As I was creating a polymer clay treasury for Etsy I discovered this profile of D. Antonia Truesdale. For some reason I began reading her profile story and am compelled by something much more than myself to share it with you. While you read and cry your heart will become full of appreciation of this lovely young woman and her young friend. Please feel free to share the story with others.
Why I Sculpt Child Angels
This is not a story about childhood love. It is not a story about friendship. Despite the presence of these things, this is pure ache and a lesson I wish I never learned. I will not go into sharing the details of what made Christopher a spectacular being wrapped up in the package of an 8 year old boy. I trust you find me credible and will believe this. I also ask that despite the longevity, in Chris' honor you read this.
On the first day of summer vacation in 1989, Christopher was playing baseball with his brother, sister, and babysitter in his back yard and the ball went over the fence into a neighboring construction site. He climbed his swing set onto his father's shed, then jumped from the shed roof over the fence to get the ball. I cannot picture this in my head (either because the logistics are not clear or because my mind is protecting itself from this visual) but when Christopher jumped the fence his hand hit a latch on a crane which released two cement highway dividers. He fell and they fell on top of him. A very cherished 8 year old lost his life that day.
There was no closure. My mother felt that attending the services would be too traumatic and kept me from saying goodbye in person. I understand, but still. I agonized for years about this, even into young adulthood. So many blanks I could not fill in. I did not know where he was interned, when his birthday was. The specific day he died. Every milestone I had, I wished for him. On first days of school I would find his seat in class and then mentally spite the child who sat there. On last days of school I would be sick at the excitement around me. I'd imagine Chris's thoughts as the final bell rang and he dreamt of ponds and trails and popcorn at the drive-in, not knowing he would die by next nightfall. For years I just carried him with me. The night before my high school graduation I dreamed of him approaching through the crowd, as grown as I, and hugging me. In tears I type this.
In my second year of college I became desperate, not for closure, but for closeness to Chris and wanted so badly to connect with his family. With such a common last name they felt impossible to find. All I could do was speak of him often and hope someone connected. One day this exact thing happened, and by fate a woman scrawled an address on scrap paper and sent me away with it. I finally had a portal to his family and despite years of longing for contact, I had no idea how I could begin to express my heart to them.
Honestly I do not recall the specific details of the sentiment that I poured into 7 handwritten pages, but my message was strong and clear. I missed Christopher, I loved him still, and I REMEMBERED. Always I remembered him. The letter I received back I held with trembling hands, but never could I have been prepared for what Christopher's mother would share with me.
She spoke of the myriad of emotions that my letter brought forth, and I expected that would be the case. She broke me down entirely when she went on to write that receiving my letter was a true miracle that had breathed new life into their son. She shared that tragically, the loss of Christopher was so painful for others that he became rarely spoken of.
To hear that Christopher not only lost his life but also his legacy was the greatest shame imaginable. My small but bursting childhood friend had become lost to the world. Was truly buried. I cried for days. She later wrote that the greatest gift I had given them was sharing his memory with other people and allowing him to live on in this way.. Mary and I stay in touch and I am smiling this moment over the profound friendship I found in Christopher's mother.
I visit his grave when I am happy and seek to share that with him. I go there when I am hurt so I can have solitude but not be alone. My husband and I picnic with our young daughters there and they like the bells that softly chime in the fir overhanging his grave site. He is truly my forever friend, and my gift to him is ensuring that despite his life being stifled, his legacy never will be. Now you know Christopher. He was small, mighty, and magnificent. I would be beyond humbled should anyone repost his story as daily I fear that in his 8 short-lived and bittersweet years of childhood, not enough people had the chance to know his name.
Christopher's mother shared with me that one of the greatest gifts I gave to them was sharing his goodness with others and allowing the memory of him to live on. This was a gift I could not stop giving to Chris and his family, and with it I achieved the opposite of closure. It burst open a door for me and truly inspired fire in my heart, because it was then that I saw a very clear window into the lives of bereaved parents. One of the things that stood out profoundly to me was need. The need for their children to be acknowledged, celebrated, spoken about. The need to know others remember. The need for a LEGACY.
Sculpting the ever-present bond between parents and children who touch the stars too soon is truly my heart's work and daily I startle at the extreme honor of being so blessed to be able to do this. My goal was to create something for parents to display for others which would then evoke conversation. I really wanted to be able to create some tangible way for parents to show others that it is okay to talk about their children and for my sculptures to be a “starting place”. In my heart of hearts I pray that people see these pieces and realize that despite the overwhelming pain in losing a child, there is healing for parents to simply know people remember.