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 23, 2014

December 23, 2014

From Anonymous:

It's pretty simple. I try to smile at people, especially elderly people. I spend a lot of time with old people these days. I realize that many are strong and sharp mentally. But many are frail and confused. They tend to be ignored and devalued, even resented for going a little too slow, for requiring more clarity and repetition (and volume), for needing help to do what the hale and hardy take for granted. A smile is like a wonderful, delicious tasting medicine with no side effects. It touches even people who hardly remember their own names. More wondrous yet, this medicine works both ways, because when you recognize another human being in a positive way, you become a more positive human being yourself. 

From Robin Tomlinson:

Hi James,

Thank you for keeping me on this email list. I often think back to the writing class I took with you with great fondness.  
             The holidays are not the happiest time of year for everyone. Things can get stressful with holiday shopping and sad when we are reminded of loved ones who aren't with us. So I decided, with Theo's stocking in mind, to simply smile at the people I see out and about. Not a forced smile. But a genuine smile with the intention of spreading warmth and kindness. It's nothing big. I just feel like we all could benefit from a shared smile, eye contact, and a kind word here and there.  
             Thank you again for including me in your beautiful tradition. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year!  
             Warmest Wishes,
             Robin Tomlinson

From Leslie Cohen-Gee:

Dear Theo,

This is a story about your dad's act of kindness and not my own. I hope you like it.
             Your dad will always have a special place in my heart because of the kindness he showed me during a very difficult time with my own child. You see, when my youngest daughter, Hannah, was eight, she was kicked in the jaw by a large quarter horse. Her jaw was broken in three
places and she had many other facial bone breaks. She was rushed to MCV by ambulance and stayed there for four days and nights. She came out with both jaws splinted and wired shut. This is where your dad comes in.....
             The day after we got home, there appeared on our front porch a big, beautiful homemade lasagna.......on top read a little sticky note "Made by Jamie Fueglein." I was only acquainted with Jamie Fueglein at the time and never imagined he would be someone who would cook dinner
for me and my family.
             For the first few days and nights at home, Hannah had to be fed by syringe. I had to get juice and medicine into a syringe and squeeze it into the side of her mouth in order for her to be able to get anything in. Well anyway, we baked your dad's lasagna for dinner on about the third night home, and Hannah smelled it and wanted some so badly. The problem was that she couldn't eat with her mouth wired shut. I felt very sorry for her. I never dared eat in front of her. So when the lasagna came out of the oven and Hannah looked at me with hunger in her eyes, I knew I had to do something, and I did. I got a big spoon and pressed the lasagna down on top, so that the juices came up and flowed into the spoon. In that way, I was able to get about 6 or 7 tablespoons of liquid lasagna into a glass to feed to Hannah through a syringe. She was elated! She hadn't tasted real food in over a week, and she was just delighted to have something that tasted good and hearty and real. That was the first time since her accident that she seemed happy and I attribute that to your dad. I will never ever forget his kindness and the good feelings it brought to our household.
             Thanks for listening.
             Leslie Cohen-Gee

From Anonymous:

My sister has an alcohol problem, so she often wakes up hungover or comes home looking like hell and unproductive throughout the day. My mother has anxiety, so this causes her much distress. When I come home from college, I try to help my sister every morning to feel better so that she can be more productive and to avoid my mom constantly seeing her like that. I make her breakfast, help her clean and encourage her with advice and kind words so that she can be more productive and successful. I kind of secretly do this in hopes that my mom can have one less thing to worry about in her day.

From David L. Robbins:

Dear Theo,

As per your instructions and kind nature, I have done the following. I hope you approve and my spirit measures close to your own.
  In the grocery store at 25th and Main, the lines were long, with many holiday shoppers on the cusp of the evening. The check-out lady in my line was harried and ill-natured, pressing on with her duties with barely concealed reluctance and one eye on the clock. I had not too many food-stuffs to purchase, some apples, nuts, a salad, a dozen cans of flavored soda water, and an onion. Oh, and bread pudding, Theo. Bread pudding is my sin. The check-out lady fairly snarled that after me, she was closing the line. Behind me were several folks, all with many groceries. Immediately to my rear, a short and elderly gal held only two items, an apple crisp from the salad bar and a cold bottle of Coke. When everyone behind her began to file away, grumbling in search of another line to get in the back of, I asked if could please purchase her items for her. She graciously agreed, doing for me her own random act of kindness.
  I hope this qualifies. But I will try again for something bigger and more worthy. I believe the elderly gal will keep at it, too. She seemed the sort.
  Oh, and I'm starting a writing program for veterans with the Virginia War Memorial, which I will want to speak with your daddy about soon.
  Merry Christmas, Theo. You are not as missed as you might be if you were not so well kept present by your wonderful parents. 

From Matt Clingempeel:

I’ve been thinking about Theo’s Stocking for a few months now, what good deed am I going to do? Sadly, it is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that most anyone wouldn’t do. I’ve looked for those big moments to really help someone, but none have arisen for me. Maybe that’s good that crazy stuff isn’t happening to people around me.

             Anyway, each time I mow the lawn, I try to mow an extra pass or two into my neighbor’s yard, so they have less to do. I do the same when I gather leaves. Also, the other day at the gym, two repairmen were trying to get these huge parts of a treadmill through a door. There was no way one of them could hold the piece and the other open the door, so I stopped working out and held the door until they could fit the thing through the door. Lastly, I’m taking this online screenwriting class from UCLA and this kid in my class got cut off during our meeting last week, so his work wasn’t critiqued by the group. The following day, I reread his pages from that week and the week prior and emailed him a more comprehensive critique on his story thus far.
             I know none of these are spectacular, I wish I had done something better, but the year is not over. I will let you know if I have something bigger to contribute to Theo’s Stocking.
             I hope you and your family are doing well.
             I’ve also put it down on my calendar to run my stove fan all day on 2/20. 

From Lenore Gay:

Hello Jamie,

My eight year old grandson and I are going grocery shopping. We'll buy a cartful of food and deliver it to the Central Va. Food Bank. He'll be in charge of picking out the healthy foods. He remembers our tour of the Food Bank the last time we were there and is eager to donate food again. 
  Happy holidays to you all!

From Anonymous:

First of all, let me say how much I love this tradition, and that I take stock of my year in part based on whether I have anything to contribute to Theo's Stocking.

             This year I noticed a trend in which I'll be at the store, in line to check out, and someone ahead of my will be short for what's due at the register, and I've offered to pay the difference. More recently there was a student in ahead of me at the parking kiosk and, for some reason, it wouldn't take the change she was putting in - so I offered to pay with my card. I paid for the full two hours of parking, even though she had change for just a little over half that. What I love about doing this is how the person's face goes from flustered and embarrassed to relieved and grateful - it's a beautiful thing that so far has only involved pocket change, cents on the dollar. 
             Merry Christmas, Baby Theo - and God Bless Us, Every One!

From Kim Gibson:

In memory of Theo Fueglein, I Kimberly, sponsored 11 children for "Secret Santa."  Nathaniel, Rodney, DeSean, Mason, Elijah, Levi, Logan, Cailyn, Saniyah, Liberty and Nydria are all under 5 years old and were in need during this season. I have learned that no act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted. For these acts not only bless the ones who receive them, but also blesses the giver.  With that in mind, I purchased clothing, shoes and toys for these beautiful children, knowing that one day they too may be a blessing to someone else.  Mother Teresa once wrote "It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you...yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand." This act of kindness is dedicated to and in honor of baby Theo.                  

            May his spirit live on through our selfless acts this Christmas season and throughout the year. 

From Theresa Gavigan:

To the Helbert Fueglein Family:

I am committing to a meditation practice in the coming year and would like to dedicate my first hour of practice to your son.  

From Kelly Ball:

Hey, Mr. F! 

Though I try to commit several big acts of kindness every year, recently I got my sorority sisters to help me make a bunch of encouraging cards for children with AIDS. We sent them to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. They sent me a letter back saying the children loved them, and one kid even made me his own card! 
             I love hearing from you every year. I hope you're doing well! 

From Amanda Marsico:

Hi. It's been years since I've sent an email to you, and as time passed, so did my memory of this wonderful testament to kindness and giving that you do each year. I took your class in 2007. I'm pleased to see the link to your blog pop up on Facebook from some friends who have more recently taken your classes. 

             Even though I lost track of your yearly good deeds for Theo, I never forgot what I learned in your class or how you went about teaching it. Who I am as an Eng Comp 111 & 112 professor is largely because of what and how I learned in your class. 
             In preparation for an overseas move, I have begun sorting through art and school supplies, most brand new, that have gone unused. I can't take anything with me when we move, but the children of the Richmond YMCA will get great use out of all of it. I'm happy to give it to kids who need it--there should never have been such excess in my life anyway. 
             Normally I would never publicize an act of kindness. I don't do it for recognition. But, for Theo, I gladly bend my rules.
             Thanks for all you do.

From Laura Longmire:

Hi Jamie,

Thanks for including me in Theo's stocking - I am not always the best about writing things down, but I do think of Theo and I like that in turning outward and thinking of other's I am honoring your son.  I think so many things around losing Anna Grace and the holidays seem to increase me thinking of her in certain ways.  I am grateful for the sweet girls I have but so sad to have not been able to share in Anna Grace's life.  I am also thinking of you and Karla as your heart yearns for your sweet boy and enjoys the blessing of your beautiful Lula.
             Much love to you all!

From Becky Boncal:


Being pregnant, I have been thinking a lot about Theo this year. You’d think the last thing a pregnant person would want to think about is a friend’s baby who passed away, but my thoughts are not necessarily what you would expect. Theo has given me comfort. I started thinking about him this summer, during our wonderful experience at the Podium T3. I actually do think of him every time I see you, because it is ingrained in my memory of when I first met you, in your class at the Visual Arts Center, you had that thermos with his picture printed all over it. When I saw it, I thought, “How cute; this guy must be a doting dad.” As I tried to come up with responses to the prompts during writing time, I sometimes stared at Theo’s little face on your thermos, thinking that he looked a lot like you.  At some point after the class ended, I Googled you and came across the Theo’s Christmas Stocking blog. I couldn’t stop reading. The writing was beautiful and devastating. I felt lucky to get to know Theo through his parents’ point view. 
             But there was another reason I thought about him a lot during the T3 this summer. You know I was pregnant, but what I don’t think I told you was that during the last part of that week, I was struggling with some rough news. A test had come back that showed our baby had a very high chance of having Downs Syndrome. We were told we would need a more accurate test to follow it up and confirm. It would take two weeks for us to get the results from that follow up test. During that time, my husband and I were up late into the night, discussing our options, preparing ourselves for the possibility of life with a special needs child, doing our research. We learned that Downs Syndrome can mean serious, even fatal, congenital problems. 
             At that time, I was far enough along to feel those little kicks and turns in my stomach. Until I became pregnant, I’d spent my whole life, from childhood—from the moment I learned about what pregnancy was and where babies come from—dreading and fearing pregnancy. But I was surprised to find I liked being pregnant. I wasn’t really sure the baby was a “person” yet, but it was alive and it was with me all the time. I began to feel those first inklings of parenthood—that sense of responsibility and terror and love and the feeling that there is another presence always with you, always on your mind. In fact, that feeling brought back a very old memory from when I was a kid, around 6 or 7-years-old. Like many children, I often fantasized about having a small, portable friend I could carry with me everywhere. In my case, it was a bunny who lived in the breast pocket of my school uniform. This bunny didn’t really look like an actual bunny; it had a sort of asexual human-shaped body and a bunny head. Its name was Little Bunny and I used to talk to it all day long, especially when I felt upset.
             When I got the news about our baby’s first test result, I realized that no matter what happened to that little being, a bit of him would always remain there, inside me, the only one like him ever to have been or be. And I thought about Theo, and hoped that if I had to face a crisis, I would be able to do for my baby what you and your wife did for him. Maybe it sounds corny, but I took some comfort in the fact that, if something did happen to my baby, he would be with Theo, wherever Theo is. 
             We were lucky. The second test came back showing that our baby was healthy and normal—and that he was a boy.  Since then, he’s grown and so have his movements, and, as I approach my due date, I’ve thought a lot about what it will mean to have a son (I was so sure I was going to have a girl), what it will mean to raise a boy with blond hair and blue eyes, as we are likely to do if he looks anything like my husband. The massive risk we take in embarking on parenthood, the risk to our very souls and selves, was apparent to me in those two weeks, that in parenting, we make ourselves eminently vulnerable, as Tolstoy described it in Anna Karenina: 
 There was nothing cheerful and joyous in the feeling; on the contrary, it was a new torture of apprehension. It was the consciousness of a new sphere of liability to pain. And this sense was so painful at first, the apprehension lest this helpless creature should suffer was so intense, that it prevented him from noticing the strange thrill of senseless joy and even pride that he had felt when the baby sneezed.

I’ve kept Theo in my mind because his life, the way you have shared it, is affirmation that even a brief life is a unique event, and not only worth the risk— it is the reason to risk, that all life is brief. Each Christmas, when I am reminded of Theo’s Stocking, I find that I am called upon to take a very small risk in doing something kind for someone else. Last year, I waited and waited for the right opportunity to come along, when I could commit my act of kindness, and yet somehow, nothing seemed big enough, or kind enough, or worthy enough of his memory, so I never followed through. This year, I wasn’t going to let that happen.
             A friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in years, is also pregnant. When she found out via Facebook that I was pregnant too, almost out of nowhere, she sent me a gift. I consternated over what to do for her in return, what would mean more than just sending her another baby item. Finally, I mailed her a coat that was given to me by a resident at a retirement community where I used to work. It was a special coat from a special friend, though a little too small for me, I hoped it would fit her. But that didn’t seem like enough. This week, my friend had her baby and so I mailed her a gift card to Whole Foods. It wasn’t much, but I hoped it would make even one meal easier for her. But even after having done that, I still feel myself on the lookout for other acts of kindness I might commit, some larger gesture of giving, worthy of Theo. It’s an amazing thing that here, almost ten years after he left this earth, I’m trying to do something for him, and that he has been able to do something for me. 
             I am sorry we didn’t end up getting to be neighbors. My husband and I bought a house in Bon Air, though I did fall in love with the neighborhood in Lakeside, the cards just fell where they fell, and we now live in a house that is perfect for the family we hope to raise. If you ever want to get together for a drink or coffee, I’d love that, and I’d love to meet your family, if ever it’s convenient. I also want you to know that you can always talk about Theo when I’m around—it wouldn’t ever make me uncomfortable.  In fact, it would make me happy. 
             Wishing you and your family a beautiful Christmas this year,
             Becky Boncal