Thursday, July 2, 2009
An exchange of hearts
Seven year old Nicholas Green of Bodega Bay was killed by highway robbers in Italy in 1994. His parents donated his organs, and seven people live today because of their gift.
I happened upon this memorial on a walk from the RV Park to Bodega Dunes and found myself riveted in that spot, awestruck. The central bell was cast in Italy. It contains the survivors names and Nicholas'. I didn't know the story of all the other bells mounted on this tower, but I suspected each had an equally moving story. I looked up the facts online. Here they are.
The children's bell tower in Bodega Bay is a magical place. It stands on open ground, a thick growth of cypress trees on one side and green hills on the other. In the background are high dunes and a tantalizing glimpse of the ocean. The tower is 18 feet high, three tubular steel pyramids from which hang 140 bells, almost all of them sent by Italians: school bells, church bells, ships' bells, mining bells, cow bells. The centerpiece is a majestic bell, thirty inches high, from the Marinelli foundry in Italy, which has been making bells for the papacy for a thousand years. Nicholas' name and the names of the seven recipients are on it, and Pope John Paul II went to the foundry to bless it. Whenever the wind blows, as it often does on this exposed coast, the bells chime, sometimes a few at a time, emphasizing the solitude of the surroundings, sometimes an entire orchestra, sounding like happy children at play. Then the sound fades away, and the children are gone. Although it was inspired by Nicholas' death, the tower was designed to be a memorial accessible to everyone a place where children would feel at ease. Its delicacy reflects both the preciousness and fragility of young life. Many families visit it to give thanks for their children, others find some solace for a loss.