18, No Time to Waste

Chapter Twenty-two

   I EXPERIENCED A SHARP THRILL when I looked around at the people gathered in our living room. Some were Kathi's friends, some had never met her, but all had heard of the accident, read "The Winning Team," and wanted to begin a Bible study class.

   I thought of Felicia who had gone back to Texas with her mother.

   "I want to help her now," Felicia said — Felicia, the rebellious girl who had run away from home. "I want to tell my brothers and sisters about Jesus."

   She had given me a card before she left, and when I opened it and read the words there, I longed for Kathi to know, too.

Dear Mrs. Johnson,

   One of the things Kathi wanted most was that I become her sister in Christ. Now that is a reality. And being her sister makes me your daughter. I love you.

   I would always love and pray for Felicia.

   One night Steve came to our Bible study, and I knew from the moment I met him that God had great things planned for him. Steve endeared himself to Vern and me immediately. His desire to know more about God was all consuming; his prayers were simple, direct, and challenging to our own hearts.

   Steve, who had come from a broken home, would soon move in with Dave Wallis, who was to become a great influence in his life. The night Steve confided to Vern and me that he wanted to be a minister was a high point for us. Later Steve brought his friend Janie to the group, and after listening and studying, she, too, came to know Christ personally.

   As the members of the group opened up to each other, we were all drawn closer to one another and to Christ. Our last Bible class met just before the Christmas season, and as each went his or her own way, I was thankful for the time of sharing and growing we had had. In losing Kathi, I had gained numerous sons and daughters in Christ.

   The day before Christmas I went alone to Oakwood Memorial Park and laid flowers on the three graves. The markers were new, and I fought back the tears as I read the verses each family had chosen.

   On Mike's, his favorite: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

   John's marker read: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

   And for Kathi's we had chosen: "To be with Christ, which is far better."

   Oh, Kathi, I thought, if only I had really taken the time to know and understand you. As I turned to go back to the car, that verse about entertaining "angels unaware" ran through my mind, and these words came to me:

I had an angel and didn't know it;
She hurried through life in a breathless sort of way,
She touched this one and that one in her short life span,
Like a candle burning wildly and then flickering out too soon,
For one brief, shining hour she warmed so many with that glow.

   We sat around the tree on Christmas Eve and opened gifts, and for the first time, Cindy had to open her traditional pair of slippers alone. But instead of the terrible longing for Kathi which I had anticipated, my heart was filled with a special kind of joy — the joy that only Christ can bring! For sharing our first Christmas without her were Hope, Debby, Bev, and Kathi's old boyfriend John — and a warm long distance phone call from Felicia.

   They missed her, too, for they had found a deeper meaning to life because of knowing her. And without saying it, we all felt her presence.

   Cindy's gift to Kathi's memory was in the form of a verse which she wrote in anguish one night. She called it "For Every Sister."

I'll try to understand her,
Try to understand the excitement behind
Those piercing black eyes,
Try to understand her zeal for life,
Tireless energy, and love for others.
I'll sit down beside her and get to know
This sister of mine.
I'll get to know the skinning little girl
I grew up with and shared a bedroom with
For all our teen years.
We'll share secrets together,
We'll go for a long walk,
We'll just sit together for hours and laugh.
I'll ask her about her boyfriends,
I'll ask her about her girlfriends,
I'll even ask what her favorite subject is in school.
I'm too busy,
I have too much to do,
She's getting on my nerves.
She's borrowing my precious clothes, ruining them.
She's using up all the gas in my car.
She's asking stupid questions
I just don't feel like answering.
I'm too tired.
But tomorrow,
I'll tell her how much I love her,
I'll hug her and tell her she's pretty,
I'll tell her I'm glad I have a sister . . . tomorrow.
Has finally come and she is gone!

   A task I had been postponing loomed before me — going through Kathi's clothing and belongings. I held each dress closely to me, remembering vividly some occasion when she had worn each particular outfit. As I was alone, I let the tears flow without restraint, lovingly folding the familiar red and white cheerleading sweater. I packed box after box, but I put the "Angel Dress" back in the closet; I couldn't part with it. The little green blouse which we had purchased that day together — the only piece of her clothing found at the accident scene — was also folded and put away.

   While going through her desk, I found a folded piece of paper at the very bottom of the drawer. It was a poem Kathi had written when she was sixteen — a poem which revealed the heart of Kathi.

The Wonders of God

Looking all about me,
It's very plain to see
That God created everything,
The birds, the sky, the trees.
But then I look around some more
To the painful side of life,
At Satan, who tries to o'er power the world,
Lead people into strife;
The madness all about me
That seems to prevail,
The devil's really working,
But God can never fail.
For on Calvary's cross He died,
To save me from my sin,
So that forever after
I may enter in.
Oh, thank You, my dear Lord,
For setting me free.
I'm saved forever after,
Now I'll serve and live for Thee!

   Honors were bestowed upon Kathi, Mike, and John. Memorial trophies were set up at their high schools and places of work. And these tributes were a continual reminder of what lives surrendered to God can do.

   That fall Cleveland High dedicated the Homecoming game to Kathi, and Impact ran a story about them, telling of their last week at camp.

   Marilee Drown, a camper from Arizona, penned these lines when she heard of the accident:

The impact of metal against metal.
. . . shattered glass
. . . sirens . . .
lifeless youth . . .
In the darkness
the gaping emptiness of death!
. . . WHY?
yet, always
in the darkness
the gaping emptiness of death
. . . of lifeless youth.
The impact of death without remedy
. . . shatters hearts of the living.
bring the remedy for death to lifeless youth yet living.

   This became our daily prayer — that God would use our daughter's life and death to His glory — that many lifeless teenagers would find life in Him.

   Our prayers have been answered. We have seen it happen!

   The Wallis family has seen it happen!

   The Quatro family has seen it happen!

   And Dave, back in Brazil, testifying continually to God's miraculous healing, has seen it happen! 

Table of Contents || Chapter Twenty-three