Lessons of loss

There are those who seem to be able to cope better with the loss of a loved one than others. Then there are those, like Burnt Hills man Calvin Houghton, who take the lessons learned from loss and turn them toward something brighter.

In late April, Houghton was honored for his positive outlook on life with the State Farm Embrace Life award.

According to State Farm, the idea behind the award is not only to recognize the extraordinary individuals who have overcome loss to go on to do good, but to encourage them to share their perseverance, energy and hope with others. It's now in its sixth year.

The 11 other 2009 winners and Houghton plan to stay in touch every four months. Other winners this year include a man who created a charity valet service, authors and a teacher. All have continued to give while suffering the loss of a loved one.

I felt incredibly honored to be chosen as one of the winners, said Houghton. "The group of people I was amongst were incredibly positive and uplifting. We all felt sort of connected after being chosen together."

Houghton has suffered loss himself. Earlier in his life, he lost his brother, father and a close friend within months of each other. In 2002, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and died just 40 days after being admitted to the hospital, on Good Friday.

He was quick to make peace with this event, however, as Houghton had made sure to let his mother know he felt about her before she died.

"There were some tough years there trying to figure out why this had happened in such a short period of time," said Houghton. "That reaction to my mom's passing is based on three earlier losses in my life."

His wife, Rachel, had traveled to the hospital that day with a gift basket, not knowing what had happened. A State Farm employee, she was so struck by the way he handled his mother's passing that she later nominated him for the award.

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