Lemoore, CA was quiet on the morning of Friday, September 13, 2013. A pall hung over the line of mourners waiting to enter South Valley Community Church. Morning sun highlighted silent tears that streamed down drawn cheeks. White tissues fluttered in the barely-there breeze, a stark contrast to the dark clothing of grief. Everyone wanted to be there to honor Melanie Pate, a 42 year old mother, who was loved by so many—no one wanted to be there to say goodbye to the vibrant young woman. It was too final, an end to her story, much too soon.
But, that’s where grief misleads us. Melanie’s story is not over. She leaves behind a handsome son to carry on her legacy. Karter is young, only 12 years old, but, as a talented pitcher on the Grizzlies, he is already ensconced in Melanie’s world of baseball. Melanie was an integral part of the Cal Ripkin League. Until two years ago, she served on the Board of Directors of Hanford Youth Baseball. As a parent volunteer, she served countless hours as scorekeeper. Friends describe Melanie as a “firecracker,” always on the go, always defending and encouraging the kids no matter which team they were on.
“She had such a love for the kids,” said Glenda Champlin of Hanford, state commissioner for Babe Ruth baseball. “She loved her son, but she loved every child equally when they were out on the ball field.”
Mike Caudillo, state commissioner for Central Valley Cal Ripkin, said Melanie volunteered as scorekeeper for tournaments around the Valley. “She was really good at it,” he said. “She liked doing it and everyone liked her. It was a natural for her.”
My cousin, Linda Sue Lawrence, Melanie’s mother and Karter’s grandma, will continue Melanie’s baseball journey with Karter. Maybe not as scorekeeper, but most certainly as a cheerleader for her favorite pitcher. May God grant Linda strength and courage. It’s not easy to carry on with a broken heart, but she will for Karter.
Yes, tears flowed in the church as a recording of Garth Brooks carried over the mourners who filled the sanctuary, including the balcony. We sobbed as the pastor mentioned the senseless murder of Melanie by her husband, Todd Pate. But, he encouraged us not to ask why. Why a marriage of 22 years ended in such tragedy. Why a husband, who had vowed to love and honor his wife, would kill her so mercilessly. Why a mother must be left bereft without her loving daughter. Why a young son is left without his mother, or his father, who is in custody pending trial. Sometimes it’s not for us to know, but just to be reassured that God has the answers, and we must turn to Him for comfort.
Grief makes us appear small, as we curl into ourselves in an unconscious act of protection. I wanted to enfold my cousin, Linda, in my arms and give her some small reserve of my strength. I wanted to encourage her, but what can you say? All we can do is offer love and prayers, and really, isn’t that the best gift of all?
I love you, Linda, and pray for you and Karter daily. Our Lord will sustain you.
To Those I Love and Those Who Loved Me
When I am gone, release me. Let me go
I have so many things to see and do.
You mustn’t tie yourself to me with tears, Be
happy, we had so many years.
I gave you my love and you can only guess
How much you gave to me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown
But now it’s time I traveled alone.
So grieve a while for me if grieve you must
Then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It’s only for a while that we must part
So bless those memories in your heart.
I won’t be far away for life goes on
So if you need me , call and I will come.
Though you can’t see or touch me, I’ll be near
with all my love around you soft and clear.
And then, when you must come this way alone,
I’ll greet you with a smile and “Welcome You