We invite you to remember your loved ones who have died by committing an act of kindness in their honor. Love, kindness, generosity, sharing, these are the gifts we can give to them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My sweet friend Pam texted me her Theo Stocking story on Christmas day--
She and her girlfriend Jen commissioned a painting of their friends' dog Frankie who died recently.
Here is a photo of the painting sent by iphone:

Hey my friends!

So, Christmas came and went and I never got the chance to share a Theo’s Stocking Story. Things have been quite busy and I honestly forgot about it…time is time is time… This truly made me happy and I just felt like sharing it with you!

So here is my post Christmas story:

A month or so ago, someone who works for a carnival donated a bunch of stuffed animals to Full Circle Grief Center. I was asked if I wanted to take any for Noah’s Children families. "Sure!", I said. Well, those cute colorful stuffed animals stayed in my car all this time (poor little critters must have been cold!). Today I was heading into our office at St. Mary’s Hospital and I decided it was time to take the critters out of my car. I illegally parked in the Chaplain parking spaces (totally for convenience). Because I parked in this space, I had to walk through the lobby of the hospital. I thought, ok – if I see any kids who might need a bear or a monkey, I will just offer one to them, then I won’t have to add to the already plethora of stuffed animals in the office.

The first person I saw was one of the mom’s of one of the kids in Noah's Children. She was heading to the cafeteria. I was surprised to see her, b/c I didn’t know Claire was in the hospital. Mom reported that Claire is doing ok and the hope is for a very brief hospital stay (she was home for Christmas!!). I asked mom if she wanted to take one of the critters to Claire. Sure, mom said. I later received a text from mom who wrote that Claire said thanks – she has always wanted a pink monkey!!

So, my next stop was with a family by the coffee stand. Two shy little girls each got a teddy bear.

Next stop – the waiting area. A sweet 5 year old girl was standing in the middle of the room. I got down to her level and asked if she would like one of the stuffed animals. She smiled all over her body and said YES! She chose the yellow monkey and said thank you (without her mom’s prompt!). She also told me how nice I was to give her a yellow monkey! She told me that her sister (3 yrs old) was in the hospital. She was not allowed to go see her sister and this made her very sad b/c she missed her sister (oh those hospital rules get in the way, don’t they?). This little girl’s mom asked me how much the monkey was. I told her these stuffed animals were all donated, so they cost nothing. The mom was very thankful and as she started to talk about her situation (family does not live in this state, she has not slept for quite some time, she stinks b/c she hasn’t changed her clothes in several days--actually I didn’t even notice any bad smell, but I am sure she felt frumpy,-- she and her husband have to take turns being with the 3 yr old up on the pediatric floor since the 5 yr old is not allowed up there…), she asked if she could give me a hug. Of course, I said. Mom hugged me, I hugged mom, and mom broke down. We talked some more. The 5 year old chose a white teddy bear to give to her sister. Mom hugged me again, thanking me, crying.

And then I met Alexander a cute little 3 or 4 year old boy. His birthday is tomorrow. He was in the waiting area with his mom, dad, little sister and grandmother (?). I have no idea why they were there, but both kids got a teddy bear and the whole family was thrilled! When I walked back through the waiting area to return to my car, Alexander and his mom were sitting in a chair together playing with the teddy bear…
I was thrilled. It was a totally spontaneous act. I left empty handed (at least of stuffed animals!). My heart was full and my smile was big…
Love to you - Kathy

Monday, December 28, 2009

Here is another current act of kindness I have to share. I was up all night working. In-front of the computer thinking and correcting, looking up information to better my Unit Three Paper. I sat in one spot for hours growing more tired by the minute. Seven o'clock in the morning rolled around and I didn't feel extremely tired, but decided to lay on my bed. I thought to myself I should close my eyes for a second just to rest them but not to fall asleep. I open them and look at my computer's clock. It is 1:34 pm. I sit for a second to let my mind tell itself and organize my thoughts of what is happening. I rush to my seat and start typing, trying to figure a way to fix the problem of me failing to do what I've been trusted to complete. I had most of my paper completed, just a few more works cited and I would have been printing. The time was now 1:50 and I remembered my instructor giving thorough, detailed instructions on handing this paper in by the deadline. I was a nervous wreck, mad at myself, so MAD. I then thought to myself, that I should be mad, but it probably wouldn't help me to be mad.  I learned something already from this rush of an experience. I then wanted to contact Mr. F to tell him, explain the facts of this fault of mine. So I sent an email explaining why my paper was not done, and then this I sent this one--the story you are now reading.

The random act of kindness here in this experience, is that I took it easy on myself for making this mistake. I could still be mad at myself, but the fact is, is that being mad won't get me anywhere. It won't make time be more leanant on me, I have to be leaneant on myself. I have to think ahead of myself and know how to execute my decisions and know that they have consequences. I can learn from every mistake--though I am human, but being kind is unique in how I handle them.
Hope you have a great Christmas,

Bobby C.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Inspired by Theo's stocking, I decided to buy a Christmas dress for a little girl, and give it to the Salvation Army. The dress I found was just the kind of thing I would have loved when I was a child, and it had a doll's dress of the same make included, so that whoever received it could dress up a toy as well, and bring it with her to church or dinner, or the back yard, or wherever. I was thrilled.

By the time I'd bought it and shown it to my husband, however, the Salvation Army was closed; we then drove the dress to the Goodwill store, where a confused intake volunteer asked why we were giving such a thing away. When I explained, he became very excited, and assured me that he'd have it out on the floor that night, and that someone would have it by Christmas, for sure.

It made my whole holiday to do this. Thank you, Theo!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Just as an FYI, we wanted to flag you to three posts that resulted from our field visits with Heifer International in Rwanda. They are doing terrific work on the ground...

Here are the write-ups for the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet

Part 1: Healing with livestock in Rwanda

Part 2: Teacher Turned Farmer…Turned Teacher

Part 3: Got Biogas?

Part 4: For Poor Households in Rwanda, One Cow Makes A Difference

We are travel blogging from Africa at a site called Border Jumpers which can be viewed at http://www.borderjumpers.org/

Love from,
Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I with few other friends bought pizza & soda and gave to homeless in monroe park before finals week.

Prachi D.


Today we baked and delivered gingerbread through the neighborhood,
including to the grouchy neighbors who are in fact not so grouchy
after all.

Micol H.
Merry Christmas Eve!

Last week I was in an infinite line at the Fan Post Office when the woman at the window starting losing it. "How is that possible! I've been in line for nearly an hour and you're out? Why don't you have a sign on the door?" The postal worker gestured to the line. "When would I do that?"Seems they were out of Christmas stamps. But a few days prior, I'd been to the Post Office and bought too many. "How many do you need?" I called out. The woman held my place in line while I ran to the car and brought her a new book. When she tried to pay me, I refused it. Instead, I told her - and the entire room - about Theo. "So, take these on his behalf, and when you get a chance, pass the gesture on."

Thanks for helping so many people engage in the true power of this magical season. Much love to you all.

---Nicole, Joe & Colette
Hi Karla,

I hope that you are enjoying every minute of Lula this Christmas - if she is anything like Elise, nothing is safe and absolutely everything new in the house must be touched - especially lights!

I was at work today and Lite 98 was doing their annual drive for the Make A Wish Foundation. I decided to contribute to them this year in honor of Theo. If he were still alive I would be doing everything I could to make his wishes come true. There was a parent on the radio saying that if you do have a healthy child, thank God and love him, and remember that there are families who are not so fortunate. That is what I learned from Theo, to give my children 100 kisses every day and appreciate every minute - fun or tedious, happy or sad. He reminds me that my children are a precious gift. I'm thinking of you and your family and wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!!

P.S., If you post this, make sure to tell everyone that I DO NOT listen to Lite 98, it was just on at work. Thanks.

This past May, a dear friend of mine that I've known since my first soccer team was taken from me. His suicide has really had a huge impact on everyone around us, especially because it was so unexpected. His family is absolutely destroyed and whenever I'm back in Northern VA I try to spend atleast some time with his parents, but it's hard. It's hard to tell somebody who's lost a child that everything's okay. Although this is hardly a random act of kindness, I hope that it acceptable to the spirit of this blog. Christmas was a time when Jordan and I would have snowball fights, share video games, go skiing, and even just do nothing together. He will be sorely missed

Merry Christmas!

For Theo's stocking, I took your advice to give an act of kindness instead of money to heart. I have thought over it for several days. I feel like I'm a pretty good person (most of the time :-), and try to do nice things whenever the moment arises.....but I wanted to do something with purpose and with Theo in mind from the beginning. It wasn't long before a call from the VA Blood Services called saying that there was a need for blood donations. I said a prayer for your family and Theo, called and made an appointment, and will now donate blood on a regular basis in honor and memory of Theo. I hope this helps others and spreads the prayers for strength and happiness to your and your family.

Have a wonderful holiday season. I think of you often!

Take care, Angela
Hey Helbert Fueglein Family!

I hope you are enjoying some down time this time of year. I just arrived in FL last night and will be staying through Sunday. It is our first Christmas without my mom, so it will be different. I still need to go through her clothes down here...hoping to do that today.

My Theo Stocking Story took place last Thursday, Charlotte Reynolds, a loving little 4 year old, has a brain tumor and is working with Noah's Children at this time to maintain comfort. Her blog can be found at http://www.cjstuf.blogspot.com/

I went to her house with my portable chiropractic table and provided chiropractic care for her parents, Rachel and Roger, and did some gentle work on Charlotte. At the time, she was unable to open her mouth, so I did some gentle massage on her TMJ and gentle adjusting on her upper neck. The doctor also changed her meds to a liquid form and for the next several days, she was able to open her mouth and eat soft foods!!

It was a heartbreaking visit, reminding me of where we were a few years ago. So much has changed, but so much remains.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. Give Lula a great bug hug and kiss from me. I LOVED your Christmas card...ADORABLE and I loved the handprints. Your creativity amazes me!

Take care and Happy 2010, if I don't see you next week. Love to you all!


December 24

I was with my daughter Emily and her team at a basketball skills session with a new skills coach. He had his 18 month old little girl there. She was adorable and ran around the court while her dad was setting up drills and working with the girls.  I talked to her dad, the skills coach, about her age. He is probably in his early 20's. He said that he did not know what to get her for Christmas. He said his wife wanted him to get her a Barbie Car, but he didn't think that was it. I told him that kids her age need the 3 b's, bubbles, blocks and books. He was intrigued and asked what kind of bubbles, we also talked about the kind of blocks that kids really like too. Finally, I said, 'Really, books are the most important. Do you read to her?' He said he did not. I then told him to read to her every night. He asked if sports magazines counted. I said they did. Practice ended and I went on with my week. Well, tonight, I bought 2 books for him to give to his daughter for Christmas. I will give them to him tomorrow at practice. I am really excited. I realized he did not know to read to his daughter, and probably did not know where to buy books for an 18 month old. So, for Theo, and my mom, who died in November, I bought him 'Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?' by Eric Carle, and 'Moo, Baa, La La La' by Sandra Boynton.
Have the best Christmas you can.

This Christmas is a really hectic one. I am away from my family and friends for longer than what I am used to and I know it will be this way though it's a part of growing up and doing for myself while here at college. I am getting used to this experience little-by-little, but all for the best I hope. For my random act of kindness I have decided to tell about how I recently lost money in trying to make some for college, but still came to doing something nice. I bought an iPod to sell on EBay so I could make some extra money for classes here at VCU in case of emergency. I ended up scammed and lost it due to a person sending me false emails. I lost exactly $366.50 and felt horrible about that at first. The next day I was at Wal-Mart and was thinking of this and how it made me feel like crap, but then I saw one of those Salvation Army guys ringing the bell for charity. I thought to myself that maybe something good could come out of me losing all that money, so I decided to donate for the first time. I felt good, great at that. So even though something bad happened I felt that the only thing to make me feel better was to do good in some form, I donated to this charity and now I can confidently say that I did it again just a few days later after this self-assignment was brought up in class.

--Bobby C.
Marina and Anna made a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
The night I was leaving to go back home from VCU for the winter break, I had realized I did not use the rest of my meal swipes on my meal plan. Now this is very common with most students, and many times people tend to waste them at the very end of the semester. I found out a resident in my building had ran out of meal swipes a month ago, and was left with one meal a day. He did not tell anyone, but he approached me and told me about it. I offered to get him food for the week until his finals were over and he could get home. I didn't do it to use the rest of my meal swipes, but purely because he was starving himself and still had a good 3-5 days at VCU without food and I had swipes that were going to be wasted if I did not use them. I knew it would be better to feed someone else, rather than to waste them on nothing.

--Vi T.
I gave my birthday money to a friend in need.

Shannon C.
I encountered a small but sweet act of kindness while I was at work today. I picked up a phone call from a gentleman by the name of Sean Walker who called the store I was working at merely to wish us all a Merry Christmas and happy holidays, and hoped that we all stay safe. Just the thought that he cared enough to take time out of his day to make that call certainly put a smile on my face.
In the words of Mr. Sean Walker, I hope your family has a Merry Christmas and happy holidays, and may you all stay safe.


Pin Pin N.

P.S. In my free time during this break, I've gotten the chance to lend my ear to the wonderful sounds of Thelonious Monk, and I must say I quite enjoy his music. Thank you for mentioning him in class.
On my way back from lunch the other day, I saw an older homeless woman (mid fifties) asking for money on the side of the road. She was looking at traffic so she didn't notice me, but I stopped and rummaged for a dollar in my bag, and surprised her by handing it to her. 'Bless your heart-have a Merry Christmas!' was her reaction. That made my day.

---Charles S.
This year we honored loved ones with gifts of flocks of chicks through Heifer International.

I went to West Virginia this week to visit my family. My grandpa was having his chemotherapy on Thursday and was coming back around dinner time. I volunteered to make him and his girlfriend, Phyllis, dinner, so when he came back he could eat and Phyllis wouldn't have to make anything for dinner. He seemed to be very happy with the dinner, even though he couldn't taste anything because of the chemo.

--Heather M.
Thank you so much for including me again in Theo's stocking - you remind me what the holidays should be about. I really hope that you and your family are doing well and that you are able to balance your grief with love and laughter this season.

This year, I have already found myself in the midst of an act of kindness by finding a bunch of Christmas gifts to go under the tree of a young family who have really had life test them this year. The family was referred to me by a fellow social worker so there's not much I can say because of confidentiality reasons but this family needed to be reminded of the good in the world. Two of their children experienced tremendous trauma in their lives and their family is slowly putting together the pieces of their lives. In the process of wrapping gifts for this family - nothing extravagant or too fancy, just some toys and whatnot - I was also reminded that there is good in the world and that if we all try really hard, we can be that good in the world.

Merry Christmas! I hope your son's stocking is filled with love and happy things!

Robyn J.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 23

Several of my classmates and I took a walk to Shafer. While many of us had no swipes left, three of us had extra swipes and we saw that they were selling one large pizza and a two liter of soda for 2 swipes. A fellow classmate and I swiped for two pizzas and two 2L sodas. A third classmate swiped for 6 pieces of cheese cake.
We had decided that we were all going to go to Monroe Park to distribute the pizza and the soda to the homeless people in the park. I was too nervous, because I didn't want to mistake someone for being homeless when really they were not. So I stayed back, while a friend handed out the pizza for me. Afterward, we all went to the University commons to eat the cheesecake that a classmate had swiped for us. It was very generous of him to do so. That's six swipes! And he only got ONE piece! And it was goooood cheese cake. I was very thankful for that.
We are planning on doing the same thing someday soon.

Christiane M.


I swiped a man named Todd, into Shafer. He was hungry, it needed to be done. Enjoy your Christmas this year.

Amin C.


I lied to my parents saying I'm coming home on Friday but I'm really going home tomorrow and surprising them at the door. It’s been awhile since I've been home in California, and I can't wait to see how excited they are to see me. I hope you have a merry Christmas and that you and your family will have a relaxing time off. See you next semester!

Christine C.


Today as a group instead of wasting the swipes that we have left. We used it to buy 2 boxes of pizza and soda and gave it to the homeless people at Monroe Park.

Phi N.


I gave a homeless man a Dunkin-Donuts breakfast the other day on the way to work. I figured sine it's my favorite breakfast, I could get another one for someone else to enjoy. Hope all is well with you and your family, and Happy Holidays!

Ashley P.


A group of us from FI bought a couple of pizzas and 2 liter sodas from 810 to go and handed it out to the homeless people in Monroe park. this act of kindness made me feel so good that i wanted to cry and i want to do it again soon because the looks on their faces and how thankful they are is just priceless! God has blessed me so much that I want to bless those who are less fortunate.

Justina A.


I recently brought some food for Christmas baskets to give to the less fortunate for the holidays. This was my random act of kindness.

A’ishah A.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22

I was Christmas shopping and popped into the Dollar Tree to buy some gift bags. I was running late, in a rush, tired, and hungry. I passed a mother berating her little girl for whining on the way in. The store was PACKED with financially stressed, rushed people--many agonizing over their choices. The manager was on the phone negotiating scheduling and the another employee was on another phone with a customer. One lone clerk was running one lone register. He was about 17 and was moving as fast as he could and being mostly patient with the befuddled elderly counting their pennies, the immigrant couple speaking to him and each other in 2 languages, and various rushed people who wanted to get home to dinner. The line just kept getting longer. When I got up to the counter, I took a minute to say, "You're doing a really great job. Is it always this crowded in here?" He paused for a moment, replied, and smiled. The woman behind me in line grinned a big Christmas grin. I want to dedicate this moment in the midst of shopping madness to Theo.

Merry Christmas!

Melissa J.


Having just cashed a check at Bank of America for a reading I had done at Towson University, I was walking along Grace Street near Harrison. As I was heading to Ipanema for a $2 glass of red wine at "happy hour," I looked down and through the darkening evening I saw a leather woman's wallet. I picked it up and went inside to examine the contents.

It contained a credit card, license, medical card, work ID for a tutoring agency, and the usual Kroger and Ukrop's cards: no telephone number, no email address. I left the bar without a having my celebratory glass of wine and went to the library to review the contents again under greater light and to do some Googling (not at the co-eds) to see whether I could learn how I might contact this woman, Daniela, before she cancelled everything and went through the expense and trouble of obtaining new cards, etc.

I found that she was a member of an Italian organization and was a speaker of Italian. (There was no telling whether she was a Berlusconi fan or not.) I found an email address through the organization's Website and through my Google account sent her an email with my VCU account address and who I was. I attempted to reassure her that I was not a bigger Bozo than I am, so that she would feel comfortable contacting me to retrieve her property. After sending the email, I thought there was nothing else for me to do but wait, and so I started out for that glass of red that by this time I thought I had earned.

When I rounded the bend onto Grace Street, I saw a woman walking in from of me with her head down and who entered Ipanema. As I was entering, she was then exiting. I wasn't certain but there was a resemblance to the license photo. She looked up, and I asked, "Is your name Daniela?" She replied, "Yes." I pulled the wallet out of my jacket pocket, and she looked at it and smiled. She told me that I was a "kind man" as though a kind man was a rare kind of man. She left with her wallet, and I went in and finally sipped a glorious glass of cheap red wine. As a bonus, I could think: "What good boy am I."

I am not certain she ever got my email because I haven't heard from her on either of my accounts. My vanity had me thinking that I might receive one more, more thoughtful thank you via the internet. Perhaps my attempt at reassuring her that I wasn't a bigger Bozo than I am, merely confirmed that I am a bigger one than I think.

Rich M.

Monday, November 30, 2009

First Post of This Holiday Season

We felt it was time to open up Theo's stocking for this 2009 Holiday Season. I did some color changes and font changes, but have had a hard time coming up with what to say for an opening post. I have felt very sad lately. I wish I could say that things are great, we are incredibly happy, we are full of gratitude, and all that. And it is true--much of that is true. We are happy. We have a lovely home, food to eat, access to clean water, heat, electricity, transportation, clothes to wear, jobs, family, and friends who love us. Our Lula is absolutely beautiful. She is funny, exuberant, full of life, sweet, and she brings joy wherever she goes. But all that we have, and Lula's joyous presence, does not change the sadness in our hearts that our first born child is not here to share in all our many blessings. Or that Lula will never know her brother in this life.

Sometimes it is hard to hold those two sorts of feelings together in the same space of a heart. Joy next to pain, happiness alongside grief. But it happens in my heart all the time. My friend Kara wrote about that very thing in her blog. She beautifully captured the difficult feelings of a bereaved parent who may have much to be grateful for in life, but who also continues to experience deep sadness and pain, and often, resentment and guilt. For the bereaved, those painful feelings often sit side by side with gratitude and appreciation for so much that is good in our lives. Read Kara's thoughts at KotaPress here.

The holiday season is difficult to say the least. Happiness for Lula's presence and the joy of her infectious excitement, as well as genuine gratitude for all the blessings we have, exist alongside the heavy sadness and grief we perpetually carry--and which is particularly poignant at this time of year. The holidays are just hard. The holidays are always and will always be hard. We will forever be missing Theo. This stocking project stems from the awful pain of our first Christmas without Theo. I won't go into the whole story of Theo's stocking here. Most of you reading will already know the story. If you do not know the whole story, please go to the archives here and read backwards from the first post, where I explain how and why we decided to do Theo's Christmas Stocking Project.

Mostly, we do this now because it gives us a means by which to concsiously engage in acts that will honor our son and his life and to demonstrate to others how much he is a presence in our family's life. We do it so that other people will think of him and remember his sweet face, his peaceful energy, his short, but brave and beautiful life. The biggest fear of a bereaved parent is that someday, other people will forget our children. How special, how brave, how beautiful, how important they were...and still are. In committing acts of kindness for others and dedicating those acts to Theo--to his memory, his life--we help to ensure that his spirit, which was so loving, giving and gentle, will continue on through us. Through us, he continues to touch others. Through you, he can continue to touch others. When you commit your acts of kindness, please think of him, send him a thought, a prayer, a wish, and think too, of those you love who have died. Commit your acts of kindness in memory of Theo as well as in memory and honor of those you love who have died.

I wish that we were a culture who could openly live with our dead. A culture which celebrates those we love who have died. A culture that openly talks about them and honors them throughout the year. I wish we had an equivalent of Mexico's Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, where we could spend the day in celebration and honor of the lives of those we love who have died. A day to spend time teaching family about those who have died, the recently dead as well as ancestors, so that we could keep their memories alive and part of the life of the family. Dia de los Angelitos is a special day to remember and celebrate and mourn children who have died. I wish we had such a day in our own culture. There are many bereaved parents who would weep with gratitude at an opportunity to talk about and remember and celebrate publicly the lives of their children who have died. That we can celebrate and mourn at the same time is a very hard concept for our culture. But it can be done. It would be an easier thing if we were not such a death denying culture.

People like me know that the pain does not go away, we merely learn to manage it--but it can be done in such a way that we can also be happy people. We can lead productive, useful, happy lives, we can know joy, we can laugh and have fun. But there is nothing that ever makes it better that my son is dead. That never gets better. It will also never change. I do what I can to help other people know that they can manage this kind of devastating pain, that they can live again; and that they can continue to celebrate, remember, honor, and make a place in their family for their child who has died. I never plan to say goodbye or "move on". There is no "getting over it." I move forward in my life and I take Theo with me. The pain also goes with me, but so does the love and the joy, and the knowledge that I am forever his mother. Nothing will change that.

This special Christmas Stocking blog is one of the ways we continue to keep him and his memory alive in our hearts and his spirit moving through the world.

We will be honored if you will participate with us and commit random acts of kindness throughout this Christmas and Holiday season. Please share with us your stories of kindness and, if you wish, the stories of the people you love and miss and in whose names you commit your kindnesses. Helen Keller said "What we have enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us."

We will also post here the kindnesses we commit in Theo's memory. Check back often to read ours and other people's stories of kindness.

Love to all--

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year Message of Thanks and Reflection

Happy New Year to all—I hope that your holiday was peaceful and bright. I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you who participated in Theo’s stocking this year. We had so m any wonderful contributions whose lasting effects will continue to extend far beyond this blog.

I recognize that the initial motivation to begin Theo’s Stocking was purely selfish. As my dear friend Joanne Cacciatore has reminded me in the past, “Grief is narcissistic”. And it is. One’s grief, my grief, feels purely mine. The narcissism of grief is that which causes a bereaved person to feel as though she is all alone, that he is all alone, that no one has ever felt this kind of pain, this deep a loss, this profound a sadness. No one else can possibly understand or know the depth and breadth of your loss. And it is true, no one can and never truly will. Your grief is yours alone. My grief is mine. Even others who have lost a child, who also know the searing and lasting pain that comes with the death of a beloved child, cannot know the particulars of my grief. We can support each other but we cannot truly know the daily reality of another person’s loss. So we are alone in many ways—and in so many others we are not. It is in remembering the ways in which we are not alone that can save us from total emotional devastation.

In sharing Theo’s stocking with, potentially, the whole world I think we have taken a very healing step. Before I wrote that, I thought about saying, “a step toward wholeness”, but I cannot honestly say that. We will never be truly whole again. And that is just the way it is. That is not a statement about a refusal to “get better” or an attempt to to hold on to pain or grief. It’s just the way it is. There is no getting around the fact that a cherished member of our family will always be missing from our lives.

When you lose a child, you lose all the potentiality that child brings into the world. We miss out on all the significant milestones—walking, talking, playing, the first day of school, proms, graduation, weddings, mistakes, victories. We also miss out on relationships with all the other people Theo would have brought into our life—his friends, his spouse, his children. All that is missing is painfully obvious on a daily basis, but most glaringly at holidays and special times—his birthday, the anniversary of his death, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days. Healing from the pain of grief can occur, but the invisible scars are always there—and like a lot of injuries, sometimes they ache, sometimes those wounds can be downright excruciating. As time goes on, it gets easier to navigate through life with a piece of your heart missing—you learn how to cope, how to manage it. Almost three years after his death, it feels very, very different than it did the first year. But it still hurts. Soemtimes it hurts more than other times. Sometimes I cry. I still think of Theo every single day. There will never come a day that I do not think of my son. He is always in my heart. He is always in Jamie’s heart.

This Christmas was really wonderful—it was Lula’s first Christmas and even though she didn’t really get that it was Christmas, she had a great time and she is just such a joy every day. Jamie says it was the best Christmas he ever had—because he spent it with Lula and with me. But it was also very hard, because it was Lula’s first Christmas and no matter how much I love her, I couldn’t help but be reminded that Theo never had that magical, beautifiul first Christmas filled with joy and wonder and laughter. His first and only Christmas we spent saddened beyond belief, knowing that we would not have a next Christmas with him. It was a peaceful holiday, we were together, but we were so heavy-hearted. A bit of that sadness stays with us and will for all Christmases to come. It may get a bit easier each year—but it is still there.

Sharing Theo’s Stocking with all of you and all of you willing to share not only with us this year, but with anyone reading, has been a beautiful part of our healing process. The sharing of all the contributions this year has felt like uncurling just a tiny bit more from the tiny ball that grief can turns us into. It can feel like a tight, tiny ball that is very dense—very dense and full of the pain of loss. It is very hard to unfurl something that tight and closed. I think Anais Nin said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”. Opening from the pain of grief might take a long time. It can be very scary. Even small movements, small openings can cause us to feel very vulnerable.

I appreciate so very much the words of encouragment, the assurance from so many of you that thoughts and memories of Theo continue on in your hearts and your actions. I also cherish the thought of these Acts of Kindness having a kind of ripple effect across the world, even across the Universe. In releasing some of the narcissism of grief—instead of holding on to the Acts of Kindness done in Theo’s honor, just for ourselves—in sharing them with potentially the whole world—we have allowed these acts to have a much farther reaching. Placing this blog and asking you all to contribute created the first ripple, each contribution, each email we received, each story, eact act of giving, of kindness, of love, of selflessness, created the next ripple and then the next and the next, on and on. Beyond that, each of you who read the stories took them into your own hearts and in doing so were changed by them. Possibly you were moved to tears, perhaps motivated to be more aware of your own actions and how they impact others, maybe you continued to engage in acts of kindness for your own reasons, beyond Theo’s Stocking, to help others—more ripples. Each person who benefitted from your kind acts, kind thoughts, your smile, your love, may have then created his or her own ripples. This is one more piece of evidence that we are all connected, even when it feels like we aren’t.

My wish is that the blooming and the ripples will continue onward and outward, as energy always does, spurred on by the most pure motive of love. For me, the knowledge that at the heart of it all is the pure love of my sweet baby Theo, brings peace and comfort and seems fitting with who he was, is, and will always be—a beautiful, powerful soul, who in the in the body of a tiny baby present for such a short time here on earth, touched the lives of so very many. May he continue to do so and to be present with us all through love which is stronger than death.

Jamie and Lula and I wish you all a happy and peaceful 2009.