This week I cede my column to my wife Martha. As a community suffers the collective burden of heavy hearts brought on by a tragic fire that took the life of 14-year-old Theodore Hedstrom of Camden, she remembers the gentle soul whose presence is still embracing those he loved, helping heal them with his spirit, which still surrounds and comforts them.

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I am blessed to have known Theodore. As a little baby, Carrie would drop him off at my house so she could have an after-baby workout at the Y across the street. She called him Buddha Baby because even as a tiny boy he had a calmness about him. He was round, solid, and rooted. Even then.

When he was 7, he decided it was time to make his First Communion. It was nothing that his family was forcing him to do. It came from deep inside him. Perhaps he had seen Connor, Brady and Cam wear the little white suit and he knew it was a special ceremony that he, too, wanted to go through. But it was more than that. Theodore had a wisdom about him. He knew what he needed.

Every Sunday I picked him up, sometimes with Pearl accompanying us, sometimes not. But Theodore was ready and waiting for me every Sunday without complaint for an entire school year. I don’t believe that I ever waited even once for him because he was always ready to go. On the first day of his class, the Sunday school teacher asked him if he wanted to be called "Teddy." But just like a man who knows himself and knows what he wants, he replied with confidence, “I prefer to be called Theodore.” An old soul goes by his given name which, by the way, means Lover of God.

At the church we’d find our seats, and 10 minutes into the Mass, the children would be gathered to go downstairs to the First Communion lessons for about 25 minutes. Then they’d resurface to sit in a pew for the rest of the Mass. I always brought a little bag of colored pencils and paper to keep him and Pearl occupied if needed. But Theodore always chose to kneel and stand with the congregation, saying the prayers out loud along with everyone else. After every Mass, we headed for the Bagel Shop where he never wavered from his choice on the menu. A BLT. We’d eat and chat.

He made his confirmation that year and his first confession, too. For those, we drove up to St. Francis of Assisi church in Belfast. He entered the confessional with his hands in prayer form when his turn came. I could only imagine what he might have said in there. But it was between him and God, and I didn’t ask questions.

When the time came for the big First Communion day, he was dressed in the family white suit. He was the only boy in a white suit, as I recall, and he felt a little embarrassed about that. But we all admired how handsome he looked in it. After he received, he was so proud of himself, beaming his sweet little smile as he walked back to his seat.

Theodore and I planned a party afterward, which we held at my house. All his immediate family and extended family were there. We all enjoyed Theodore’s idea of a make-it-yourself BLT sandwich bar. We had cake and everyone sat in the living room celebrating how wonderful the day was for Theodore to make his First Communion. There were little gifts for him to open and cards with money inside. It was easy to see by the look on his face that he was elated at his accomplishment. So proud of himself. He had done what his older brothers had done in the white suit. He had planted it in his heart that this was something he needed and wanted to do. And he made it happen. At 7 years old.

On all the little boxes of candy that we gave to each guest at his party I printed something that described what Theodore had done. It probably should have been a First Communion-themed quote, but it wasn’t. It was a quote by Paul Coelho from his book, “The Alchemist”:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

That’s what Theodore did. I was just a family friend, a link in the chain that came along in Theodore’s universe to help make his heart’s desire materialize. It was a privilege to be asked. What an inspiration Theodore is to all of us — to plant what we need in our hearts, put it out to God, and trust that all the universe will conspire to help us.

Rest in peace, my young friend. You made a mark on all of us in your short life.