Autistic Orphan Can’t Afford Headstone for His Late Mom—Until He Walks Through Kind Store Owner’s Door

May 5, 2021 Updated: June 14, 2021

An 11-year-old boy with autism who was looking for something to place at his mother’s gravesite found a lot more than he’d expected when he walked into a gift shop in Virginia.

The owner of the gift shop was moved when she learned of Jamarius Burneson’s tragic story and how his late mother lacked a proper grave to mark her resting place, where Jamarius still goes to talk to her.

“I had an instant connection to him the minute he walked into my store,” Deborah Keeling, owner of Accents Flags Gifts Home and Garden in downtown Lynchburg, told The Epoch Times. “My heart immediately connected.”

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Deborah Keeling)

Jamarius told NBC he was compelled to find a gift that day, saying “Jesus wants me to go, so I follow that.” The first thing he asked Deborah was whether she was a Christian, too.

Deborah said she was.

Jamarius’s birth mother, Alfreda, passed away in 2019 at age 33 after a battle with diabetes. Jamarius, who was diagnosed with autism and PTSD, was adopted by Pattie Burneson in 2016 when his mother fell gravely ill.

Pattie describes her adoptive son as a beautiful child with an amazing heart.

At the store, Deborah helped Jamarius choose a memorial poster with a personalized message to hang at the site—but that was just the beginning.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Deborah Keeling)

Saddened to learn that Alfreda’s grave at Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery bore nothing except a nameplate, the owner decided to go above and beyond for her new friend, offering to purchase a ground marker from her friends at Baer & Sons Memorials.

The headstone would be in compliance with the cemetery’s historical restrictions and even have an engraved message. Jamarius chose, “I love you, Mom. I’m going to meet you in heaven.”

Deborah later shared Jamarius’s moving story on her store’s Facebook page.

The very next morning, the community responded, with many people showing up to offer donations. They soon raised almost $500, which Deborah matched from her own pocket to start a fund for Jamarius’s future.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Deborah Keeling)

Describing the 11-year-old as “highly intelligent” and “a Forrest Gump-type,” Deborah told The Epoch Times that he’d confided he wants to work for Nintendo one day.

On April 7, she posted an update on Facebook.

“I have decided to purchase the stone as an act of love from a conviction from God for Jamarius,” she wrote. “The stone is now in the process of being made, and he was so very grateful.”

Jamarius and his adoptive mother Pattie shed tears in response to Deborah’s kindness. Her son, Pattie reflected, has an incredible way with people. “Jamarius touches people everywhere we go,” she said.

Alfreda’s gravestone is due to be placed in June.

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