Miracle Monday: Ben’s Bells Project


Update: On April 15 I got a note from Ben’s mother, thanking me for the post … and letting me know that, two years after Ben’s death, they adopted two girls from Russia!

On March 29, 2002 — Good Friday seven years ago — three-year-old Ben Packard suddenly died of croup. His parents desperately wanted to find a way to bring some kind of healing out of their personal tragedy.

They created “Ben’s Bells” to recognize acts of kindness in their community — in their own words, “to inspire, educate, and motivate each other to realize the impact of intentional kindness and to empower individuals to act accordingly to that awareness, thereby changing our world.”

“Ben’s Bells,” grew to become a community effort that recognizes the power of kindness. In memory of little Ben, people in the Tucson, Arizona area gather to create these beautiful ceramic windchimes … and send them to selected recipients (it’s called “belling”), whose act of kindness has made a difference in the life of local residents. To date more than 11,000 sets of bells have been distributed.

One of the recent recipients of this award are foster parents Barbara and James Reyes, whose story was run in the Arizona Daily Star last February.

Ben’s mother Jeannette tells their story here.  The site offers instructions on how to start a chapter of the “Bells” in your own community as well!


Miracle Mondays: “Writing Your Tragedy…” Guest Post by Jane Lebak

journalingWhen we think of “miracles,” most often we think of a happy ending to a personal challenge — a prayer answered, or an unexpected divine intervention. And yet, as C.S. Lewis would say, “God shouts to us in our pain.” He does indeed answer our prayers, but His answer isn’t always “Yes.” Sometimes it’s yes; sometimes it’s no; sometimes it’s, “Wait.”

As mothers, the waiting can become unbearable. Craig and I waited for three years, for example, for our children to become available for adoption. Three years of not knowing whether they would go back to their first parents. Three years of waiting to see whether an extended relative would step forward. Three years of not knowing if we would be together for another birthday, another Christmas, another summer. During that time, I learned to practice detachment, of living in the present moment. It’s a skill every Extraordinary Mom knows well.

One of the most important ways, I’ve found, to live in the present is to capture the memories as they occur — whether through blogging, or journaling, or through letters. Jane sent me this link to a post she had written about her daughter, whom she lost more than four years ago to anencephaly. More specifically, it’s about the connection between blogging/journaling and grieving. 

As Jane points out, you have to actually endure the grieving process before you can write about it fruitfully. (Though I must admit that some of Amy Welborn’s Facebook reflections, and Johnnette Benkovic’s writing about her husband Tony in the wake of his death, that make me think there are exceptions to this.) At any rate, I’m grateful to Jane for taking time to share her experience with us.

Emily died in July and I had her website up by September, but writing something deeper and more reflective took time. I don’t think I fully explored in fiction the emotions of losing a baby until I wrote Winter Branches (in 2005) and you can see even there, the feelings were translated. (Before someone brings up “Damage,” I’ll note that “Damage” had the same situation but none of the grieving. It’s the frame of the house without the furnishings, the carpet, or the drapes.)

My point here is just, if you’ve endured a tragedy, give it time before you try writing. Maybe years. If you want the processed, final product, those precious resolved feelings, you need to resolve them  first.

Rejoicing For Joyce: Good-bye, Farewell

Anyone who has ever lost a loved one too suddenly to say goodbye will related to Lionel’s anguish as he shares this moving tribute to this EM at Rejoicing For Joyce.

When our time is not God’s time (as so often happens in life), it helps to recall that there is no time in heaven. Though there is nothing more that we can do with or for our loved one here on earth (apart from the funeral), because of the love we share in Christ we are never separated wholly from those we love. We can ask God to bring that precious soul gently to Himself, and know that all the while our loved one is praying for us as well.

May the angels lead you into Paradise.
May the martyrs come to greet you on the way.
May they lead you home to the holy city,
to the new and eternal Jerusalem.

May the choirs of angels come to welcome you.
May they take you to the arms of Abraham,
where Lazarus is poor no longer,
and there may you find rest, rest eternal.


Lux eterna luceat eis. Requiescat in pace. Amen.
[Light eternal shine on him. May he (she) rest in peace. Amen.]

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Memento Mori

There is nothing quite like the deaths of two friends — both of whom were just my age, one of whom left behind a five-year-old son — within a single month to make a person take stock. The early Christians had an expression: Memento Mori (remember death). This was not a morbid preoccupation with the Grim Reaper, but a mindset that helped the Christian to evaluate all of life with an eye on that which is of ultimate value: Family. Relationships. God. Heaven. Continue reading

When a Pet Dies: Letter from Heaven

My mother-in-law passed this on to me today. I warn you … it’s a tear-jerker. So go grab a tissue and a cup of tea, and settle in. This information might come in handy one day! (If anyone can help me with the original source, I’d be happy to post it.)
Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month.The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her. You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her. Love, Meredith.

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.
That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.
Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith , ‘in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had w ritten to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I’m easy to find, I am wherever there is love. Love,God