In Memory

13 Aug

Yesterday we attended Xander’s memorial.  It was a nice service, with a hopeful message and a lot of sweet memories shared between friends and family.  When they asked people who knew Xander to come forward and share, I really wanted to.  But each time I tried to stand up, my stomach lurched in such a way that I was pretty sure my attempt at speech would end with me running toward the nearest exit.  See, I have this unfortunate fate of possessing a digestive tract that is ever so closely linked with my emotional state, and sometimes when things aren’t easy, my body starts rejecting anything I eat.  It’s really annoying (though my trainer commented on Saturday that I look like I’ve lost weight… I guess that could be considered a benefit).  Anyway, had I been able, I would have said something like this…

Xander was my son’s best friend.  In fact, in the full version of the picture [on display at the memorial], his arm is around my son.  His arm was always around Koren.

Koren’s not a huge kid, so we were amused when he immediately picked the biggest kid in class to be his best buddy  – we figured if they grew up together we’d never have to worry about anybody picking on him.

When Koren started going to preschool with Xander, we had just moved back from Alaska.  He didn’t know anybody and was used to being in the same class as his older sister – so drop-offs in this new environment were hard.  Even on days he didn’t cling to my leg as I dropped him off, he would still walk slowly and timidly into the noisy cafeteria.  Until he saw Xander.  If Xander was there in the mornings, he and I both knew it was going to be alright.  He’d climb into a seat next to his newfound friend and start chatting.  His teachers picked up on this pretty quickly.  Pretty soon, we’d open the door to hear, “Xander, Koren’s here!” or “Koren, Xander’s over here!”

They were quite a pair, and brought out the silliness in each other.  Sometimes they would get in trouble together.  Jens or I would walk in to pick Koren up in the afternoon, to be told immediately that Koren had been reprimanded.

“I had to separate him and Xander,” his teacher would say.  “They were hugging too much.”
“They were… what?”
“They were hugging too much when they were supposed to be paying attention.”
“Oh.   … Ok.”

I’ll be honest, it’s kind of hard to make your kid apologize for being a distraction when you really just want to laugh at the fact that his crime was being affectionate.

I was always in a hurry to pick up Koren and get out of there (you know, us and our busy lives), but I frequently got roadblocked by a certain four-year-old with outstretched arms:

“Kowen’s Mom, gimme a hug!”

How can you say no to that?  Sometimes he wouldn’t even ask, he’d just plow into me when I wasn’t looking 🙂

When Xander got moved to a different preschool class, we saw that it affected Koren.  Not anything super dramatic, but I noticed that he was a little more subdued when I picked him up.  He told me several times how much he missed being in class with Xander.  He soon found a new little friend to hang out with in class, but always referred to her as “my best friend in Ms. Teresa’s class.”  Best Friend (without qualifications) was a title still reserved for Xander.

Tonight Koren wanted to look at pictures of his birthday party.  For every picture he flipped through that had Xander in it, he would say, “That’s my friend Xander who’s in Heaven,” or “There’s Xander.  He’s a hero.”

I want Koren to remember the special bond he shared with this remarkable boy.  I wish they had been able to grow up together, but I think that somehow Xander will continue to be with Koren in the years to come.  And every time we look at his pictures, read his story, or release ladybugs in his honor, I hope he feels the warmth of that friendship and remembers the loving boy he was so privileged to know.


Precious Pie

12 Aug

This is cheap stuffed animal from Ikea that Koren latched onto as his favorite about a year ago, and it been an important part of his bedtime routine ever since.  It’s funny, you can never predict which stuffed animal a kid is going to pick as the #1.

As he told his Aana during a visit to Alaska this summer, “Did you know my puppy’s name is Precious Pie?  I named him Precious because he’s so precious to me. I have no idea why I named him Pie.”



Protected: A Lesson in Humanity

10 Aug

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09 Aug

Xander Kahle Vento

1/24/2008 – 8/9/2012





Fly to Heaven, sweet boy.  Your life was too short, but your suffering is over.  We will miss your hugs, your smile, and the joy you brought to those around you.



09 Aug

Last night we said goodbye to Koren’s favorite little friend.  For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with Xander on Facebook (ah facebook, the modern telephone), he’s the four-year-old boy you may have seen on the news, who came to the aid of a 3-year-old girl struggling in the water.

He did save her and she is fine.  However, he apparently did so by keeping himself submerged to lift her above the water, or perhaps was hanging on to the side of the pool and lost his grip and went under – there are several versions of the story out there right now and I’m not entirely sure on the details.  Regardless, by the time he was discovered and pulled from the water, he was unconscious and without a pulse.  An off-duty nurse performed CPR until an ambulance arrived.  The paramedics were eventually able to get a pulse started just before he was flown to Cook Children’s, but were not able to bring him back to consciousness.

There was some hope Tuesday, as he started trying to take breaths over the ventilator, but his body temperature was too low so the doctors sedated him to let him warm up before he started to fight.

Unfortunately, when they took him off the ventilator the next day, there was no fight in him.  His temperature had normalized but he made no attempts to breathe and his brain activity had diminished further.

Yesterday afternoon, I started getting this sinking feeling.  I was hoping it was just the weather.  We had received an outpouring of love and encouragement from friends/family, and were in the process of making an audio CD collection of greetings for Xander from people all over the world.  I should have been in a relatively hopeful frame of mind, and actually was until mid-afternoon.  But as the day progressed, I found myself unable to shake this heaviness/anxiety.  I was pretty much useless at work, waiting for the time we could go to the hospital.

On the way there, we received a message from Xander’s mother: he wasn’t going to make it.

We arrived at the hospital just after the family had been told that there was no hope for recovery.  The atmosphere was heavy and thick with emotion and it seemed absurd for us to be waiting in the family suite, reading stories to our healthy, vibrant children to keep them quiet and entertained while everyone around us was grieving over the loss of their own.

Koren was admitted into the ICU room to see him.  It seems to have meant a lot to Xander’s parents that their son could be with his best friend one last time.

They had a counselor available, whose job it is to prepare children for seeing their loved ones in the hospital.  Before he went in, she showed Koren a picture book and explained what all the tubes and wires were that he would see attached to Xander.  I think it helped.

Koren blew Xander lots of kisses while he was in the room, but didn’t feel very talkative.  He took in the scene, and answered when spoken to.  He asked questions about some of the patches or pieces of equipment that weren’t in the picture book.  Fortunately, Xander’s parents do have several recordings of Koren talking to his sweet friend.

We didn’t allow Kaelin to go in.  This upset her, but Kaelin has grasped the concept of “never” (in this lifetime), and Xander’s loss was already hitting her hard.  For an intensely emotional child with the tendency to get “stuck” on certain issues, we thought it would be in her best interest not to have a somewhat disturbing visual of him burned into her mind.  Regardless, she cried herself into exhaustion on the way home.

Both kids had questions on the way home, which we did our best to answer.  The counselor warned us that we would probably get a lot of repeated questions, and to be prepared to supply the same answers over and over again.  Death is a hard concept, and every kid grapples with it a bit differently.

Fortunately, the kids both slept well last night and woke up in a good frame of mind.  They’re in school/camp today in an attempt to provide them with the structure and normalcy they are used to, but I will be picking them up early if either of them starts to struggle with the day.

The family will keep Xander on the life support through today, but sometime in the next few days will have to make the difficult decision to disconnect it.

Xander’s dad seems to be strong in his faith, and even though this is heart-wrenching for him, I believe he’s getting some degree of peace from that.  The family tells me Xander’s mom is not religious.  Seeing her lying in the bed next to him, talking to her baby and stroking his arm … I don’t have words for that.  It cuts too deep.

I am grieving today for this precious boy who always had a smile and a hug for everyone, and for his family that is going through so much hurt right now.

Xander’s rescue was shown on the news, both here and nation-wide.  CNN, the New York Times, and local news in other states all picked up the story of the 4-year-old hero. The mother of the girl he saved came to the suite last night to express her gratitude and regret and empathy to the family.  It was clearly an extremely difficult thing for her do.

Last night as we were leaving the hospital, Koren said, “Xander was good to save that girl.  But I wish he had just called for help.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A fund was set up a few days ago by some friends of the family in order to help with medical bills, missed-work and other expenses – and soon, it appears, for funeral/memorial costs.  If you are inclined to provide this sweet family with assistance, please do so here:


Prayers for Xander

07 Aug

We learned that Koren’s best friend is in the hospital after a near-drowning incident.  He’s currently in a coma, but people in a coma have been known to hear what’s going on around them, so we asked Koren if he wanted to make some messages for Xander that could be played in his ear.

After praying, he decided it was time to tell Xander a story about Dinosaurs.  He tells me that he and Xander used to pretend to be dinosaurs on the playground – he would be the T-Rex and Xander would be the “Spiky Dinosaur.”

Is there anything else you want to tell Xander?

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Posted in Friends, Koren, Religion, Videos


80’s Day at Summer Camp

03 Aug

I get really entertained by dressing my daughter in the high fashions of my elementary school days.

Side ponytail?  Check.

Scrunchy?  Check.

Neon colors?  Check.

Leggings?  Check.

Double-layered scrunched socks?  Check.

Large baggy shirt tied with an additional scrunchy?  Check.

If only I had some big hoop earrings and a headband.  Oh well…

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Posted in Kaelin, Memories, School


Tastes Like Chicken

01 Aug

Supposedly, 630,000 people are flocking to Chick-fil-a in support of free speech and traditional marriage today.  Based on the lines at the various locations, I’m guessing that’s a pretty fair estimate.

A lot of vitriolic misinformation has been spread about Chick-fil-a recently, so while I understand the sentiment, I can’t help but wonder…

630,000 patrons go to a fast food restaurant.  I’m guessing most of them are families, but for the sake of being conservative, let’s estimate that each patron purchases only $10 in food.

That’s $6.3 million.  On chicken sandwiches.

On the other side of the issue, let’s imagine that the same number of people are currently participating in the Chick-fil-a boycott, and expressing their opinions by purchasing sandwiches at McDonald’s to make their point.  So, let’s say another $6.3 million in burgers gets spent at some point this week.

$12.6 million on sandwiches.  To prove a point or express an opinion.

While I’m sympathetic to making your views heard, let me offer something else to consider while you’re standing in line for that sandwich or burger.

  • $12.6 million could buy a cow for each of 25,200 impoverished, malnourished families – which would provide both nutrition and a sustainable way to earn money.
  • $12.6 million could provide 252,000 children in underfunded districts with school supplies for a year.
  • $12.6 million could sponsor 7,500 children in 3rd world nations for five years.
  • $12.6 million could put 175 students through 4 years of college at Texas A&M.
  • $12.6 million could plant 12,600,000 trees.
  • $12.6 million could open 42 new animal shelters.
  • $12.6 million could buy 6,300,000 children’s books for libraries and reading programs in need.
  • $12.6 million could purchase 378,000 first aid kits, 3,024,000 blankets, and 1,260,000 surgical scissors to help volunteer doctors provide communities in some of the hardest-hit regions (Haiti, Pakistan) with basic and emergency health care, essential supplies, and other forms of humanitarian relief.
  • $12.6 million could buy personal care items and toys for 252,000 families seeking refuge at women’s shelters across the country.
  • $12.6 million could provide 420 deep water wells, bringing clean water to up to 1,260,000 people in Kenya.

Or… it could buy sandwiches.

Just saying.

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