Issue 16-110 — October 1, 2016
Starshine Galaxy Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help sustain the memories of children who have died. To this end, we support the Tributes to Lost Children Community Page on Facebook as a place to post, share, and comment on activities to honor our departed children and to celebrate their lives. This biweekly Tributes Digest presents highlights from this community page along with other items of interest. Please feel free to forward this on to others you know who might be interested, and direct any comments, questions, or concerns to

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A Life That Once Seemed Brief and Insignificant Revealed Itself to Be Vital, Everlasting and Relevant (September 27) – Sarah Gray was pregnant with twins when a routine ultrasound showed that one of her babies had anencephaly, a fatal birth defect. After carrying both babies – Thomas and Callum – to near full term, Sarah gave birth via cesarean section in early 2010. Thomas, the baby with anencephaly, lived for six days. He spent his short life being loved – being nursed, cuddled and held. Wanting something good to come from such a devastating loss, Sarah decided to donate some of Thomas’s tissues – his eyes, his liver, and his umbilical cord blood – for scientific research. Years later, she found herself on a quest to find out if Thomas’s donations had made any kind of difference in research and, in turn, the world.
National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims (September 26) – Every year on September 25th, families and communities across the United States come together to pay tribute to loved ones lost to violence. This day – known as the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims – was first established in 1999, by the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, also knowns as POMC. Robert and Charlotte Hullinger founded the organization in 1978, just a few short months after their 19-year-old daughter, Lisa, was brutally murdered by an ex-boyfriend. One of the group’s main missions is to support bereaved parents as they grieve. For Lisa’s parents, this means focusing on Lisa’s life – not on the event that took her life.
Finding Hope Inside a Story of Hate (September 20) – In the fall of 1998, Matthew Shepard was an incoming freshman at the University of Wyoming. One October evening, Matthew – who was gay – was lured from a bar by two men who then kidnapped him, drove him to a field, tied him to a fence, tortured him and left him to die. Matthew’s injuries were so severe that he never regained consciousness and, tragically, he passed away a few days later. He was 21 years old. Matthew’s death has been credited for being the starting point of a national dialogue about hate crimes and intolerance against the LGBT community. Recently, composer and conductor Craig Hella Johnson was inspired to write an intimate choral piece to honor Matthew’s life. According to Craig, the piece – called “Considering Matthew Shepard: Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass” – is a “larger invitation to return love.”

For the Akin Family, Love Trumps Grief (September 30) – Kristin and Justin Akin lost both of their young sons, Andrew and Matthew, to the same illness – Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH. The immune deficiency disease, which is caused by an extremely rare genetic mutation, can only be cured by a successful bone marrow transplant. Although Andrew went through multiple bone marrow transplants in his short life, none were successful, and he died at the age of two. Matthew was five and a half years old when he succumbed to the illness. Kristin and Justin have now dedicated their lives to “doing good” in honor of their boys – they started the Matthew and Andrew Akin Foundation to raise awareness about the disease, and to help families transfer their child’s care to the world renowned HLH experts at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center.

Stillborn Still Matters: Research and Dignity for Autumn Joy (September 23) – Debra Haine Vijayvergiya’s “heart broke into two pieces” the day that her daughter, Autumn Joy, was stillborn. “Half belonged to me and the other half to Autumn,” says Debra. Losing Autumn motivated Debra to establish the 2 Degrees Foundation – so named because “often only 2 degrees of separation exist between you and [someone who’s experienced] a pregnancy loss …” The organization strives to support stillbirth research, increase awareness, empower expectant moms to advocate for themselves and their babies, and provide bereavement support to families affected by loss. What Debra most wants to do, however, is take the stigma out of stillbirth – to change the notion that a baby that dies before birth somehow doesn’t count.

Coming Together to Remember Gaza’s Lost Children (September 19) – In July 2015, a group of Irish artists came together to remember and honor the lives of 556 Palestinian children who were killed by the 2014 Israeli offensive operation known as “Protective Edge.” They created an installation composed of 556 white baby-sized t-shirts and onesies, which were put on hangers, which were secured to bamboo poles and set in the ground. The entire installation – called “No More: Dublin Remembers the Children of Gaza” – was set on a beach in Dublin, partly in memory of four young cousins who were killed one sunny afternoon while playing on a Gaza beach.
Keeping Their Stories Alive Through a Living Memorial (September 22) – One perspective on September 11th is that it was a world-shaking tragedy made up of thousands of personal tragedies. For Mary and Frank Fetchet, their personal tragedy on 9/11 was that they lost their 24-year-old son, Brad, who worked in the World Trade Center. Within a year of her son’s death, Mary cofounded the Voices of September 11th, an organization that helps families affected by 9/11, as well as other communities affected by mass casualty events. Part of Mary’s work includes documenting the lives of those who died in the 9/11 tragedy. To that end, her organization started a digital archive of photographs and personal keepsakes, known as the Living Memorial. Mary says, “We wanted to encourage the families to focus on the lives of their loved ones, rather than their deaths.”
Making the World a Kinder Place, in Honor of Megan (September 21) – “She came into this world loud – and I mean loud – and determined to have her own mind and make a difference,” writes Megan’s mom, Tina Meier. “Megan was a very outgoing active girl and always kept me on my toes. [She] enjoyed so many things in life …” Three weeks before her 14th birthday, Megan committed suicide following an intense episode of cyber-bullying. Tina has since dedicated her life to making the world a kinder – and safer – place for kids. In December of 2007, she started the Megan Meier Foundation, an organization that promotes awareness about bullying and cyber-bullying, and actively inspires actions aimed at ending bullying and suicide.
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The complete netbook version of Tributes to Lost Children – a snapshot of how 147 families have honored their children who have passed away – is publicly available for FREE. Click on the cover image above to navigate to this powerful, heart-warming compilation of tribute stories.
Based on results of the Tributes Survey, three general motivations anchor bereaved families in their tribute activities. See the organizing Tributes Framework that serves as the backbone of the new book Tributes to Lost Children.
Copyright © 2016 Starshine Galaxy Foundation, All rights reserved.

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