Albert Pike tragedy brings heartbreak

Story by Allison Fahrni, Entertainment Editor

To the child who has to stand on the tips of her toes to peer over the small casket’s edge, her best friend is just sleeping.

“Look,” she half mumbles, words thick with curiosity, “she’s just sleeping.”

Half a dozen people in mourning turned to face the wide-eyed, red-headed child who is now speaking louder, more out of fear.

“Mommy, why is she still asleep?” Her words resonate through the tears, the forced laughs, the silent stares. “She’s missing her party.”

A mother with tearful eyes grabs her child’s hand and leads her away, slightly embarrassed. Slightly in awe of her daughter’s innocence.

They turn their backs to the golden-haired child who lies, almost peacefully, in her “forever bed.” Her bruises show through the thick makeup the undertakers had used on her, screaming at everyone who passes by, “Hey! I’m gone now from the pain that once was.”

I step up to Kylee, consider brushing my hand against hers, but I don’t want to feel her now. Or rather, what I know I won’t feel when I do. I decided to simply stare and smile down at her, and think back to when she was still with us.

With me.

My mom grabs my shoulders firmly, wraps her arm around my waist and whispers, “She’s an angel.”

Then the tears hit me.

It’s hard to be in the same room as a casket that isn’t the size you expect it to be; someone her size wouldn’t need anything bigger. The thought makes me turn my head away for a split second. And when I look back, I see it.

Tattered brown fur. Shining black eyes. A threaded smile. A small stuffed monkey was staring back up at her face. We are home, he says, and I’m right here with you.

Tears stumbled from my eyes, crashed into the floor. A few left stains that were mascara black, permanent reminders of the pain that was felt in the very places my feet touched the carpet.

I would never forget.

I would never ever forget that phone call.

The one that told us little Kylee was gone to us. To me.

We had been on a semi-vacation, weekend trip up into the mountains, and into the winding valley where Jasper, Ark., lay untouched by phone service. A mere 100 miles away from the flood at Albert Pike.

My best friend and I were settled into the backseat, iPods blaring away, muffling out most of the sound of the world around us. I remember hearing John Cooper scream at me through the earbuds when I heard my mom gasp.

I pulled my left earbud out and turned my music down. The eerie feeling that I did not want to hear, the reason why my mom looked so distraught and why my dad’s knuckles turned white against the steering wheel, settled over me.

On one of their many camping trips to Albert Pike, a terrible storm threatened a downpour with thunder. On June 11, 2010, Kylee and her grandmother took shelter in their car. They were trying to get away from the water that was flowing at speeds that could tip over trailers.

The next day, their car was nowhere to be found.

My own flood was now raging from me. A saltwater rain of depression. I regretted not keeping the watercolor she and I had created one sunny day on my back porch. I remember her rainbows and flowers, perfectly painted with a mash of primary colors.

I regretted not snapping just one more picture of her Halloween costume. She made a perfect wicked witch. A smile appeared briefly on my face. A smile just for her. But that special smile was buried with her when her body was six feet under.

But I knew where she really was.

She was taking a kitten snooze in heaven.

She did look like she was sleeping, after all.