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Erika

by Karen Garner.........................................

On Labor Day Weekend, 2009, I got the call from my nephew's wife. She told me to sit down. My sister's husband, my brother-in-law, has a sister who had three grown children, all married with children of their own. Her youngest child, a daughter, was once told she could never have children. On the same day as my daughter, only four years later, she gave birth to a baby girl named Erika. She and her husband enjoyed their only child very much. She was a miracle sent to them by God. I grew up with this woman and her brothers, we were all children together. So I was shocked and saddened when my nephew's wife told me that Erika died.

Erika and her boy friend and one or two other couples were out at night. She graduated high school in June, 2009 and had been accepted to a local community college. She planned to start in September, 2009. On this Friday night, at the start of Labor Day weekend, the group of young people were out walking, perhaps they were going to a party or coming from a party. The suburban neighborhood where they lived was, of course, very dark. The driver never saw them as he came down the street they were crossing. Erika was a tiny girl, petite and thin. The entire group of teens was struck by the car. Erika was hit first and died instantly. Two of the other children were badly injured, but lived. The others were slightly injured, I believe Erika's boy friend escaped injury. The man who was driving the car was not drunk or on drugs, he simply didn't see them in the dark. He was never charged with a crime.

I could not believe what my nephew's wife was telling me. A chill came over me as I looked at my own daughter's pictures. She was 22 at the time and had not lived with me for several years after her dad and I got divorced. But we are close. She and Erika shared that special day, their birthday, on August 6th. One 22, alive, and one 18, deceased.

We are Jewish, so we bury our deceased immediately. Erika died on a Friday and Saturday is our Sabbath. She was buried on Sunday. The family lives far from me so no one called me until Monday. They knew I would not be able to drive a long distance to the funeral and it all happened so fast. I have some health problems, so they thought it best to wait and then tell me after the funeral.

My niece by marriage talked to me for a long time on the phone. In my religion, we mourn after the funeral, it's called "sitting shiva". We visit the deceased person's relatives, express our condolences, and often bring food. My niece told me Erika's parents were sitting shiva until Wednesday night.

When we hung up I cried for a long time. Then I called my daughter and told her what had happened. We arranged to make a condolence call together. I drove to her dad's house. She drove the rest of the way. She bought a platter of vegetables or fruit, I cannot recall which because I'm crying as I write this. It's almost Labor Day Weekend and I know Erika's parents will be in agony. My sister has been crying since Erika died. Her mother is my sister's niece and she's very close to her.

We arrived after 6 P.M. and entered the townhouse. It was filled with people, family and friends, many of them very young -- Erika's friends and classmates from high school. My daughter and I hugged her mother and father and expressed our sympathy. The sad thing about funerals and condolence calls is that you see people you hardly ever see. Erika's mother's oldest brother and his wife were there, as well as their son. Her other brother was unable to be there that night, but his wife and one of their sons were there. My sister and her husband were there. Erika's grandmother, her mother's mom, had flown north from Florida. There were many more people there. We talked, cried, ate and drank and then the rabbi came and we went outside and had a service. No one could hold back tears. It was terribly sad.

On this Labor Day weekend, one year since Erika's death, I pray for her soul. My own daughter is 23 now, safe and happy and living out west with a new life, boy friend, and job. I'm happy most of the time, coping very well with my health problems and living on a fixed income. I know that Erika is in Heaven with my dear kitty Colours, playing with her. She's with her grandparents, my mom, my aunts and other relatives and friends who have passed away. She is missed dearly. Her parents will always cherish the wonderful memories they have of their only child. God accepted this precious angel. I weep and mourn and pray for her every day, even though in life I didn't see her very often. I feel a bond, because she was born on the same date as my only child, whom I had at the age of 39, just when I had all but given up hope of ever having a child. Just like Erika's mother. Rest in peace, darling, and know that your parents and your family and friends love you very much and think about you every day. Our hearts are with you. Someday, we will all be together again.

Comments would be appreciated by the author, Karen Garner



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