Rosemary's Blog

Angel Day Nineteen
July 22, 2011, 7:55 pm
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Nineteen years ago tonight, Drew and Jeremiah were in Indianapolis, IN, at the concert they had been looking forward to for months. Neither of them knew they had just hours to live. They were fifteen and eighteen and invinsible. Their futures were before them. Drew was headed to Rhodes College within weeks. Jeremiah was headed back to The McCallie School for his sophomore year. Luther, Jordan and I were amazed at how they both had matured that school year while together at McCallie. We loved having them home for the summer and couldn’t wait until they returned from the concert so we could all go to Lake Cumberland. That trip never happened. The new pair of waterskis we bought for that trip still sit in our basement nineteen years later.

My spiritual journey since the morning of July 23, 1992, has shaped the person I am today. I am not the same person I was nineteen years ago tonight. I no longer fear death. I firmly believe in life after death. I believe in angels and know they surround us on a daily basis. I know I am still alive because the plan God has for me is not complete. I know we are all here in this physical form to help others.

Many of our dear friends have contacted us today with love and compassion. Drew and Jeremiah have not been forgotten. Fellow Travelers know that angel days and birthdays will always be difficult even though many years have passed.

I’m reading War and Peace and have been moved to tears by the beauty of Tolstoy’s words. “If there were no suffering, man would not know his limitations, would not know himself.” Nineteen years later, I do know myself and know my limitations. Would I have grown spiritually had this tragedy not struck our family?

From War and Peace, Tolstoy states, “Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy. You get called back to life from the realm of sorrow. Life does not stand still and it is necessary to live.” I had never thought of comparing pure sorrow to pure joy until I read these words today. I was pulled back to life, reluctantly but surely. That does not mean I love Drew and Jeremiah any less. Each day brings me closer to them.

As I sit here tonight, I am transported to a concert floor in Indianapolis. Drew’s words to me early on the morning of July 23rd, “We’ve had the best night of our lives,” rings in my ears. The last night of your life should be the best. Until we meet again boys, I will miss you and live each day in your memory.

Young Jim
May 20, 2009, 2:07 pm
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Taylor (1)Today, May 20th, 2009 is the eighteenth angel day anniversary of a special person in my life, Young Jim Taylor. How can a person you have never met be such an integral part of who you are? How has he touched the lives of literally thousands of bereaved parents and siblings since his passing? What imprint has his life left on the world?

My knowledge of Young Jim began on an August day back in 1992. His mother Dinah had contacted me shortly after our sons Drew and Jeremiah had been killed in a car accident. Who was this woman reaching out to us in our most desperate time? I will never forget what I was wearing on that first meeting with Dinah in Williamsburg, KY. As she welcomed two lost parents into her home with a reassuringly warm embrace, she made reference to my dress. I have saved it all these years because I could not bear to part with my “horse dress” chosen without thought that morning. How was I to know that Young Jim loved horses?

Dinah shared Young Jim’s room and life with us that day. Hope started to seep into our thoughts as we sat in his room surrounded by his cowboy hats, boots and ropes. His life and the compassion with which his parents Jim and Dinah pursued theirs became a lifeline to us.

Stories of the escapades of Young Jim have made me laugh when I never thought I would laugh again. Just now I see him kneeling on his parent’s bed looking through his new telescope out the window. Young Jim’s new fascination with the telescope had nothing to do with the stars; the girls’ dorm beside the President’s home where they lived was the attraction! Through Dinah and Jim I know their son. He is a part of everything I have become in the years since Drew and Jeremiah’s death.

One last story of Young Jim never fails to amaze me. After appearing on The Early Show after my book was released in 2000, I went back to my hotel and immediately called Dinah. Sitting at a desk looking out over Central Park, she and I were sharing the excitement of being on a national show when the desk light suddenly went out. Young Jim was letting me know he was there. As soon as I told Dinah about the light, it came back on.

Dinah and Jim Taylor lost their only child eighteen years ago today. They have honored his life every day since then by their selfless acts of compassion to others. I know he is proud.

(As I was adding Young Jim’s photo to this post, “Every Breath You Take” came on the radio here in my office!! Thank you boys for letting me know you are near.)

Kristin’s Challenge Message
May 18, 2009, 3:59 pm
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Kristin with ARC buddyOur family is very pleased and thankful that Kristin’s friends would want to remember her love, laughter and competitive spirit by organizing and participating in a memorial bowl-a-thon. We think this type of fundraising activity is particularly appropriate since Kristin’s favorite volunteer activity was the Monday afternoons she spent bowling with her ARC buddies, as can be seen by the beaming smiles on the Facebook page for this event. Any money that’s raised as the result of this fundraiser will benefit two worthy causes; the Kristin Marie Harkness Memorial Award and Scholarship that we’ve established at Osbourn Park High School, and a foundation that supports programs that are designed to increase awareness of the negative effects of binge drinking and works to prevent its disastrous results, which all too often include alcohol poisoning, accidental injury or death, and suicide.

The first beneficiary, the award and scholarship, celebrates and honors all the good things we knew and loved about Kristin—her joy in living life to its fullest, her exuberant laugh, and her competitive spirit. However, as most of you already know, Kristin died by her own hand in the early morning hours of February 22nd, 2008 after a night of binge drinking with friends at Florida State University. While we have no choice but to accept her death and all the tragic consequences that go with it, we believe the circumstances of her death are unacceptable, and we hope you do too. That’s why we’ve selected the SAM Spady Foundation, as the second beneficiary for this inaugural Kristin’s Challenge. Established by her parents, this foundation honors the memory of Samantha Spady, a 19-year old student at Colorado State University, who died of alcohol poisoning on September 5, 2004. Like Kristin, “Samantha affected people’s lives in a unique way. Her friends remember Sam as a fun-loving, sensitive and “amazing” girl, who was a champion for the underdog and a good friend.” As we believe was the case with Kristin, Samantha’s death was an unintentional tragedy that was ultimately caused by binge drinking. It is our hope that the SAM Spady Foundation, with our help, can prevent a similar tragedy from happening to another beautiful child through the programs it supports and provides.

As is true for each of us, Kristin was faced with her own set of challenges, whether they be studying to make good grades, fitting into a new social scene, dealing with the pressures of work, or finding a job and making a living. Kristin’s biggest challenge, however, came in the form of binge drinking. Whether it was just to have fun, as she would always tell us, or to escape from other challenges she faced, we’ll never know. Certainly none of her challenges were insurmountable or even came close to those she had already met and overcome. From what we knew about Kristin, and from what we’ve since been told by her friends, she was doing everything right to work her way through the challenges she faced, everything except her continued reliance on binge drinking to “have fun,” or was it to relieve the pressure and anxiety she may have been feeling? Again, we’ll never know. The one thing we do know is that through the last moments of her life she still demonstrated the desire to live and make positive changes in her life by talking with a friend about things they would start doing the next day and making phone calls to other friends and family, asking them to call her back the following morning. That’s why we firmly believe that if not for a .202 BAC and the insidious depressant effect of alcohol, she would not have acted impulsively in that moment, she would have survived that night, and she would still be alive and with us today. Instead, all we have left are our memories of her and this, Kristin’s Challenge, which is her challenge to you to learn from her mistake by answering—what would Kristin do now?

Tom, Linda, Eric and Jessica Harkness