At the time eleven years felt like an eternity. After all, I was only 13 so 11 years was most of my life time. I do remember thinking about that at the funeral: Eventually will I forget all of this? Will I forget him?
However, the remembering tends to be clearer after eleven years.
Eleven years ago today Sgt. Bob Kimberling was killed in the line of duty as a highway patrolman. Eleven years. Last year reflected on this event as well.
It has been a little different for me this year though. Most of you know that Brent and I moved back home this summer. For those of you that don't know though, we bought the house that Bob and his wife Kelly used to own before moving. I have had several people ask me things like, "Is it/was it difficult to move in because of the emotional connection to the house and the memories it would stir up?" But I think Kelly said it best after visiting one afternoon, "They are all happy memories here."
This past week we discovered we have two hot water heaters. One is underneath our house in a crawl space. This heater was leaking water and we had to shut it off, which left us with hot water only in one end of the house. The bathroom we normally use is currently not receiving hot water, which means we are having to shower in the other, smaller bathroom. Why do I tell you this? Because every time I use that bathroom I think of Bob. And I am happy.
I think of him walking into the mudroom in his uniform, and slipping back into the little bathroom to wash up and change into his "regular clothes." I think of his life, and not of October 6th.
Many other memories have come crashing to mind unexpectedly since we purchased the house. As Brent and I moved our bed into the master bedroom I instantly recalled getting spanked by Bob in that same room. As I folded towels and put them in the closet in the bathroom I remember countless happy pre-bedtime baths with his daughters when we were little. When we were trying to figure out how to use the attic fan, my dad took the styrofoam cover off the slatted opening, and he immediately called mom and I over and pointed out the custom-Bob-made hooks that held it in place. Bob's ingenuity never ran dry. And just two days ago when mom [yes, my mom], Brent, and Beck had to crawl under the house to check out the leaking water heater, I remembered the time that Bob gave the four of us girls our own flashlights and we got to crawl under the house with him. Going on an adventure with Bob, or helping him work, was always a treat.
So no, it's not sad. Being in the house is one of the best ways to remember Bob. And I know he would be proud of Brent and me for purchasing it and working on it, and making it our home now.
It wouldn't be fair if I said there weren't also moments of sadness. I wish he could come and have a cup of coffee at the kitchen table with me. I wish he could explain to Brent how he put new belts on the attic fan when needed. I wish he could see the new carpet we laid and laugh about the old, green carpet we tore up.
When I was watering our new grass in the front yard yesterday, I thought of the story that the picture above represents. The picture at the top is obviously of Bob, with his genuine smile and hospitality in his eyes. However, the "medal" to the left of the picture is its own story. It is a medal that I made for Bob when I was probably 5, after he played a vital role in capturing an escaped convict from a local prison. The whole town knew of the escape and was buzzing. Bob and Dad were called out and so Mom, Kali and I walked across the street to the brick house on the corner. The four of us girls played in the front yard while Mom and Kelly kept tabs on what was happening from the front porch. Eventually we found out that Bob had found the man, and the four of us girls shouted in joy! I wanted to make Bob a medal...because after all he certainly deserved one. I found some purple yarn and asked mom for some tin foil, and in my young handwriting drew a picture that represented the story in my innocent mind: Bob is standing next to a bush, under which the escaped man is laying on top of his bright orange jumpsuit, trying to avoid being seen.
From the time I gave it to him until Kelly passed it on the my dad, it hung proudly from Bob's dresser mirror.
I think of what the writer Sharon Dubiago once said, "My mother is a poem I'll never be able to write."
Though I could write memories and heartache, I can't capture it all. But I think that is okay too.
On October 6th, 1999, Bob was killed. I would be lying if I said I never asked, why. However, I don't believe that what happened that day was the active wrath of God: I don't believe God took Bob that day, but I do believe He welcomed him.
And now I am making peace in living with the "remembering."
The Lord gives and takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
And I believe that with Bob, the Lord mostly just gave.