Drew and Jeremiah
By Rosemary Smith
Looking back over these past twenty-six years brings many emotions to surface. I met my husband, Luther, when we were in the same pharmacy class at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. We had come from entirely different backgrounds, but we instantly found we had so much in common. Luther had been born in Detroit, Michigan, but had returned to eastern Kentucky at the age of eight after his father was diagnosed with cancer. The family moved to Beattyville, Kentucky, to live with his brother, a local physician in the small community. John M., his father, died shortly after the family relocated and thus Luther grew up there and graduated from Lee County High School. Being an outstanding high school basketball player, Luther had several opportunities to play basketball at a small college on scholarship, but instead he chose to attend the University of Kentucky and pursue academic endeavors.
My path to the University of Kentucky was somewhat different. My father, Glenos Cox Jr., had graduated from there with a degree in Civil Engineering. Although we lived in New Albany, Indiana, I was always expected to go to U.K. like my father had. Being the oldest child of a family that included two younger brothers, I did as expected and eventually met Luther in the fall of 1967 as we entered our first year of pharmacy school. I had been raised in a medium-sized city just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. My high school class had six hundred fifty students whereas Luther's class had about one hundred.
After a whirlwind courtship, Luther and I married on February 18, 1971, in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. We had both taken jobs after graduation in Louisville, Kentucky, with different chain drug companies. The next three years were ones of an idyllic marriage. We loved the big city life of Louisville but often traveled to southern Indiana across the river where we had boarded our horses. Those years were wonderful, but we were anxious to begin the family we both wanted.
The year 1974 brought many changes to our family. We were expecting our first child, and we were on top of the world. Since they didn't use ultrasound like they do today, we had no idea what sex our child would be. Secretly, we both wanted a son, but we were so thrilled with the prospect of the miracle of a child that we didn't really care. Our first son, Andrew Siler Smith (Drew), was born on April 27, 1974. That day was the happiest day of my life without doubt. Drew came into this world looking like a dried-up, slightly yellow old man, but we all thought he was beautiful!! Both Luther and I often reminisce about the morning we took Drew home. I can clearly recall walking up the steps to our small house and looking at Luther and nervously asking him what we were going to do with this baby. Neither of us had any experience with children, and frankly we were scared to death. My mother, Almara, came to our rescue, and we survived those first few weeks and months. At this point, my mother was dying with breast cancer. At age forty-seven, she had a double mastectomy and lymph node involvement. She had survived for six years, mainly on sheer will of seeing a grandchild. Having seen Drew born, she blossomed. After I returned to work, she was able to baby sit for Drew until her health deteriorated. She died in November of 1975 when Drew was only seventeen months old.
In January of 1975, we made a move that undoubtedly set the course for how our lives were to evolve. Luther's brother had offered him a position in Beattyville to work in a clinic pharmacy. We both saw this as a wonderful chance to work for ourselves and not be tied to chain pharmacies. Twenty years ago, many independent pharmacies were thriving in the rural areas, so we quit our jobs and headed back to the mountains of eastern Kentucky with Drew in tow. The only regret we had was taking our son to an area where the school systems were not up to our expectations.
The next two years passed so quickly that it seemed to be a wonderful dream. Luther worked full-time, but I only did relief pharmacy work that allowed me to spend so much more time with Drew. He was such a warm, loving child. Beginning his first Christmas, we sent out picture Christmas cards to all our family and friends. Looking back over those cards now twenty-six years later brings back such loving memories. The first card was of a smiling, plump Drew in his green walker! He was always on the move and kept both of us very busy.
I discovered that I was expecting again in November of 1976 with our second child due sometime in early July of 1977. We were thrilled that Drew would have a sibling and now more openly wished for a daughter. My second pregnancy went well, and after attending a pre-July 4th picnic at the home of friends, Luther rushed me to the hospital in Lexington. We got stuck in the middle of a parade but finally arrived at the hospital on the afternoon of July 3rd. After experiencing the birth of your first child, you feel you can never love a second child as much as you do the first one. As our second son was born at 12:01 A.M. on the 4th of July, this notion was swept away in an instant. Jeremiah Cottle Smith was absolutely the most beautiful dark-headed baby ever born. His brother Drew had dark brown hair and brown eyes, but Jeremiah had black hair and huge blue eyes. Those eyes blazed with the intelligence of what I call an old soul from birth. Jeremiah seemed to always know what mood we were in. He never slept through the night until he was over a year old, but when we would come to care for him during the night, he would comfort us by his personality. Drew welcomed this intrusion to his life after a few shaky experiences. He loved his younger brother after he realized we still loved him as much as before. These brothers were close as we moved through the younger years in this small, rural town where everyone knew everyone else.
The next four years again passed as if we were in a dream. Professionally, we had gone from working at one clinic pharmacy owned by Luther's brother to now owning our own pharmacy in Beattyville and starting the first unit-dose pharmacy in eastern Kentucky that serviced nursing home patients. We had plans for adding a second retail location in Booneville, Kentucky, in the adjoining county. After a hair-raising first day in which Drew stated he absolutely wasn't going to go to school, he did start kindergarten in Lee County. From the beginning, it was evident how bright Drew was. He made friends very easily and really enjoyed his time in grade school.
Luther and I decided to try one more time to have a daughter. The boys were really almost all we could handle, but I desperately wanted a little girl. Our third child was also going to be born in July like Jeremiah. On July 15, 1981, a little over four years after the birth of Jeremiah, we had our third son!! Luther said he remembers that I seemed disappointed at first when my doctor said that we had another boy, but I only remember being thrilled the baby was healthy. Jordan Cox Smith entered the world with two big brothers and many days and nights of rough-housing ahead of him. Both Drew and Jeremiah welcomed Jordan into our lives. We have their Christmas picture that year; Jordan is looking up at these two big boys with the most puzzling expression on his face. I'm sure he was wondering what in the world he had been born into.
Jeremiah entered kindergarten at age five and again we realized that he too was a very intelligent child. As it turned out after testing in the third grade, Jeremiah had a genius IQ to go along with his keen perception of the feelings of others. Both Drew and Jeremiah enjoyed school and progressed very well through elementary school in Lee County. Our family was one of constant motion. The boys played baseball, basketball, and were on the academic teams in their schools. Several parents arranged for a gymnastic teacher to come from Lexington to conduct classes in our rural town. It was very successful, and both Drew and Jeremiah took classes for several years. During one class when he was seven, Jeremiah got choked on a lifesaver. The only thing that saved his life that day was that he was able to get some air through the hole in the lifesaver. Several people tried unsuccessfully that afternoon to dislodge the lifesaver by using the Heimlich maneuver. In a total panic, I finally grabbed Jeremiah in my arms and started to run to my car to hopefully get him to his uncle before he choked to death. Suddenly, he was able to swallow the lifesaver and finally begin breathing. He had turned blue and, as we all noticed, had petechial hemorrhages around both of his eyes. I rushed both boys home, and both Luther and I sat and held Jeremiah for hours thanking God that he had not died. I will never forget the fear on his face as his eyes begged me to help him as he was choking. I don't believe he ever forgot this incident. None of us mentioned it, but the memory never left any of us.
Our family traveled constantly as the boys were growing. Each summer we would go to the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, one of our favorite vacation spots. How vividly one memory of Jeremiah and the beach stands out in my mind. As soon as we would arrive at our rental house, the boys would literally race each other to get that first glimpse of the ocean. Jeremiah was three on this memorable day. I can still see him in his white shirt with green sleeves, blue jean shorts, and most importantly the red baseball hat he always wore. As everyone rushed into the water, he stopped at the edge of the ocean and stood surveying what was in front of him. He had his little hands crossed behind his back, not moving at all. He looked like a general looking over his troops. He remained that way for several minutes, so in awe of the power before him. Luckily, I had my camera that day to record that scene. Had I not, it still would be emblazed on my mind.
Snow skiing and water skiing were among the many sports that our family enjoyed. Fond memories were made on our many ski trips to Breckenridge, Colorado, where all three boys enjoyed skiing and snowmobiling. Both Drew and Jeremiah were expert skiers long before Jordan was old enough to join us on our family trips. When Jeremiah was nine, he entered a NASTAR time trial on the slopes of Breckenridge and placed in the top five of all skiers from Kentucky. He was invited to a pre-olympic ski camp which he declined so he could attend an overall sports camp. Drew’s first love was the water. We boated as a family from his first summer. He learned to swim at age three and was constantly in the water doing either tubing, knee boarding, or water skiing every summer thereafter. He and I would have a contest each year over who had the best sun tan. Drew usually won.
As Drew entered middle school, we discussed where he would be attending high school. His older cousin from Beattyville was going to The McCallie School , a college preparatory high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Drew was very familiar with McCallie since he had attended a summer sports camp program there every summer since he was eleven. Jeremiah also attended the McCallie Sports Camp from the summer when he was seven. Drew applied and was admitted to The McCallie School for the fall of 1988 for his ninth grade year. This was a difficult decision for both Drew and for us his parents. We knew we wanted our sons to have every opportunity when it came to being educationally prepared for college, but to not have them at home with us made the decision very difficult. Drew wavered back and forth from going to McCallie to wanting to stay home. How understandable that was. He was the first of the boys to strike out on his own. Although he was very intelligent, he suffered through a period of low self-esteem due in part to our position in the community. At this point, our company had grown from the one retail location to six retail locations and a seventh location that was an institutional pharmacy. This last pharmacy is a closed-door operation that services patients in long-term care facilities, residential psychiatric treatment centers, and prisons. Our sons felt the pressure of a successful business in a small town environment.
Drew Smith did enter McCallie in the fall of 1988 as a freshman from a very rural eastern Kentucky educational background. Overnight, he moved into a dorm with a strange roommate, had to budget his time to study and to do his laundry, and had to cope with homesickness. More importantly, he was entering a very academically oriented school where each student was going to college and much was expected of each student in other areas. To not say Drew and each of us had a hard first semester would be a lie! Nightly phone calls and at least monthly visits to Chattanooga made each month easier but a struggle nevertheless. By his second semester, Drew had joined the band, the McCallie Chorus, the baseball team and was maintaining an A average. We were so proud of him, but still he somehow failed to see his accomplishments. Back at home, Jeremiah had assumed the role of the older brother, and Jordan was adjusting as we were to Drew being away at school. Drew's freshman year ended well, but he still had some reservations as he headed back to McCallie for his sophomore year. This year was much easier as we all watched Drew mature into a wonderful young man. On each visit to McCallie, Jeremiah would say how much he was looking forward to joining his brother there when he would be a freshman. Drew was a very conscientious student and a very caring young man who developed many social skills while at boarding school. The friends he made there were ones he would have for a lifetime.
Right before the Christmas break during Drew’s sophomore year at McCallie, we received a call from the school asking if we would agree to let a student from China spend the Christmas holiday at our home in Kentucky. As the dorms at McCallie were closed for the holidays, each boarding student had to have a place to go. Little did we know how that phone call would affect our lives. My husband and I were going to China that next February and thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for us and for our sons to meet someone from that country. Drew knew that there was an exchange student from China at McCallie but had never met him. Immediately we accepted their invitation to host FongRZhu, a nineteen year old student from Nanjing, China.
Drew introduced himself to Fong on campus before final exams that year. Fong had been in the United States since August, the same summer the Chinese students were massacred in Tianneman Square. The McCallie School had given him a full scholarship to study his senior year in this country. He was one of the top students in China having attended the prestigious English Language school in his home city.
Fong arrived at our home in Beattyville after he and Drew had survived a harrowing drive in a blinding snow storm. I can still see his face as he stepped into our kitchen that first night. Jeremiah and Jordan ran to greet their brother and his friend from school. We were all somewhat nervous. Our fears were allayed as we realized that Fong’s English was very good, and he seemed comfortable in our home. Many years later, Fong would say that he thought we all were a little crazy that first night. I guess we were after all. We had an early flight the following morning for a skiing trip to Colorado in which we had been able to include Fong at the last minute. Everyone ran around in a flurry packing, so excited about Drew being home and our holiday trip.
FongRZhu skied that first Christmas in our country. What a joy to see him participating in a sport he had never tried. Really, this trip was an eye-opening experience for all of us. This was the beginning of a long and treasured relationship with this remarkable young man.
As Drew and Fong returned to McCallie, they were friends. Drew had exhibited some jealously at an older boy joining our family for the holidays just because he was the first born and the one home from school. That feeling seemed to dissipate as we all grew to know Fong. When we would visit Drew that next semester, we would naturally see Fong. As the year progressed and we made our trip to China, we saw the conditions that Fong must have suffered living under Communist rule. His parents had longed to have him out of China, even for a year, to experience freedom. That to me is the supreme sacrifice.
In April of that year as Drew and Fong were home for Drew’s birthday, we offered to sponsor Fong so that he could stay in the United States for college if he so chose. He declined our offer but with great regret. His family and girlfriend, Xinyu, remained in China, and his chances of ever seeing them again would be scarce if he did not return as planned in June. At that point, I remember feeling relieved. What could we have been thinking….offering to take on the responsibility of a teenager who would become a dissident if he remained with us?
Drew’s sophomore year and Fong’s senior year went very well. As graduation approached, we knew we would all attend since we were Fong’s only family. Two weeks before graduation, Fong called our home deeply upset. It appeared that the Chinese government would not allow him to study at Fudan University in Shanghai as planned. His future was uncertain if he returned to China because the government was dispersing the intellectuals to quell any future democracy uprisings. After much prayer and discussions with his parents, FongRZhu did not return to China. He remained in this country where he lives to this day as an integral part of our family. God sent him half way around the world to our family. Fong entered the University of Kentucky that summer and graduated Phi Beta Kappa four years later.
In the Fall of 1991, Jeremiah joined his brother at McCallie when he entered as a freshman. Drew was a senior, so the boys had one year together in Chattanooga. On his sixteenth birthday the year before, we had given Drew a red Mazda Miata convertible. Being an A student, he was allowed to take his car to school for his senior year. I can clearly recall loading up our truck and following the two boys in the Miata down to Chattanooga. There was a downpour the day we traveled, so they started their shared adventure at McCallie in bad weather.
For the three of us left at home, this semester was very hard. We had gotten used to Drew being away, but to now have Jeremiah gone was a blow. Looking back, I now feel this year was practice for us to be able to exist without Drew and Jeremiah. Each of the boys called us every night. Some nights, I would be on the phone with Drew and the call waiting would beep and Jeremiah would be the other call. Although they lived in separate dorms, Drew and Jeremiah spent most of their time together that year. We all noticed how much closer they had become. While at home, they would often fight and disagree but always had love underneath any disagreement. Now, the boys never fought. They both were maturing in their own ways, and in this environment they found that indeed their best friend was one another.
Jordan had our house to himself that year and seemed to blossom out from under two older brothers vying for attention. Jordan is our most extroverted child. At the age of nine, he had started modeling for an agency in Lexington, Kentucky. There he took acting and modeling classes, landing several local television commercials. He attended the IMTA convention in New York one summer and won an Honorable Mention for one of his commercials. Drew and Jeremiah were proud of Jordan but sometimes would cringe when he would get up in the middle of a restaurant and start break dancing. Secretly, they loved their talented little brother who was never self conscious.
In March of Drew's senior year at McCallie, he auditioned for the cast of Camelot, a joint production of McCallie and GPS. GPS is a girls school also in Chattanooga that has several joint programs with the all-boys McCallie School. One night after practice, Drew called home and flatly stated that he had met the girl of his dreams. At this point, Drew had only dated a few girls and always said the perfect girl did not exist. With this one phone call, Drew Smith was a changed young man. Although his self-esteem problems had somewhat subsided, they were still evident. Drew told us about Erin Grist, a junior at GPS who was also in the cast of Camelot. He wanted us to meet her when we came to Chattanooga for the performance. Erin was described in such glowing terms that I doubted any girl could be that perfect. I was wrong!! Jeremiah called home several days later and also loved this girl Erin that we had never met. Well, weeks later we met Erin after the performance of Camelot. She was a beautiful, blue-eyed blonde, but despite her beauty, her presence was almost angelic. I have often said that Erin is an angel on this earth, and many who know her agree with me.
Drew's last semester at McCallie was a whirlwind of activity that revolved around school and of course Erin. They attended both proms at McCallie and GPS and were rarely seen without each other. Drew and his best friend and roommate, Ted Webster, were on the yearbook staff that year and stayed busy compiling photos and text. In the yearbook, Drew's senior quote was very revealing. It was as follows: People been telling me to forget my dreams but these dreams keep me going. The dream of rock n’ roll, pleasing my parents and a life with Erin will never cease. Drew dreamed of being in a band. That seemed very unusual for a student who had been admitted to Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, with a pre-med major. Who knows what he might have done?
Jeremiah had an amazing freshman year at McCallie. He had a 3.81 GPA that year which was extraordinary for a student away at boarding school at age fourteen from a rural Kentucky background. When we went to Boarding Parents weekend his first semester, his Honors English professor asked if we were mad at him. He was the only professor who had given Jeremiah less that an A. He laughed and said that he had never seen a student more aggressive than Jeremiah. He had a lot to live up to following Drew, but Jeremiah accepted the challenge with a vengeance. Jeremiah was an accomplished drummer and piano player, so he also joined the McCallie band and orchestra. Both boys had excellent voices so they were in the chorus and in every musical performance together that year. Jeremiah stayed in the shadow of his older brother his freshman year. His time was to come the next year when he alone would be at McCallie.
Drew's finest hour was the day he graduated from McCallie in May of 1992, one of only eleven four-year boarders. He graduated cum laude which surprised many of his friends. I thought it was interesting that so many boys came up after graduation and commented that they didn't know that Drew was so smart. He worked so hard to be accepted and liked by everyone. All of our family traveled to Chattanooga for the graduation. Erin and her parents were our guests for the ceremony and for lunch afterwards. Again, Jeremiah seemed to be standing in the background, waiting for his turn in the limelight.
The summer of 1992 was in retrospect the finest of our lives. Luther and I had a wonderful marriage in which we shared the lives of our three exceptional children. We looked forward to having both Drew and Jeremiah home for the summer, although we realized how hectic our house would be. After graduation we loaded up all their possessions had headed back north to Kentucky. On the way home we stopped in Williamsburg, Kentucky, to visit Glenos and Nancy Cox, the great-grandparents of the boys. Neither was able to attend Drew's graduation because they were in their late eighties, so we all wanted to share our joy with them that day. That was the last time either of my grandparents saw Drew or Jeremiah. Pictures taken that day show beaming parents with all three of their sons beside their aging grandparents. We arrived back in Beattyville late that day and unloaded loads of dirty clothes, computers, and books for the summer.
How vividly I recall the summer of 1992. We left for Hilton Head Island and the beach two weeks after graduation. Drew invited Erin down, so she flew for the first time, and we picked her up at the local airport. Fong was with us. Everyone loved Hilton Head. We had been going there every summer since Drew was born and had rented houses all over the south end of the island. That summer, we rented our favorite home only three houses from the ocean. We had a wonderful vacation enjoying the beach, parasailing, bicycling, and eating at the great restaurants on the island. I took a picture of Erin and Drew that week in Harbour Town that has become my favorite photo of that summer.
Jeremiah went to McCallie Sports Camp again that summer in June. This was his eighth summer at this camp, and he loved it. He had attended McCallie Sports Camp West the prior December when the camp went snow skiing in Breckenridge, Colorado. That would prove to be Jeremiah’s final ski trip. At the closing ceremony that June, Jeremiah had been chosen the MVP of his team and had been given an award as the camper who had attended the most years. The camp photographer caught Jeremiah in his favorite red Boogie hat, and that picture has become my fondest memory of how happy Jeremiah was that summer.
June passed quickly with vacation, camp, work, and family outings. Drew and Erin were inseparable with them either in Beattyville or together in Chattanooga. July promised more wonderful times. The weather that summer was beautiful both in Kentucky and in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Everyone was looking forward to Jeremiah's fifteenth birthday and our annual July 4th company picnic. Jeremiah always felt cheated that his birthday had to be celebrated with a party for all of our employees and their families. Drew and Jeremiah went to Lexington together to pick out Jeremiah's present, a stereo that he had been longing for. I remember their call to me at my drugstore with what they had found. To their surprise, we agreed to let them buy it even though it was more expensive than we had expected. Our picnic and first Smith family reunion two days later went very well. We all noticed that Jeremiah was rather withdrawn on his birthday and especially during the reunion. He would not come out of his room without coercion and absolutely would not allow anyone to take his picture.
A week prior to his birthday, I had asked Jeremiah if he had thought about what kind of car he wanted for his sixteenth birthday the next summer. His answer sent cold chills over my body. He said that he would never get a car and not to worry, it was okay. I brushed this off but months later would recall that conversation combined with other things he did that summer and surmise that Jeremiah did indeed know that he was going to die soon.
Drew and Erin left our house on July 5th that summer just after the reunion. Weeks later, we learned that Drew had asked Erin to marry him on July 8th, and she had accepted. They both knew it would be several years before they could marry because they had college first. Drew thought we would be upset, but we were ecstatic. Erin would be the perfect daughter-in-law, and we had seen the transformation she had made in Drew's life. Life was perfect at that moment. Drew was eighteen and leaving later that month for Rhodes College in Memphis. Jeremiah had just turned fifteen, still had his braces, was looking forward to driving and going to McCallie by himself, and Jordan had his two big brothers at home for the summer. Both Drew and Jeremiah seemed to have a higher tolerance for their younger brother that summer. They made home movies with our camera and seemed the closest without fussing that they had ever been.
Drew was an avid Guns n’ Roses fan and had found out earlier in the year that they were going on tour that summer with Faith No More and Metallica, the concert of the decade. After calling for the tour locations, we decided the closest concert was to be on July 22, 1992, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Both boys had been avid concert goers both at home and while at McCallie, so this concert was not out of the ordinary. As parents, we always wanted our children to go places they would enjoy. The previous spring break, Drew had gone on a cruise to the Bahamas, and Jeremiah had gone on a McCallie Spanish trip to Costa Rica. With wild anticipation, both boys looked forward to their trip to Indianapolis. Jeremiah had evolved into a heavy metal fan and would have it no other way than to go with Drew on this trip. The distance to Indianapolis posed no problem for Drew since both he and Jeremiah had traveled many times by themselves back and forth to Chattanooga.
Erin and Drew had returned from a visit to Chattanooga the week before the big concert. On Friday, July 17th, we got a call that one of Luther's dear aunts had died in a nearby town. She was very close to each of us and had never had any children. Her husband was our beloved Uncle Luther after whom my husband had been named. He had passed away several years before, so we were the only ones to make the arrangements for her funeral. We buried Aunt Levadas that following Sunday, and Drew served as one of her pallbearers. Jeremiah had been asked to be a pallbearer, but he refused. Again, he acted so oddly and was very withdrawn during the funeral.
Luther had experienced unusual feelings the week prior to his aunt's death. On an unusual trip with his brother to Lexington, they had ended up in the historic Lexington Cemetery trying to decide on a location for a family plot. When Luther told me of this later, I shuttered and said I didn't want to discuss cemetery plots. Well, after Aunt Levadas died, we both felt like this was what had been bothering Luther. Her death was sudden and very sad, but at her age death was not beyond the expected. Erin went to this funeral as a part of our family and everyone there remarked at how wonderful she was and how much all three of our sons had grown. Many had been at our house earlier in the month for the Smith reunion, but some had not.
Wednesday, July 22nd, was the week after the death of our aunt. Luther and I both went to work at our drugstores and left the three boys and Erin asleep. Drew called me about noon to see if I had gotten them money for their trip. He was anxious to leave and said that both he and Jeremiah were ready. About thirty minutes later, both boys came in to my store in a rush. I will never forget how they were dressed. The McCallie boys who always wore dress shirts, ties and dress pants now looked like heavy metal band members. Drew had on jeans that a McCallie student had painted Guns n’ Roses on and a weird shirt. He wore orange sneakers and was as excited as I have ever seen him. Jeremiah was much more subdued but looked the part nevertheless. Both boys said hello to each of my employees, and everyone seemed so glad to see them so happy. I gave Drew and Jeremiah their money and followed them out to their car. It was a beautiful, sunny July day. They had the top down on the Miata, and both boys put on sunglasses and baseball hats. I gave them a portable phone for safety and the directions I had written down for them to the hotel where I had gotten their reservations. For their safety, we had decided that they should spend the night in Indianapolis, a block from the concert. They were to check in the hotel then walk to the concert. As the boys started to leave, I noticed that they had forgotten to put on their seat belts. We always insisted that everyone wear their seat belts. The last words I ever said to my two oldest sons were to put on their seat belts. I told them to be careful as every mother and father says to each of their children each time they leave. Each of us fully expects them to return safely, but we always tell them to be careful. About four hours later Jeremiah called me from the car, and I had to guide them by phone to their hotel. They were already in Indianapolis and within blocks of the hotel but had gotten turned around. Minutes later, they called back that they had checked in and had already seen the lead singer for Metallica in the lobby of their hotel. Jeremiah was so excited as he talked of getting the singer's autograph. That autograph is a vivid reminder of that fateful day. They told me that they were walking over early to the concert and would call back after it was over.
The four of us spent a restful evening at home in Beattyville. Erin felt at home with us and was excited for Drew about the concert. This concert was not the type for a girl, so there was never a question that she go with Drew instead of Jeremiah. How different things might have been. At about 2 A.M. our phone rang, and I immediately answered it. Drew was talking so fast that it was hard to understand him at first. He asked me to listen to him before I said "no", so I did. He wanted to come home that night. They had just gotten out of the concert, and it was "awesome" according to him. Jeremiah tried to say something to me in the background, but Drew cut him off saying he could tell me all about the concert when they got home. Well, I didn't even think twice before I said that they could not come home that late. They had a long drive; they were tired, and it was not safe to drive in the dark. I told them to go to sleep, and I would call them and wake them up in the morning. Drew called Erin in his room on his number, and they talked for awhile. Those two conversations were the last any of us had with the boys. How I would have loved to have been able to talk to Jeremiah. Both boys were as excited as I have ever heard them. What a way to spend their last night.
Thursday, July 23, 1992, dawned as did every other day that summer. Luther and I went to work and left Jordan and Erin asleep that morning. At 9A.M. I called the Canterbury Hotel in Indianapolis and asked for Drew and Jeremiah’s room. The woman who answered the phone said that the boys had not checked out, so she rang the room. The phone rang and rang. I was not worried at this point because both boys always were heavy sleepers and often did not hear the phone. I was on the phone again at about 9:15 A.M. when a friend came into my store and asked where the boys were. I said that they were in Indianapolis, and that I was on the phone while security was going to their room to wake them up. The hotel still insisted that they had not checked out (which later proved to be untrue). Luther just happened to be in my drugstore and came up by me as I was on the phone. He normally would have been at his drugstore in the same small town, but we were opening a new drugstore in an adjoining county, and he was on his way there that morning.
Never in our lives did Luther or I ever expect to hear the next words. Our police chief came up to us and said, "Drew is dead!" What????? The boys were safely asleep in a hotel in Indianapolis, so how could Drew possibly be dead? Well, we learned that the boys had been in a single car accident on the Mountain Parkway, a four lane highway only thirty minutes from our house.
There are no words to describe the terror of hearing your child is dead. It doesn't even register. Thank God you are numbed to the prospect of living the rest of your lives without that child at that moment of truth. Luther and I both reacted the same to the death of our son. We cried and reached out to our wonderful employees who had to live through the terror of that moment with us. For an instant, we did not even mention Jeremiah. In my mind, I visualized that he was all right and at worst, being taken to the hospital. We looked at the policeman and finally voiced our concern for our second son. Luther and I have discussed that, at that moment, we put aside Drew's death and prayed against hope that at least Jeremiah was alive. We suffered through about twenty minutes in which calls were made back and forth to the funeral home that had gone to the accident scene. Finally, the policeman turned to us and had to confirm our worst fears: Jeremiah too had died in the accident.
Many people have asked us how we survived the loss of two children. I ask them how anyone survives the loss of one child. In our case, we had lost two of the most precious children in the world. Both Drew and Jeremiah had been the light of our lives. They were exceptional boys who were very intelligent and had a love for other people that few teenagers possess. Only eight days before their deaths, they had helped me for two days with a benefit I had coordinated for a local teenager with cancer. We had all worked long hours helping others; that was a vital part of our lives.
Luther and I left our store that day in a daze. Many offered to drive us home, but we just wanted to go home alone. We knew Jordan and Erin had to hear the news from us. The world seemed so different on that short drive through our small town. People were still going to the post office and coming into our drugstores. Didn't they know that the world had ceased to exist? Even though the sun was shining that day, a darkness like none I had ever known settled over my whole body. Was this a dream? The car seemed real as we drove up our driveway, but nothing else did.
As we entered our house for the first time, neither of us knew how we could tell Jordan and Erin. Could we actually vocalize what had happened? Luther went to wake up Jordan, and I went in to wake up Erin. I will never forget the look on her face. She faced this crisis with the courage and faith she has shown all her life. Jordan cried, but for an eleven year old who has just lost his only two siblings, he handled it remarkably well. He told us much later that he thought one of our dogs had died. That should be the worst news any eleven year old should have to endure, not the loss of your two older brothers.
Within minutes of our arrival at home, our families, friends and customers began arriving with food and condolences. Small Kentucky towns rally around the family of the deceased, and the loss of these two brothers touched the lives of everyone. Many families say they don't remember much about these first days, but both Luther and I do. We were completely enveloped by loving people who literally held us up. These years later, I can still recall certain friends arriving that first day. Did their faces mirror what I was feeling? I believe so. The looks of total sorrow and disbelief seemed surreal. Our dear friends, Margaret and Tom Hickey, flew in immediately from their home in Longview, Washington. Their love and support has never wavered. After the funeral Margaret stayed with us for two weeks, sensing we feared being alone. During that time she and I went through the rooms of both boys, crying over each lost treasure, a task I could never have done alone.
Erin’s parents, Carol and Al Grist, entered our lives that fateful Thursday afternoon and have never left. They loved Drew as we do Erin. Both he and Jeremiah had stayed at their home in Chattanooga, so they too felt our double loss. Loss….they had to console their only daughter who had just seemingly found the love of her young life. I continue to grieve the loss of Drew and Erin’s love. As I have said, she is an angel on this earth.
Our Episcopal church members were there for us in every way. As each new person came to our house, we felt the love and prayers of each of them. Our faith was severely tested during this time. I personally screamed at God. How could he let these two wonderful boys die? How could neither boy go to college, never have a wife or a child, never give us a grandchild? As for Jeremiah, this next year was finally to be his year out from under the shadow of his brother. We asked "Why?" over and over again. Then, we started with the question every bereaved parent asks, "What if.....?" What if I had let the boys come on home early that morning after the concert? What if we had not bought Drew a red convertible sports car? The what ifs go on and on, day after day and night after sleepless night. Time gives us the only answer to these questions which is that there is no answer at all. God did not choose our sons to die that morning. It was simply their time to pass on. Again, we both wanted to know what had happened in the accident. We knew that no other car had been involved and that there had been a woman who witnessed the accident. My brothers, Gary and Bill, talked to her that day, but it was over a year before I could call her and ask her about the final moments in the lives of our precious sons.
We were allowed to see our sons in the local funeral home late that afternoon. Each time I pass this place even now five years later, I cringe at what we had to face that day. Both Drew and Jeremiah had died instantly, their necks broken. Thankfully, they did not suffer. The woman who witnessed the accident reached each of them within seconds and assured us that they died instantly. Being a mother of teenagers herself, she held each boy knowing they were someone's children, never knowing they were brothers.
Our sons looked beautiful the afternoon of their deaths. Jeremiah had only a few scratches on his face and otherwise looked like he was sleeping. Drew had an abrasion on his right cheek but otherwise looked as handsome as ever. Who could believe that you would have to go into a room and see two of your sons lying side by side beneath white sheets, heads together so that we could touch both at the same time? This picture never leaves me. They were so peaceful, so beautiful. I wish I could go back to that day and spend more time by their sides. Luther and I were not left alone with them, probably because we didn’t know to ask. Looking back, I should have savored my last time to touch them and to brush back their still wet hair.
Flashes of memories never change….Jeremiah still had his braces on! I remember contemplating asking to have them taken off before the funeral. Such an odd thought in the midst of such a tragedy, but nevertheless one that bothered me. As I have reviewed my journals over the years, I have noted many entries where I still fretted that Jeremiah never got his braces off. Jeremiah was wearing the gold chain he had been so proud of. We decided to let them bury him with it. Luckily, my brother did keep the necklace and gave it to me several days after the funeral. I had lamented not keeping the necklace when Gary quietly told me that he had it. What joy! That necklace comforts me each day as I faithfully wear it in memory of Jeremiah. Luther has never taken off Drew’s bracelet, so we each have a part of them with us at all times. I am glad we saw the boys that afternoon because the next night at their wake, they looked so unlike themselves that we probably should not have opened their caskets.
The morning following the accident, we agonized over where to bury the boys. How odd that Luther and his brother had just been to the Lexington Cemetery two weeks before. Since then we had lost a dear aunt and six days later our two sons. At first I wanted to bury the boys in Beattyville. I had Luther and my brothers walking all over our farm to find an area to start a family cemetery. In reality, I would have put them in our living room if that had been possible. What crazy thoughts you have as you try to make some sense of this kind of tragedy. Luther finally convinced me to drive the seventy-five miles to Lexington and at least look at the Lexington Cemetery. Truthfully, I only considered this after Jordan voiced his opinion that the boys’ graves would always be maintained in Lexington. Who knew if we would always own this farm in Beattyville? That at least made sense to me for some reason. My brother, Gary, drove us to Lexington, and we instantly felt that this was the place we wanted to bury our sons. After looking at various plots, we chose a family plot in the historic section of the cemetery and made plans for the funeral to be held the next day. Weeks later, we realized that Luther and his brother had stood exactly by the lots we chose for the boys only weeks earlier during their unplanned trip to the Lexington Cemetery. Fate? Who can say.
The funeral for Drew and Jeremiah was held in our Episcopal church. At the wake the night before, there were over five hundred people and more flowers than anyone had ever seen in our town. Luther and I stood and greeted each person, their hugs literally giving us the strength to stand. As the line progressed, faces appeared that we had not seen in years along with family members, friends, fellow students and our customers. A dear friend , Avis Thompson, softly played the piano for hours that night. What a wonderful tribute to our sons. One poignant memory is of man suddenly being the next in line and raising his arms to embrace us. We realized that this man knew what we were going through; he too had lost a teenage son. His eyes haunted me. Would I always look as he did that night? One valuable lesson I have carried from the wake is how important it is to the family that people come to pay their respects.
Over eighty students and faculty members came from The McCallie School, including Headmaster Spencer McCallie. Both friends from McCallie and Beattyville served as pallbearers for our sons. Young men who had only days before talked and joked with Drew and Jeremiah now had the responsibility to carry them to their final resting place. This should not have happened!! Young men in their prime are not supposed to die.
The funeral for Drew and Jeremiah was held on Saturday, July 25, 1992, in our small historic St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Each detail of that day is so clear to me, just as if it happened yesterday. As we followed the two hearses up the hill to the church, I heard the church bells tolling thirty-three times. Was that for the total of thirty-three years that our sons lived? No, it was for the age of Jesus. It didn’t seem unusual that both totaled thirty-three. As you can imagine, our church was filled to capacity. Many had to stand on the porch and in the basement, but that did not stop them from attending.
Since that day I still visualize two coffins draped in colored cloths at the front of our church when I sit in our customary pew. The music still rings in my ears from the beautiful service. The prayers of the people that day still support me. How did we manage to walk out of that church following the coffins of Drew, our oldest son, then Jeremiah, our second son? God was walking with us that day.
Jordan did not attend the funeral for his brothers. A few hours after we told him the tragic news, he left our home to stay with the family of his best friend, Jonathan Charles. He could not bear to be in our house with all the grief and sorrow. No words can ever express to the Charles family how much they helped all of us those first few weeks. They brought Jordan to the wake the night before the funeral. The three of us went in alone so that he could see his brothers. He dissolved in tears and left a few minutes later. Memories of his brothers have always been wonderful ones, not those of their funeral and wake.
As we left Beattyville to drive the seventy-five miles to Lexington for the burial, there was a caravan of over one hundred cars following the two hearses. I can remember being on the four lane interstate and not being able to see the end of the line of cars. What a tribute to two young men. The boys were laid to rest that afternoon among their family and friends and much sadness. As the pallbearers stood so valiantly trying to hold back tears, I hugged each one of them and thanked them for being such good friends to our sons. Many had been friends of both Drew and Jeremiah. They stood there so healthy in the shade of the stately trees towering over the graves. My mind still could not sort out that these wonderful boys were alive and that my sons were now buried there, never to be a friend again. As I was forced to leave them, I still couldn't believe they were dead. Two couples of dear friends, Dave and Judy Lauer and Mike and Maureen Patrick, stayed until everyone had gone and the graves were covered. That one act of staying with our sons when we could not always brings tears to my eyes as it has as I am writing this today. Thus began the longest road imaginable, one that all three of us still travel day to day to survive.
Yellow butterflies have always been very special to me. The connection began as I stood at my mother’s grave over ten years ago. My visits were infrequent because my mother is buried about seventy miles away from our home at a small country church in Wolf Creek, Kentucky. My emotions had spilled over with tears of sorrow that day. My mother was only fifty-three when she succumbed to the breast cancer she had fought for six years. Her death was so devastating to me because we had always been very close. As her only daughter, I considered her my best friend and confidant. I felt her death was the most sorrow I could bear. That proved not to be the case. Well, that one particular day, as I stood at her grave, I felt so alone. Suddenly, a huge yellow butterfly started circling my head. It would not go away, lazily circling. I realized that the spirit of my Mom was with me. I was comforted like I had not been comforted in the years since her death. This may sound unusual, but the story gets more unusual as I relate it.
I never told anyone about this experience with the yellow butterfly. Many other times over the years, I would see a yellow butterfly in times of trouble. Still, I told no one. The afternoon of July 23, 1992, the day of the boys’ accident, I managed to walk out our front door to try and grab a few moments to myself. As I walked down our walk, THREE yellow butterflies surrounded me. The joy I felt is beyond words. The significance of three butterflies was not lost even though I was in such horrible shape mentally. Well, again I did not mention this to anyone. Later, as we walked the farm looking for a burial site, three yellow butterflies kept circling around me. Finally, one of my brothers commented on it, and I told my story. I don’t know what everyone, including Luther, thought that day, but I knew that this was a powerful message from our sons who had joined my mother. The story continued as we drove behind the hearses the day of the funeral. Everyone in the car knew the story by then, so we began counting the butterflies. When we passed one hundred, we stopped counting. Many times, two yellow butterflies would come from each side of the hearse in front of us and merge side by side to come directly at our car. Their presence made the most difficult ride of my life bearable.
Pain, despair, hopelessness, anger….just a few of the emotions of the beginning of our life "after the boys’ accident". This is how we divide time in our family. The years before the accident seem so idyllic; long forgotten are the trials of raising three sons and building our pharmacy business. Now, the days seemed interminable, filled with such despair that at times I didn’t recognize myself in the bathroom mirror. Those were not my eyes. My eyes had always sparkled with the promise of each new day with Luther and our boys. I prayed that I would not wake in the morning, not suicidal, but not able to imagine a lifetime without Drew and Jeremiah.
Two of Jeremiah’s closest friends, Michael Patrick and Leah Bush, came to our home the week after the funeral to spend time in Jeremiah’s room. I can vividly recall sitting with them on his bed, surrounded by his posters and drums, listening to their story. It seems that Jeremiah had been having a recurring nightmare in which he and another person had been killed in a car accident. He saw the accident and was then suspended above two coffins. The driver of the car, the occupant of the second coffin, was never visible. This dream bothered him to the extent he discussed it with his friends but not us. Could we have changed what was to come if he had told us? I doubt it. As I have said, it was their time to pass over. Looking back, I do believe Jeremiah knew he was going to die that summer. As he sat at a desk in my office that summer, I can vividly recall how he answered me when I asked if he would like to go look at cars that weekend. His sixteenth birthday would be the next summer, and we were deciding what car he would get. With an unfamiliar sadness in his voice, he said, "Don’t worry Mom, it’s okay. I’ll never have a car." And he didn’t!
About two weeks after the boys died, I received a grief workbook from a woman I did not know. Her name was Dinah Taylor. She and her husband lived close to us in a small town in southeastern Kentucky and were bereaved parents. Their only child, a son, Jim, had been killed one year before on the night before he was to graduate from high school. She had included her phone number, so I desperately called her to see how she had survived the past year. Several days later, Luther and I drove to meet this wonderful woman. She welcomed us into her home and shared her grief with us. From that first meeting we realized that maybe we could make it. After all, this couple had and were willing to share our loss with us. Dinah Taylor became a "life line" to me that day.
After that meeting and two other conversations with mothers who had recently lost children, I began what I now feel is my mission on this earth. I had read about two teenage girls who had died on August 14th in a single car accident just like Drew and Jeremiah. I called Judy Carpenter, the mother of one of the girls, Kellie, the driver of the car. Not knowing what to say, I just told Judy that she didn't know me, but that I knew what she was going through because of the loss of our sons. We instantly became friends, and Luther and I had another couple who understood our loss. From that first call to Judy and Dennis Carpenter, I have called over six hundred families that have lost children. Most names have been gotten from the newspaper, but often people call me with families they would like me to contact. As I would contact each new family, I would call Dinah to share them with her. She would then send them her workbook. The group that we finally named Fellow Travelers grew from these first few calls. As our numbers increased, Dinah decided to write a newsletter for these bereaved parents…. so began Lamentations in September of 1992.
Many activities helped me through the first months after our loss. I read every book I could find about the loss of a child, grief, and near-death experiences. Reading let me know that I wasn’t alone. Others had survived the loss of a child. After a suggestion from Dinah, I started writing a daily journal to Drew and Jeremiah. Just expressing what I was feeling was therapy in itself. Those journals are a true chronicle of my grief progression. During one of the periods when I felt like I was never going to be any better, I would read my entries from those first few weeks. The darkness was lifting!
It became a passion that Drew and Jeremiah not be forgotten. Luther and I established a Drew and Jeremiah Smith Scholarship Fund at The McCallie School. Many friends and relatives contributed then and continue to do so in their memory. Both of our sons would be so proud that other students are being helped in their memory. We also decided to give two scholarships in our hometown of Beattyville, Kentucky, to the Lee County High School valedictorian and salutatorian in each graduating class. The notes that we have received from these students over the years are treasured keepsakes. Again, something positive has come from tragedy.
Since The McCallie School had been so influential in the lives of our sons, we wanted to donate something to the school in their memory. A bust by Glenna Goodacre titled The Athlete was chosen and placed in the new Student Activity Center at McCallie the fall of 1992. The dedication was held in conjunction with a memorial service for Drew and Jeremiah for the school’s over six hundred students. Friends of both boys spoke so eloquently that day as we choked back tears. The voices of their fellow choral students filled the chapel where we had such wonderful memories of many McCallie performances. At the end of the service, we were presented a collage of pictures of both boys from their days as boarding students. Truly, this was a gift from heaven because many of the pictures were ones we had never seen.
Time stood still for us that first fall. Our lives could simply not go on as before, two integral parts were missing. It was as if both of my arms were missing. Many tears were shed as they still are. Tears cleanse the soul. In my journal entry dated August 2, 1992, I wrote, "When I cry, my right eye cries tears for my beloved Jeremiah Cottle Smith. My left eye cries tears for my beloved Andrew Siler Smith. I love you boys."
Jordan had to return to school less than three weeks after the death of his brothers. To make matters worse (if that is possible), he was going into the sixth grade at a new middle school. The courage it took to walk into school that first day had to come from an inner strength few eleven year olds possess. Jordan had that strength. As I left him that day, I literally sobbed for what he had to face and for those two missing boys that would never enter another school building.
On September 1st of that first year, Jordan asked me if he could write something in my journal. The following is his entry: "Drew and Jeremiah, I miss you so much. I had no idea what happened. I thought that the dog had got killed but it wasn’t. I died. I wish I was with you but I’ll see you soon. You know when they say the person or people you love, they walk you up into the light of heaven? Well, you’re the only people that I would ever want. I love you brothers".
Love…do any of us really know how much we love someone until they are gone? We all think we do, but most of us do not live day to day. We plan the futures of our children when we should be living every day as if it were our last. Bereaved parents know this reality too well. Drew and Jeremiah were vibrantly alive one day and lost from us the next. Our memories never die. They become sweeter with each passing day. If you try to look too far in the future after the loss of a child, you will be overwhelmed by the sense that there are too many days left in your life before you are reunited with your child. Both Luther and I know that we have to take one day at a time. Any of us can manage the grief of one day, but only when we start thinking of all the "tomorrows" does it become unbearable.
While reading a comforting grief book by John Bramlett, I was touched by his description of the compassionate man, Al Fantoni, who had designed the monument for his son. Something told me that I must contact this man. We had agonized over an appropriate memorial for our sons, so maybe this was our answer. After contacting Al by phone, Luther and I flew to Barre, Vermont, to meet with him to discuss the design for an obelisk that Luther had envisioned. Al Fantoni is an exceptional man, a spiritual man. He and his lovely wife, Silvana, had come to this country from their native Italy over twenty years before, having studied his art of sculpture in his hometown of Carrera. The marble of Carrera was used by Michangelo for his David.
Al Fantoni encircled two grieving parents in his arms that weekend in Vermont. After hearing about our boys and looking at what Luther had drawn, he began sketching his vision of our memorial. Naturally, it was perfect. I asked if my favorite poem could be inscribed on the sides of the obelisk, and he said that it could. This is the poem that I chose:
Years after our obelisk was in place, we had Al Fantoni design a bench for our plot. Luther and I had spent countless hours standing, kneeling, or just sitting on the ground by our boys. This bench would allow us some comfort as we grieved. Seasons changed….we sat or walked around the cemetery visiting the graves of the children in our group….always returning to our bench. The inscription that Al carved into this bench is one that is carved into my soul:
Holidays were always such happy times for our family. I can mentally picture Drew and Jeremiah driving up our driveway from school, the car so loaded that Jeremiah had his feet resting on luggage in the floor. How I would anticipate their arrival! Each sound would have me running to the window so that I would not miss greeting them before they could get out of the car. All three of us waited through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in 1992 for them to come home. How could they not be coming? My head knew they were dead, but my heart did not.
Our family did not follow the same traditions those first holidays nor do we to this day. Halloween had been a fun holiday for the Smith boys as they grew through the years. We would always have parties where they could wear some of the many masks they had collected. Silence now greeted us on that once joyous day.
Thanksgiving was always our family holiday when we would have our house crammed from top to bottom with as many as seventeen relatives at a time. Now, Thanksgivings are spent at the beach with my brother, Gary, and his wife, Karen, with whom we share a special bond. Being with Gary is like having Drew in the room. Not only are they alike physically, but are remarkably alike in their personalities. They shared a special bond, much closer than uncle and nephew.
Our days and months moved slowly that fall of 1992. One incident clearly lifted our spirits right before Christmas. On the morning of December 21st, Jordan and I had dressed and gone downstairs preparing for work and school. Luther had kissed me goodbye and turned over to go back to sleep. All of a sudden, I heard him cry out my name. I could tell he was crying, so I ran up the stairs as fast as I could. Tears of joy were streaming down his face, not the usual tears of sorrow.
Just as I had left the bedroom only minutes earlier, Luther had turned over to face away from my side of the bed. As he was drifting back to sleep, he felt me get back into bed. He turned over and there was Drew! No spoken words passed between them, but they communicated through an awareness from one brain to another. Luther reached for Drew and held him in his arms. The feeling was one he could not describe. Drew said, "Dad, don’t worry. We can’t get hurt here." Luther then asked where Jeremiah was. Drew replied, "Oh, you know him. He’s around here somewhere." That is exactly what Drew would have said.
A noise from the opposite side of the room shifted Luther’s attention, and he saw Jeremiah! Jeremiah moved at an unnatural speed toward the bed and slid under him, coming up between him and Drew. The feeling of Jeremiah passing under him was hard to explain. I had no problem understanding. All of a sudden, Luther consciously realized what he had lost, and both boys disappeared in an instant. Both of us had been given a rare gift that morning. Our sons were in heaven, happy, at peace, and together. What a load off two weary parents. Was this a dream? Was it a vision? It really does not matter.
We could not bear Christmas in our home, so we took Jordan, Erin, Fong, Leah, and our friend and business manager, Greg Mays, to Paris, France, during the holidays. That seemed to help us that first year, but we soon realized that holidays and birthdays were never going to be the same. The structure of our family had changed forever, but it had survived. Jordan often lamented, "Why can’t things be like they used to be?" If only that could happen. His childhood lack of fear had been shattered by the accident.
Out of the ashes, a new Smith family evolved, severely broken, but determined to live our lives as best we could. Each of us understood that to survive we must live day to day, pray for strength and guidance, strive to help others, grieve individually, and work to keep the memory of Drew and Jeremiah alive. My solace came from calling newly bereaved families and sending them my grief packet. Each new family and child/children became an integral part of my life. Sharing lessens grief in some unexplainable way. Sharing relieves the depression that leaves us with twenty pound arms and legs that cannot support us. After receiving my packet, so many wonderful mothers have written me expressing their sympathy and commenting about our boys. Music to my ears…Drew and Jeremiah are not forgotten!
Erin’s parents, Al and Carol Grist, have never forgotten our sons, especially Drew. As you will see from the following incident that happened only months after his death, they have a special connection.
Carol writes: In the fall of 1992, I wanted to smock my grandson, A.C., an outfit for Thanksgiving. After I had smocked the inset, I was going to use it in a pattern called "David" from the Martha Pullen Company. I started working on the pattern and everything was going fine until I came to the packet in the back. No matter what I tried, I could not get the instructions on the pattern to work. I thought I might be reading the instructions wrong, so I took the whole mess over to a friend who sewed and did smocking. She was able to help, but I finally had to call the company. I spoke to Kathy McMakin who went through the pattern step-by-step with me. With her helpful advice, I was able to finish the outfit. It turned out just great.
At the end of our telephone conversation, Kathy apologized for the problem I had encountered with the pattern and said she would like to send me some things from her company. I told her she did not have to do that, I had just wanted help with the pattern.
A few days later I received a package that had a box of Victorian paper dolls (which I loved), a package of Heirloom Sewing Needles (which I had been wanting), and some patterns. The last pattern I took out of the package was a Martha Pullen pattern called, "DREW AND ERIN’S BUBBLE".. To this day I am still astounded!
That night I told Al about this when he came home from work. As I showed him the pattern, his mouth literally dropped open. Everyone I have told this to has reacted in a similar manner.
The next fall we went to a craft fair in Danville, Kentucky, (any excuse to visit Erin at college), and I came upon a rack of smocked children’s outfits. I naturally was drawn to them, and as I started looking through the outfits I came upon one made from the "Drew and Erin’s Bubble" pattern. I pulled it out and showed it to Al. It seemed so strange that this is the only outfit I have ever seen from this pattern and that it should be in Kentucky.
I do not know why I received this particular pattern, but I have to believe it was a personal link with Drew and not just a coincidence.
When Carol told me this story and showed me the pattern, I too was amazed! This was no coincidence. What are the chances of a pattern having the two uncommon names of Drew and Erin being sent to Carol only months after Drew’s death? What was the significance of the name of the pattern? My belief is that it represented the "bubble" of Drew and Erin’s future being burst with his untimely death. After looking in many stores, Carol was able to find only one other "Drew and Erin’s Bubble" pattern which she presented to me. Seriously, I have to look at it from time to time to really believe this entire incident happened. The affirmation it brought was music to my ears.
Music…so many songs evoke special memories. For our family, the song, Every Breath You Take, by the Police, was such a song. As the background music for an early McCallie Sports Camp video, this song became a favorite for all five of us. At first, it amazed us that we would invariably hear the song on the radio every summer while driving from Kentucky to Chattanooga for sports camp. After the third year we actually commented, "When do each of you think our song will be played?" Every Breath You Take became "The McCallie Song" over the years. No one else knew the importance and significance of this song until after the deaths of our sons.
Two days after the burial of Drew and Jeremiah, Luther and Jordan drove the seventy-five miles to Lexington to escape the oppressive cloud over our home. Margaret Hickey, my dear friend, and I were spending the day cleaning out the boys’ rooms. Luckily, no one was there to witness our tears. Each trip to Lexington involved passing the accident site twice, a daunting proposition. On the return trip, just as Luther and Jordan were approaching the scene, Every Breath You Take, came on the radio. Remember, this song was popular in 1985 and was rarely played. Jordan said, "Dad, the boys are playing the McCallie song." Thus, the first of many occasions where at our most vulnerable times, we were comforted by this song. Each time I hear it now, the words seem to be speaking directly to our loss.
The words are as follows:
Our family limped through the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993. On many occasions, our spirits were lifted when we would hear our "McCallie song". It seemed that when we were at rock bottom, the song would drift to our ears in the grocery store or on an unfamiliar station as we were traveling. It continues to this day to bring us comfort.
Many loving family members and friends literally "held us up" those first few years. Their prayers supported us when we were not able to support ourselves. I could never mention everyone, but three women stand out in my mind: Sister Mary Kay Drouin, Mary Ann Combs, and Kimberly Smith. Sister Mary Kay has always been a friend of our family. She arrived at our home within an hour after Drew and Jeremiah had their accident. Over the course of the next months, she would arrive unannounced to just sit with us and try to make some sense of our loss. We asked her tough questions that she really could not answer, but her presence always had such a spiritual calming effect on all of us. To this day, she continues to support us in every way she can. She is truly doing God’s work with Resurrection House, her shelter for abused women. Thank you Sister Mary Kay.
Mary Ann Combs had been a customer of mine at my drugstore for years. My description of her is that she too is an angel on this earth like Drew’s Erin. In the years prior to our loss, I had watched as Mary Ann ministered to so many whether it be as a Hospice volunteer or her caring for an elderly person in the community. God used Mary Ann in so many ways. He sent her to our family. She never missed sending me a card on a weekly basis for over two years. Months after all the cards and calls stopped from others, Mary Ann never forgot. Each card would move me to tears that someone had not forgotten Drew and Jeremiah. To this day, she supports all three of us in so many ways. Thank you Mary Ann.
Kimberly Smith, the former wife of our nephew, has so many talents. One of these is flower arranging, and her loving gift to our family for almost two years was to decorate Drew and Jeremiah’s graves on a weekly basis. No one ever asked Kimberly to do this. She did it in memory of our sons. I clearly remember that first Christmas when Kimberly decorated our obelisk and lot at the Lexington Cemetery. The touch of her loving hand will never be forgotten. Thank you Kimberly.
As April of 1993 came upon us, we had to face the first of our sons’ birthdays. Drew would have been nineteen on April 27th of that year. On that day that had been my happiest day nineteen years before, I cried all day. Many friends called, but I could not answer the phone. Luther and I drove to Lexington, past the accident site, and spent most of the day at the cemetery….unimaginable only nine months before. Parents should be having a party for their nineteen year old, not standing at his grave. The following quote by Thomas Mann was a part of my journal entry from that day: "A man’s dying is more the survivor’s affair than his own." How true!
Erin graduated from high school a month later from G.P.S. in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Naturally, all three of us went. With mixed emotions, we watched as she and her friends made that final transition into adulthood. Flashes of Drew’s graduation a year before flooded my eyes with tears. It still was not possible that he and Jeremiah were gone. I would never see Jeremiah cross the stage at McCallie as his brother had…such a senseless tragedy.
Erin chose to come to Kentucky to attend Centre College that fall. We were thrilled that we would be close to her. Over the next four years, we enjoyed many times with Erin and her college friends. She is like a daughter to us. Luther and I were there this past June as she crossed the stage again on her graduation day at Centre College. How proud Drew must have been for her that day.
Summer came….not the joyous arrival of all the other summers. Drew and Jeremiah did not return from school with their car loaded with dirty clothes, stereos, and books. That part of our life was gone forever. As July approached, a dread settled over all of us. Jeremiah’s sixteenth birthday would have been on July 4th of that year. How we had planned for that day. Don’t all parents look forward to their child’s sixteenth birthday? I always did because I knew how important a milestone it was for the boys. Somehow we got through Jeremiah’s birthday, and I can say that their birthdays after that year have gotten easier. That has been true for the special days such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the other holidays. Time does help. Your child is never out of your mind, but time allows us to look back and treasure the glorious memories so much more with each passing year.
July 23rd of 1993 brought us to the first anniversary of the deaths of Drew and Jeremiah. As with many other days, the anticipation of this day was much worse than the actual day. I relived each day prior to the accident saying, "This time last year Drew and Jeremiah were…." July 23rd came and was spent at the beach with my brother, Gary, and my sister-in-law, Karen. Their support has been undaunting. Part of my journal entry for that day includes, "I know we suffer when we go home and face that empty house and especially those empty bedrooms." Time spent away has always seemed to get us through the most difficult situations. Crossing that time line between the accident and the year after seemed to lift a ten ton load off my shoulders. I still cannot explain the relief I felt in making it one year, a seemingly impossible task only months before.
Fong and I spend the last half of 1993 working diligently so that his girlfriend, Xinyu, could come from China to the United States. Two obstacles stood in her way: the Chinese government and obtaining an American student visa. Surprising, it turned out that Xinyu got her Chinese exit visa with little trouble, but months of effort failed to secure a visa from our government. She was trying to enter the country when most Americans were putting pressure on the government to limit the number of immigrants. With the help of several of the Kentucky Senators and members of the House, Xinyu did get a call from the American Embassy in China on December 2, 1993, notifying her that she must come immediately to pick up her visa. She was advised to leave the country as soon as possible in case the Chinese government decided to cancel her exit visa. Thirteen days later, Xinyu boarded a plane in Shanghai and flew alone to the United States. Imagine a young Chinese girl, never having flown before, leaving her native country to fly over twenty hours to be reunited with her boyfriend. Xinyu and her parents knew that they may never see each other again. Again, the supreme sacrifice of Chinese parents who want their children to be free. Finally there was to be a joyous occasion for the Smith family. The look on Fong’s face as he first saw Xinyu that night is beyond description. They had not seen each other in over five years, but that time seemed trivial as they raced into each other’s arms. Even the passengers waiting to board planes later that night were in tears. They had seen this quiet young man clutching a dozen roses nervously pacing back and forth for over an hour. The object of his futile pacing had finally arrived!
Fong and Xinyu are a vital part of our family. They were married on April 22, 1994, in our Episcopal church in Beattyville. Fong graduated from the University of Kentucky and went on to complete his MBA degree at the Owens School of Business at Vanderbilt University. Xinyu graduated from David Lipscomb University in Nashville and is sitting for her CPA exam this year. Neither has ever returned to China….maybe they never will. Presently, they live in Nashville and had our first "grandchild", Andrew Robert Zhu, on November 22, 1997! Although their son was named for Drew, he will be called Andy. As I have said before, Fong and Xinyu were sent to us by God from half way around the world.
Luther and I continued to explore ways to memorialize our sons. Our parental duty had not stopped with their deaths. True, the physical responsibilities of care had stopped but not the emotional ones. These two young men had lived…they had made a difference. Their lives were short, but we could not allow their memory to just fade away like a ship in the fog. Our love was stronger than death.
Our dear friends, Dinah and Jim Taylor, presented us with a wonderful opportunity to memorialize our sons. Dr. Taylor is the president of The University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Their only child, Young Jim, was killed in a car accident a year before Drew and Jeremiah. As I have mentioned before, these two wonderful people had been our "lifeline" since our loss. Our friendship formed the basis for the Fellow Travelers group that has taken on such an important part in all of our lives. The University of the Cumberlands was building a lodge which would contain a dome in the lobby area. Luther and I commissioned an artist, Wayne Taylor, to paint this dome in memory of our sons and the other children in our group.
June 11, 1994, the Cumberland Lodge Dome was dedicated amid the loving presence of so many of our Fellow Travelers and other guests. C. M. Dupier, Jr., a professor of Geography and Anthropology at The University of the Cumberlands, so eloquently spoke the following words:
The beautiful music we have heard was presented by Jim and Judy Rose. It was they who presented us with the beautiful piano in the Athenaeum. It was given in memory of their son, Scott, who died on July 4, 1983, and in memory of Jim Taylor II, who died May 20, 1991. Thank you Jim and Judy. That instrument has given many hours of pleasure to those of us who frequent the Athenaeum.
The artistry in this memorial dome was commissioned by Luther, Rosemary and Jordan Smith in memory of their sons and brothers, Drew and Jeremiah, who died on July 23, 1992. I can’t think of anything that would have graced this lobby more beautifully or appropriately than a memorial to children loved and lost.
The artist who made this dream become reality is Wayne Taylor, an alumnus of The University of the Cumberlands, class of 1972. Wayne prayed over this work of art, asking God to inspire his vision and guide his hand as he interpreted the grief, the hope and the assurance felt by all who have lost children. Thank you Wayne for expressing the inexpressible.
The symbols contained in the painting were suggested by many of you, and each symbol has individual and special meaning. As I gaze upon this heavenly portrait I see things that you have seen, and perhaps some things that you have not. I would like to tell you what I see.
The background of blue is the impenetrable sky which forms a boundary between this world and the world beyond. It is a filter through which the rays of heavenly light are refracted in such a way that, in this life we see (as through a glass darkly) only the one color, blue, but we know by faith that beyond this limiting canopy are all the other colors of the spectrum, which we see now only in reflection, but one day we will see them and their creator face to face.
The cherubs are our children who are a little less than the angels, but nevertheless immortal.
The clouds are billows of emotion which bear the myriad symbols of our emotions as they change from day to day as the tide of grief ebbs and flows.
The hearts are our hearts, and some have been pierced by the pain of loss.
The bird is the symbol of freedom which we long for to soar beyond doubt to faith.
The lightning bolt is the power that God had loosed in us to overcome and strike down the temptation to give in to faithlessness and hopelessness.
The balloons symbolize the joy which the children surely share.
The daisies are for endurance. They live and grow all through the spring and summer, and bloom in the fall, as though they are saying to the chill of winter, "We will overcome….."
The musical notes are for the new song He puts within our hearts.
The doves are for peace.
The star is for guidance.
And the roses are God’s gift to us on blue and rainy days.
The teacher is the Christ who guides us through our pain; the apple is our gift to Him; and the horn is there to announce His coming—the Day of the Lord—when the gates will open for us too.
The horse, Pegasus, is our transport.
The rainbow is the promise that pain shall cease.
And the smiley face reminds us to celebrate life and seek joy in every moment; for joy is God’s way of lighting the world for other pilgrims.
The butterflies. Oh, the butterflies! They tell us of metamorphosis, the way life changes through time and eternity. They show us the stages we must go through, the stages of life and the stages of grief. We start as eggs in mother’s womb; we emerge as pupae, in need of mother’s milk and the humanizing care of our parents. In the larval stage we wrap the cocoon of life’s threads around us: threads of faith, threads of fulfillment. Then, when that day comes, we emerge victorious over death and enter that final, eternal stage which is more beautiful than all the others.
That’s what I see; perhaps you see more.
There is a veiled plaque on the wall. A plaque which dedicates this beautiful dome and all that it means. It is time now to unveil it. Rosemary and Luther, will you do us the honor of removing the veil so we can all celebrate the moment? The plaque reads: "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly." (Richard Bach) Dome dedicated in loving memory of Drew and Jeremiah Smith.
This dome has been an inspiration not only to many bereaved parents but to all the travelers who have stayed at the Cumberland Lodge. This work of art transcends beauty….it is spiritual. God did inspire Wayne Taylor in his artistic memorial to all of our children. As I look up at the dome I feel like I am peering into heaven and witnessing the beauty found there.
As I contemplated a name for this book, I mulled over name after name…nothing seemed right. My answer came several weeks later after I had a vivid dream about Jeremiah. In this dream he plainly said, "Mom, you know you have to name the book, Children Of The Dome!" Normally I do not remember my dreams but this one woke me with its importance. Yes Jeremiah, it would be called, Children Of The Dome.
Since 1994, Wayne Taylor has done another dome for our family. As you enter our new corporate building in Beattyville, a smaller dome towers above, a symbol of our sons and of the children of other Fellow Travelers. Yellow butterflies surround the cherubs like playmates….yellow butterflies, the symbols of our sons and my mother.
Losing two children should qualify anyone from ever facing another of life’s trials but each of us knows that is not the case. Luther and I had struggled with finding meaning in our lives in the two years leading into 1995. We felt like a swimmer who had gone down twice but was on the verge of rescue. Along with Jordan, we had come to realize that we could live again, we could be a family with hopes and times of joy. Suddenly, we were faced with another hurdle - my diagnosis of breast cancer in May of 1995. Admittedly, I did not handle this well at all at first. How could I face this fight when I was still barely surviving the loss of our sons?
Luther and I went to the beach to await the final diagnosis. We were both shaken to our very roots. As I sat railing at God for handing me yet another crisis, Luther just listened. He knew I needed to get past the initial shock and that I needed him there to support me. We sat in each other’s arms facing the ocean, drawing a strength from the powerful waves. Words cannot express how we faced this as a couple. When I chose to have a double mastectomy with total reconstruction, Luther supported my decision totally. I knew that my appearance was not what was important to him. We had been married twenty-five years and our love was much deeper than appearance.
My first surgery was performed on July 24, 1995, a day after the third anniversary of the deaths of our sons. At that point, none of my doctors knew about our loss. Only later did they learn that this was not the most devastating point of my life. Indeed, this surgery and the three subsequent ones were a breeze compared to what our family had endured since Drew and Jeremiah’s accident.
My cancer was detected very early due to twice yearly mammograms as a result of my family history of breast cancer. Thankfully, I had no lymph node involvement so no chemotherapy or radiation to this point. Maybe this diagnosis had been a blessing in disguise. I can assure you that I didn’t think this at first. I was angry…again. Maybe God gave me more time. Maybe I was given more time to write this book. Only time will tell. I can say that I have absolutely no fear of dying. Drew and Jeremiah’s deaths have liberated me from that fear that I had harbored for so long. My mother fought for life because she was leaving her three children. Two of my children have preceded me….they wait for our reunion.
God works in mysterious ways. A traditional saying I have treasured states, "Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous." I have been the recipient of many of God’s "coincidences". One blew across my life like the wind of God’s spirit. It began as Luther and I were in Marco Island for a national pharmacy conference in May of 1996, a year after my surgery. Combining our need for continuing education hours with a need to get away, we flew to Florida for the four day convention. After only attending two days of meetings, we rented a car and on a whim headed for Key West. Our plans did not include a five hour drive through the Florida Keys, but we did and loved it - the sun, the gorgeous scenery, the water stretching for miles as we drove over the bridges.
Since we had not been to Key West for many years, we had no idea where to stay. As we hastily checked out of the hotel on Marco Island, we asked the concierge to recommend a place for us in Key West. The Casa Marina was his favorite, so he made our reservations. Another coincidence? Surely part of the overall plan that evolved. The first morning after our arrival, I went to the pool very early to read and enjoy the sun. I have always felt rejuvenated by the sun…somehow more at peace with myself. No one was in the pool at this early hour, so I enjoyed my solitude. Within an hour I heard a splash and turned to see who had joined me. The boy in the pool had his back to me, and as he turned, I almost gasped. He looked exactly like Jeremiah at a young age. I could not take my eyes off him. His mannerisms brought so many memories flooding to the surface. Here was Jeremiah’s twin on a day almost four years after his death.
I tried to read, but I could not tear my eyes away from this child. As his mother came over to check on him, I rose from my chair. Never even considering that I might be intruding, I asked her if this child was her son. Indeed, he was her only child, a ten year old from New Jersey. As I blurted out the story of Drew and Jeremiah and our loss, she cried with me. She and her husband had come to Key West through unusual circumstances. They were so kind and compassionate to me that morning.
Luther came down to the pool later that morning and shared the wonder of watching Nicholas romp in the pool. Tears streamed down our faces as we watched this unbelievable situation evolve before our eyes. Later, we thanked God for this brief look back at Jeremiah at age ten. So often we had commented that Drew will never die as long as Jordan is alive. They are so alike. Now, we had caught a glimpse of Jeremiah, a wonderful remembrance. As we walked away from Nicholas that day, I silently bade him goodbye and said another goodbye to Jeremiah. I had to force myself to leave. I could have watched him for hours. The memory of this "coincidence" has lifted my spirits on many occasions.
Our son Jordan is a survivor. At age eleven he faced the loss of his two older brothers with such courage. He was the glue that kept our family from falling apart, quite a responsibility for his young age. As I wept night after night those first few months, he would try to comfort me by telling me that the boys were safe and in heaven. I know his heart was breaking, but he always tried to help us. Now, he was an only child. Lost were the two boys that he had looked up to all his life. Gone were the plans for their future together after his Dad and I were gone. Jordan was now alone. I can distinctly remember him asking me what he would do now that Drew and Jeremiah would not be there for all the holidays like Thanksgiving when he grew up. With whom would he share these family times? I told him that he would undoubtedly marry a girl with many brothers and sisters, and he could spend family times with them. That possibility exists, but I have learned to live one day at a time - not to look too far into the future. Only time will tell Jordan’s future.
Since our businesses were in Kentucky, Jordan started high school there. He did not attend The McCallie School as his brothers had. We could not let him go. We could not break up the family unit that had survived our loss. Although we felt Jordan was being shortchanged academically, we knew that emotionally he could not handle being a boarding student.
Jordan did well his freshman year, maturing so much as the year progressed. He was never challenged academically, so he just did the minimum required to pass his courses. Nothing was expected of him, so he put forth little effort. Maybe this was our fault, but this young man had been through so much. We admittedly let him slide that year and the first semester of his sophomore year.
Forces beyond our control came into play at the end of that sophomore year in December of 1996. It was no longer in Jordan’s best interest to remain in high school in Kentucky. A decision was made that he would attend The McCallie School beginning the spring semester of 1997, not as a boarding student but as a day student. Luther and I bought a house in Chattanooga, and Jordan began classes in January.
My dream had always been for Jordan to attend McCallie. The natural order would have been for Jordan to follow his two brothers as four year boarding students at McCallie, but that never came to fruition. Our only logical choice was to go with Jordan to McCallie. Those first five months were the supreme sacrifice for Luther and myself. In our twenty-six years of marriage, we had never been apart. Now, Jordan and I would spend weekdays in Chattanooga while he was in class. Alternating weekends between Kentucky and Tennessee, we were able to maintain our close knit family. How hard this must have been for Luther. Being alone and having all the pressures of running our pharmacy corporation could not have been easy, but he did it. He did it for Jordan. We both dedicated all of our efforts to making sure Jordan was in a positive environment where he could grow both academically and spiritually. McCallie was the refuge we sought for him.
Jordan began his junior year this past September at McCallie. Luther is now in Chattanooga on a more permanent basis, and our family is reunited. To say that Jordan has grown at McCallie would be an understatement. Not only has he excelled academically, but he has taken advantage of the many extracurricular activities available. An answer to a prayer? Yes, definitely! Drew and Jeremiah are smiling down at their little brother I know. How proud they must be that he has done so well after all he has been through.
Being in Chattanooga and at McCallie has been difficult for Luther and me. There are ghosts of so many memories here. As I walk across campus, my mind wanders to those long ago times when we would pick up the boys from McCallie Sports Camp each summer, to those fall Boarding Parents weekends when they were students, to Drew’s graduation day. Memories so sweet but oh so painful. It must be hard for Jordan to walk in the footsteps of his brothers. Hopefully, he realizes that he is such a unique person in his own right. Jordan has a maturity that few sixteen year old young men possess, that of great personal loss.
Our story began as a love story and will end as such. Through our years together Luther and I have had great joys and tremendous times of sorrow. When we married, we never dreamed we would lose two children. I thank God that I did not know this was to be our destiny. How could I have lived each day knowing our boys would die so young? We have been blessed with three wonderful children. Two are now in heaven, and one remains with us. We are still a family. Death has not changed that one important fact. We will be reunited. We will spend eternity together after all of us have lived our lives here on this earth. Richard Bach once said, "Here’s a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t." Well, I am alive. My mission is not finished. I will continue to love and support both Luther and Jordan as long as I live. God continues to push me to help other bereaved families. Our loss has developed our spiritual muscles. We have been lifted to levels of understanding that we may never have reached. We have used our tragedy to find a way to help others.
Drew and Jeremiah died over five years ago. There has not been a day that I have not missed them: missed the feel of their hugs, missed their youthful exuberance, missed their adventuresome spirit, missed their messy rooms and fights, missed the promise of their futures…..missed their love. I feel their presence daily, so they have not left my side. They continue to inspire me. Hopefully, their story has inspired you as well.
The following was written by my husband, Luther, on May 16, 1995, in memory of our sons: A beautiful analogy --
The robin builds a nest in a tree outside our door. Why does she build it there? Probably to be near the safety of humans, away from predators such as hawks and snakes. Also, because there is a good food supply in our nearby pool so she can feed her young. I saw the intensity in her eyes that we all as parents have in ours - the protection and well being of our children. At their birth our purpose in life is transferred to their upbringing. That instinct and love totally consumes our lives. Our every knowing act is for their benefit and safety. With that being known, how do we continue to live after their loss? We are in fact like the robin. We can only make decisions from our instincts. We cannot foresee the loss of our children, and when it happens, we must blame ourselves because their safety and welfare was our responsibility. In fact, we did follow every avenue for the happiness and safety of our children. There is nothing instinctively that can explain this tragedy in our lives, so we must turn to our faith and spirituality. We must develop a sense of destiny that our loss was what was supposed to be. We must allow our faith to become a guiding path for the rest of this life. This in no way means that we can give up or that life ceases to be. Simply, we must approach it from a different avenue from which we began. Our baby robins are about to fly away. They have outgrown their nest, and their Mom and Dad have done their duty. As human parents, our duty is never done - whether our young have flown away or simply left the nest.