Community Writing Project

Why a community writing project?

The loss of my dear Ayrie has been devastating.  I am at the edge of a very dark and seemingly endless abyss filled with pain and despair that I fear I will descend into at any moment.  What has kept me from falling over that edge in the past few weeks is the memory of Ayrie’s shining presence; my commitment to living the same beautiful life that he taught us to live while he was with us (for both mine and Shiya’s sake); and the support of the powerful community that has been created around us and with us over the past four years.

Ayrie did not run from what was hard.  He didn’t cry when it was time to have surgery, but rather donned a crown and declared himself “King of the OR”.  So rather than shy away from painful reminders of my loss, I hope our collective written reflections and will help us uncover the joy and wisdom that Ayrie brought into our lives.   We may even find that there are lessons to be published and shared beyond our community.

So I have redesigned my participatory evaluation class to create this unique community writing project titled: A community based participatory evaluation of the impact of the loss of a child on a community. I invite you to take this reflective journey with me.

About the Project

Purposes of this project

Ayrie Mekai Jones Murphy died on September 29th, 2010 at age 4 as a result of complications related to a rare disease.   Although his life was short, his spirit was large and the impact of his life and death appears to be far reaching.   Throughout Ayrie’s four years, we made choices to intentionally create a normal life full of rich and varied experiences and connections despite his rare chronic disease.

The primary purposes of this project are to learn more about the scope and quality of these relationships; to understand the impact that Ayrie’s death has had on this community; and to try to describe both the transformative power of this experience as well as the opportunity it provides for continued community in the future.

The secondary purpose of this project is to learn whether there is wisdom to be shared with other families to help them prepare for tragedy and loss through community.

Description of the approach

A community based participatory approach is being used because the method serves to:

  • actively engage a wide range of people in the evaluation, including multiple perspectives, knowledges and influences in our understanding
  • increase the authenticity of evaluation findings
  • add depth to the analysis through ‘thick descriptions’ of complex reality  

In the spirit of community based participatory, I invite you to share your stories, thoughts and feelings in reaction to the six prompts below.  If you choose to participate, I ask that you submit something in writing five times, once every two weeks for ten weeks.  You may choose to write in any style (poetry, narrative, story, etc.) and write for any length of time or words.  You may respond to the prompts in any order that you choose and may revisit a prompt any number of times.  This project is not meant to be cumbersome or to be something you dread doing each week.  So give it the time and attention that you are able and no more.  If you desire inspiration you can visit our family’s blog,

You will submit your thoughts every two week by postal mail, email or using an on-line form (Writing Project).  The writings will be collected, reviewed and key findings will be crafted by me, Nora Murphy, the evaluator and Ayrie’s mother.  Key themes will be emergent and based on my interpretation rather than on a set of pre-determined “objective” indicators that would narrow the scope of what is to be measured and learned.   The final project may or may not be published but care will be taken to remove your name and any identifying information from materials produced as a result of this project.


The project selected for this project reflect the various ecological niches in Ayrie’s life including immediate family, extended family and friends, the local and online communities and the wider communities that Ayrie’s family interacts with.  The people in these communities vary in the degree to which they know Ayrie (some knew him intimately, others only knew him through his online presence), vary by age, by geographic location and by a great number of other factors.  The number of participants invited to participate will be wide in scope and intentionally inclusive, with the hope of uncovering community, connections and relationships that are yet unrecognized.

The Prompts

I chose these questions after reading Peter Block’s Book, “Community, The Structure of Belonging”, a book about creating communities full of possibility, generosity and gifts.  He states that when asking questions, the questions should be framed so as to build relatedness and to create space for intentional possibilities.  Therefore the prompts below help you reflect on your past experience with Ayrie and our family, the current moment of his unexpected death as well as the opportunities these experiences create in your future.


You are invited to share the story of how you came to know Ayrie and the Murphy family. This might be an incident, a series of stories, an interaction with our blog, or otherwise. Please use specific examples when possible.

Prompt One

Describe how you heard of Ayrie’s death and your reaction, physically and emotionally. Where were you? How did you feel? Who else did you share the news with? How did you tell people? How did it feel to tell other people? Please use specific examples when possible.

Prompt Two

This prompt is about commitment. Feel free to answer any or all of the questions below, or to share other thoughts about commitment:   What commitment did you bring to Ayrie or to this family before Ayrie’s death?  How has this commitment transformed and changed during the grieving process?  In what ways do you intend to commit to Ayrie’s memory and/or to this family in the future?  In what way(s) has Ayrie’s death made you reflect or re-think commitments to yourself and/or your family?

Prompt Three

What have you learned from this experience about community? About support? About love? About loss? Has this experience made you realize that there are gifts you hold that you have not brought fully to this experience or into the world? When answering this question please consider Ayrie’s life, his death, and the time that has followed.   Your answers may relate directly to Ayrie or may be more personally focused.

Prompt Four

What are the stories you keep telling yourself about Ayrie?   About this family?   About how this experience impacts you?   How valuable an experience do you plan for this to be in your life?

Prompt Five

How do you use religion or spirituality other beliefs to understand and describe the loss of Ayrie and/or other loved ones in your life? In what ways, if any, have your beliefs been reinforced, challenged or changed by the experience of Ayrie’s death?

Getting Started