When our BCACS Family gathered together for a new school year last fall, it was with a heavy heart. Thomas Thang, set to enter second-grade, suffered a swimming accident and passed away on August 1st.
A loss like that leaves a hole. Although our family can’t fill that hole, they did take steps to ease the pain.
On May 3rd, after a school Mass celebrating St. Joseph the Worker, Fr. Chris led Thomas’ parents, William and Mary(Sui) Duh, their children and family, and a long line of students, parents, and grandparents to the old entrance of St. Joseph Elementary School.
They gathered around the fresh mulch and young plants of a new garden, at the center of which was a plinth awaiting the installation of a new St. Joseph statue.
Fr. Chris blessed the garden and, one by one, students placed rocks they painted at the foot of the plinth, which bore Thomas’ name.
This is Thomas’ garden, a place of prayer and reflection.
“[Thomas’ parents] were very appreciative of what the school did,” said Dolly (Sui) Vumzathang, who helped with translation. “For a Burmese family, coming from a different country, to feel so much love from the St. Joseph family – they don’t know how to thank everyone, but it is more than words.”
The garden is the conjoined efforts of the church, who provided the statue, the school, who provided the painted rocks, and one very prayerful boy scout, who pulled it all together.
“A lot of teachers and the principals were talking about having some sort of garden for Thomas in the fall,” Fr. Chris said. “I knew Andrew [Cutshall] was looking for an Eagle Scout project. So I asked him.”
Andrew, a St. Philip sophomore and member of Troop 325, was more than looking for a project.
“I was praying for Eagle Scout ideas,” Andrew said. “Then, Fr. Chris approached me and said he had an Eagle Scout idea for me if I wanted it. I said I would be more than happy to do it.”
Andrew began an intense process of paperwork, fund-raising, approval meetings, planning, and oversight. He is the third boy scout whose Eagle Scout project directly benefits St. Joseph Parish and Schools.
St. Philip junior Adam Sprague’s Eagle Scout project, the St. José Sanchez del Rio chapel, was dedicated inside the middle school last August. St. Philip freshman Jacob Thome’s Eagle Scout project, the Blessed Mother grotto, was dedicated outside the middle school last December.
“I think it is cool that there are sites that make the school more Catholic and give people a nice place to pray,” Andrew said.
“Andrew and his family were amazing,” St. Joseph Elementary School administrative assistant Jeanine Winkler said. “Not only did they donate that beautiful garden, but they had enough mulch to cover the other gardens at the school. Their gift just kept on giving.”
The memorial garden will also keep on giving for many generations of our family to come.
“It will look nice once St. Joseph gets here,” Fr. Chris said.
Even without the statute, the garden is a comfort for those who miss Thomas.
“[After the ceremony], I heard a few of my students say that they miss him and they pray for him in Heaven,” St Joseph second-grade teacher Barbie Carrier said.