On their first date, she was far from smitten. He seemed too serious. But she continued to hang out with him. “He’d call and say, ‘Do you want to have dinner? Just friends.’’ or “Do you want to go swimming? Just friends.’’
Eventually, she fell in love with Dufresne’s sincerity and strength of purpose. “There was a light inside of him that made me believe in all the possibilities of where we could go,’’ she says. “He was in every way a chivalrous, honorable man.’’
She knew that Type 1 diabetes might someday cut short his life. But she had faith that he’d survive for many years. They agreed to marry and had been together for about a year, platonically and later romantically, when he died.
Dufresne’s dedication, in part, inspired Copeland’s decision to pursue a degree in criminal justice so she could play a role in changing incarceration policies and prisoner re-entry. She started the program a few months after his death, despite her lack of funding and doubts that it was too soon. “What am I going to do next? God better make it clear,’’ she told her mother.
When she saw that the dean of the Criminal Justice school was named Todd Clear, she interpreted that as a “divine intervention’’ and enrolled.
“We have a lot of students who have a story about why they wanted to pursue criminal justice, but her story is particularly poignant,’’ says Clear. “Grief is an enormous leveler. Not everybody gets a chance to go through it at her age, but all of us go through it at some time. It has a permanent impact on the way you see things.’’
Clear thinks Copeland has the ability to create change.
“She has extraordinary passion,’’ he says. “She’ll make a mark. She’s got all the tools to be an effective reformer.’’
Copeland says she may one day transform her blog into a book, but in the meantime she thinks “Thank you Very Sweet’’ can help others who are grieving find solace and has already heard feedback from readers, who have totaled about 6,000 since the blog began.
“It was for those people to find some resonance and for people who haven’t experienced anything like this themselves to know what it’s like,’’ she says.
The blog has provided Copeland with insight into her own feelings and helped her gain the certainty that she can reach her goals.
“Writing about this has made me more comfortable in my own skin and more comfortable with my story,’’ she says. “It’s just given me a different kind of confidence moving forward. And it’s something I really needed.’’