How Robbie loved the creek behind his grandparents' house! I was
always so thankful that a guardian angel watched over him and Laura!
The following is an article I wrote for the Southwest Kansas Faith and Family Newspaper.
This fall (2001) is the first time in more than 30 years that my family
has not been
involved in the educational field in some way. My daughter finished school
my husband retired from his position as the Director of Special Education
and I haven't taught school for more than 25 years now! But it shouldn't
that way--we should have had one more year, at least.
For this should have been the year that our son Robbie was a senior--a
of the first class to graduate from the new Dodge City high school. But
he won't be
among those who receive their diplomas next May. He died on March 15, 2000,
at the age of 16.
Those who knew Robbie realize that he overcame many obstacles in his young
he was born, he seemed to be a golden child--bright, adventurous, and gifted
happy disposition. His first seven years were so full of promise!
But an unseen cyst in his brain gradually destroyed so much of that promise.
symptoms were devastating--it seemed that almost overnight he went from
good student to one who was negative and obstinate. His grades plummeted
from A's to D's and F's. And no one could tell us why.
The first doctors and psychiatrists we consulted diagnosed him variously
or as having "oppositional defiant disorder." Some educators
even hinted that Hamp
and I were failures as parents.
It was only after Robbie began having multiple seizures, more than three
the first symptoms appeared, that any doctor thought to have him checked
by an MRI.
And even then, the diagnosis was wrong, for we were told that Robbie had
apparently suffered a stroke.
He was put on medication for the seizures, but the medicine didn't work.
to have multiple seizures on a regular basis. We went through another year
frustration and escalating behavioral problems before we decided to consult
doctors at the New York University Hospital.
In New York, another MRI was done, and it was finally determined that the
all the seizures, behavioral problems, and learning disorders stemmed from
a cyst in
his left temporal lobe. In December 1994, at the age of 11, Robbie underwent
major brain surgeries to remove the cyst---and, we hoped, to end the seizures
and the concomitant problems.
The surgery was both a success and a failure. The cyst was removed and
recovered his health, but all the problems remained and were even exacerbated!
Worst of all, his ability to read was totally destroyed by the surgery,
and he had to
start from scratch. His ability to re-learn was further complicated by
the fact that
his short-term memory had been so adversely affected by the surgery. He
not remember common words for things he encountered every day, and his
speech became disjointed and halting.
We praise God for all the teachers in the special education field who worked
Robbie over the next five years. Slowly and painstakingly, they helped
him to re-learn
the alphabet and all the other skills that had been destroyed by the brain
By the 10th grade, he was reading at the 7th grade level and had recovered
enough to be in several "regular" classes. He was especially
proud of the fact that
he was earning a "B" in a "regular" math class!
During all these years of difficulty, though, Robbie retained that wonderful
that was his trademark. And he seldom, if ever, complained about all the
he had to go through. He savored life and friends, and became attached
to all the
wonderful teachers who helped him make such good progress.
Of equal importance in Robbie's recovery were the love, support, and prayers
received from our church family at First Missionary. We were overwhelmed
many kindnesses they showed us while Robbie was away in New York. Jim Hossler,
our pastor, and his wife JoAnn were even able to visit Robbie in the hospital
after his final surgery, just a day or two before Christmas, 1994. Their
son Tim lives
in New York City and they had planned for months to visit him over the
Who but God knew that Robbie would also be there at that time and in great
of their love and support?
From that time until Robbie's untimely death in March 2000, Pastor Jim
friend and mentor. They met every week for a "Dr. Pepper date,"
and had many
long talks. Pastor Jim was instrumental in Robbie's spiritual and emotional
and it was with great joy that Hamp and I watched him baptize Robbie in
spring of 1997.
His death came suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep, and it was completely
devastating to us. We had thought that his fantastic progress over the
last year was
a promise that someday he would be completely whole again.
We now realize that last happy year was God's special gift to him--and
Robbie IS completely whole again now, in the loving arms of the Savior
loved and served. And we have the blessed assurance that we will see him
someday when God calls us home. Though we miss him every single day, we
thanks to God for lending him to us for those sixteen years. And we remember
and his courage and his love with gratitude and much pride.
Robbie's life demonstrates clearly God's wonderful love for all of us and
the promise that
He will be with us always, even in the midst of great sorrow and trial.
(Saralyn McAfee Smith, 10/17/01)
Pastor Jim Hossler, Robbie's friend and mentor