Friendship and Laughter

There we were…two miles from the nearest paved roadway… yet at the edge of our property was a driveway going even further back in. There lived the Radell’s in a beautiful home on the hill looking down the valley toward town. Their son, Nick, and our Bret, were born just months apart and became close friends.

One of Nick and Bret’s adventures that I remember most fondly, was the clearing of a trail through the woods between our homes. It was a huge project that kept them hard at work for days, working from morning until night. The trail wound like switchbacks through the woods. We often hiked it for exercise as well as meditation. It was a gorgeous woods with aged trees and low undergrowth. The rays of late afternoon sun, sparkling through those trees, were magical. That trail was such a gift.

There were many, many adventures through the years. Although their paths have taken them in different directions, the friendship has endured. Both Nick and Bret were blessed to find and marry very special ladies. Nick and Jenn have two sweet children and live in New Jersey.

A couple weeks ago in mid-July, Nick and Jenn brought Nick Jr. for a visit with Bret and Shannon in Pultneyville. Jim and I were thrilled to join them. Bret was still able to get up at that point and the visit was set up out on the porch. It was a beautiful day in so many ways.  It was great to reconnect with old friends…better know the new…take turns walking that sweet baby…and share memories. What I best remember about that visit was the beautiful sound of hearty laughter. Genuine, side-spitting laughter cannot be manufactured…it is simply a gift.

Can there be any better medicine?


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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36 Responses to Friendship and Laughter

  1. Carly Szabo says:

    It’s thanks to Nick that I know Bret. Bret used to come visit Nick in Caledonia on weekends and over the summer and I was Nicks neighbor there So thanks Nick for bringing such a remarkable courageous person/friend into my life.

  2. Kristen Palmer says:

    Nicely done Betsy!! Good to have have old freinds stop by especially with a beautiful new baby. Yes, laughter and friendship are the best!! Great photos and my best to you and Bret today. May it be a peaceful day. Kris

  3. Yvonne M Sellers says:

    Wonderful memories, past & present! There are always those ‘special’ moments that tug at one’s hearts, places visited, quiet & peaceful, that bring back all of the glorious memories, no matter when that special place is visited. I walked often as a child, through Wayland proper. I was led by the music in my head, much like the laughter and peace you and your Family found on your path & switchbacks. Laughter & happiness are my wish for you all… And peacefulness, as there never seems to be enough.
    Thoughts and prayers continue for All. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Sally Leeson says:

    Great photos, great account of a wonderful laughter- filled visit. Thank you for sharing this Betsy. Cheers to all!

  5. Kay and Larry Thomas says:

    Betsy, so well stated.
    There is something about memories that when brought up to consciousness can strengthen and warm us in ways that are difficult to put into words.That particular remembrance made you all feel so good, and each of you was able to add his own intrepretation which might have surprised the others. Great!
    And, the laughter and sharing is so very special. It binds us forever with our loved ones.
    At one time it was just another kid adventure, and now you are re-living the scene vividly with all your senses. Loved it! Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Christine says:

    Thanks for taking me back to the magical trail. Nice work Bret and Nick! I’m sure its very existence will bring joy to many in the years to come. Still sending good vibes, and lots of love.

  7. Reggie & Mary Lee Page says:

    Walks in the woods – some of my favorite memories from growing up. We had a path from our back yard down into Letchworth park – made by deer but well used by my brothers and me and other friends too. We considered it “our” area of the park and were amazed and a little disturbed when tourists made their way back into “our” woods. Maybe we should have put up posted signs like you did!

    You are right – laughter is a gift!
    We love all of you! Reggie & Mary Lee

  8. Laurie Sherner says:

    Still here supporting you, Bret, Shannon and family. All my best wishes and good vibes going out to you. May the summer sun shine upon your face!

  9. Paul Griggs says:

    Bret ………… my name is Paul Griggs, I am 67 years old and I am an esophageal cancer patient at Wilmot Cancer Center. I have been reading your blog since first becoming aware of it in the Democrat and Chronicle. Your blog has truly been an inspiration to me and my wife Lorraine, my “Steel Magnolia” from the north. Your courage and determination are remarkable! What we share in common, besides the big “C”, and more importantly, is having the loving care and support from family, friends and a wife with unending energy and love.
    On Monday, August 14th I was at Wilmot Cancer Center for a follow up of my most recent PET/CT scan. I had brought my Ipad with me just in case there was a wait. My wife and I were reading your mother’s latest post. What a wonderful job she has done with her posts. In walks the Fellow who is helping Dr. Mohile. She introduced herself, Dr. Makiko Ban-Hoefen. At first I didn’t put 2 and 2 together. After her review of my scans etc., I happened to look at her name tag and the light went on, Hoefen, I know that name. I asked if she knew you and turns out that she is your sister in law. What a warm and wonderful person she is ……. oh yes what a great doctor too! How comforting for you to have such a special wife, mom and family like Dr. Ban-Hoefen!
    I would like to share a poem by E.E. Cummings that I discovered early on in my cancer treatment that expresses my feelings for that most special person in my life, my wife Lorraine, and I am sure parallels your feelings for Shannon.

    i carry your heart with me
    i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
    my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
    i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing, my darling)
    i fear
    no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
    no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)

    Bret and Shannon our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family always.
    Paul and Lorraine

  10. Dawn says:

    Like Bob Seger says in a song “Visiting old friends is good for the soul”. Think of you all often. Just down the road if you need anything. Love Dawn

  11. Hi Bret. We have never met but my husband works at Ginna. You are in our thoughts on a daily basis. Take care.

  12. Ashley says:

    Love the photos! Thank you for the update – not a day goes by that I don’t think of you (Bret) and your family.


  13. Emily says:

    If you haven’t had a chance yet… please fill out this form for Bret and Shannon.

  14. Bob and Rosie Hughes says:

    “The heart that gives, gathers”. ~ Marianne Moore
    Oh, dear and wonderful Hoefens, you have gathered so much! You are surrounded by so many who love you!

  15. Amber says:

    Not a day goes by that I don’t pray for your sweet heart and amazing personality that is felt by so many who have never had the pleasure to meet you. I keep a picture of you by the lake on the desktop of my work computer as inspiration and a constant reminder to appreciate and take the gifts that each day offers. God Bless you all, Hoefen family. I am better for knowing you, even if it is across the net. ~Amber

  16. Tara says:

    Thinking of you Bret, Shannon, and Hoefen family….

  17. Lori B says:

    Laughter is cheap medicine!!! Live well, laugh often and love much. Thoughts and prayers always with all of you!!!

  18. Sherri Kennedy says:

    Bret, Shannon and family –
    Just wanted to stop in and let you know you are in my thoughts and prayers. Leaves are beginning to change and as one season ends another one begins. For some reason when I see leaves changing i always think of the beauty of Ontario, NY in the Fall. What beautiful colors emerge on the trees. Colors up there are just so beautiful. Down here in Southern MD we don’t get those vivid colors. I am hoping to get up there and get some apples the first of October. I’m sure the wooden apple crates are getting delivered to the orchards now.

    I hope you are doing well and getting out and enjoying some beautiful fall afternoons.
    Love to all.

  19. Terry says:

    Just thinking of you and your family, hoping you are feeling better. missing your posts. Prayers with you all.

  20. Stacy Matz says:

    Thinking of you guys each and everyday …
    sending prayers and love, Eric, Stacy & kids

  21. Steve Neff says:

    To Bret & The Hoefen Family,

    My wife was diagnosed with CCS in the spring of 2009. Since the initial removal of the tumor in her hand, (ganglion cyst, anyone?) she has endured seven surgeries as the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in her armpit and shoulder, twice to her ribs, her left lung, her intestines and most recently, her spine, 8 weeks ago. She has received radiation once before and now again is in the midst of six more weeks of daily radiation treatments. We live in Cleveland, Ohio and have a beautiful 8 year old daughter.

    We’ve been to Dana Farber also and are familiar with that routine. Early on in the ordeal, I scoured the internet looking for information about CCS – it does not take long as not much is out there. I have from time to time come across the names of some of your CCS friends, but I only recently found your blog. I have read it “cover to cover” in a period of days. Indescribable.

    I lost my father in ’07, then my mom in ’08, both to cancer. Then out of the blue came the dreaded diagnosis for my beautiful wife and best friend Shelly. Often times when referring to people with cancer, we hear the terms battle, strength, inspiration, endurance, courage, fight, etc. For me, these used to conjure up images of people lying in a hospital bed, barely alive after receiving debilitating treatment. After our experiences I realized early on that the true battle of cancer is LIVING WITH IT, not dying from it. How does my wife continue with everyday life when this relentless cancer just keeps coming and coming? How is she coping better than me when I am the “healthy” one? She is my hero and I am humbled by her – I think I would be curled up in a corner blowing spit bubbles. I think that only people that have first-hand experience with CCS truly understand how ruthless it is.

    To try and find a description for your journey is impossible – it is every adjective on this site multiplied 1,000 times. I find myself oddly “envious” of the last year or so of your life. I have thought to myself, “Could we do something similar? What holds us back? Is it our child, our finances, our jobs, our families?” Maybe all of those – but mostly – fear.
    I think that is what inspires me most about you – you have thrown that fear to the side and have not only lived with cancer, but THRIVED with cancer. I have a million more things to say but have gone on long enough considering the venue. The absence of recent posts saddens me, yet I understand completely. I just want you and your family to know that no matter where your journey takes you, you have inspired yet another person that hasn’t even met you to be a better friend, a better brother, a better father, a better husband and caregiver – a better person.
    Praying for you in Cleveland,


    • Mike Gratz says:

      Great post! Bret my family thinks about you daily. I also check your blog everyday…keep up the good fight and remember, TODAY IS YOUR BEST DAY!

    • MJ says:

      Steve, you and your wife and daughter are in my prayers as I have read your post….and have been inspired by what a great husband and father you are…and that you have a beautiful family that you love very much! Stay Strong!!

      • Dawn says:

        Steve, thank you for sharing your story. I am saying prayers for your family too that you be at peace in some way.
        Friend of the Hoefens,

  22. Michelle Lindsey Piedmonte says:

    Bret + Hoefen Family-
    You guys have been coming to mind alot recently. I, like so so many others, miss terribly the daily updates. I wish you all well, and know always that prayers come in a constant stream from where I humbly sit.

  23. Ashley says:

    Bret and Family,

    I’ve been thinking about you daily – I am hopeful that you all have been spending lots of time together and have been continuing the joy and laughter you have described in this blog post. Like so many of your friends, I am wondering how you all are doing. Thoughts and prayers are with you!


  24. Mandy Lindsey Cayouette says:

    I think of you every time I drive by Amiels. Love & prayers to all of you.

  25. Judy Lynd says:


  26. Jill St George Forsythe says:

    I was thinking about what makes a hero today.
    Definition: somebody who commits an act of remarkable bravery or who has shown an admirable quality such as great courage or strength of character; somebody who is admired for outstanding qualities or achievements. Obviously you came to mind. Hoping today is a good day.

  27. Dawn says:

    Hey Hoefens- Let there be no doubt that you are thought of everyday in many ways. How about some apples?
    Love Dawn

  28. Dan & Karen West says:

    Karen and I are thinking of you Bret and your entire family. We pray often for you and give thanks to have had the oportunity to come to know you through this blog. You have influenced so many of us through your courage and love! Thank you.

  29. Sherry (CCS friend/Mom had CCS) says:

    Bret, Shannon and your family – thinking of you daily and keeping you in my prayers.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Just wanted to drop a note to let you know that reading your blog has had tremendous influence on my life… Through your journey, I have certainly learned to cherish the little things and try my best to live each and every day as if it were my last, as none of us truly know how much time we have on this earth. May God Bless you and your family Bret, and keep you close as you continue on your journey. Thank you so much for your inspiration. It means so much!

  31. jeanarlenel says:

    hey Bret and family, thinking about you all the time and sending good wishes; hope you are enjoying these bright days.

  32. Diana C says:

    Don’t know you but miss your updates and I do think of you everyday and I pray for you nightly.
    Keep the faith.

  33. Peter says:


    A patient of mine today asked what my wrist band was. I don’t know if you remember, but Shannon gave me one of the “Ride in a good direction” bands the first time I cared for you on 53400. To be truthful, I haven’t taken it off since she gave it to me. I want you to know you made me proud to tell your story.

    I now work in the emergency room at Strong, but I am so thankful for the privilege of caring for you on 53400, in any capacity.

    Ordinarily, I would wish you and Shannon strength for the trial ahead, but I saw first hand the strength you both had. Though you may not see it now, I have seen both you and Shannon’s determination. Never doubt it.

    Peter Welch s

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