Part of my journey to Connersville takes me across State Road 52, which runs east/ west through farm country in the center of our state. This July I drove past lush fields of soybeans and corn. This September I drove past soybean fields shaved down to brown stubble, and fields of corn where dust swirled behind giant John Deer Harvesters. Different landscape than I’ve become used to for sure, no rolling hills, or stone cuts along the sides of the highways.
I moved to Bloomington fifty years ago, where the landscape, both culturally and geographically, couldn’t be more different than where I was born. Driving alone for two and one half hours gives you time to think about the past. My childhood was a complicated one. The roads my mind travels down on this journey back in time are fraught with pitfalls.
They take me to loss and gain, change and status quo, past, present, and future.
But it’s not just about my journey anymore. Now another layer has been added to the memories.
On September 2, 2014 my goddaughter, Eva Rae Christopher Smalley, died in a car crash when she swerved to miss an animal that had dashed in front of her. I pass most of the landmarks of her life on State Road 52.
The first one I come to is The Community Church where over three thousand people attended her visitation, then comes the Lion’s Club in New Palestine where the wedding reception was held when she married, Mark Smalley, the loves of each of their lives. On the east side of New Palestine is Bittner Road that leads to her mother’s and her brother’s homes. Next is the road to her home west of Fountaintown. It’s where she and Mark made a home for Hannah and Addison, the daughters she so adored. Not far down the road is the Fountaintown Christian Church where she and Mark were married. By this time my heart is so heavy, I can hardly breathe. I grip the steering wheel and keep going, knowing it’s going to become harder because I’m approaching the junction of State Road 52 and State Road 9, the road she died on. I look to the left where she would have turned, only enough to make sure I can proceed through the 4-way-stop safely.
I try to breathe again, feel my fingers growing numb as their grip tightens on the steering wheel. The next town is Morristown, where she grew up. The road to the cemetery where she was buried with an afghan I had made her is off to the north. And, finally, on the east side of Morristown is the road that leads to her childhood home. As I pass that turn off, my heart begins to lighten and I remember the happy times I spent there with her mother, Sharon, my friend since I was five-years-old, her father, Chris, and her brother Sean.
I’m not one to deify people once they’re gone. Eva was not perfect, didn’t claim to be, but she radiated love. She was quirky and funny, made us all laugh at the most inappropriate times. She found joy everywhere. One of her favorite things in life was making a toilet sparkle.
She lived life to the fullest. She loved us all so hard. People who loudly claim they are Christian today and try to legislate us according to their agendas, should take a page from Eva’s book. She didn’t go around talking about what she believed a Christian should be. She lived it. She read her Bible everyday and distilled it all down to one basic rule. It was golden.
Rebekah Riebsomer Spivey for the Poplar Grove Muse
Photos Courtesy of the Smalley Family & Kim Webb