An Afternoon With Hope Floats

I remember meeting Mike Brack in the summer going into junior high. I was from Pembroke. He was from Plympton, a neighboring town in the South Shore. We were heading into Regional Junior High School for the first time, so it was odd when you met someone from outside your town.

Mike and I got along right away at soccer camp. We were both small. We were both fast. We both had a way of getting under people’s skin. So whatever this friendship was, it worked.

Fast forward a few years and Mike was basically living at my place after school. If you needed to find Mike he was with me, and the same good be said for me. We grew up together and got along. In high school, as usual dumb shit occurs, we grew apart a little bit after a few dumb fights. It was boys being boys. I figured I’d have time to patch the relationship up as we got older, and that did start to happen when I was home from college one late October weekend.

He was leaving my house after we were at a party next door the night before, and before he took off we shook hands and I invited him up to school. The person who I took skiing with on New Years with my family, the friend who shared many laughs and did a lot of dumb shit with was going to come back into my life.

Things were going to be good again between Mike and I.

And then November 15th came. Mike was involved in a car accident that claimed his life and the life of another great friend, P.J. Shaughnessy. It was a tragic accident and we lost Mike first. P.J. would pass later that morning in the hospital.

It was a gut-wrenching blow. How does one person be somewhere one day and then gone the next? Magnify that by asking yourself that question when the two people gone are 18 and 20 years old.

The loss of my two friends created a void for an entire community. It created a deep sense of loss for the Brack and Shaughnessy families that they will never truly be able to understand.

Luckily, we’ve been able to stay so close to the two families, and in late April a large number of Mike’s friends joined the Bracks at the Hope Floats Memorial Walk.

Denise and Ken Brack started Hope Floats with the idea of helping grieving families. They wanted to help those who lost a loved one and give them a place where they could be surrounded with likeminded people. Being around other people who have lost someone is a bond, not one that anybody would ever call special or ever wish on anybody, but there is always that void, and you can see it in their eyes.

The Hope Floats walk helps fund many of the programs that Denise and Ken deliver to the community, and it continues to grow and grow with what looked like a thousand people walking on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Denise said they could have done a golf tournament, and they used to run a soccer tournament, but this forum allows people to re-connect and talk about life and loss on a walk along the peaceful Jones River.

I was able to shoot some video and tell some of the story of the walk here:

Having the connection with the Bracks means that we will always be able to hold on to a piece of Mike. The accident was almost 14 years ago and I think about he and P.J. every single day.

I miss my friends. I hope they know that.

Tommy Layman


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