Rosemary's Blog


The Tattoo Lady
December 18, 2016, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family and Friends

Yesterday, December 17, 2016, a dear friend of mine, Judy Carpenter was killed in a car accident. Judy was no ordinary woman, she was a survivor. Judy was the widow of Dennis Carpenter, Jr. who passed on August 23, 2012. She was a bereaved mother. Her second child, Kellie Leann Carpenter also died in a car accident on August 14, 1992.

Judy, Dennis and their son Dee had worked every day to survive the unimaginable, the loss of their daughter and sister almost twenty-five years ago. Judy and Dee had survived every day in the past four years to survive the loss of Dennis, beloved husband and father. Dennis was the first one to reunite with Kellie. Now, in he blink of an eye Judy has joined Dennis and Kellie leaving Dee alone to face their loss.

A Lexington TV station reported an accident on the 5 o’clock news last night in Breathitt County where two people had been killed. For some unknown reason, I immediately went online to see if I could find any additional information on the accident. My first reaction was to make sure none of our employees at our Jackson pharmacy had been involved. There was nothing online except the brief description of the accident I had just heard on the news story.

I was anxious the rest of the day until the nightly news came on. When the names of the two individuals killed in the accident were announced, I was speechless. Judy Carpenter!! Could there be two Judy Carpenters in Breathitt County? I started my online search all over again and spent the next hour trying to gain any other information about the Judy Carpenter who had died as a result of the accident earlier in the day.

I went to bed last night grieving for my friend even though I still had no proof that indeed she was the person killed in the accident. I woke up at least every three hours with Judy on my mind. Not until I was able to reach a compassionate woman at the funeral home that had handled Dennis’ funeral in Jackson was I able to confirm that my precious Judy Carpenter was the woman killed in the accident.

In late August of 1992, I made the first of what has now been over seven thousand contacts to other bereaved parents. Only two weeks earlier, my tow oldest sons Drew and Jeremiah had been killed in a single car accident while on the way home from a concert. Since that tragic day, I had been scouring the obituary section of the Lexington newspaper on a daily basis. This morning, I read the obituary for Kellie Leann Carpenter from Louisville, KY who had been killed in a single car accident with her best friend Carrie. I knew I had to call this family.

Dennis and Judy Carpenter were living in the Louisville area but were originally from Jackson, KY in Breathitt County. I called information and dialed their number. A man answered….Dennis. I told him my name and told him that he did not know me but that my sons had been killed two weeks before in a car accident like his daughter. I asked if I could speak to his wife Judy. He told me she couldn’t talk. I understood totally. Well, Dennis and I started talking and continued talking. He would pause and I could hear another voice speaking to him. He would then relay a question to me that I finally realized was from his wife Judy. This went on quite awhile until finally he said, “Judy wants to talk to you now.” That first call changed my life. I was able to share the loss of my sons with this precious family but more importantly share their daughter Kellie.

Drew, Jeremiah and Kellie became angels within twenty-two days of each other back in 1992. Their deaths bound our families together forever. Our special angels always let us know they were around us by sending us yellow butterflies. Judy came to be called “The Tattoo Lady” when she got a yellow butterfly tattoo on her ankle in memory of Kellie. At that point, she was teaching at LBJ Elementary School back in Jackson, KY and was the least likely person to get a tattoo that you could imagine. I loved it!!

When I decided to write a book to share some of the remarkable families I had come to know and love after the deaths of my sons, I asked Judy if she would write a chapter in memory of Kellie. Of course she couldn’t turn me down. Her chapter is Chapter 9 in my book Children of the Dome released in 2000. I have enclosed her chapter in this post.

KELLIE CARPENTER

By Judy Carpenter

I don’t remember when I didn’t know Dennis Carpenter. That is due to the fact that his parents Dennis and Cordelia Carpenter owned a farm about two miles from my parents, Ed and Mary Hollan in Jackson, Kentucky. I remember when we rode the school bus together. I thought he was very obnoxious. He usually had the honor of sitting in the front seat because of behavior problems. Each day when I was in the eighth grade and he was a senior at Breathitt County High School, he would constantly have a smart remark to make to me as I got on and off the bus. He wasn’t easy to ignore. After he graduated that year, the bus ride was much more enjoyable.

In 1963, Dennis started Lees Jr. College, and I started high school. He attended Lees for two years then transferred to Morehead State University for his last two years. After graduating from high school, I enrolled at Morehead State. At this time, Dennis was a senior and ready to start his student teaching the next semester.

Since my roommate (also from Jackson) and I were at Morehead without a car, she asked Dennis if we could ride home with him on the weekend. He said yes and that seems to be how it all started. Dennis and I had our first date that first weekend and continued to date for a year until August 10, 1968 when we were married.

In January of 1972, I went to the doctor. I thought I was terminally ill. I had no energy, slept all the time, etc. I remember telling my doctor that I thought I had leukemia. He promptly started running tests and did blood work. After about three hours, he came back to my room and proceeded to tell me that I would be fine in about nine months. I was in shock. When I told Dennis what the doctor said, I remember him saying, “You mean you are pregnant?” I said, “No, we are!” At six months, my doctor ordered x-rays to see if I was carrying twins. He found out it was only one big one! On September 8, my son decided to be born two weeks early. After forty-eight hours of extremely hard labor, we had a beautiful 9lb. 13oz. boy, Dennis Edward Carpenter. I had never in my life seen a more perfect, gorgeous little person.

In May 1973, I graduated from Morehead State University with a degree in elementary education. That August, I was hired to teach first grade in Breathitt County. I remember crying for several days as I was driving to work. I missed my son. This was the first time I had been away from him except to attend classes.

Dennis and I decided that since we were becoming financially secure we wanted to move out of our mobile home and buy a house. In March 1975, we bought a huge four bedroom house on Picnic Hill in Jackson, Kentucky. It was a few months later that Dee had his first broken bone. As I was rocking him to sleep one night, he gave a lunge and completely flipped over my shoulder onto the floor. I just knew I had killed him. He didn’t even cry until the next morning when I tried to lift him out of the crib. Then we headed to Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where Dennis met us. Dee was fine except for a broken bone.

In April of 1975, I had another attack of “leukemia.” I returned to the same doctor in Lexington who had delivered Dee three years earlier. This surprise was due on January 20, 1976. Being the prompt, punctual person she proved to be, Kellie LeAnne Carpenter was born on January 20, 1976, during a thirteen-inch snowstorm, the biggest of the season. She was beautiful! Remember, our son was blonde, blue-eyed and a whopping 9lb. 13oz. Well, Kellie was almost bald, had huge brown eyes, and was a scrawny 7lb. 7oz. She looked like a baby bird compared to what our son had looked like as he made his initial appearance, but she was beautiful and very fragile in appearance. We soon learned that she was not fragile in temperament. It did not take her long to get us to conform to her schedule.

In 1980, Kellie started her school career at La Grange Elementary where I teach. This is the school she attended from kindergarten through the fifth grade. During this time, she was involved in school plays, Brownies, jazz and tap dance, basketball, and student council. If there was an activity available, Kellie was there! Her out of school activities included horseback riding lessons, ballet, gymnastics, and piano lessons.

After La Grange Elementary, Kellie attended Oldham County Middle School. She kept up with Girl Scouts, piano lessons, horseback riding, dance, gymnastics as well as Beta Club, manager for the football team, band, and statistician for the basketball team. It seems we were constantly out the door, in the car, and on the road. I remember several times in those years thinking how great it would be when she could drive. As I recall that thought now, my eyes fill with tears.

In 1990, Kellie entered Oldham County High School. Immediately, the busy schedule resumed. Once I asked Kellie if she ever planned to slow down. Her reply was, “When I am old!” If she wasn’t actively involved in something, she was reading or on the phone. Her freshman year whizzed by full of successes. Despite all her extracurricular activities she managed a 4.0 grade point standing.

In January of Kellie’s sophomore year she turned sixteen. For her sixteenth birthday she asked for flying lessons. I suppose looking back on the occasion, Dennis and I were as excited as she was. We could not imagine a five foot two, ninety-eight-pound ball of fire flying a plane. She began her lessons that month and by May had made three solo flights. Maybe this was why we never worried about Kellie when she drove her car. Surely, if you can fly a plane you can drive a car!

I remember the last lesson I went with her to fly at the airport in Clarksville, Indiana. Up to that point, I never thought of premonitions. On that Wednesday, Kellie had taxied down the runway when I heard the radio tower summons her to bring the plane back to the hanger. I raced out to see what was going on only to hear the commander tell her she could not fly that plane, the engine was malfunctioning. She asked what would have happened if she had gone up and his reply was, “If you went out in that plane, we would be picking you up all over Indiana.” This must have frightened her because she asked me to drive her home, something never allowed since she obtained her license to drive back in January. In the car she was extremely quiet. I recall her looking at me and asking, “Mom, what would you do without me?” Later, the day after Kellie’s accident, we received a letter from our congressman that would get Kellie commissioned to go to the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

On August 10th, our wedding anniversary, Kellie sent Dennis a card that at the time just seemed like a card from a very grateful daughter. Now, as we read it, it sounds more like good-bye!

Just four days later on August 14th, I attended an in-service at school. Dennis was out of town, and Kellie had to work from 4:00 to 6:30 at a local pizza restaurant. At 6:30, she came home, changed clothes and informed me she was going to pick up Carrie, her best friend, ride in to La Grange and be home at 10:30. I was watching television and did not walk out to the car with her which was a first. At 10:30, Dennis got home and asked about Kellie. I replied that she would be home any second because she was never late. Five minutes later, the doorbell rang. Thinking Kellie forgot her key, Dennis went to the door. There stood two policemen and a man we later learned was a coroner. I can never explain all the emotions I felt in that one split second—fear, hatred, anxiety, anger, devastation, you name it. In about two minutes, these three men told us our daughter and her best friend had been killed in a car wreck. Almost at once, our house was filled with neighbors and our minister. Every time the doorbell rang, I would run to answer it because I just knew it was all a big mistake. I knew Kellie would be standing there with a big grin saying, “Hi Mom, I’m home! Did you miss me?” She always asked that same question whether she was gone five minutes or five hours.

The next three days are a blur. Oldham County High School held a memorial service at the school for both girls. I can recall only bits and pieces but what I do recall was a wonderful tribute.

Kellie’s funeral was held on Monday, August 17th, 1992. Gradually I realized whether I wanted it to or not, life does go on, and I would not die with a broken heart. Somehow I had to pick up the pieces, find my purpose and try to move on.

I, as well as Dennis, have had several dreams about Kellie since her death. I recall about a week after her accident, Dennis bolted upright in bed one night and said, “Judy, I just heard Kellie! You know how she could say Daa DD and make two syllables out of it? She just called my name!” Did she have his number or what? She had him wrapped around her finger with that Daa DD word. He also dreamed about her being on a plane with him once, and she was where else, sitting on his lap! I dreamed that I was going with her to the high school to have pictures made. I kept looking at her, and she was so beautiful and so happy. She kept smiling and laughing at me with such a serene look on her face. As we entered the parking lot, I asked her how long this would take, and her reply was, “Mom, I’ll be back before you know it!” My last dream involved the door bell ringing, and when I answered the door, there she stood. I immediately asked where she had been and told her that we were worried to death. She answered that she had gone to school and if she had told me before, she was afraid I would not let her go.

Following the funeral, Dennis’ sister, June spent the week with us. I wanted to go to the cemetery—the fact was I didn’t even remember the exact location of the grave, but I knew with all the flowers, it would be easy to spot. I recall sitting on the ground beside the fresh dirt and asking that ultimate question for the hundredth time, “Why Lord, why my baby?” It was about that time that a beautiful yellow butterfly lit on my hand. Many times to follow that when I would go to the cemetery, I would see fluttering butterflies everywhere. I would sit on our sundeck and start to get teary-eyed and there a yellow butterfly would flutter by again.

Many of Kellie’s friends and teachers had the memorial service I mentioned earlier at Oldham County High School the day after her funeral. Afterwards, they wanted to go to the site where she had wrecked. (I had never been there). As we were all sitting there, each choking on our tears and lumps in our throats, two yellow butterflies fluttered all around us and soared off toward heaven. Silently, I whispered, “Hi, Kellie. I know you are there, just stay by my side, or I will never make it and neither will Dad. We need your help and the assurance that you are with us.”

Many of Kellie’s friends kept us busy for a long while after that. I remember one day, C.J. Wallace, a very special friend dropped by. I recall him saying, “Mrs. Carpenter, I don’t think I have ever seen so many butterflies in my life. They are even up there when I am taking flying lessons!”

On the first anniversary date of Kellie’s accident, Dennis’ sister June was with us. (Bless her and all she has done to keep us out of the trenches). Dennis insisted on cooking out on the grill. June came into the house and told me to come outside. There on Dennis’ shoulder was a tiny, beautiful butterfly. By the time I got the camera it was gone, but I DID SEE IT!
Now I suppose it is safe to tell you about the tattoo! I called Dennis at work and told him I had made up my mind and not try to talk me out of it. Of course, he had no idea what I was talking about. I told him I was getting a tattoo on my ankle and no one could stop me. The shop being in a racy part of town, he would not let me go alone. He drove me to the shop, and all I can say is that we were the best dressed people there and also had on the most clothes! Being a teacher and probably considered rather conservative, my behavior shocked my friends, but they understood why my butterfly tattoo was so important to me. Cathy Barnard, my principal, announced the fact at our first faculty meeting, and it was total pandemonium. No one could believe it. The comment was, “Now all the students will want to be in the tattoo lady’s class.”

As I look at myself as I am today and as I was six years ago, I can safely say I would not be where I am without the assistance of all my friends. I can remember Dennis coming home from work and saying everyone wants to know how you are. Our society dwells on the fact that men are strong; they don’t cry, they get over it! I am here to tell you, fathers are human too. This perfect little girl that we brought into this world when I thought I had leukemia was very much a Daddy’s girl. Remember, I said she had him wrapped around her finger. We are not unique; we are like so many parents who have lost children, trying to keep sanity and remembrance in perspective.

Judy, you will be missed here on this physical plane but know you are rejoicing tonight as you are now reunited for eternity with Dennis and Kellie.

Love,

Rosemary

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Lennon
February 18, 2016, 12:08 am
Filed under: Documentary, Family and Friends

JordanLennon

You’re giving me a special gift,
So sorrowfully endowed,
And through these last few cherished days,
Your courage makes me proud.

But really, love is knowing
When your best friend is in pain,
And understanding earthly acts
Will only be in vain.

So looking deep into your eyes,
Beyond, into our soul,
I see in you the magic, that will
Once more make me whole.

The strength you possess,
Is why I look to you today,
To do this thing that must be done,
For it’s the only way.

That strength is why I’ve followed you,
And chose you as my friend,
And why I’ve loved you all these years…
My partner till the end.

Please, understand just what this gift
You’re giving, means to me,
It gives me back the strength I’ve lost,
And all my dignity.

You take a stand on my behalf,
For that is what friends do.
And know that what you do is right.
For I believe it too.

So one last time, I breathe your scent,
And through your hand I feel,
The courage that’s within you,
To now grant me this appeal.

Cut the leash that holds me here,
Dear friend, and let me run,
Once more a strong and steady dog,
My pain and struggle done.

And don’t despair my passing,
For I won’t be far away,
Forever here, within your heart,
And memory I’ll stay.

I’ll be there watching over you,
Your ever faithful friend,
And in your memories I’ll run,
…a young dog once again.

Yesterday, February 16, 2016, our son Jordan’s dog, Lennon became a young dog once again. She was born on November 30, 2002 in Lexington, KY and within weeks became a vital part of our lives. She lived as Jordan’s loyal and constant companion for the next thirteen years. Her loss has devastated all of us who loved her.

Lennon’s health had been failing for the past month despite Jordan’s every effort to help his sweet dog. When she couldn’t walk, he carried all 63 pounds of her. When she was in pain, he made sure her vet gave him the medicine she needed. He watched her shallow breathing many nights without sleeping himself. When she had a seizure, he comforted her and laid beside her on the floor until daylight. Finally, he made the most difficult decision of his life, one that honored her devotion to him over the years.

Luther and I were blessed to see Lennon this past weekend. Gone was the puppy who pulled over the Christmas tree that first Christmas. Gone was the dog who would literally chase a tennis ball for as long as you could throw it. Gone was the dog who could swim for hours. Gone was the dog that would run through a steel door to get to the car if she knew Jordan was leaving. What had never changed was the dog who loved Jordan unconditionally.

As I sit here tonight, I am at a loss for words. Hard to imagine I know. How do I describe the loss I am feeling? More importantly, how do I comfort Jordan who has lost his best friend? I feel Lennon’s spirit telling me to stay in touch with her buddy, telling me to let him know she is still beside him and always will be.

We love you Lennon. I know Hootie, Hayley, Coco, Gunner, Ebby, Sasha, Elkie, Molly, Corey and McKeever welcomed you when you passed over. I hope they have enough tennis balls for all of you. You graced our lives and we will love you until we see you again.

Rosemary Smith



23 23 23 23 23 23 23
July 23, 2015, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family and Friends

23 – Today is July 23rd, the day my sons Drew and Jeremiah were killed back in the year 1992.

23 – The number of years since a car accident took their lives.

23 – 7:23 AM, the time I set my clock to wake each morning.

23 – Today’s date where a multiple shooting has just taken place at a multiplex theater in Lafayette, LA while I am writing this blog. I pray for the parents who are just now beginning this long road of grief. Our dear friends Callie and John Berzas and their immediate family members from Mamou and Lafayette are safe but others are suffering.

23 – July 23, 2011, the date Amy Winehouse died at age 27 in London, England. Luther and I recently saw the movie “Amy” and had never realized this talented, troubled artist had the same angel date as Drew and Jeremiah.

23 – An unlikely lucky number for our family but one that Drew and Jeremiah have chosen to let us know they are always around.

23 – The number of millions of tears I have shed in the past 23 years.

I miss you boys. I am one day closer…

Love,

Mom



Jordan’s Facebook Post July 4, 2015
July 5, 2015, 11:36 am
Filed under: Family and Friends

JeremiahFacebookPost7-4-15

JeremiahFacebookPost2015B



HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEREMIAH
July 4, 2015, 11:42 am
Filed under: Family and Friends

Jeremiah Smith July 4, 1977

As I sit here this morning thinking about my second son Jeremiah, I am taken back to this day thirty-eight years ago when he first graced my life. Jeremiah was an old soul. He rarely slept because I think he knew deep down that his time on this physical plane was limited.

Jeremiah, both you and your brother Drew are missed today almost twenty-three years after I last saw you drive away from my drugstore that beautiful July morning. You both were so excited about what was ahead for you both those next few days in Indianapolis and the rest of your lives. You had reason to be excited. Drew had just graduated from The McCallie School, was headed to Rhodes College and had found the girl of his dreams. You on the other hand were just on the brink of manhood. You had spent that year as a freshman boarding student at McCallie with your brother but it was now your time to step out from his shadow.

Jeremiah, you were a wonderful big brother to Jordan. I know how much he misses both you and Drew because he talks about you all the time. Luckily he is open to bringing up all the wonderful family memories we all share. He was left as an only child when the two of you passed together. Imagine that feeling of being the only son left to fill the shoes of all three of you. Not an easy task.

I miss your smile this morning. I miss those big blue eyes. I miss that big lower lip. I miss that love of life and energy. I miss your keen intelligence. I miss your birth mark that you and I share. I miss your clothes being laid out the night before school in your room that had everything in its place. I miss your red and black baseball cap that honestly I wore every night for years after your death. I miss your quick wit. If I had a nickel for every time one of us has said, “If I make it I make it. If I don’t, I don’t,” I would be a rich woman. You always loved teasing your mother. How I would love to hear you do that one more time again.

Tears flow this morning for the time I have lost with you and Drew. I know you are always around me but sometimes that is just not enough. I will see you again one day soon.

Love,

Mom



Rachel’s Balloon
May 7, 2015, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Family and Friends

RachelSteele

     This beautiful child is Rachel Arlene Steele.  She lived in Richmond, Indiana until she became an angel on January 22, 2015.  As stated in her obituary, “Rachel’s legacy will live on through her parents, Brian and Roxanne; sisters, Mariah and Sara; twin brother, Nathan.

     Rachel came into my life quite unexpectedly earlier this week when Bobby McQueen, one of our pharmacists at our company Jordan Drug showed me the following two photos.

RachelsBalloon1RachelsBalloon2

Bobby told me that his wife’s cousin had found a balloon in early February of this year in her yard near Booneville in Owsley County, KY.  Since that day, Bobby had been trying to find Rachel’s family to let them know that someone had found her balloon that had been released five days after she had passed.

Booby had e-mailed Roxanne but each time his message was returned as undeliverable.  He thought he had found Rachel online by searching the website for Families For HoPE.  He and I pulled up the site in my office and there was precious Rachel Steele.  When we read she had a sister Mariah we knew we had the right family.  I told Bobby I would find Rachel’s family and let them know that her balloon had traveled over 200 miles to land in Owsley County, KY.

That night I found the address and phone number for the Steele family.  I phoned them immediately.  I had to leave a message which I know was probably incomprehensible to anyone who heard it because of my excitement.  You see, I have released many balloons over the years with messages of love and loss to my sons Drew and Jeremiah and no one had ever found one.

No one called me back that night.  First thing the next morning, I called the Steele home again.  Same result, I had to leave a message.  I’m certain I called their number at least four more times that day but always hung up before their answering machine came on.

I felt that maybe I had been too forward so I decided to give Rachel’s family time to call me back if they chose to do so.  Never one to give up, I sent them one of my bereavement packets and waited.  Each day Luther would ask me if I had heard from the family of the girl with the balloon.

Today I had almost given up hope of hearing from Rachel’s family.  Then, while driving, my cell phone rang.  Honestly, I never answer my phone while driving because I have so many bereaved families whose children have died as a result of cell phone use….but….the screen showed a number from Richmond, IN….Rachel!!

A soft voice said she was Rachel’s mother Roxanne.   She expressed her gratitude to Bobby McQueen for his persistence in trying to find their family.  She was amazed that Rachel’s balloon traveled that far.  She said they had each released balloon and had wondered if they would even get aloft since it was so cold the day of the release.

Roxanne then related another one of God’s coincidences (His way of letting us know He is there).  The only balloon found so far was of Rachel’s oldest sister Mariah. When she opened my packet,  Roxanne couldn’t believe I was a pharmacist. Mariah is a pharmacy student and had just finished her finals when my packet arrived.

It seems Rachel made sure her parents and siblings knew she had crossed over and was happy.  Her balloon soared from Indiana to Kentucky and has touched the lives of everyone who has heard this story, especially me.

Rosemary Smith

May 7, 2015



What Are The Chances ?
April 30, 2015, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Family and Friends

Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I am an avid University of Kentucky basketball fan.  I attended my first UK basketball game when I was nine months old.  My father, Glenos Cox Jr. was a Civil Engineering student at UK.  He, my mother Almara Siler Cox,  and I lived in the Cooperstown Student Apartments.  I feel certain I bled blue from my birth even though I was born in Knoxville, TN since my parents lived in Williamsburg, KY at the time.

The University of Kentucky Wildcats have an unrivaled tradition of success, greater than any team in college basketball.   Luther and I have attended the last four of the eight NCAA Championship games that UK has won.  We were in St. Louis on March 27,1978 witnessing Jack “Goose” Givens score 41 points when  our Wildcats defeated Duke in the final game 94-88.

Luther, Jordan and I were in East Rutherford, NJ on April 1, 1996 when UK beat Syracuse 76-67 led by Tony Delk with 24 points for our 6th NCAA National Championship.  This tournament was only four years after the deaths of Jordan’s brothers Drew and Jeremiah so a bittersweet victory for the three of us.

Defending national champions Kentucky lost in the championship game in 1997 when Arizona beat our Cats in Indianapolis 84-79 in overtime.   Luther, Jordan and I were in attendance that night but had heavy hearts since an employee’s father had passed during the Final Four.  Basketball games take a back seat to grief over the loss of a friend.

1998 was another banner year for UK basketball.  UK beat Utah on March 30, 1998 by a final score of 78-69.  Luther and I were in San Antonio, TX with my brother Gary Cox and his wife Karen.  UK  had won its 7th NCAA Championship, second only to UCLA.

Fourteen long years passed before UK won their 8th National Championship.  The year was 2012 and our team was led by freshman Anthony Davis.  The win was the first for Coach John Calipari.  This was a special team.  The final game was held in New Orleans and to no ones surprise, Luther and I were there cheering on our Cats.  Anthony Davis (#23 ) was the MVP in our 67-59 win over Kansas.  I distinctly remember leaving the stadium that night after the win and looking up at the Superdome with the University of Kentucky National Champions logo shinning through the rainy mist.  Both Luther and I reminisced about how much Jeremiah loved New Orleans.  He had made many trips there with his best friend John Caffrey and his family.  I know both Drew and Jeremiah were at that game, maybe even sitting on the bench.  They loved UK basketball as much as I did.

Those of you reading this entry may wonder where in the world is she going with this litany about UK basketball.  Well, all this leads up to this 2014-2015 season, a one for the history books.  Our team was preseason #1 and held that same #1 ranking the entire year.  We finished the season undeafeated at 31-0, best start in school history.  We won the SEC tournament in Nashville and then headed to the NCAA tournament still undefeated.  Luther and I made traveled to the Yum Center in Louisville to watch the Cats win their first two games of the tournament.  We then drove to Cleveland to watch the Cats play in Quicken Arena.  Two more victories and now the Cats were 38-0 and headed back to Indianapolis and the Final Four.  Everyone in BBN felt the pressure of the undefeated season but knew they had already witnessed maybe one of the best teams ever to play the college game.

It is now Friday night before the semi-final game in Indianapolis.  Luther and I have driven up to Indianapolis a day early and had plans to meet my brother Gary, sister-in-law Karen along with Gam and Becky Greer for dinner at St. Elmo’s.  The streets were packed with fans from Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan State.  There is nothing more exciting than the Final Four if you are a college basketball fan.  Even better if your team is one of the participants.

St. Elmo’s is located next door to the Le Meridien Hotel on S. Illinois Street in Indianapolis.  Luther and I know the hotel well.  It used to be The Canterbury Hotel.  This hotel has played an important role in the history of our family.  Drew and Jeremiah spent the last night of their lives at The Canterbury Hotel back on July 22, 1992 when they were in town for the Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and Faith No More concert.    Luther and I had only been able to make one other trip to The Canterbury in the twenty-two years since that last night for Drew and Jeremiah.  Now, here we were right next door.

Luther suggested to the group that after dinner we go into the Le Meridien (The Canterbury) in honor of the boys.  Since Gary and Karen had to drive back home that night to their home in Columbus, they decided not to join us.  The Greers were staying in town like we were so they said they would love to go with us for support.  Now,  Gam and Becky Greer are very special friends of ours.  Many of you reading this know that they too are bereaved parents.  They knew it was important for us to go into The Canterbury and felt we needed support.  Little did they know what part they were to play in what unfolded.

Even though it was crowded, we immediately found a table and the four of us sat down.  As girls normally do, Becky and I decided to check out the bathroom.  As we were leaving the room, I noticed that Gam had approached a group of two men and a woman who were sitting at the next table.  I distinctly heard “Mt. Sterling” as we got up to go to the bathroom.  Mt. Sterling is a town in Kentucky so I assumed the person Gam was talking to was a KY fan.

As Becky and I got walked back  from the bathroom and approached Luther and Gam, I noticed that both of them were standing talking to one of the men from the next table.  The man had his back to me.  Luther had the strangest look on his face.  He said, “Ro, do you know who this is?”  Well, here comes the ,”What are the chances?”

Gam Greer is one of most outgoing people I know.  He talks to everyone and everyone loves him.  He had gone over to the three people at the next table and found out that one of the men was from Mt. Sterling.  Gam had asked if they were in town for the game the following day.  They said they didn’t have tickets but just wanted to be a part of the excitment in Indianapolis surrounding the Final Four.  One of the men was a UK fan, the one from Mt. Sterling.  Gam left the group as they got up to leave and went back to the table where Luther was sitting.  All of a sudden Gam noticed that the young man from KY had McCallie on the back of the jacket he had just donned.  Gam said he said, “Hey, my friend here had sons that went to McCallie.”  The young man came over and asked Luther the names of his sons.  When he said, Drew, Jeremiah and Jordan Smith, the young man said, “I am Hank Blamblet.”  Hank Bramblet was going to be Jeremiah’s sophomore roommate at McCallie.  Luther could not believe who was standing in front of him.  Luther asked Hank if he knew the significance of this hotel.  Hank said he knew this is where Jeremiah and Drew had spent their last night.  He also said that was why he and his friends had come to this hotel.  He introduced Luther and Gam to the couple with him.  The young man had been Hank’s college roommate at Wake Forest.

When Hank hugged me it was like a hug from Jeremiah!!  Tears flowed and flowed!  Honestly I could not stop crying.  How in the world could all of us be in the exact same hotel at the exact same time?  What are the chances?  When we called Jordan at home in SC that night with the story, he said it was maybe one in a billion.  I agree.  All of us saw the hand of God that night.  It is an experince I will never forget.

Saturday dawned and we headed to the National Semi Final games.  At any other point in time, I would have been a nervous wreck worrying about the outcome of the game.  Our team was 38-0 and on track for an historic season if we could win just two more games.  All seemed irrelevant after the experience from the previous night.  My Cats lost that Saturday to Wiscinsin.  Gone were the hopes of the first undeafeted season since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976.  I was disappointed sure but left the arena knowing that Luther and I were meant to be in Indianapolis that weekend for a different purpose.  We were at The Canterbury Hotel that Friday night to share Jeremiah and of course Drew with Hank Bramblet, his friends and especially with our dear friends Gam and Becky Greer.  There will be another basketball season.  There may never be another experience like this that so plainly let me see how in tune we all are to our special angels.

Rosemary Smith

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