18, No Time to Waste

Chapter Twenty-three

   FRIDAY, MARCH 13 — Kathi would have been nineteen.

   Memories of past slumber parties came to mind. No empty Coke bottles or wall-to-wall potato chips this year.

   A small bouquet of flowers arrived from Dave and Ethel Wallis in memory of her birthday.

   Although six months had gone by, pain was my constant companion; although we had seen miracle after miracle and experienced the peace and grace of God, this day brought a different kind of sorrow. For this was my daughter's special day — nineteen years ago I had given her life.

   That evening we drove to my mother's home for dinner. It was my cousin's birthday too, and I wondered if I could say "happy birthday: without crying. Eighteen years ago he had given Kathi a tiny locket for her first birthday — for the girl who shared his special day.

   Through the waves of memory of that night, I am reminded again of the brevity of life. For my brother Leo had only nine more months to live; my strong brother would die suddenly, unexpectedly, and would enter heaven's gates to greet his Lord, his dad, his younger brother, and his niece.

   And only one month after we buried my brother, Kathi's friend Jim — "special" Jim — died in an accident. As I stood at the back of the church at Jim's funeral, I remembered him weeping so openly as he helped carry Kathi's coffin. I remembered him throwing stones at her window and their long talks at midnight. He had said at the graveside, "Kathi taught me so much."

   Once again Glen, Tom and Jon picked up a coffin and set it beside a freshly dug grave.

   "The Lord is picking," Glen said quietly.

   One year from the date of the September accident, our family, with Ethel Wallis, Steve Quatro, Ethel Emily Wallis, and Debby, drove to the cemetery to lay flowers on the graves. When we arrived, we found two teen-age girls sitting beside the graves; they had gone to school with Kathi.

   "If it wasn't for Kathi," Mary Ann said, in the course our conversation, "I wouldn't have my Savior."

   The caretaker who was standing nearby began speaking to us in broken English, finally resorting to his native Spanish. Ethel Emily, who was a veteran missionary to Mexico, walked over and began talking with him.

   "He wanted to say," Ethel told us, "that he wondered about these three graves. He said he was here the day of the funeral and that there has been someone here nearly every day since to lay flowers or say a prayer. He wanted to know the story behind the three plots."

   And Ethel told him the story of Kathi, Mike, and John.

   Thus, a day that I had dreaded became a healing benediction to our daughter's staunch testimony.

   Our second Christmas without Kathi the Lord filled our longing hearts with His love and joy. Tom called to wish us "a Merry Christmas"; Bev stopped by to bring us a beautiful poinsettia plant and we talked of our wonderful Lord. She was growing spiritually, making her witness felt at college and among her friends. And Debby, now in the Waves and home on furlough, spent all Christmas Eve with us.

   "I want to be a missionary," she told me when we were alone in the quiet living room.

   My eyes filled with tears as I remembered a confused, troubled Debby sobbing her heart out at our home after Kathi's funeral — a girl who had tried everything to find peace found it at last in the Prince of Peace Himself.

   My eyes were drawn to Kathi's always-smiling picture on the wall.

   "I'm out for the world," she had said. "No time to waste." And she had reached the world — the world which God had put her into — her world of teen-agers. Her world of Bev, Felicia, Sharon, Hope, Debby, Steve, Janie, Jim, Glen, and the list goes on and on . . .

   I see her clearly now — long hair flying in the wind, bare feet, and blue jeans — our carefree, laughing Kathi. Kathi, who could whisper honestly, "I, too, would be willing to die if it would bring my friends to Christ."

   I see the little red Mustang traveling bravely through the mountains carrying four young people, laughing, singing, talking, praying, planning — and in an instant three are home.

   Home free for all eternity.  

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