Come See Kirby’s Crane Installation at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts by Judith

As close as we figure, the final crane count was over 6,700 cranes. Some even arrived after Kirby died, one a bunch from Hong Kong. Many of them were unstrung when Kirby died but the Motorcycle ladies came and in two nights we finished stringing all the cranes we had.

As many of you know, we sent a number of cranes home with people after the funeral; some went to others who needed them for chronic conditions, and some were buried with Kirby.

Up to Saturday, April 28th, we still had over about 5,500 at our house, hanging in the dining room in a rainbow of graded colors. The small to tiny cranes are still in the kitchen on the cable that held the cranes that surrounded Kirb in her hospital bed.

We, of course, have been living with these birds for some time now and associate them with the sorrow of Kirby’s failed battle to survive that awful cancer. But, the cranes are also very much about our family’s community, which extended amazingly, and all those people’s hopes, manifest prayers, and caring. People seeing them for the first time in their completion have told us many times that they thought the aggregate of the cranes was significant enough to share with more people than just those who come into our dining room. So, we talked to the people at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts (with help in establishing initial contacts from a couple of Capitol Hill angels). We especially liked the SMITH connection even though the Smith Center and Smith College are named for different Smiths…(I hope all you Smith College grads like the Smith parallel, too :-))

Before it became so clear she didn’t have the time, Kirby had picked up brochures about programs run by the Smith Center for people with cancer. She was interested especially in support groups of other people her age with cancer. The Smith Center seemed appropriate as a location for an installation of her cranes, especially after we saw their space on U Street.

The executive director of the center, Shanti Norris, and other staff there were enthusiastic about the cranes, especially after seeing them in person or photos.

So, last Saturday we installed nearly 3,000 of them at the Smith Center in their activity room, with the help of Jean L.








Hanging the Cranes, photo by Jean L.

We think of the cranes as a collective work of art, made by an extraordinary community of people, close to Kirby and with various degrees of separation, who were touched, concerned, and caring and turned all that into tangible form: the thousands of cranes.

On Thursday, May 10th Michael Lerner, co-founder of Smith Center and of Commonweal, Smith Center’s sister center in Bolinas, California ( will be speaking on Intentional Healing from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Smith Center. (1632 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009 202.483.8600). The Center has graciously allowed us to host a welcoming event there that night for Kirby’s cranes. We extend this invitation to you to come and see the crane installation, possibly visit some you made, get to know the Smith Center, and join us for wine and nosh at 5 pm. Everyone is also welcome to stay for Mr. Lerner’s talk.

Please rsvp to if you plan to come lest we run out of wine.

For the out-of-towners we know Thursday isn’t the most convenient and we will try to schedule a weekend reception in the future. (But if you come now or then we can put up you up.)

Whether or not you can come to the May 10th event, please feel free to visit the Smith Center Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, hours: Wed. to Fri., 11am – 5pm, Sat., 11am – 3pm. (The current show is quite lovely with some beautiful pieces dealing with remembering). You’ll see Kirby’s cranes from the gallery and can visit them, too.

The support for Kirby and us while she was sick is manifest in this collection of love-filled cranes. We are so very pleased these cranes are finding their way into the world with their messages of love, hope, peace, and healing.

This is the first venture out for this group of cranes. We hope for future opportunities to share them and, indeed, the rest of the “crane collection,” including the little and tiny cranes, the heavy and light cranes, the crane quilt, and all the other cranes that came to visit.


15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Suzanne Deuel Weidie
    May 02, 2012 @ 22:08:06

    Sounds like a beautiful thing to do. Please post a pic if you can as I will not be able to see this installation in person. Thinking about your family now as you share your journey with others in such a kind and honest fashion. Hugs.


    • judith
      May 08, 2012 @ 20:17:47

      we’ll try to get some good pictures thursday night
      and also try to figure out how to post them…(smiling emoticon)


  2. Cindy Capen
    May 02, 2012 @ 23:55:20

    What a lovely tribute to the community of caring that came together to love you through. I so admire your energy and creativity and will smile to think that much of that same community will surround you at this event. Distance will prevent my attendance but not my prayers that this will be a time of joyful memories.


  3. deborah dorazi
    May 02, 2012 @ 23:55:49

    Oh yes- please if possible post a picture ( or two) we are truly too far away- geographically. Love to you guys.


  4. Roberta Meizlik
    May 05, 2012 @ 12:43:10

    That event sounds wonderful. My thoughts are often with you. I don’t think I can come. I would love to see the photographs also. I know there will be a lot of people there because Kirby has so many friends.


  5. drrobinhalprin
    May 05, 2012 @ 14:21:24

    What a truly lovely legacy.


  6. aannichiarico
    May 06, 2012 @ 13:09:22

    I am wondering how long Kirby’s cranes will be displayed?


    • judith
      May 06, 2012 @ 17:38:18

      we don’t know: we think through the next show in the gallery, which goes up in maybe until july/august?


  7. Kim Franklin
    May 09, 2012 @ 14:46:10

    What an incredible addition the cranes will make! We cannot make it on Thursday but will make a point of stopping by to see your gift very soon!


  8. June
    May 13, 2012 @ 22:13:26

    Happy mother’s day, Judith! You are an amazing mother. I’m thinking of you today, along with my own mother.


  9. Roberta Meizlik
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 20:35:55

    Today, June 21, the subject for the Dr. Oz show is ovarian cancer.


  10. Roberta Meizlik
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 20:37:54

    I think about you often. Love, Roberta


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