Tyler’s headstone is in!

It’s happened. What a fine bit of human sharing, come together around a family’s simple need.

In a world where the large forces often seem brutish and beyond our control, it is the small gestures that sometimes speak most eloquently.

Marvel, for a moment, at the profound ordinariness of this all, then consider what we, together, have done.

For those of you who have not been following this or have come late to the party, go back and read “Candles on the Grave” in the excerpts, and the weblog entries for February and March.

For any of you, click on the individual photos if you’d like to see full-sized versions.


This, sadly, is the sign the cemetery put up after they made Tyler’s family remove their decorations. It was one of the reasons I became so intent upon doing something to help the family. Maybe I’m being naive about issues of gravesite etiquette, but this seemed, and still seems, mean-spirited and unjustifiably directive. Grief is personal, and takes its own shape and course. Just yesterday I saw a man about my age walking through town pulling a bicycle pull-behind carrier filled with clothing, etc. This morning there was an article in the paper explaining that he was walking around America in response to his son’s suicide several years ago. If our cemetery folks had been in charge of the sidewalks, he likely would have been arrested or removed for violating community standards with an inappropriate expression of grief.


The balloon launches take place each year on Tyler’s birthday. For those of you living in the bright lights and well-pressed reality of our big cities, you can see how ordinary — even dowdy — our life is here in the northland. It’s just a reminder that stories of goodness and human hope can come out of the most mundane and seemingly inconsequential settings. Notice the solitary lantern that had become the only marker the family could afford that was permitted under cemetery guidelines. Even this the cemetery officials tried to have removed.


Tyler’s balloons rising up. A simple ritual, but one that draws the heart upward toward mystery and the unknown.


Here is what the family was left with after their decorations were removed. Carrie, the grandmother, came every day and lit the candle in the receptacle. That was all the memorial Tyler had until we all joined together to do something.


The gift of many anonymous, caring people, some of you among them.


It is a small gesture with a big heart. I think we can all be proud.

I truly thank you all.

1 thought on “Tyler’s headstone is in!”

  1. Kent,

    Thank you for your big heart, which has reached out and touched other big hearts, manifesting in the gravestone for Tyler! Thanks also for the pictures as they help bring us all closer. As I looked at the pictures, I imagined us all being there releasing balloons and then gathering around Tyler’s headstone with joined hands and hearts.


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