“What did you do for fun today?”
NASA engineer, mentor, world traveler, mountaineer, extreme sports enthusiast, nature lover, sailor, brother and son. Yes, these words describe Robin’s son, Ty Lorenzi, but they certainly don’t define him. Anyone who knew him would agree that Ty’s most impressive and important attribute was that he was kind, deeply and sincerely kind. Friends say he had an organic, genuine way of living positively that excited anyone he interacted with. Wherever he went, he always said it was “a great place to meet someone.”
The phrase, “What did you do for fun today?” was Ty’s mantra, heard again and again by his friends and family. Tireless in his efforts to make friends wherever he went, to Ty there was no distinction between the homeless woman on the street, the famous professor in the lecture hall, or the little boy on the playground. They were all just people who had something valuable to say.
Remarkably, Ty’s outgoing nature did not come naturally. Shy and introverted, at the age of 14 he made a conscious decision to be more outgoing. It was with great determination that he faced his fear and anxiety head on, and forced himself to take risks by reaching out to strangers. Small victories built on themselves and soon Ty was known as the friendliest guy around, inspiring countless others to be less anxious and “go for it.”
Robin remembers seeing this change first hand when they took him to college, “We were waiting in line at a cafe and Ty approached two strangers with a big smile on his face, and said: ‘Hi, I’m Ty, what is your name?’ They smiled back and began conversing with one another. When we visited Ty a year later, he continued to greet everyone passing by and they all smiled back and said hello. Everywhere he went people knew him, or if they didn’t, he introduced himself. It made me realize how important human connection is to feel happy. Ty already discovered this.”
On May 13th, 2011, a few weeks before his 24th birthday, Ty died in a boating accident on the James River. Since that tragic day Robin and her husband and daughter, and Ty’s many friends have done much to honor and remember him.
Ty’s friends joined together to make Ty’s List and CommuniTyler, a service organization that holds an annual May event where volunteers across the country come together to make friends and participate in service projects within their community. For Robin, Communityler is a blessed reminder of Ty’s joyful, compassionate nature and desire to give back in some way. “During the event, Ty’s friends share their stories of Ty, some of which we have never heard before.”
Whenever they experience something that reminds them of Ty, Robin and her family talk about it openly with friends and family. “I believe this helps others understand how important it is for us to talk about Ty so that the memories do not fade.” Robin’s family also chooses to celebrate Ty’s birthday rather than the anniversary of his death, which are both in the month of May. Robin joined the Project Grace 2014 trip to Tanzania and now serves on the Project Grace Advisory Board.
Of her time in Tanzania, Robin remembers one moment in particular: “We were sitting in a circle with Emmy (founder of the orphanage and school) and she shared her story of the loss of her young child. As we cried together and held hands, I felt deep compassion for every mother in the room. Feeling love and concern for others lightens my heavy heart.”
And to mothers or parents just entering this horrible territory, Robin has some advice: “I promise you are not alone in this horrible nightmare. Reach out to people you trust and who can listen without any advice or judgment. Grief is different for everyone and there is no defined time frame for moving through the intense pain. I don’t believe you ever move on, but the magnitude of the pain lessens over time.”