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.

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

From Paige Horn:

Professor F,
In all honesty, I’m really not sure how to feel about all this new information about your son you’ve just given me- mostly because if you hadn’t said anything, I would never have guessed otherwise. And it just brought back a question I often think about around this time of year: how many people do I know who hide these kinds of tragedies behind their smiles? And how many people will they interact with that will never know about them? See, I have this friend, Clark, whose older sister died two years ago, on December 8th. I’m not sure I ever asked what the cause was. One day in class he told me that she’d been hospitalized, and the next day when I asked how she was, he just paused and said, “She... didn’t make it.” At first I thought he was kidding, and let out some atrocious half-laugh, but then I saw the tears welling up in his eyes. Suddenly there was no point in asking anything else. I didn’t know what else to do other than hold him in silence; trying to cheer him up would’ve been disrespectful. After all, nothing I’d ever experienced could’ve allowed me to understand his pain.
Now, at 18, he has officially become older than his older sister ever will be. Many times I think about the people he’ll meet in the future, and how most will probably never even know he had a sister. For some reason that thought is quite discomforting to me, and so I have promised myself that I must never forget. And this is exactly what your story about Theo reminded me of. So thank you, because I’m sure it’s hard to share these kinds of things, especially with students.
The thing is, though, I never even met Clark’s sister. As such, I was not invited to her funeral. I know her name- Katherine- and that’s it. I don’t even know what she looks like. She is an enigma to me, and because of that it is sometimes hard for me to imagine that she ever really existed. Her absence isn’t felt in my life because her presence never was. But that absence is very real to Clark, whom I love very much. So as a way to keep her in my memory, I have taken a personal vow to do something for him each year on the anniversary of her death. Last year I baked him doughnuts and showed up at his house announced. This year, unfortunately, I was at school and therefore only able to send him a letter reminding him that I love him. Maybe they’re small gestures, but I guess the way I’m choosing to honor her life is by supporting his.
Perhaps this doesn’t really count, since these acts aren’t really random, but your stories just paralleled in such a way that I felt the need to share.
Much love and a Merry Christmas,

From Gwendolyn Brooks:

This past year, I’ve been saving my change, as well as trying to write notes of gratitude each day since January 15, 2013, in honor of Theo. On exactly January 15, 2014 I will be making a donation to the MISS Foundation, in his name, which is the foundation that Karla suggested because they have been so helpful to her and other mothers whose children have died. This is my gift to Theo’s stocking, but it is also a gift to myself. I apologize, but this is a little long. This year has been a financially difficult year for my family, so it will not be as large of a donation as I want, but I hope that it, along with the other donations that they receive, will help this foundation continue their mission to support the mothers and families whose children have passed. So, my gift in Theo’s stocking will take a bit longer than Dec 25th, but I’ve thought about Theo, and Karla, and my other friends and relatives who have children who have died throughout this year that I’ve been saving my change.
Also, for the first time, I’ve opened up a bit and been able to think about my oldest child. I never got to see, or hold my oldest child, who died in the womb before my four living children were born. I’ve always felt a bit guilty, a bit selfish, for having sadness over this child since I went on to give birth to four mostly healthy children that have now lived to adulthood. I named this baby Ariel, but I never felt free to mourn Ariel until I read Karla’s blog and her posts, so, this donation, this gift to put into Theo’s stocking is not just a gift to Theo’s memory, not just a way of hugging Karla and thanking her for sharing her journey with me and others and helping all of us find our own way to grieve - it is my way of placing a gift in Ariel’s stocking, because somehow saving this change, and writing these little notes of daily/weekly thank you notes has made me feel a little less guilty at feeling sadness over Ariel. It’s a gift to myself and Theo’s memory. I hope everyone will do something good in Theo’s memory, something kind, something positive, because it’s not just a way to honor his memory, acts of kindness and love return to us, and in the end, these gifts we give others are as much gifts to ourselves as they are to those we give them.

From Melissa King Russo:

This morning while having my coffee I saw the latest post... Then today as I was at Walmart a lil lady was getting ready to purchase her groceries and I had the sales associate add her groceries to my purchase. It was not all that much. But after I did it I was walking out of the store and Theo came to mind. I hope that during this Christmas season God continues to bless you and your family and continues to give you strength.

From Alicia Williams Masson:

Stuck in Kandahar, Afghanistan trying to get home. For Theo---just bought coffee for 5 other stranded soldiers. Showed them Theo’s photo and shared his story.

From Sid Sturgill Renfro:

I have 3 children coming here today for Christmas with my Family. I have their stockings stuffed just the same as I do our own kiddies because sadly, they will not be receiving any presents in their own homes on Christmas. I put from “Theo” on their gifts because your loss is a reminder to us that children will always need our help. We mourn our Lil Dean and pray for your Family as well. MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Renfro’s!!

From Michelle Salyer:

Our family purchased bedding items for a family in need. This family had been homeless until this past weekend. We are very thankful they are able to have a place to call home, and we feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to help.

From Anonymous:

For Theo:
My daughter works in retail.  Christmas in retail can be, what’s the word I’m looking for?  “Interesting” works, I think.   Lots of frazzled parents, lots of excited children.  One little boy, about seven or so, really, really wanted a plastic dinosaur.  A pink dinosaur, one that lit up.  He found the perfect pink dinosaur in a bin that had a whole lot of tangled up toys.  His mother said he could have it if there was a price tag on it.  That particular bin gets a workout, so tags usually go missing.  No tag.  It was the only one like it.  My daughter left her register, rummaged around, no luck.  He and his mom followed my daughter back to the register, where he slowly handed it back.  My daughter knew she could find the price somewhere later, when there wasn’t a long line.  She handed it back to him.  “You know what?” she said.  “Merry Christmas!”  He couldn’t believe it, held it up to his chest with both hands, walked out with a dinosaur lighting up his shirt.   She found out the price later, bought it after the fact. It made her remember being seven years old and in love with a toy. She teared up a little when she told me.
So, that was for Theo.
And my husband and I made a donation along with other folks at our little local Farmer’s Market to go to the Pediatric Ward at VCU/MCV. Toys and crayons and warm fuzzy socks, lotions, wild and crazy bandaids, that kind of thing. That was for Theo.
Our thoughts and best wishes are with you and your loving family.  Thank you for this.

From Anonymous:

I had Mr. F for Focused Inquiry my freshman year at VCU in 2008. Every year, without fail, I get an email that reminds me to do something nice for others to honor Theo. Every year, after getting the email, I try to do a little something here and there for others. It’s nothing big but I think about the sweet boy, who still touches the lives of others. Even though I never met Theo, hearing Mr. F tell Theo’s story is a memory I think about a lot during this time of the year.
This year, I did something to honor him that was really hard for me. My father and I don’t have a steady relationship. We spoke a couple days before Christmas and I found out that he had been living in a home without electricity for two weeks. He has been struggling to pay for hotels to stay in and food to eat. A local pastor took him in for a couple days. We haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and I may not have answered the phone to him if I weren’t thinking of an email from Mr. F that reminded me to do something in memory of Theo. Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, I’m taking my father out to lunch. This isn’t a random act of kindness, but it’s a step in letting my father back into my life and forgiving. I think having lunch with him will be something that my father will really enjoy and appreciate. We don’t always get along and sometimes it’s hard to spend time with him. But in thinking about Theo, I was reminded that life is too short to hold onto my anger, resentment, and fear.
Mr. F, I hope you always send your holiday reminder from Theo. Even if people don’t respond with a story, know that Theo’s story still impacts people that you may not remember and those you may never meet.

From Jules Mitchell:

I paid a family member's water bill, so they could buy presents for their children. I am so very grateful that I am able to participate each year. I love remembering Theo and doing acts of kindness in his memory.

No comments: