Tuesday, August 5, 2008

8/5/08 Rosemary Memory

Rosemary's family asked choir members to share their memories of Rosemary. It may seem odd to post it here, but part of my life in Maine is being far away from friends in Texas. It's been harder to grieve without choir family. Our group of "strummers and singers" really knows how to share both joy and sorrow. It's been good to reflect on the many gifts that God has given me, especially when it comes to amazing friends. Fortunately, he continues to bless me with good friends here in Maine and I haven't had to grieve alone. Here's what I wrote about Rosemary:

Rosemary Stagaman: future astronaut, brilliant scientist, gifted mathematician. Of the many times that Rosemary amazed me with her insightful questions and well-thought out strategies, my favorite time has to be the "counting pretzels" incident. It was March 2006 and the choir was on its annual Beaver's Bend campout. There were at least 20 of us—all ages and sizes. It was Saturday night and we were gathered in one of the duplex cabins for our traditional potluck dinner. It's always a time of great fellowship, storytelling, and laughter. We all eat our fill of too much good food, and then the grownups sit in chairs pushed up against the wall and the kids run around busying themselves with fun games and important conversations. Dr. Mari is usually demonstrating how to hang a spoon on your nose to a generation of youngsters who are new to the sport. That night was no different as soon-to-be four year olds Walter and Rosemary giggled with glee at their newfound talent. All that fun made them hungry and their dad gave them permission to have some pretzel sticks. Somehow, Rosemary ended up near me with her plateful of pretzel sticks and I, ever the elementary school math teacher, asked, "How many pretzels do you have Rosemary?" I immediately realized the error of my ways, for she had too many pretzels, spread out over her plate like a bunch of tossed Pick-Up Sticks, for any preschooler to count. Instead of taking back the question, I was preparing to help her be successful in her counting when she started on her own, "One, two, three, four." Wow. Nice counting, I thought to myself. What was even more impressive than already knowing how to count, was how advanced her fine motor skills were as her delicate index finger pointed to each pretzel stick once and only once. "Five, six, seven, eight," she continued, undeterred by the fact that some pretzel sticks were stacked on top of others. "Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen," she hadn't missed a single number. Then she looked at me because she knew there was another number but wasn't sure how to say it, so I joined in and said the next few numbers to which she carefully echoed, "fourteen, fifteen," and so we continued all the way to 22. I was amazed. She then proudly picked up one of the pretzel sticks and proceeded to eat it with that big wonderful Rosemary smile and that great twinkle in her eye.

Ever the glutton for punishment and still in awe of the fine motor skill, eye-hand coordination, and mathematical prowess I had just observed, I then asked, "Well Rosemary, if you had 22 pretzels, and you ate 1, how many do you have left?" And she started all over again, carefully counting each pretzel as if for the first time. "One, two" and so we counted, mostly Rosemary by herself but with an occasional prompt from me, all the way to 21. And immediately, she rewarded herself for her great accomplishment by eating another pretzel stick. At this point, I'm now amazed at her persistence and patience which are really well beyond the realm of any child her age that I've ever met. In fact, she has exceeded the talents of some children I know who are twice her age. I've got a lot of patience and now am curious as to just how long she can continue, so I continued, "You had 21 pretzels and now you've eaten one. How many pretzels do you have now?" And with great delight, she proceeded to count again. This process was repeated over and over and over again, each time ending with the act that is the beginning of the next round—eating another pretzel stick. We must have spent at least 15 minutes at this game and she never missed a pretzel or skipped a number and we said over 250 numbers. I truly know no child that young with that kind of attention span. As we neared the end of the pile and the counting got shorter, both Rosemary and I were laughing as much as counting because the whole game had been so much fun. She got down to the last pretzel and gobbled it up with great delight and I had the privilege of introducing her to the magic of the number zero. There was much cheering all around because by now, every grown up in the room was watching and listening with the same awe. We all knew we were witnessing an amazing young girl with extraordinary talents. As we all stared at each other in disbelief, Rosemary disappeared with her empty plate holding zero pretzels, only to reappear with that beautiful smile and a new handful of pretzels on her plate.

Rosemary, there are infinite angels in heaven and I feel certain you've already counted them all, at least once. Our consolation, for those of us who are missing you so terribly much here on earth, is knowing that there are now infinity-plus-one angels in heaven.

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