Journal entry by Jen Kelly

The last few weeks have been an incredible roller coaster of emotions for our family.  As we begin to process the many events and emotions of this time, we wanted to acknowledge the countless acts of kindness and support directed toward our family and in Dan’s memory.  

We recognize that as a family we do not hold the monopoly on grieving Dan’s loss and that a much wider community is also struggling with how to make sense of his untimely death.  It is our most fervent wish that Dan’s life not be defined by the way in which he died, but the way in which he lived.  

We wanted to publicly thank the many people who have reached out via text or phone, the hundreds of cards, prayers, and general good wishes.  To those of you who stood in line for hours to pay your respects at his wake or joined us in celebrating his life at the Faith Community Church, we thank you for your on-going support and love.  

We will never have the right words to express our gratitude for these acts of love and kindness or the generosity of those who have looked after our needs.  We are deeply grateful to Jay’s co-worker Jessica Szala for starting a Go Fund Me account to support our family and to the hundreds who donated. We have committed to continuing Dan’s legacy of making the world a better place and will do so through the vehicle of the Daniel J. Hollis Foundation.  Again, our deepest appreciation to those who have donated to support Dan’s legacy. As we look ahead, we are comforted that the work of his foundation will spread his message to, “Always be true to yourself, and be who you want to be, regardless of what others think.”

The list of people to thank is daunting.  As we move forward in our healing process we will try to connect with you all individually.  Please know how much we appreciate you and your kindness and generosity. While we send our thanks to all of you, I also feel the need to thank Daniel.  Because of his life and his relationships our family has grown. Whether it is the hockey-family, the lacrosse-family, the Emerson-family, the Hopedale-family, work-families, or our flesh and blood family, we are eternally grateful. I don’t know how I would have survived the last few weeks without the support of my dear friends who I met on the baseball sidelines close to ten years ago.  Brought together by our boys, our friendship is a sisterhood and I owe it to Daniel.  

Thank you again for your ongoing support.  Again, we ask you to remember Dan’s life, not his death.  In the celebration of his life, our friend, Rev. Dereck Jackson challenged us to spread his message and live life to the fullest.  We hope you will join us in taking on this challenge.

“Our Daniel”

From Daniel’s Celebration of Life - October 14, 2019

Daniel made our family complete.  He was sweet and kind, brought comic relief to almost any situation, and genuinely wanted everyone to be happy.  During this difficult time, it has brought our family great comfort to know that he was all of these things and more to all of you.  Today we have asked some of the friends and loved ones who knew him to speak about their time with Dan, but as his parents and the people who literally knew him his entire life we wanted to start the celebration with some of our own words about Dan.

March 9, 2000, began as a cold, dark and gloomy day.  The view from our delivery room at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital was one of angry storm-clouds and rain as we awaited the arrival of our baby boy.  That gloomy atmosphere dissipated almost immediately when in a scene similar to the presentation of Simba in the Lion King (minus the kneeling animals and cool soundtrack),  our doctor placed a 10 lb. man-baby into our arms. For the first time that day, the sun broke through the clouds and completely lit up every corner of the room with warmth and sunshine.  So enamored with our not-so-little guy, we didn’t realize that this would be the first in a seemingly countless list of times that Daniel James Hollis would light up a room by simply entering it.

Over the last two weeks, we have heard and appreciated so many beautiful accounts of Daniel from people who saw him every day and those who may have only met him once or twice.  What has struck us, is that no matter how deep of a relationship there was, it was a relationship. And that, in a nutshell, was Dan.  

As we sat in the ICU at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and shared stories of Dan with his amazing nurses, we realized how often we used the term “best friend”.  Whether talking about his beloved Christie (who had been his best friend since the 6th grade) or his best friend Nick who was boarding a plane to get back to Boston to be by his side or Dah Boys or the Fellas or the hockey teams or lacrosse teams or the Sizzler team of 2010 or roommates or neighbors - we kept describing you all as his best friend. While we are not sure if it is possible to be best friends with every single person in your life we do know, that when Dan was with you he was intent that you have the best time ever and he loved you all individually as only a best friend could.  

As I write this, I imagine Daniel listening and his sheepish smile spreading across his face as the circles on his cheek started to light up red.  He would shrug his shoulders in an “Aw shucks” type of way and ask us to stop because we were embarrassing him, but secretly he’d be loving it. He really wanted to please others and tried to be kind to everyone, but he was not perfect.  In fact, he was messy. The boy could destroy a perfectly clean bedroom in an afternoon’s time and left a trail of his junk wherever he walked. After a long day of work I would come into the house and within 30 seconds be able to tell exactly what he had done all day by simply surveying the room.  He thought I was a psychic, I told him he was just a slob. He was the worst at answering emails and often forgot to respond to texts or phone calls unless of course, he needed money, and he often needed money because he spent all of his money on food, friends, and clothes as soon as he earned it. I also recently discovered a large stack of completed thank you cards from his high school graduation party. Apparently he couldn’t find everyone’s addresses and instead of admitting to me how late he was in completing the cards and asking me for the addresses, he hid them. To add insult to injury, he pocketed the money I gave him for stamps! Did we mention he was a bit of a schemer?   We could go on and on, but, these are just a few examples of how this beautiful boy drove us absolutely crazy, then would turn around and steal our hearts with some small act of kindness, goofy dance, or a simple, “Ooops.”

It may be hard for many of you to believe, but Dan was incredibly shy.  I remember having to give him hour-long pep talks before class officer speeches, theater auditions, and sports tryouts.  I had to pull the car over for him to be sick before the 6th-grade class officer speeches and once again before his first Hopedale Hockey captain’s practice.  He was reluctant to be the center of attention but loved being part of the action. Over time, he gained confidence in himself and with that confidence an appreciation of others and their struggles.  He truly, truly cared about others and would make a fool of himself to take the negative attention off of someone else or make a fool of himself to ensure everyone was having a good time. He often made the smallest of events big, like hosting 4am breakfast and dress-at-home for the hockey team, or hanging with the Banter Squad after lacrosse games, hosting tail-gate parties in our driveway with bottled rootbeer and a deep fryer, his Black Friday shopping trips, drinking wine from goblets and eating cheese while watching Game of Thrones, or spending countless hours at McDonalds where he tried to beat his personal-eating record which remains at 36 nuggets, a McChicken and a McDouble all in one sitting - we were equally horrified and impressed to learn of this feat.  

There are no words to express our grief. Daniel was our bright and shining star.  His journey was cut far too short. While he accomplished so much and made such an impact on those he met his work had only just begun. He had just started to tap into creative arts with clothing design and looked forward to learning more about product/brand development and global marketing.  After an amazing summer trip to Ireland, he had caught the travel bug and planned to return to Ireland to study abroad. He wanted to travel, hear live music, laugh, own lots of dogs, and be surrounded by happy people. He wanted the world to be a better place and we believe he made our world a brighter place by simply being.  Our deepest wish moving forward is that you celebrate who he was, what he meant to you, and use the happy memories of Daniel to light the way ahead. Be kind to one another and remember to smile.

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