This is a special day in a number of ways.  First, it is the 9th day of the 8th month of 2010, so it is 8-9-10, as we track dates in the U.S.  You can make of that what you will.   🙂

It is also the 90th birthday of our dear friend – and “Gold Heart” Creator – Rae Cheney.  Rae is a remarkable woman in many, many ways and her story deserves to become a book (and may someday).  She is so vital and alive, my almost 30-year-old stepdaughter declares, “I want to be like Rae NOW!” (This was in response to the usual “I want to be like Rae when I am 90.”)

A most poignant part of her life story is how she – along with her daughter Jerilyn Brusseau – has turned sorrow into service over the past 40 years.  In 1969, Rae’s son and Jerilyn’s younger brother was shot down and killed while piloting a helicopter in Vietnam.

This tragic turn of events could easily have turned the family into a grieving reaction rooted in the DDT (Dreaded Drama Triangle), seeing Dan and themselves as Victims and either the war itself or the Vietnamese as the Persecutor.

Instead, they took the response of a Creator to this deepest of sorrows.  Jerilyn and her late husband Danaan Parry, founded PeaceTrees Vietnam.  From their website:

“PeaceTrees Vietnam was founded in 1995 to renew relationships with the people of Vietnam and promote a safe, healthy future for its families & children.  We sponsor demining and mine risk education, survivor assistance, citizen diplomacy trips and community building projects in partnership with the people of Quang Tri Province.”

As the history posted on the website shares:

“The idea for PeaceTrees Vietnam arose from a desire to turn sorrow into service. In 1969 an American, Daniel Cheney, was killed when his helicopter was shot down in one of the southern provinces. His sister, Jerilyn Brusseau, was heartbroken that she had lost her beloved younger brother. Instead of turning her loss into anger and hatred, she vowed that one day when the war was over she would work to build bridges of peace and friendship between the American and Vietnamese peoples. She wanted to do all that she could do to help heal the emotional and environmental wounds of the war.”

Donna and I have visited PeaceTrees Vietnam and it is truly a place of love-in-action, healing and growth.

Rae has volunteered with PeaceTrees since the beginning:

“Considered the ‘heart’ of the organization, she does everything from helping with events to writing personal thank-you notes to thousands of donors, large and small.  A retired banking professional and mother of Daniel Cheney… she has dedicated her post-retirement life to the organization and supports its daily operations tirelessly with untold volunteer hours.”

Rae has made an extraordinary commitment to further healing by deciding to make her first trip to Vietnam next month.  Rae and her inspiring story will be the subject of this month’s “TED* Letter” newsletter.

Happy Birthday, Rae – and thanks for setting being such an inspiring Creator!


To the Creator in you!