Positive Featured Inspirational Story - September 30, 2006 to October 28, 2006
The Kansas wind was howling; it was hot, humid, and downright miserable. Still, folks were out in force planting and pruning. Some worked as tears rolled down their cheeks, while others stared into the distance remembering loved ones and times past. On the day before Memorial Day, Elmwood Cemetery was exploding with vibrant flower arrangements, wreaths, and waving flags.
'Oh, my gosh! Dad - I just found Miss Ketch's grave!' As strange as it may sound, I was thrilled to happen upon her headstone.
'You sure did,' he replied. 'She's right there with her parents.'
It was a sad sight, indeed, as nothing adorned the three graves.
Miss Ketch was a petite little gal, always wearing a beautiful smile and had a perky personality. That is - until the bell rang! Once typing or shorthand class began she was all business; but, she inspired me to really push myself - something not all my teachers could pull off.
There were times I knew she doubted me. Not about my abilities, but because I disrupted class from time to time. One such occasion humiliated my mother to no end. Being a typical teen, I was fidgeting, talking, and not paying much attention. I was about to pass a note when I glanced up to see Miss Ketch as she strolled down the aisle; she was headed straight for me. I gulped.
'Kathy, are you all right this morning?' She didn't sound happy.
'Sure, I'm fine, Miss Ketch.' I tried to sound innocent.
She gave me a stern look. 'You seem to have trouble concentrating today. Did you have breakfast this morning?'
'Yes, I did.' What a relief to be able to answer yes! Many mornings I did not eat breakfast and it was a real bone of contention between me and Mother.
I thought the interrogation was going well - but then Miss Ketch wanted to know 'what' I had eaten for breakfast!
'Pizza,' I whispered under my breath.
'Did you say pizza? I cannot believe your mother would allow such a thing!' Without another word she spun around, marched to her desk, and sat down. From the back of the room I could see her dark eyes flashing. Darn, how I wished I had lied. Miss Ketch had known my mother for years, we were neighbors at one time and they worked together in the church. Mother's image had just been blown!
What if Miss Ketch says something to Mom? Catching Mom off-guard could mean my death sentence. As much as I dreaded it, I told Mother the entire story that evening
'Oh, Kathy! How could you?' Mom was nearly in tears. For the first time in my life, she was angry because I told the truth! I suppose 'eggs' would have been the perfect answer and everyone would have been happy!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Miss Ketch began and ended her career in the Augusta, Kansas school system. She taught my older brother, me, and my niece. In most families she taught several generations.
Her personal life had been bumpy. She'd been engaged to marry as a young woman. Tragically, her fiance was killed in an auto accident prior to the wedding. He was her one true love; and, to my knowledge she never dated again.
She was an only child, and I was told her father passed away at a fairly young age. Therefore, she taught, and lived with her aging Mother. Miss Ketch poured her heart and soul into her teaching.
When Miss Ketch retired after 42 years of teaching, she threw herself in community activities. She attended every high school reunion and seemed to never forget a name. Her work with the local Methodist church was unending. For such a tiny little lady, she had the energy of a workhorse.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The sight of her unadorned resting place on Memorial weekend was distressing. The Ketch family had no relatives in the area - of that I was sure. Regardless, she touched the lives of more people during her career than most folks do in a lifetime, and it was a positive touch. Why hadn't someone remembered her on this holiday weekend?
I looked at Dad and smiled. 'I guess there was a reason we bought more flowers than we needed. You better pop the lid of the trunk one more time - I have to get back to work.'
Gee, it felt good. Kneeling in front of her stone, I visited with Miss Ketch while arranging her flowers. One last tweak to a few stems and the mixed bouquet looked lovely. 'Perfect ...'
I stood up, brushed off my knees, and hustled to catch up with Dad.
'You know she was watching you, don't you?' he said with a content look on his aging face.
'I know, Dad.'
He thought for a moment as he started the car, then glanced my way with an all-knowing glint in his eye. 'Do you think it was an accident that you found her grave?'
'Oh, I know it wasn't an accident. Hey, you're pretty sharp, Dad'
He was immediately embarrassed with a compliment! 'Yeah, well by the time you've lived this long you know at least a couple of things.'
'It was no accident we bought too many flowers either. Remember how many times we counted exactly how many we'd need?' I reminded him.
'I sure do.'
'Dad, I'm so angry I don't know whether to stomp or scream! Miss Ketch didn't teach for the meager salary she earned - no dedicated teacher does. She taught because she loved it! And, watching her students excel brought her joy. Not to mention all she gave to the community in other ways - and not one person thought to put flowers on her grave!'
Looking at me seriously, Dad remarked, 'Don't go gettin' yourself all worked up. God works in mysterious ways; He knew how much you cared about her.' With a chuckle he continued, 'Guess He knew you were in town with extra flowers, too!'
Dad was right again. Driving down the brick, tree-lined street, my anger soon vanished and I realized how grateful I was for the opportunity I'd just been given.
After many years I was finally given the chance to do something for Miss Ketch, although it hardly compared with all she had done for me - she was such a major influence in my life. It was a special day and one I'll not forget.
In memory of Miss Winifred Marie Ketch
Written by Kathleene S. Baker
Kathy resides in Plano, Texas with husband Jerry, and two precious pups, Hank and Samantha. She enjoys writing, needlework, and fishing. As a freelancer, she has contributed to newspapers, anthologies, magazines, online ezines, Chicken Soup for the Soul and writes a weekly column entitled The Heart of Texas.