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Talking with the Angels

January 22, 2012


I was having breakfast at the Skillet Restaurant early one morning when I saw Ray Harris, a family friend for many years.  He is a carpenter and a master cabinet-maker.  One time in particular Ray’s handiwork became a ministry to our family.

My nephew David Kreswell Suits came into the world in October 1981, the fourth of eight children born to my sister Mamie and her husband, Dr. Steve Suits.  Kres was a twin.  The other child, William Haynsworth Suits, was stillborn.  Mamie knew immediately that something was wrong with Kres.  He screamed and shook uncontrollably.  Mamie could do little to console her baby boy. Several pediatricians examined Kres. An older physician suggested that Mamie and Steve take their infant son to a pediatric neurologist for an ultrasound. 

When the results of the scan were revealed, the doctor asked several questions:  “Do you have other children?”

“Yes,” answered Mamie, “three.”

“Are they all normal?”

“As normal as they can be,” replied Steve.

After a long pause, the physician advised, “Take this child to a facility.  Leave him. Try to forget that you ever had him.  Go home and take care of your other three children.”

Reluctant to hear more of his advice, Mamie escaped to the restroom.  She stared into the mirror and prayed.  When she returned moments later, she asserted, “Steve, it’s time to take our baby home.”

Mamie and Steve presented Kres to their three older children – Steven, age four, Burk, age three, and Neely, one-and-a-half. The children greeted their new little brother with love and joy. From that moment Mamie knew that Kres would be a part of their family as long as he lived.

Kres was diagnosed with hydranencephaly.  Quite simply, he had no brain, only a brain stem.  He had limited hearing. He had no sight and no motor abilities.  Though Kres lived for twelve years, he was profoundly retarded, and his body could not develop.  Caring for him was a constant challenge.

Mamie commented, “Each time I had another child, it was like having two newborn babies to care for.”

Many times people advised Steve and Mamie to find a place for Kres so that they could provide their other children with the attention they needed.  Mamie simply noted, “Kres was a part of our family.  He was God’s gift to all of us, and he made a profound impact on every one of us.”

I asked Mamie about any highpoints in the twelve years that she cared for Kres.  She explained that Kres could make no positive response. Every reaction was a cry or a scream except on very rare occasions.  In Mamie’s words, “Once in a while Kres had a peaceful angelic expression on his face and a very faint smile.  When that happened, I would tell my other children, ‘Kres is talking with the angels.’”

Mamie added, “Just before his twelfth birthday, I went in to check on him.  He had the biggest grin on his face.  It was as if the angels had told him a wonderful secret.”

Our parents had the custom of giving each of their forty-five grandchildren a very special present on their twelfth birthday.  When asked what they could give Kres, Mamie and Steve told them how Kres had been accustomed to sleeping in a water-bed.  His three younger brothers loved to bounce on the bed.  It had finally burst.  And so for Kres’ birthday, Mamie suggested a Kres-size bed. She wanted the bed to be countertop height so that she would not have to bend when tending to him.  Dad purchased some fine walnut lumber and asked Ray Harris to build it for Kres’ birthday.  The gift was to be ready sometime before Christmas 1993.

Two weeks after his twelfth birthday, November 8, 1993, Kres died.  Dad and I went to the home to be with the family.  Dad stayed with Mamie while I drove Steve to the hospital.  He wanted a physician friend to sign the death certificate.  I will never forget turning in the darkness toward Steve who was in the passenger’s seat cradling the body of his twelve-year-old son in his arms. I saw that rare smile on Kres’ face that Mamie had mentioned and thought, He’s talking with the angels. Steve and I both wept.

When Mamie found out that the bed had not yet been built, she asked Dad, “Could the lumber for the bed be used to make a coffin instead?”

Ray Harris stayed up all night long, fashioning a fine walnut casket for Kres.  My mother provided an antique quilt to line the casket.

Gathered around Kres’ grave, our thoughts turned to a twelve-year-old boy now made whole and talking with the angels.  That simple thought still brings a smile to my face.

Kirk H. Neely
© January 2012

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