Month: February 2004
Since I’ve last written, we have received many donations to the headstone fund. It has been a wonderfully gratifying experience. The family of the boy has been overwhelmed and overjoyed. Their misfortune in life continues, with the woman of whom I wrote now needing several surgeries, and not having, shall we say, the most bountiful benefit package in the world from our great American flagship, WalMart. So this beautiful moment of the headstone is a joy that shines brightly for her, as well as for the family.
I have spent some time at a headstone company, and we are arranging a flat stone with an oval photograph of the child, and a permanently installed votive candle holder so the woman can continue her practice of lighting a candle at the grave. This has all been preliminary, and until the family itself can get down there (it’s a hundred plus miles from our northern Minnesota home), the specifics will not be nailed down. I don’t feel it’s my place to make choices in this matter beyond making arrangements and setting up some rough guidelines of what we can and cannot afford.
I will, of course, keep you all informed about the progress of this very exciting enterprise. Our goal is to have the stone installed in time for the family’s annual balloon launching at the gravesite. But that is contingent upon weather, since our frozen northern ground does not allow installation of stones on any schedule other than its own.
I have not had time to write personal responses to everyone who has asked how to contribute. For those of you who still wish to do so, the address is:
Tyler Henry Memorial Fund
First Federal Bank
P.O. Box 458
214 5th Street
Bemidji, Minnesota 56619
When the stone is in place I will make the next step in my cyber-education and figure out how to put up a photograph of it on this website. The woman has also expressed a desire to write a thank you to all of you who have carried this project close to your hearts. That, too, will be posted.
I have to say that this is one of those moments for which we all live. It is so rare to be able to do something that, by all appearances, is an unalloyed good in this world. I feel that all of us who have been lucky enough to be involved — and this includes all of you readers who have been touched by the story and follow it with interest — have been made richer by our participation. It has created, for a moment, a community of good-hearted people who simply want to see something honorable and worthy and kind done in this world.
If there has been a theme in my writing, it has been that we are not all called to greatness, but that we all have moments in our lives where we, alone, can create a goodness that otherwise would not exist. This is one of those moments. I hope more of them come to each of you, and that you claim them for what they are and what they can be. One of life’s true miracles is that each of us walks a path so unique in space and time that we come upon moments that are given to no other. Those are our gift, and our test. How we meet them is the measure of our heart.
This headstone is, to me, one of those gifts and one of those tests. I consider myself one of the luckiest men in the world to have had the chance to receive this gift and, in theological parlance, to transubtantiate the ordinary into something spiritually rich and meaningful. May such opportunities come to us all in full measure as we continue through our profoundly ordinary, but profoundly miraculous days.
I’ll write more soon.
Well, the campaign for the headstone has been a wonderful success. The Unitarians, bless their ever-questioning souls, came through with unexpected generosity. The woman and I spoke together at the service. I told the story of how I got involved. She showed pictures of the young boy and told the story of the gravesite and how the cemetery board had made her take down her decorations.
Then I brought up the dream of the headstone and how they could be part of this dream.
My son, who was sitting behind the woman, said she gasped and sat upright when I proposed the idea. The people in the congregation reached into their pockets and donated from the heart. With a few more dollars we will be there.
The woman (it sounds so clumsy, but I really don’t want to use her name for the sake of her own privacy) told me that she and her family cried all afternoon about their good fortune. They had been sending away for headstone brochures, but had figured it was an impossible dream. Then, this.
Now we only have to arrange for purchase and installation, and a wonderful circle will have been completed. I hope to write something more as the story unfolds further. I want you all to be a part of this. But, for now, I just wanted to get the word out.
And to those of you who wrote asking how to help, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’ve tried to get back to each of you with the address of the bank that is holding the funds. If I didn’t get to you, or if any of you want this information, contact me.
This is a wonderful story growing out of a terrible tragedy. We are lucky to be able to play a part in it.