In March 2005, Thomas Zita was born to Sandy and Kristin Fitzgerald-Zita. Tragically, he only lived for 20 hours but every year on the anniversary of his death they do three things to commemorate his life: they drop off gifts at their local pregnancy and parenting youth center, make him a birthday cake with candles and do something kind in his honor.
During Kristin’s labor with Thomas, her placenta ruptured and he was born without vital signs. The couple was devastated because they had already lost two babies before Thomas and went on to lose two more afterward. Kristen calls herself the childless parent. She said, “I lost an infant, a toddler, and I’ll lose a teenage and an adult son. You just continue to lose that for the rest of your life.”
After Thomas died, his obituary read, “Even the shortest life has a purpose and every soul makes an impact.” Initially, only friends and family joined them for their annual “Random Act of Kindness Day for Thomas” ritual and did kind things like shovel walkways, buy coffee for strangers, and make donations to women’s shelters. But last year the group reached a new milestone— they helped 1,600 people in Thomas’ memory.
On the blog, Women You Should Know, Kristin explained more about Thomas’ death and what prompted her to do kind things in his honor. She said, “There is no way to explain how deep and dark the pit of grief is when you’re mourning your child. The first few weeks and months we were in pure survival mode, clinging to each other and blocking out the world that had swallowed up our dreams, our happiness and our innocence.”
She continued, “I hemorrhaged during the C-section and developed septicemia after, so my physical recovery was painfully slow. My husband Sandy somehow shored up his own sorrow to tend to me, making me iron-rich foods, taking me for walks, and pulling me out of the house every single day. His gentle, attentive kindness kept me anchored here. It gave me focus and strength when I felt rudderless and weak. It was Sandy’s idea to include a line in Thomas’ obituary asking people to do something kind in Thomas’ memory. And the seed was planted.”
This year on the 10th anniversary of Thomas’ death, they’re trying to initiate 10,000 random acts of kindness to be done in his name; and they’ve even set up Facebook page to get people involved in his day of charity. So far, they’ve baked countless cupcakes, crafted bracelets and jam jars, designed cards and knitted and crocheted cuddly gifts.
Kristen said, “To date, more than 8000 people have officially signed up to participate in March 9th Random Act of Kindness Day for Thomas via our Facebook event page. Our goal for this milestone birthday was to encourage 10,000 acts of kindness, and we’re well on our way to reaching that goal, thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of friends, family and complete strangers who are diligently spreading the word and plotting their good deeds. In some ways it’s a distraction that keeps us focused on something other than our sorrow in the weeks leading up to his birthday, but it’s also a way to keep Thomas present in our lives. We will never be able to celebrate the kind of milestones that other parents do, but we have this.”
She concluded, “They say that each new life, no matter how brief, forever changes the world. I know this to be true because of a little boy I held in my arms for just a moment but will hold in my heart until my very last breath.”