Missouri father landscapes message for stillborn baby
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Her name was Kennedy Grace Williamson, and she was expected to enter this world May 16.
But without warning or signs of distress, she did not. She was stillborn May 5, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Her parents grieve.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not sit there and think about it,” said Deetrecia Williamson, 32.
She works as a sales associate at the Walmart at Kansas Expressway and Kearney Street.
“I see other people’s kids and think that my life is supposed to be different — but it is not different — because I lost her,” she said.
Deetrecia has a 14-year-old son from a prior relationship; she and husband Derrick have an 8-year-old son; and Kennedy was to be the first girl.
Derrick was at work when his daughter died.
He said he prayed.
For what? I asked.
“At the time I prayed that she is in a better place, a better home, better than what I could provide for her right now. She is where she is supposed to be.”
“All things happen for a reason.”
You never asked the question: Why?
“The reason I did not ask ‘why?’ is because my wife had already asked.”
“I have to be the one who stands strong.”
I talked to him recently. We sat in soft chairs in the quiet of the Walnut Lawn Funeral Home.
Derrick, 37, works for Advanced Lawn Care, which provides services for the funeral home.
His voice is soft and weary.
I detect melancholy. But I have met him just this one time, and I have come with a pocketful of sad questions.
I also asked one of my favorite questions: How did you meet your wife?
Twelve years ago, she was walking her young son to day care in Nashville, Arkansas, he answered.
“I pulled over in my Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz. They don’t make them anymore.”
Derrick posed the poet’s eternal question: How ya doing?
“It was love at first sight,” Deetrecia said.
But there was one problem. He spoke too softly.
“He’d say, ‘I like you,’ and I’d say, ‘What did you say?’”
She added, “He means the world to me.”
Derrick told me he grew up poor, raised by a grandma who was 75 when he was born. He was 16 when she died.
He finished high school but did not go to college because he had no wheels.
He has skills and talents and in his heart of hearts, he told me, he is an artist.
“I can paper-fold. I can paint. I draw real good. I can draw you. I can draw anything.”
But always in life, it’s been the same story: Success has been just out of reach.
“I can’t never grasp it. But I get so close.”
It was Derrick’s job to landscape the small hill along Kansas Expressway. The rise faces the entrance to the funeral home.
Through his grief, he had an artistic vision; it involved a weed trimmer.
He had a plan in his head.
“I can visualize stuff that ain’t even there. So I got in there with a weed eater — I can work it like a pencil.”
He trimmed the grass to spell out: LOVE U.
Think about it, he told me. It’s the final words people say to loved ones at the funeral home.
At first, the landscaping was difficult to discern.
“I thought it was kind of cool,” Deetrecia said. “I did not think anybody would ever notice it. But then the grass got deeper — Oh my God! This is amazing!”
The couple is appreciative of the support from the funeral home, which handled the service and cremation for their daughter.
“Walnut Lawn had done so much for our family,” Deetrecia said. “They took care of my child and they were very caring. We did not have other options. We did not know what to do. It was unexpected and they were very, very supportive.”
Kennedy Grace’s ashes are in an urn in the Springfield home Deetrecia and Derrick rent.
“We have a nice little curio cabinet,” he said.
Funeral director Ruth Ann Wood-Humiston said the death of the infant was sudden. The couple needed help, and she offered.
Williamson maintained the landscaped hill all summer, she said.
Unfortunately, a landscaping crew working the Kansas Expressway right of way recently cut the grass and made the message harder to make out.
It would not have endured much longer, anyway. With winter coming, the grass will die and take with it Derrick’s message.
Come spring, the season of grass-growing resurrection, he will work his artistry again.
“It was for my baby. So she can see it from the heavens above,” he said.
Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com