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Archive for the ‘drowned child’ Category

Rata-tata-tata-tata-tata-tata….

There it is.

That sound I love to hear…

Rata-tata-tata-tata-tata-tata………………….

It’s the sound of the rain splatting against the metal roof of my little travel trailer deep in Dixie.

God, I love that sound!

It started late this afternoon, as a co-worker of mine and I, were finishing installing new ceiling AC vents in one of the 20-bed client cottages, at the Regional Center in Long Beach.

As we finished zipping in the last screw in the last vent, fastening it securely to the ceiling, we were drawn to the windows on the wing, where it was absolutely a downpour outside. The sky had become very dark and gray, and filled with the gushing rain.

It was nice to see, but not so nice to ponder how in the heck we were going to get all of our tools and ladders out to our maintenance trucks parked some 50′ feet away, without getting soaked to the bone.

What’s that you say? Pause for a moment and smell the roses? Or, rather, pause outside the wing door, under the large roof overhang, and listen to and watch the heavens gush forth the pounding rain, falling straight down into the newly-formed puddles and streams on the ground.

Pity the poor little male Bluebird, sitting on the roof of a nearby Bluebird house, while it’s mate sat inside on their newly-built nest, all cozy and dry.

Pause we did, and, about 10 beautifully calm minutes later, the giant faucet in the sky seemed to be turning off, and finally, it was empty. At least for the moment.

One of the building care attendants, pausing on break, with us under the overhang for a moment, offered, “I love this time of the year; this is the best time of the year here on the coast.”

To that, I would have to agree. The trees are fast leafing out here, with most of the bushes in beautiful bloom right now; simply gorgeous colors of red, pink, violet and many variations of the same.

And now, on a more serious note to a spring long past, but not forgotten…

I drove up into the delta area last Saturday morning to Holmes and Carroll Counties, about a four hour drive, to see old friends, and it was the same up there with things in bloom. The Dogwoods were smiling their beautiful white flowers for all to see. Most of the peach trees there have beautiful pink, fragrant blossoms, too.

It was good to see several of my longtime friends there in the Lexington and Black Hawk area, like Lyndell and June, Reese and his dad, Vernus, Ruthie Amos, and of course, Norman and Willie, 101 and 91, respectively, holding onto life in their 61st year of marriage as best their frail bodies can.

Seeing those folks again, I was reminded of what a privilege it is to have friends and family, and that we need to enjoy and cherish them as much as we can in this life.

As I drove through the area, so many memories came flooding back through my senses, from events and experiences past.

Before leaving Black Hawk, I paused for a few minutes to stop at a small cemetery just off Highway 17 to visit the graves of T. Amos and Sug, and their daughter, Katrina. Ruthie Amos is also one of the daughters of T. and Sug.

Katrina drowned in March 1990, when she was only 13 years old, the week I just happened to be there in the area leading a volunteer work group of college students, mostly from UW-Platteville in southwestern Wisconsin.

It was one of the worst times in my life, and, also one of the best.

On Monday and Tuesday of that week, after I had lined out the students on their various work projects, Katrina helped me install electrical wiring in a new room addition to her parent’s home. It was a beautiful two days, being able to spend it with my sweet, 13-year old buddy, who I had befriended several years before, when I learned that she was the unwilling recipient of teasing, because of her quiet nature and being somewhat overweight.

Whenever I would visit her parent’s home, I would always find Katrina and we would take a short walk up her driveway, just talking about life. During those walks, I would reassure her what a beautiful person she was, how wonderful it was that she would be the one in her family who always make sure her mother and father had their breakfast and their medications before she got on the school bus each morning, and also how very thankful I was, to have her as my friend.

It was a special bond.

On Wednesday of that week, I took the group of students down to Vicksburg and the Civil War Battlefield, for a day of sightseeing and relaxation, when they could all be with each other and talk about what they had been doing so far that week on their various work projects. It was a beautiful day of fun and fellowship.

When we arrived back that early evening in Holmes County, and dropped off the first student in Lexington, to the home where he was staying that week, the host lady there took me aside and asked if I had received a message that afternoon…? This was before cell phones.

I said, “No, why?”

The lady said, “Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but one of the Amos twins drowned this afternoon, in a stock pond near their home in Black Hawk, and the family has been trying to reach you.”

Fear instantly shot through my heart, like a bullet.

I asked, “Was it one of the older twins or one of the younger twins; do you know?”

She answered, “It believe it was one of the younger twins; I believe they said her name was ‘Katrina.'”

“Oh, God, no, please…”

I said a quick goodbye, turned, and walked out past the parked van in silence, tears streaming down my cheeks, past the 10 others watching from inside, to a point about 30 feet away, and dropped down to my knees, my hands to my forehead, sobbing loudly, uncontrollably.

It seemed like only a moment later, when Nora, my trip co-leader and good friend, a grad student from UW-Platteville, touched her hand to my shoulder, squeezing gently. She whispered, “Lance, what’s wrong?”

“Katrina drowned.” I managed to say between sobs. That was all I could get out. It was a while before I regained control and we could resume our travel and drop offs.

That evening, after we had returned to Black Hawk, and had delivered all of the students staying up there, back to their respective host families, Nora and I went over to Katrina’s home, to be with the family, who were all grieving terribly.

As we parked at the head of their 200’ long driveway and started the long walk down to their house, we heard a terrible wailing coming up the driveway from within. Never in my life have I heard such a wailing of grief in my life, before or since. Katrina’s father, T. (real name Tanner) was the only one in the home in control of his emotions, although the terrible strain showed on his face as he told us what had happened that day, down at the nearby pond.

Katrina and her twin, Patrina, were out in the middle of the large pond in a small boat, while several of their brothers and sisters played and watched from along the pond edge. Somehow Katrina fell out of the boat and went under. No one there could swim, and Katrina drowned, as all of them watched, horrified and hysterical.

Nora and I stayed with the family, sitting with Sug, Katrina’s mother, for most of the two hours we were there, holding her hand, rocking forward and backward as she did, for long periods.

Finally, I reached in my rear pocket and handed Sug a small package, saying that these were for her. It contained about 20 beautiful color pictures of Katrina, wearing a beautiful white sweater, with beautiful pink peach blossoms all around and behind her shiny, black gericurls, which I had taken of her when I was down to see them on a planning trip just 4 weeks earlier, making arrangements for the spring break work trip.

Sug saw the images, clutched them to her heaving chest, and cried, “That’s my beautiful baby! That’s my beautiful baby!” Then she hugged me for a long time and wouldn’t let go, for it seemed like 10 minutes at least.

I had been so busy with being the trip leader, making sure everyone had projects to work on each day, and then working on the new room wiring with Katrina the first two days the group was in Carroll and Holmes Counties, I had completely forgotten that I had brought the pictures of Katrina with me.

T. came into the room where we were and looked at the pictures, and said how grateful the family was to have them, as they did not have any good pictures of Katrina at all, especially none so beautiful of her. He said they would use one of them for the funeral brochure they would have made up, if it was ok with me. Of course, it was…

Katrina had such fun posing for me that day I took them of her, even though we only had a few minutes to do them that day 4 weeks earlier. One never knows how important images might be to someone else. Katrina never got to see them that week.

The following day, I drive the family in our 15-passenger van, over to the funeral home in Winona to make the arrangements for Katrina’s funeral, which would be on Saturday, the day we had to leave for Wisconsin.

At the funeral home, the funeral director went through each of the questions he had to ask the family, and after asking each one, T. and Sug would both turn to me and ask, “Lance, what do you think?” I then briefly discussed the options available and re-phrased the question back to them in such a way that it would be much easier for them to make the decisions that were necessary for the arrangements. Finally, all the questions were answered and we drove back to their home.

Katrina’s funeral was set for Saturday afternoon. Our group had to leave late Saturday morning, just 3 hours before the funeral, in order to get all of the students and the van back to the university in Platteville by early Sunday morning.

After picking up the last student Saturday morning, and then driving back down the road we had to take to reach the interstate and our path back north, we had to drive right past the cemetery where Katrina’s empty grave lay, and it was virtually just a few feet off the highway.

As we approached that spot, I pulled the van off the highway, onto the small path into the cemetery, and parked just about 20 feet from her grave. It was directly ahead of us. I couldn’t drive by and not stop, I just couldn’t. My close friend and fellow volunteer, Bishop Sam Chupp, an Amish Bishop from northern Richland County back in Wisconsin at that time, sat in the front passenger bucket seat.

As we sat there for a few moments in silence, with pain in my heart at having lost my sweet friend and now having to leave her, not being able to attend her funeral, tears again ran unashamedly down my cheeks; I couldn’t hold back the sobs, and the river ran forth…

My friend Bishop Sam was similarly affected and wept openly at my side; Nora, also crying and sitting directly behind me, put her hands on my shoulders. Most of the students also had tears flowing, some more than others.

I was hard to say goodbye.

It was hard to leave her.

I like to think that I have been somewhat successful in reaching out to others in my lifetime, and making a small difference in some way, in their lives. God will be the judge of that when my life is over. That week in March, some 18 years ago, was such a striking week in my life.

It was one of the hardest weeks in my life, but, I am so glad that God had me there, for the beautiful things, and for the painful ones, too. Had I not been there that week, it would have been so much more painful to experience it than it was.

Had I not been there for all those years previous to that week, and not come to know and love those folks, and to not have let them know it, such a greater loss it would have been.

Thanks, Big Guy!

Peace to you, Katie, and the knowledge that others love, care for and pray for you, in your time of pain.

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