Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A tender moment honoring Justin August 31, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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SHE HAD NO IDEA, this baby girl, that her endearing interaction with a garden sculpture would hold meaning beyond cuteness. But it did.



As my granddaughter, Isabelle, squatted to look at the boy with the jar of fireflies sitting on my patio, I photographed the scene. She looked, reached, waved, moved in closer, then touched. There was a poignant sweetness in Izzy’s connection with the garden art I call “Little Justin.”



I purchased the mass produced sculpture in 2012 after seeing the same piece in my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s Memory Garden honoring their son. Justin died on August 14, 2001, of Hodgkin’s disease. He was only 19. When his mom, Vivian, told me how much Justin loved light, especially that of fireflies, I felt moved to add this art to my yard.



Now, just days after the 16th anniversary of my nephew’s death, Izzy reached out to Little Justin with zero prompting from anyone. The moment held such sweetness, such tenderness that my heart ached with love for this darling little girl and for the cousin she would never know.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “A tender moment honoring Justin”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Such a sweet series of pictures of your sweet granddaughter with the sculpture that holds such meaning. You definitely captured a moment there.

  2. Such sweetness – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 I remember at my Wedding there was a cemetery near the Chapel and my nephew (no prompting) just start talking to the head stones. I am not sure if he was looking for Great Grandpa or just read the names on the stones and struck up a conversation. He was the one I had to watch in public because he had no fear of strangers and would just strike up conversations, follow someone that interested him, etc. Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • Now that’s an interesting interaction, too. What did your nephew grow up to be? Just curious. It seems he has a creative spirit.

    • He is like his Awesome Aunt of course – ha! He is a mixed bag – likes to work with his hands, a bit of a brainiac, an old soul, and a creative being. He could be my child because we look so much alike. To BroCraves I call my nephew his payback child for all the grief he gave me growing up. I cannot believe four of the five are 20 somethings and the youngest will be a dad in December – having a little girl and naming her Rosely.

      • I like your description of your nephew as “an old soul.” That seems fitting from what you’ve shared about him. And I’m not at all surprised by the taking after his awesome aunt in the creative side. I can feel the deep love you have for him.

        Yes, these kids have a way of growing up too fast. So cherish every year. And congrats on soon becoming a great aunt to baby Rosely.

      • There are three girls and Rosely will make four. No boys as of yet. You have that deep love when they bond with you and I was like a mother to them in their first years. I see a lot of his Great Grandpa in him hence being an old soul. I feel blessed in having him as well as the connection to my grandpa in him 🙂

      • Oh, Renee, that is just wonderful to have that loving connection with your nephew.

  3. Valerie Says:

    Oh…so sweet and so touching.

  4. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    What a beautiful, touching photo-story. Thank you for sharing.

  5. shalilah2002 Says:

    Love,ly as only a child can do

  6. jhc1218 Says:

    And now I’m crying…Love this and miss him so much.

  7. Norma Says:

    Oh Audrey. The shots of our darling Isabelle are so sweet. I think they will be in California sometime in the near future. I hope they will come to Bakersfield where I can see them, and that adorable little girl.

  8. Amber Schmidt Says:

  9. Awe such a sweet girl. I’m so sorry for your families loss of life and the future it held.

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