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A Prayer for Cynthia Clark Harvey

posted Friday November 6th, 2009


The second part of my series “The Lost Kids” is out this week.

The day before the story came out, a Facebook friend across the country posted a really beautiful quote from “A Prayer for Owen Meaney” by John Irving.

I found it an odd coincidence.

The story of Cynthia Clark Harvey’s struggle to get her mentally ill daughter help has haunted me for years. I finally decided this fall that I could disclose the conflict of interest that was keeping me from writing about Erica (Cynthia and I have been in writing classes and groups together) and help her mother get the message out about how dangerous wilderness-therapy camps can be.

Erica died during a hike on her very first day at one of those camps in 2002.  

When we sat down for a formal interview, Cynthia mentioned that in the months preceeding Erica’s death, she had often read to Erica at night when she couldn’t sleep. One of the books she read to her was “A Prayer for Owen Meaney.”

Here’s the quote my FB friend posted. I don’t even know the woman well enough to ask why she posted it. But I’m glad she did.

When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time – the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes – when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever – there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.

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2 Responses to “A Prayer for Cynthia Clark Harvey”

  1. What a horrific (but very well written) story! It is so horrible to have to deal with a child with mental illness.A lot of times it’s just keeping them alive long enough so that they can mature, their nervous systems and emotions, out of the problems they have. Sometimes it’s a precursor to lifelong hell. I see it everyday.
    It’s hard for a parent to know what to do and none can be blamed for trying . Those boot camp/therapy programs are worse than hospitals- hard for people to believe but true.

  2. [...] right now, beyond that, even in my own little world. My friend Cindy Dach did an amazing one for a cover story in New Times last year, and if you haven’t seen Angela Ellsworth’s stitched portraits, [...]

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