Olivia Heiner was so looking forward to Christmas this year.
While the pandemic had affected many people, she and her husband Tre Heiner had welcomed a beautiful baby boy named Clyde at the beginning of the year and she couldn’t wait for his first holiday. This was the couple’s first child, and she was elated to give her little man the best Christmas ever.
Unfortunately, the Heiners’ lives changed in an instant when Clyde died in an accident in late September, just eight months old.
Olivia and Tre were absolutely devastated, as was the rest of their family, friends and community of Thayne in Wyoming’s Star Valley.
“They had just become parents, and then all of the sudden, they weren’t parents, all over again,” Olivia Heiner’s sister, Taffy Micheli, told Cowboy State Daily.
Not only did they have to deal with the grief of losing their first child so suddenly, the couple also had to find a way to pay for the funeral.
Micheli noted that while 2020 has been a terrible year for so many reasons, her faith in humanity began to be restored after Clyde’s death.
Her sister-in-law, Haley Davis, organized a Facebook auction, “Auction for Baby Clyde,” to help the Heiners raise money to pay for funeral expenses and other expenses incurred from Clyde’s passing.
Within just a couple of days of launching the auction, it blew up. At the time of this writing, the group had around 4,800 members. Around 750 items were donated and thousands of dollars were raised to help the Heiner family.
In fact, there was honestly too much money for the couple. While they appreciated the support, they also knew they couldn’t profit off of such a tragedy.
So, the two have been working on ways to give back to the community. Over two weekends in December, the Heiners hosted a live nativity scene, complete with actors and animals, in honor of Clyde.
“Livi wanted to do something that would take their minds off of their sadness and do something that would just help spread love at Christmas,” Micheli said. “She felt like that’s what Clyde would want.”
Hundreds of people turned out over the four-day period of the nativity scene to see Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem while also supporting the Heiners in their bid to give back to the community that had been so supportive of them.
Narration for the scene was provided by the four-year-old son of a childhood friend of Olivia Heiner’s, who Micheli said was supposed to represent Clyde, albeit a little older.
“Olivia saw a video of this little boy on Facebook about a week after Clyde passed, and she just loved his voice and expression, so when she started planning the nativity, she reached out to the boy’s mom and asked if he would record some audio for it, and they did it,” Micheli said.
The boy’s mother, Becky DeFigueiredo, posted a video of her son, David, reciting the verses for the nativity, which also went viral. The video has been viewed around 6 million times as of Monday.
Micheli said she had a realization while attending the live nativity on Sunday night.
“Jesus died tragically and too early, but because of his death, the whole world was changed and we’re all so blessed by that,” she said. “I feel that’s what happened with Clyde. He lived a short time, but he taught us how to live and how to love. He died too soon, but we’re all blessed by him.”
Olivia Heiner has a saying, “Live like Clyde,” which friends and family members have also adopted.
“We want to be better because of Clyde,” Micheli said.