friends and family network


Several parents and friends have helped in Gilly's House efforts and we want to include their stories in our newsletter. Donna Palmer of Attleboro furnished, decorated and dedicated a bedroom to her beloved son, Alex. Here is her story:

On August 13, 1985 Alex Palmer was born. He was the 5th child and third son of my husband and my first child and only son. Two years later his sister Lauren arrived. When she was just 6 weeks old, I asked Alex if he liked Lauren and he said no because I did. These memories are so very precious now. During his early years he enjoyed playing with Legos and K'nex. He would spend hours building and I was so impressed with his ability to focus. He was loving and very attached to his family. He struggled with speech and had therapy for several years, he worked at it and by the time he started school he was ready.

Alex was an excellent student and He loved learning. He was very organized, disciplined and He Loved to work and it didn’t much matter what the project was. He enjoyed playing outside and eventually became my right-hand man in the garden. Alex was awkward socially in groups but always had a few good friends. He was not particularly athletic but in high school he discovered Track and Field and participated in the sport his entire high school career to the point he received a letter. He worked at a local grocery store all through high school and He graduated from Bishop Feehan High School in 2004 and entered Providence College that next fall. Although he had many successes, he never really liked himself. He later described it to me as just not knowing who he was.


During his second year at PC he called me and told me he thought he was alcoholic. He took a semester off and sought treatment. He enjoyed about 9 months of sobriety after that but never again had that amount of sober time. Over the next 9 years he was in 13 different rehabilitation facilities and 4 different sober houses. For a while he lived on the street. He was diagnosed with chronic depression and adult onset ADHD. He had counseling and different cognitive therapies. He kept trying and so did his family. During this time, I began attending al-anon meetings and keeping a journal. I started seeing a counselor regularly. All these activities helped me and our family. Alex saw us doing this and it helped him. We never lost each other during this time, and I am so grateful for that. The day before he passed away from an overdose of fentanyl, he was re-grouting my bathroom.

During the visiting hours at his funeral we heard repeatedly the word kindness. So many people shared a story about some special kindness he had done for someone. Losing Alex has been a tremendous loss for his family. His sister Lauren is missing the sibling she was raised with. They shared so many wonderful experiences and now she is facing life without that special person. Alex’s father passed away last year. It was three years since Alex’s passing and his father was never the same again. For me, his mother, I just plain miss him. But I am so forever grateful he was born. I still feel his love and I believe he is at peace. I know he would be so happy Gilly’s House exists and very pleased that we are involved. When I began sanding and staining the beds, we put in Alex’s room at Gilly’s House I felt his presence - I knew he would have been helping me with it and he was.