Excerpts from Globe column that led to latest investigation

August 20, 1998|By BOSTON GLOBE

Excerpts from a column that ran in the Sunday Globe on Oct. 8, 1995, prompting the latest inquiry into Mike Barnicle's reporting: She opened the letter as she strolled up the driveway from the mailbox. As she finished the first paragraph she stopped in her tracks, unable to focus because of the tears in her eyes. After a few seconds, she lifted her head toward the perfect sky and, for a brief, wonderful moment, she could hear her son singing his favorite song.

In the house, she put the mail down and called her husband at the store where he works to tell him what had just arrived. At first, he was speechless, trying awkwardly to collect his emotions and having some difficulty.

"Read it to me," the husband said.

She spoke softly and slowly, savoring each word. When she finished, neither said anything for a long time until, finally, the husband declared: "There really is a God."

Fifteen months ago, they were living at Children's Hospital in Boston. Their 9-year-old son had been diagnosed with cancer. And the father had just been laid off by one of these high-tech companies that survives only by "downsizing," a '90s word for unemployment, the type of management move that has brought economic death-sentences to so many households. His wife was a library clerk. In addition to their son, there were three other children, girls ages 7, 5 and 2.

Day after day, both parents took turns at the hospital with their sick boy. The doctors and nurses were wonderful and heroic as they managed to evoke smiles and optimism from those so wounded by the bitter reality of their illness.

Their son struck up a friendship with another boy on the floor, a 10-year-old who -- like him -- loved baseball. And on those dreamy summer nights when the Olde Towne Team was home, the two of them would sit by a window on an upper floor in a hospital ward and listen to games on the radio as they looked at the lights of the ballpark off in the distance, washing across the July sky like some brilliant Milky Way all their own.

The other boy was from Connecticut. His parents were trust-fund wealthy but even their affluence could not insulate them from the cargo of grief that attaches itself to anyone with a wounded child.

And so it was that the 9-year-old died on a clear, crisp fall day when his favorite game had long fallen silent from a strike. The combination of hospitalization and unemployment had nearly bankrupted the family, yet they had to fight on for their three surviving children.

But every day was like carrying a load of bricks up some steep, never-ending hill. The only job the father found was at a variety store while his wife simply could not return to work.

And on the morning she stopped in her tracks, letter in hand, their home was on the verge of foreclosure as she read that first paragraph: "We will never forget the kindness you showed our son at Children's. God moves in mysterious ways. You gave to us. Now it is time for our family to give in return. May God bless you."

They had enclosed $10,000. It is the kind of generous gesture, one wounded couple to another, forged forever at the edge of a gentle sadness.

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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