Lucy Shemo was devastated. I did not know her dad, John Shemo, but when I heard he died, I reached out to see if she was okay. Lucy was a student in a couple of my classes a few years ago. The first day I met her she told me about her dad. He was a founding member of the local band Strawberry Jam. It was easy to see how proud she was of him. And as I got to know her, I suspected he was proud of her too. She’s smart and talented and well-spoken and confident. She’s an exceptional writer, an exceptional artist and an exceptional human being. Her dad, she said, had a lot to do with that.

As writers often do, Lucy turned her grief into words. She wrote a letter to her dad and shared it with me. “Dad, you had magic,” she wrote. “I love your ability to ad-lib the names of those around you into songs, especially mine.” She told me her dad would light up any room he was in and she hoped he was doing that right now in heaven with his good friend Anne Carmody. And that stopped me in my tracks.

“Wait,” I texted Lucy. “Your dad knew Anne Carmody?”

Anne and her dad were extremely close, she said. They worked together at Geisinger and Anne used to babysit Lucy when she was little. The thought of that warmed my heart.

Anne and I were close as well. We also worked together and we relished the fact that our birthdays were just a day apart, hers on Nov. 1, mine Nov. 2. This past November was the first time in more than 50 years that we could not send each other birthday wishes. Anne died on Oct. 2.

I was unable to attend Anne’s funeral, but her friend and mine Kenny Musto was there. He told me John Shemo sang during the funeral Mass, and that, too, warmed my heart.

If I could sum up the year 2022 in one word it would be: loss.

As I write, there is not a heart in all of Greater Pittston that is not heavy over the loss of adorable little 10-year-old Raeann Merlino, the entire Pittston Area community is trying to come to grips with the loss of lovable David Galli, and that loss comes just a little more than a month after the passing of another Pittston Area legend, lovable Jimmy Ardoline.

Every day I feel the loss of four close friends who died between mid-February and mid-April. And I know Sandy and Vince Insalaco, of the legendary supermarket family, are dealing with the loss of their two brothers, Michael and Leonard, and their brother-in-law and business partner Leonard Dixon, all of whom died in the last year.

Surely there is not a person who has not experienced loss in 2022, or a person who has not come to the conclusion that the only way to deal with loss also can be expressed in just one word: love.

Someone we love may die, but our love for them does not. We often find, in fact, that it grows stronger.

When Matt Johnson, of the British post-punk band with the unusual name The The, lost his brother, he wrote a song he called “Love is Stronger than Death.” It goes like this:

In our lives we hunger for those we cannot touch

All the thoughts unuttered and all the feelings unexpressed

Play upon our hearts like the mist upon our breath

But awoke by grief, our spirits speak

How could you believe that the life within the seed

That grew arms that reached, and a heart that beat

And lips that smiled, and eyes that cried could ever die?

Dealing with loss also brings to mind another song.

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “All You Need is Love,” they applied that sentiment to everything. “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done,” they said. “Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung. Nothing you can make that can’t be made. No one you can save that can’t be saved.”

And what miracle allows you to do all of this?

Love. That’s it. Love.

Love is all you need.

As a new year begins, let us resolve to make it a “Year of Love.” Allow the love that helps us deal with loss and eventually heals all broken hearts to be the basis of everything we do. I’ve always told my children “lead with your love.” No matter what you are dealing with, place your love first and foremost and see how wonderful every experience can be.

And the best part is what The Beatles said about doing this very thing:

“It’s easy.”

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at

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