The Children's Bell Tower...

Located down an unassuming meandering path, behind Bodega Bay's Community Garden, stands a memorial.

Before I even arrived at the tower, I noticed bells in the adjacent trees and knew this was going to be a powerful place.
I have never forgotten the story of Nicholas Green. Maybe because he was the same age as our older son, or maybe because it is just such an incredible tale of loss and selflessness. If you don't recall the story, in 1994, while on a family holiday in Italy, seven year old Nicholas was asleep in the family's car. While on a road, criminals mistook the Greens as jewelers and tried to rob them with gunfire. Nicholas was shot and died the next day.

What then happened was extraordinary and unheard of in Italy. The family donated little Nicholas' organs.
The children's bell 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.
Nicholas' seven recipients are like many others who need a transplant - a mother who had never seen her baby's face clearly; a diabetic who had been repeatedly in comas; a boy of 15, wasting away with a heart disease, who was only the same size as a seven year old; a keen sportsman whose vision was gradually darkening; and two children hooked up to dialysis machines several hours a week. Then there was Maria Pia, a vivacious 19-year old girl who the night Nicholas was shot was dying too. Now, against all odds, she's healthy, is married and has two children, one of whom is called Nicholas.
Thomas Campbell said, "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." Nicholas has been with me since 1994. There is a peacefulness seeing this memorial to all lost children. They are in our hearts, always.

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