Many years ago I taught Spin classes at the YMCA on Riverside Avenue. I became fast friends with a Naval Helicopter pilot, Kevin & his wife Beth, a Calculus teacher at Episcopal High School. After coming to the Wednesday morning 6am Spin classes for a while, Beth asked for modifications for the workout because she was newly pregnant. (I was also newly pregnant with my daughter Julia, but wasn’t yet sharing the news, as we had issues with infertility). One morning, Kevin & Beth told me they were being transferred to London. Life got busier for me as I was having my own babies, so unfortunately I lost touch with Kevin & Beth.
In 2006, I was a part time working mom of 3 pre-schoolers ages 3 & under. I worked every Saturday & Sunday night from 7 pm-7 am at St. Vincent’s. I joined a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) because they met on Monday mornings, and I saw it as free nursery care for my 3 babies. One Monday morning, as I was half-sleeping, half trying to engage with other moms at the meeting, I halfway noticed a mom sitting nearby with a special needs child. The child was in a modified stroller & her sounds were guttural. I didn’t want to draw attention or stare at the child.
We love to tell the story now, because that mom with the special needs child said I stood up & immediately she made the connection that I was the Spinning instructor that “tortured” her on Wednesday mornings. The mom with the special needs child was my friend Beth! Kevin had accepted a position at NAS Jax after fulfilling his commitment in London. Their daughter Clara had been born in England on February 5, 2004. Clara is my birthday buddy & is 10 days older than my daughter Julia. Clara had a seizure during childbirth, which left her uncommunicative & solely reliable on Beth, Kevin, their families & numerous caregivers to attend to all of her needs.
Very sadly, Clara passed away this past Sunday, May 3 at home surrounded by her very loving & active family – Kevin, Beth, Ian, Leo & Tessa. I wanted to weave a devotion about my relationship with the Rasch family because I love how God connected us.
With the passing of Clara, I have leaned on my relationship with God & have also leaned on people in this community. With a quick phone call to Emily, I was able to borrow candles that we use at RPC during our Christmas worship service to use at a vigil where we honored Clara’s 16 years with us on earth. Michael met me in the parking lot with the box of candles. It was so good to see him & have a quick conversation with him to check in on his family, while he asked about ours. As I was driving home from church with the candles, I received a call from Elizabeth who instinctively just knew that I needed to hear from a friend. I got to tell Elizabeth about Clara & the light she brought into our lives. Elizabeth & I had the chance to reminisce about her dad Bob & the very sweet connection that Bob & Sam shared. I also had the chance to reflect on Clara’s Hospice Peds palliative care experience with Betty, her caring & faithful advocate & how Percy took over my Spin classes at the YMCA when I was ready to stop the wheels from turning.
Even though we’re not currently connected physically, I’m taking comfort in the connections, friendships, & relationships that God makes possible when we don’t even realize it.
Written by Kristin Swiercek