David's Story

Today we have a very special Prouty Garden story to share from Elizabeth Richter.

by Elizabeth Richter

When my little brother, David, was three years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor (craniophryngioma).  We were living in Princeton, NJ at the time, but my parents decided to bring David to the Children’s Hospital in Boston for surgery by Dr. John Shillito.  For the next ten years, David and my family made many trips to Boston because David had multiple surgeries and many admissions to Children’s Hospital. 

David, pictured with his mother

David, pictured with his mother

Unfortunately, in those days, children were not allowed to visit on the ward, so the only time we saw David during his treatment at the hospital was when my parents placed him in one of those wooden carts and rolled him into the Prouty Garden. From there we would walk around together and simply enjoy the birds, the chipmunks, and the squirrels.  We would marvel at the fountain and admire the trees and the bushes and the grass.  I think we all had a sense of the beauty of those transitory moments together and tried to appreciate them to the fullest.

On February 1, 1973, just before his 13th birthday, David died unexpectedly in his sleep at home in Princeton, NJ.  My parents brought his body back to Children’s Hospital so that the doctors could learn more about David’s disease by performing an autopsy.  Dr. Shillito met my parents at Children’s Hospital and personally lifted David’s body into his arms and carried it into the hospital.

My parents decided to have David’s body cremated.  My brother flew in from California, and my sister came up from New York.  We met together as a family in Boston, and concluded that we wanted David’s ashes scattered in the Prouty Garden where he had spent so many happy times with his family.

Since my brother’s death, my parents made it a yearly tradition to return to the Prouty Garden to remember my brother until their deaths, my father in 2009 and my mother in 2014.  I lived in Boston for 12 years and always made sure I joined them in these visits.

Once I moved to Connecticut where I live now, I still always try to make it back to the Prouty Garden at least once a year, as do my brother and sister.  Boston Children’s Hospital is always a home for me.  And the Prouty Garden is one of my most sacred places, not only for me, but for every member of my family who remembers David’s courage and his capacity for joy, and his love of the little things that made and continue to make the Prouty Garden so special.


Elizabeth, thank you so much for sharing David's story. The Prouty Garden is hallowed ground for the many families who have decided to spend the last moments of their child's life in the garden, or for families like David's, who choose to spread their child's ashes in this special space that brings so much joy, and so much peace.

We encourage everyone who feels strongly that the Prouty Garden should be preserved to visit our TAKE ACTION page to learn more about how they can get involved with our efforts to save it. Starting today, we are appealing to all of our supporters to please write to the Boston Landmarks Commission, before the hearing on April 28th, telling them why they should vote to preserve the garden.  All letters will be read and counted, so each one makes a difference. 

Letters may be sent to:

Landmarks Commission
1 City Hall Square
Room 709
Boston, MA 02201