Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Grieving mother grateful for Chance

        Jan Carr was standing in a parking lot when she got the terrible news. Her miracle baby, her one-in-a-million Chance had been found dead, his arms wrapped around his best friend, Lincoln Schlueter. Rushing water trapped them in a culvert. Officials still don't know exactly how it happened.

        The boys, both 13, had been skating Saturday, “whooping it up,” Jan says. “Some people who saw them earlier said the kids were having a blast.”

        She takes some comfort from this.


        And from their last words to each other. “Love you, Mom.” And her words as he ran out the door were, “Be careful. I love you, too.”

        Not that she thought he was headed for danger.

        Nor did he. “I saw where they were skating. They had no clue. No signs. No barriers of any kind.” She says that's one of the things she's going to work on.

Earlier tragedy
               The other thing Jan and her husband, David, have promised themselves is that they will not let this destroy their marriage. They know something about stress.

        David awaits a kidney and pancreas transplant, so sick he couldn't go with Jan Saturday night to that parking lot at Park 50 TechneCenter southeast of Milford. Jan's twin brother died in an automobile accident when she was 19. “It was awful. But the good thing is you know that someday you really can say his name without crying.”

        She looks for the good thing. She really does.

        “A remarkable person,” says Eileen Murphy, principal at Summerside Elementary School where Jan teaches fourth grade. Eileen waited with Jan, “holding on to the idea that it won't be the worst.”

        But then, about 4:15 on Sunday morning, a man asked the families of Lincoln Schlueter and David Chance Carr to come with him for “an update.” They trailed through a building to a parking lot. The man cleared his throat. “Can everybody hear me?” he asked.

        Then he told them.

A miracle
               “You just can't believe this could happen to Jan,” Eileen says. “Chance was a terrific, funny kid. The light of her life, the light in her eyes.”

        A miracle.

        After years of trying to have a child, including some help from fertility specialists, the Carrs finally gave up. “Then I just got relaxed and got pregnant,” she says, laughing a little.

        She worries about her parents. Her father was superintendent of schools in Paducah, Ky., when a shooting spree left three children dead and five wounded. “Very hard. And now Chance's death brings back all the feelings they had when my brother died.”

        She worries about David. Of course.

        And she worries about the Search and Rescue Team. “They were the kindest, most caring people.” Jan is thinking maybe she could help them. Later on.

        “Maybe I could volunteer to be with a family. When something happens to you, I think maybe you know best how to help others.”

        That is what this anguished mother says to me. Thick voice. Tears off and on. She is not in denial. She knows what has happened to this boy of hers. The calls from Chance's classmates have helped, she says. Funny stories. And tears. More tears. Shared grief. Her fourth-graders have made cards. The casserole patrol has visited.

        “Love is a very healing thing,” Jan says.

        A miracle, you might say.

        E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8393.

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