a loss is often a very lonely experience. There is not a lot of support in school and many cultures encourage people not to show their sadness. I encourage young people to find a creative outlet–writing, music, art. It can really be a help, and they may find it connects them to supports and resources they would otherwise be unaware of.

  • Donald W. Steele, Ph.D.

    I have counseled and lectured and written on grief for over 30 years and am constantly amazed that this timeless topic is always well recieved but only by those in need at a given time. Like death itself we do not want to deal with it until it is in our face. good Show and alwys relevant!

  • Erik

    I lost my 19 year old son to a drunk driver just a few months ago.  My step father told me a few things that really helped me.  He reminded me that life is change, with out change, there is no life.  Also, he said that no one wants pain, but a life without pain is no life at all.  All life has pain.  It is as necessary as change.  It makes us who we are.  It changes us and we should be glad for the pain.  I am glad I had my son in my life for the years I did.  He touched more people in 19 years than I have in 41.  I can only hope I get as much recognition at my funeral.  

  • Malou

    I feel you, my bro was only 19 too when we lost him through an unexpected illness. But we are also surpirsed at how many people loved him and were touched by his short life. You must have raised a very good son. Praying for your more strenght to relieve the pain,l. God bless

  • OBrien

    I was listening to this show the other day in my car. My experience with loss has been a long and on-going one. But the story I wanted to share is this:
    In my junior year of high school I moved to Boston, and was in new school. In the spring of that year I went back to my old town and school to visit my Dad. During that trip he became ill and passed away after a very brief week in the hospital. 
    Nearly three weeks after i initially left, I returned to school. In my very first class I was handed a test on the book I had neglected to read. I attempted to explain why I couldn’t take the test and was told to be quiet and do it to the best of my ability. Looking down at the test, I started to cry. I wrote on the back that I couldn’t take the test and walked out. 
    Apparently, the school did not notify my teachers of my father’s death. And as I was the new girl in a rather small and tightly knit school, I felt completely alone. I left school and went home. As the day progressed, all of my teachers were notified after my mom called in. 
    I ended up staying home and catching up on work for a few days.
    When I finally did return, I felt like everyone knew about my Dad dying and that I had suddenly become the focus of that weeks gossip. My counselor attempted to talk to me about my Dad but really just looked at me with pity. Everyone I encountered for the next month walked on eggshells around me, sending looks of pity, and occasionally saying how sorry they were. It was strange, isolating and compounded the complexity of my grief. 
    In retrospect, I think the school should have obviously notified the teachers prior to my return, but more than that, had a plan for returning to school after the loss. Talking one on one with a school counselor that usually gives advice on college planning was useless. I didn’t need to talk about “how I was feeling” with another stranger. After losing my Dad I didn’t want to be treated differently, or constantly asked “how are you?” followed by the “I’m sorry” I wanted a way to tell my friends about what had happened, and how to get back to normal conversations with my friends. 
    Eventually, things went back to normal. My senior year was great and I had a lot of wonderful friends. However, I still feel the weight of losing my Dad and the consequences of never fully expressing my grief with friends. I really hope that in the future schools will have a rounded and planned approach for any kind of loss students might experience, understanding that not everyone wants to talk to a counselor/teacher/nurse ect., or write about what happened in a paper or feel isolated because other students dont know how to talk about loss. Loss is a hard fact of life, but having the tools and knowing how to talk to a friend that has experienced loss would make everything much easier for everyone. 

    • Marla

      Thank you for sharing this. As a cancer patient and a mom to two young boys, I think about this alot. Should I die before they get old, I don’t want people to look at them with pity, and I want them to process their emotions as they come up. I also want them to always know joy. I don’t know how to help others do that, but your post was helpful to me in so many ways: what to look for, knowing that things can be better, and other ways I can’t even articulate. Thank you.

  • sally

    fantastic show and looking forward to seeing this film!

Sep 1, 2014
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