There was this girl that would show up at our house all the time when I was a young kid growing up in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Her name was Crystal Whitely.

She was always welcome in our home. A friend of my sister Heather, and three years younger, the two were always tooling around. They were in the same class and Crystal lived right across the alley from us. Both her parents and mine still live in the same space all these years later.

That’s the way it is down there. People raise their families, work their jobs, live their lives, and grow together in small communities.

My remembrance of Crystal is that she was a fairly quiet person. But man, do I remember she and my sister hanging out quite a bit through the years.

As they do, times changed. Crystal got married and separated, and was raising her three children in Joplin, Mo., when the May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado hit.

On that evening, she was at home with her 3 children, Shante (10), Trentan (6) and Keana (4). She had no basement to take shelter in, so they huddled together. The tornado ripped Shante and Trentan from her arms.

Shante died during the tornado and Trentan sustained a traumatic brain injury and died the next day. Crystal was severly injured and has had several surgeries to remove debris from her wounded body.

In addition to losing her two children, she and Keana lost everything including the clothes off of their backs.

Baxter Springs Helping Crystal Whitely – Joplin Tornado facebook fan page

The winds, tore.

The days and weeks that followed were filled with surgeries. Fractured ribs. Collapsed lung. Six days in the hospital. More surgeries, one that took out a piece of wood the size of your pinky. Then more surgeries.

And then, the darkness.

By July, things appeared to be hitting Crystal hard, as noted by her facebook posts:

Whomever came up with the phrase “time heals everything” never lost a child!

I miss the way your face lights up when u see me, the sparkle in your eyes when I smile at you, the warmth of your touch. I miss my babies 🙁

I would luv to have a day that i dont have a dr.’s appt or anything that has to do w the tornado … my depression gtn worse n my stress goin up…bout to my breaking point :{

Benefits from friends starting coming together, and her story was told in the local newspaper, The Joplin Globe: Mother of storm victims getting by ‘day by day’

Time wore on. Aug. 22 would have been the first day of school. Shante would have started fifth grade; Trentan in first. That was also the three-month anniversary of the tornado.

When you lose the ones you love, numbers are seared into your soul.

And, in an event like this, it brings a clarity most of us don’t have the ability to understand:

Be happy with what you have and be thankful not to take people for granted. Do you want people to disappear in your life and the last thing they remember is you being childish?

Crystal gets it. Do you?

Do I?

This is a terrible story. There are many, many more from Joplin like it.

So why did I title this post, “Hope?”

Her friends have given a tremendous outpouring of love and affection to Crystal and her daughter. They set up fund-raisers, organized fun things to do to help her cope (she loves football and came to K.C. to see a game recently) and let her know, consistently and faithfully, she is loved.

And on Oct. 19, Crystal found out she was the recipient of a new house from the ABC show Extreme Makeover Home Edition. After returning home from a trip to Disney World, she saw her new home yesterday.

Hope is powerful. Use it.

“The best way out is always through.”Robert Frost


2 thoughts on “Hope

  1. Jells

    Very touching post. I cried reading it. I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child, let alone two. Thank God she is blessed by so many to help her carry on.


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