Blossoming Cherry Tree Becomes Impromptu Memorial for RFK Granddaughter and Her Son at Their Home

"People are so good, so kind, so loving," Maria Shriver wrote on Instagram. "This made me cry"

Maeve kennedy
Maeve Kennedy (left) and her son Gideon. Photo: Facebook

Though social distancing guidelines are physically keeping friends and family of Maeve McKean and her son Gideon from gathering to mourn their presumed deaths, loved ones are collectively paying tribute in another special way.

“This is the tree in front of Maeve and Gideon’s home. It’s filled with cards and notes from neighbors and friends. Wow wow wow!” Maria Shriver shared on Instagram Sunday, along with a photo of a blossoming cherry tree covered with handwritten heart-shaped cards and messages.

“People are so good, so kind, so loving. This made me cry,” wrote Shriver, 64, who is John F. Kennedy‘s niece and cousins with Maeve’s mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

“Never doubt the power of writing a note, sending a card, picking up the phone, decorating a tree,” Shriver continued. “Her husband Dave and their other two children will see this. It will matter. Your actions matter! #movinghumanityforward.”

McKean’s uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also shared photos of the impromptu memorial on Instagram, posting an up-close image of the cards that were hung up with white ribbon on the tree in front of McKean’s Washington, D.C., home.

Maria Shriver
Maria Shriver/Instagram
Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy/Instagram

McKean, one of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughters, and her 8-year-old son, Gideon, were lost beneath the waves of the choppy Chesapeake Bay in Maryland on Thursday, authorities have said.

According to McKean’s husband, David, the mother-son pair had set out in a canoe hoping only to retrieve a ball that had been kicked into the water while they were playing outside. But they were apparently overcome by the wind and turbulent water.

Their capsized canoe was found Thursday night, and officials suspended their rescue search on Friday.

“It is clear that Maeve and Gideon have passed away,” David wrote in an emotional Facebook message that night.

The search for their remains is ongoing.

A close family source told PEOPLE on Saturday that a physical gathering following news of the accident would be “difficult” due to the coronavirus pandemic, with health officials urging everyone to stay home to slow new infections.

“Because of social distancing it will be difficult to gather everyone together,” the family source said then, adding that typically “the community comes together, the family and friends so everyone can talk through things and share memories.”

On Sunday, however, the Kennedy family did gather remotely via video conference to honor McKean, who was a lawyer and executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative, and her son.

Nearly 120 members of the extended clan took part in a Zoom video call for a “family prayer service,” and among the attendees were the Kennedys, Cuomos, Lawfords, Schlossbergs, Schwarzeneggers and Shrivers.

Gideon was McKean’s eldest child, but she also shared daughter Gabriella and son Toby with husband David.

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