When Lara ‘graduated’ from her Schulz Elementary School, to
head off into what is now Willis “Middle School,” I talked to her
about finishing well in fourth grade and how proud of her I was.
The family all were very excited about her test scores and the way
she had handled school thus far.
If you grew up in the period where sixth grade was the year you
advanced to Junior High School, that is the way it when my
children, ages 28, 32 and 34, were young. They went from
fifth grade ‘graduation’ to Willis Middle School, where it was
sixth through eighth grades. Then, the last child, only stayed in
middle school for sixth and seventh, advancing to Dempsey
Junior High were she went to eighth grade. Have I confused you
What grade does your small town or big city school system
“change up” or move on, passing from elementary to a different
school? What label do they give to the next level of education?
Lara’s birthday celebration was held in June, reaching the ‘big’
milestone of a ‘two digit’ number: 10! I gave her clothes for her
birthday and a craft kit to make a variety of jeweled and braided
Recently, Lara found my latest name pictures that I had drawn,
used pen and ink then ‘coloring’ in the letters, decorative items
and the little children in the pictures, with watercolor. She asked
me about the one I had done for a past friend, a mother of three
She wondered if the baby was going to like it, when she grew up?
This comment came due to the fact the baby was in a basket. She
noticed this was different; instead of my usual design that includes
an active child or a resting child. I like to make the child around 4
or 5 years old, since that is about when they will notice the framed
picture on the wall, with the letters of their name included in the
I had not wanted to make Lara sad, but I told her the baby was in
“Heaven,” that she had died last year. I went on to tell her how I
came to make this picture for someone I really knew much better,
in the past.
I ran into this woman, who once a long time ago, in her high school
years, had decided to volunteer at a nursing home that I worked at
as an Activities Director. This young woman, Michelle, became quite
involved with the program. I became involved in her life. She was
living with her grandfather, but she liked when we had lunch in the
summer months and for us to run by the hospital to see her mother,
Fay, who worked at the little coffee shop there.
Along with my picking her up and dropping her off, for after hours
events and trips, we went by my house one day. I ran in and asked
my oldest daughter if she had any dresses Michelle could wear. Our
nursing home was ‘strict’ and as long as we were in the building,
we weren’t allowed to wear pants. The Director of the nursing home
also liked the female volunteers to wear skirts or dresses, too. I only
had my son, Jamie and one other young man, volunteer in the four
years I was in activities. They were asked to wear khaki pants or
dress pants, plus a collared shirt. No t-shirts allowed!
I also rummaged through my closet and allowed Michelle, to check
out a variety of clothes, then we bundled these and Carrie’s up into a
garbage bag, for her to go home and try on.
When I ran into Michelle at Mingo Park, I hugged her, as I always do.
This is a habit to greet all the many young people that have come and
gone from my life.
I had been pleasantly happy and amused when my coworker, Felda,
had often mentioned that she had a ‘best friend’ she met at Goodwill,
who was named “Michelle.” (Never using her maiden name, just her
married last name.)
Soon, I “met” her at the parties held by my friends and coworkers
from the Philippines. They insist we call them Filipino and they love
us to try their foods. Michelle and I have sat together at the baby
shower for Zach, his Christening Party and also Felda and Jason’s
house-warming party. I take my grandsons, who share a babysitter
with Felda’s kids, if they wish to go. Recently, my M & M girls have
chosen to attend Kridia Dawn’s birthday party and other functions.
We were in ‘touch’ but Michelle had never shared with me about the
loss of a baby, until we were at the park in early July. She and her
husband were with their 3 children. They were running around with
my two grandsons, Micah and Skyler who were also having fun on
the playground equipment.
Michelle showed me pictures of a healthy baby girl, full term, who
weighed 8 lbs. 2 oz. She was named, “Katie Mae.” She had fair skin,
like her sisters Lily and Anna. Also like her blonde brother, William.
The children had held their new baby sister, last summer. Michelle,
who started to cry throughout this visit, told me that Anna had
kissed her sister many, many times. Lily was happy to help get
diapers and bring her blankets. William had held the baby for a
minute then had asked to have her given back to her mother.
The baby cried a lot after she came home from the hospital with
Lara was absorbed by all of this, she and her brother Landen, had
been a ‘family’ once with a Dad name Kevin and their mother,
Trista. The parents got divorced, my son met Trista when Lara
and Landen were preschoolers and married her.
Lara has been a wonderful ‘big sister’ to Jamie and Trista’s girls,
the M & M’s. This, along with two more brothers, from her Daddy
Kevin’s second marriage.
Lara wanted to know why the baby died?
It is hard to explain, but Michelle says the baby got a red rash on her
second day home from the hospital, she worried and called the doctor’s
office. The doctor’s nurse called back to suggest a different formula.
She suspected an allergic reaction. The parents went out and got new
formula, this time the 2nd night at home, was filled sadly, with the
They bundled their children into their clothes, wrapping little Katie
She just seemed ‘tender to the touch,’ Michelle explained.
At the hospital, they were in the waiting room for quite some time,
but once inside one of the E.R. rooms, the intern was very kind
and blood was drawn. He thought it may be an allergic reaction
but was concerned about the way the baby was shrieking, not
wanting to take the bottle, the redness and rash was bright and
splotchy. He prescribed a baby’s antibiotic, sent them home.
There would be a call the next day, the diagnosis possibly of a
blood disease, a different prescription to pick up.
The baby went to sleep quietly, eerily, after first being held by
each parent. Katie looked solemnly into her father’s eyes. Next,
Michelle held her carrying her to bed. She says Katie “searched
her face.” She remembers Katie studying her eyes.
There are many photographs, but the one that stands out most
to me, is heart-wrenching. They managed to capture Katie looking
straight into her Daddy’s eyes. It was a profile image, which is so
This was her third night at home.
Michelle nodded her head when I exclaimed,
“Katie is looking at him like, ‘Why can’t you make me feel better?!'”
This was the last picture they took of Katie. She died on her
fifth night of life.
(The coroner found cause of death to be, “Undetermined.”)
Lara wants me to make her a new name picture, it has her
name in ‘cursive’ with a blue rose above it, with cheerleading
pom pom’s on the sides, a football with Cleveland Browns
written below it, with an ice cream cone, one scoop of mint
ice cream and one of vanilla. She was adamant about the blue
I will share what I found out about blue roses. I want you to
know, all of you literary people, that I right away visualized the
scene in “The Glass Menagerie,” where Laura is called, “Blue
Roses,” by the brother and by the visiting ‘gentleman caller.’
This is due to her having pleurosis, which I thought was ‘pleurisy.’
Wikipedia says Tennessee Williams’ real life sister was named
“Rose” but did have ‘pleurosis.” I remembered the blue roses’
reference from that 1944 play.
Then, I looked up the way that genetic engineering has created
blue roses. In the past, blue roses were ‘made’ by putting white
roses into blue food coloring or sprayed by a blue vegetable dye.
I had made pictures in the past years of Lily, William and Anna’s
names years before. I delivered Katie’s to Michelle’s family, on
Sunday night. The three children, Katie’s sisters and brother,
wanted me to see their bedrooms and their toys.
In the picture I made, I had added a pink rose above Katie’s head
on her little blanket and one on where the blanket crossed her
chest, there are blue forget-me-not’s in the grass and a white
bunny lying by the basket. There are tall sunflowers and tulips
in other places on the picture. I had included a sun bonnet, with
purple violets hanging on one of the tall letters.
I mentioned to Michelle and Kevin, quietly, that I lost two babies
before they were born, one at 4 1/2 months and one at 4 months.
My children and I had a tradition that I started the year the last one
died, which includes reading a special book to and putting an angel
ornament on the Christmas tree for each of their 2 ‘lost siblings.’
I told them once I had been to hear a country gospel group, The
Greens, sing at Ohio Wesleyan University, in Gray Chapel.
One of the sweetest songs I heard that night was called, “There’s
A Rocking Chair In Heaven.”
We nodded, words left unspoken.