January, 1995. “Today, I went for a walk. I was searching for something and I needed to release the tension that comes whenever I think about the abuse. I found what I was looking for in a scrubby, dense Palo Verde. Two saguaros, each a foot high, grew in its shade. It was a nurse tree.

In the desert, the shade provided by nurse trees gives moisture to germinating seeds. Desert soil is thin, rocky and sparse in nutrients. The debris from the trees and other plants which grow underneath their limbs enrich the soil. Those few, square feet of shade become a sanctuary, an entire microenvironment of plants and animals.

One of the saguaros was near the trunk of the palo verde. Years of slow growth from now it will push through an embrace of spiny branches to tower over the tree the way an adolescent boy, on his way to becoming a man, does his mother. At that time, the intimate arrangement of tree and cactus may seem haphazard unless the observer understands their history. It is the safety provided by the Palo Verde that enables the saguaro to grow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rocky Point

We put it on our calendars almost a year ago. October 8 – 14. Rocky Point. There is a beach house in Las Conchas, five miles from the gate. A few years ago, dad bought one of eight shares in Casa Hermosa, one of the smaller beach homes in a strip of paradise only four hours from home. We were all there, Dwight and I, our sons and their families, fifteen of us squeezed into four bedrooms and a queen-sized air mattress on the floor in the living room.

You can imagine what it was like, air temperature in the 80s, water temperature in the high 70s. We splashed and swam and rode jet skis. We played games and ate. We read and took naps. And the night before we left, after the children were in bed, the grown-ups sat around a fire pit under the stars and talked.

It’s good for a family to talk. Each of us shared what we loved about Rocky Point. We talked about our plans for the coming year. And we talked about Rachel.

Rachel was our 5 year old granddaughter who, on August 22, was found face down in the swimming pool at a home her parents were buying. Her 3 years old brother Jimmy was also in the pool, unconscious. Jimmy revived. Rachel, after 58 minutes of CPR finally had a pulse, but it was too late for her brain. Her funeral was a long week later.

She was a dear little girl with bobbed brown hair and liquid brown eyes who loved to sit on the porch swing with me whenever her family came to Tucson. I am angry she is gone and I am sad. Her parents are devastated. Of course we have the gospel and the wonderful truths of a resurrection and eternal life and that families can be united forever. But none of that takes away the mortal missing of her warm little body sitting next to you, of her musical voice when she sees you at the door and sings, “Grandma, come in and see my room.”

Until our last night talk around the fire pit, we hadn’t mentioned Rachel because we didn’t know how. What do you say to a parent who has lost a child? We asked her parents and they told us. “Tell us you’ve been thinking of us. Don’t ask how we’re doing. How do you answer that question?”

They told us how hard it was the day Dwight and I took them to the cemetery and we picked out a plot of ground for her grave. They told us how every day something reminds them of her and that she is gone. They said how important it was to talk about her. To remember her. To recall all those little details that keep her real to them.

Some of us said how losing Rachel made us want to be better, to act better toward each other, to be better parents, to improve. Losing her caused me to want to cherish time, real time that ticks away a day and is filled with opportunities. Losing her made me want to cherish relationships, too, so much so that I become impatient when I see callousness or thoughtlessness in my family and I have to stop and check myself before I say something I would regret.

At 11:30, after family prayers, we went inside for quesadillas and a cup of warm cocoa with marshmellows before going to bed.

It was a lovely way to end a week at the beach.


  1. A lovely story, Rene. I know you miss your grand daughter but you do have your faith to carry you through and a warm loving family to help.

    I keep hearing about Rocky Point but have never been there. Your story makes me want to visit.
    Barbara Butler

  2. There is something so healing about the ocean. The granduer, the consistancy of the waves hitting the beach, the wonder of all the creatures inside it always remind me of a benevalent creator. He loves Rachel too. I am so glad that you were all able to be there together and to heal. Marcia E.

  3. Thank you for sharing these tender truths..and a piece of your heart, Rene. I remember how I felt when my little cousin (he was more like a little brother) lost his life in an irrigation ditch at the tender age of 18 months. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  4. This is beautiful, Rene. My heart aches for your family.

  5. Your writing is impressive!
    For some reason I left my computer open to your blog...perhaps just ruminating on the perceptual depth of your insights. In trying to find my daughter's scriptures (as I visit her here in Utah) I came across a book written by her roommate's parents called One So Precious Among Us. It's the story of the loss of their Rachel in a pool accident. The simple stories told by them and friends and loved ones gives eternal purpose to her short eleven years.

    As I read her story, my mind still thought of you and your family...and the fact that my computer was still open to your blog. Now I know why I had to wait to post a comment. Here is my message of comfort: With your writing skill I know your tender Rachel will never be forgotten.
    Patti Hulet

  6. Patti, thank you for your timely comments. I actually found the book on Amazon and ordered it. You made my day!

  7. Beautiful words, Rene. Thank you. And, what a thoughtful comment by your friend, Patti.

    If you're looking for more reading material, consider "Lycidas" (lyric poem by John Milton). It's a labor to get throug, but it contains all the anger at the loss and hope for restoration that comes with a too-early death.

    It was written to be a comfort to the mother of one of Milton's fellow students who was lost at sea, hence the references to the "watery grave." It also addresses the problem of fame (memory)of the child.

    Here are a few lines. (It's not a poem that condenses well.)

    "Yet once more, O ye Laurels . . .
    Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year. . .
    Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear,
    Compels me to disturb your season due:
    For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime,
    He must not float upon his watery bier
    Unwept, and welter to the parching wind
    Without the meed of some melodious tear.
    . . .

    Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep
    Clos'd o're the head of your lov'd Lycidas? . . .
    And every flower that sad embroidery wears:
    Bid Amaranthus all his beauty shed,
    And daffodiles fill their cups with tears,
    to strew the Larueat Herse where Lycid lies.
    . . .
    Weep no more, woeful shepherds, weep no more,
    For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
    Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor.
    So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed,
    And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
    And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore,
    Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
    So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
    Through the dear might of him that walk'd the waves.

    It's online here: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/lycidas/

    Thanks for posting. We're thinking of you.

    Much love,

  8. Thank you for this blog. You wrote from your heart to ours. I am sorry for you and your families loss and am thankful for the Eternities.

  9. Sally, how on earth you came up with this poem floors me! But it's perfect and though I come to Milton with what feels to be an uneducated eye, I do love the poem. Thank you.