Heart shaped stone. (The Washington Post/The Washington Post)

Jennifer Massoni Pardini, 35, Chantilly, Va., writer

The first heart showed up as a wet stone on a deserted stretch of beach in the north of Peru. My husband and I wanted to be somewhere remote and unknown when we honored what would have been our son’s due date. I’d delivered him three months earlier, and when I held him, his two-chambered heart inside his beautiful body was already still. Now we were spelling out his name with stones that had rolled in from the sea when I caught sight of this one.

I’ve spotted hundreds of hearts since then. I discovered most of them while walking the dog we brought home after we didn’t bring home a baby. They were etched into sidewalks, cast as shadows, swooped into graffiti, and shaped into leaf after leaf. When I miscarried a few months later, I started noticing them in twos, and, when we finally had our daughter a year later, in threes. Now, I see them on license plates in our new home state.

Hundreds have helped me honor Lorenzo with this Chain-Link Heart Project, contributing photographs of the hearts they have found and sharing what a heart means to each of them. To me, they mean something like peace. Like breadcrumbs I’ve survived on these past three years, they provide a path through a world without my son in it. When I need to, I hold this first heart, this rock—imperfect and softened by its own years of salted tumbling—and remember that hearts are everywhere. And so is he.

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