by: Mike Levine
Times Hearold Record

          All day long, a hazy sun heaves and locusts hum. Fish splash near weeping willows. The sky hangs still and white.
Charcoal clouds charge from the west sending thick gray gusts rippling lakes and whipping willows. The sky goes black and boys with fishing poles scamper. Lightning crackles and thunder booms. Heavens open.

Rob leaves work in Monroe and sets out for home and supper with Katie. God, he can hardly wait. What's a little rain when you are waiting to put your arms around Katie.

The down pour is flying past when he turns right along Walton Lake onto LaRoe Road, a snaky country lane that is everyone's short cut to Warwick. A quarter mile on the right, down the hill, he sees tail lights off the puddled road. What's this, someone's broken down? Rob can keep going, be home before Kate. Start supper. Turn on the music.

He remembers when he might have flown past in a daze, his faded gold '82 Caddy splashing the stranded car. He used to dwell on himself. Absorbed with his depression, his disappointment at not amounting to more than a home health aide, his priv ate murk of self pity.

If he went out, it was with whoever, whatever. He could feel alone with or without company. One night last year, his sister's girlfriend, Katie, was over to his parents house. Katie had been over before, but Rob was too taken with his misery to notice much. This night, he and Katie got to talking. She danced as she laughed, a bright summer's day of a girl, gentle as a walking breeze.
The way she listened. The peace in her story. They talked long into the night like old friends. She said, "hey. I could get used to you," and Rob was touched. Winds of love began to rise. His depression was a cloud that had moved on, a storm that had passed.

They talked again. Walked the wintry roads of Warwick. And on and on they opened their hearts so that Rob woke up to life and he understood something holy.

Katie was always with life. One of nine Murphy kids from Chester, she as born premature with an over growth of blood vessels that hung from her face. Because she was too young, the doctors could not operate. Her parents gave her extra love for what the world might give back to her in cruelty. She woke up happy and sang like a bluebird. She was never absorbed with disfigurement.

When Katie was 12, her parents finally found a doctor who agreed to do the delicate operation. The nerves in her face could easily be damaged. Three years and painful surgeries later, the birth mark was gone. Katie blossomed as a beauty with the compassion of one who has known hurt.

What Rob saw was a walking miracle. At age 18, she bounced with the energy of the truly alive. She listened so closely when others talked, they walked away feeling transformed, their troubles somehow diminished. Katie was in this moment, this life. Her friends saw her gift. Her family cherished it.

And Rob, feeling lucky as a Lotto winner, got to be her guy. Katie was crazy for him. At the Warwick spring high school play of '97,she sang "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and she winked at Rob. So it would be Katie, Rob thought, Katie forever.
What becomes of love. Rob grew into manhood, learning to say we instead of I. He helped her through school. He helped her save up for a little used Toyota.
This spring, he searched half of Orange County just for the right wayward kitten Katie had always dreamed of owning. Oh, to be on a errand of the heart. He found Darryl and on May 3rd, her 19th birthday, Katie squealed with delight at their shared young one.

Rob encountered his home health clients as people. Discovered the gifts in the most disabled of them. He listened closer. Sometimes Katie would drop over and give his clients a big hug. Then she bounded off to the next of three jobs. Baby-sitting at 6 a.m. Orange County Community Collage all day, bussing restaurant tables all evening.
In June, she found a job at Camp Monroe. They loved Katie immediately and had her run the office. And a letter dated June 29,1998, was in the mail saying Katie had made the Dean's list at OCCC.
This would be a wonderful night. She'd walk in from work, he'd plant a sweet kiss on her mouth and dinner would be cooking. Music on the radio, Darryl the cat on their laps, and the lazy swoon of a summer evening.

But first, he slows down behind the tail lights off the side of the road. Two other cars have just parked behind the car. An accident. The road was always lousy with accidents.

Rob walks ahead to help. He sees a gray Toyota Tercel wrapped against a tree. Can't be. He runs to the car. He finds Katie, sitting in the front seat with her seat belt strapped, her mouth in the shape of a smile. Her eyes are closed. Rob leans in and shouts in her ear, "I love you baby, You're gonna make it baby. Everything's going to be alright."

An arriving volunteer asks Rob to step aside so he can give CPR. Please move your car further down so that the ambulance can get closer. Rob parks a quarter mile down the hill and begins running up toward Katie. Of course, Katie's going to be O.K. There's no blood. Just a bad knock that made her lose consciousness for a short while.

The last 20 yards, he cannot move. He begins to pray. How is she? He asks, I need to know what to pray for. Rob feels a cop's soft hand on his shoulder. He sees the volunteer who was giving CPR, now sitting on a car bumper, head in his hands. The man is crying. They carry Katie out on a stretcher. The ambulance drives away. She is gone.

The next day, dazed and driven, Rob stops at the tree of death. A sweet sun sparkles in a blue heaven. Rob has never seen a sun so yellow or a sky so blue. He feels a breeze gentle as a lover's breath.

What becomes of the storm, so sudden upon us, so quickly passed? What becomes of the fleeting sun, the burden descending, the shadow hanging from a child's face, the rip of separation, the unbearable visit of grief? One night the pain is so bad, Rob lies on the floor withering. Other nights, Rob hears Katie say she is all right and with him. Alone in bed, he feels her face on his chest, and her body in the shelter of his arms. Rob goes to work and the kindness she awoke in him embraces the people in his care.

What becomes of love is never ending.

Another angel returned to heaven.
Katie Murphy

Precious Memories