In this life, it is a real gift to find good friends. But it is even luckier when those good friends are also part of your family. Over the past few years, my cousin Jenine and I have developed a wonderful friendship. This love and care has extended to our children, and they’ve built up friendships of their own. They send each other packages, write letters, and share little bits of joy.
Here they are two summers ago, hanging out at the lake. They all look so small – Sophie, Grace, and Andra.
And here they are, that same summer, standing in front of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (made by one man) – and you can practically see the joy reflected in their eyes (it’s possible that their eyes are actually glazed over by twine ball boredom, not reflective with joy).
And last summer, a long line of girls – the daughters and granddaughters of my own cousins – had so much fun following each other around. It brought us all such joy to see our kids get along, the older ones very kindly letting the little ones tag along.
And then last fall, we received the saddest news. That one of the dearest hearts in this bunch had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Andra’s life was cut far too short, having suffered sudden cardiac death from a heart condition that she did not know she had. Her sudden absence left behind family and friends that were shocked, and saddened, and lonesome for such a lovely girl.
In the months that have followed I have watched her family work hard to find ways gather joy and help others, hoping to see good things come out of such sadness. My cousin Jenine, a woman of action, vision, and determination, has put a few wonderful plans into place to help save the world in Andra’s name. If you’d like to join in, there are three ways in which you and your children can help:
Visit Andra’s Garden, Tucson AZ: Last week, we visited the garden dedicated to Andra, just outside of the Children’s Museum Tucson. A lovely garden filled with plants, vegetables and herbs – harvested and used in dishes by the local restaurant DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails. It is a beautiful spot, filled with personal things made for and by Andra’s friends and family. The mosaic and tiles in this bench were made by the Santa Theresa Tile Works. If you are in the area, stop by for a visit.
Do Good Deeds, Share the News: Andra had a goal to save the world by her 13th birthday. Do what you can to save the world in your own neighborhood, across the globe, or anywhere that catches your eye. Then, write about it on the back of a postcard and send them in. Each good deed postcard is scanned in and shared on andraheart.com – visit the site for some wonderful examples of giving that happens every day. More information on how and where to send the postcards is available on the site. All good deeds are worth sharing, and is an excellent way to help kids start thinking about the impact they can have on the local and global communities.
Buy Jewelry: It’s not every day that you have jewelry purchasing justification handed to you on a platter – but here it is. Jewelry artist Melissa Borrell has created the Andra Heart necklace, available for $40 in either red and silver. For each necklace purchased, $20 will be donated to the Andra Heart Foundation, proceeds of which will be used to help conduct free EKG screenings for students in the Flowing Wells Junior High School this fall. Necklaces are available for order through eBay, and more information is available here.
Love never ends.
Andra Heart Necklace: beautiful necklace designed by Melissa Borrell, available through eBay. Proceeds to benefit AndraHeart Foundation.
AndraHeart Foundation: andraheart.org, learn more about the EKG screening program scheduled to start in Tucson in August 2011.
AndraHeart Postcard Project: andraheart.com, performing and documenting good deeds.