A thousand cranes folded, being and sharing peace, a wish and a surprise

Susan Folds Peace Cranes, Jessi Helmrich, painter.

Three months ago I began packing for our trip to Cortona. I included in my luggage papers to fold peace cranes. I was just shy of a hundred to reach my goal of folding a thousand.

I began the crane-folding project four years ago after a call from Clare, Terry's sister, telling us that her breast cancer had metastasized into her lungs and bones.

I was not new to cancer. I was also in treatment and I'd been a caregiver to Terry through two diagnoses, one far-advanced. 

Clare's new diagnosis got my attention in a "wake-up, Susan" kind of way.

I realized anew that I am a visitor on this beautiful planet for a short time.

I can't remember the first crane I gave away. I just started doing it. The last one is for Clare. The legend goes like this: after folding a thousand cranes a wish is granted, so I'll give the crane and wish to Clare.

Here's what I'm learning. Life is give and take. Not give or take. So this means, each time I give a crane, I receive smiles, comments, hand gestures, kisses, and hugs. A thousand times. Just imagine the joy. Gandhi says it perfectly, "The fragrance remains in the hand that gives the rose." And when my task is complete, I get to give my love and that precious wish to Clare.

So the project ends here in Cortona with a gift-twist.

When I arrived in Italy, I gave four cranes to students in Terry's art education class. Jessi Helmrich was one of those students. A few weeks later she said, "I've thought a lot about this. I would like to paint your portrait folding the cranes and memorialize this gift."

She did.