Cheryl Hughes: Broken Circle
My friend, Sue (Minton) Hawkins was killed in a traffic accident last Tuesday, and I have to wonder why. She was just forty-eight years of age, and her life had finally taken on the kind of direction and purpose that she had always wanted it to.
Sue married Woody Hawkins, a musician from Lebanon, Tennessee, six and a half years ago, and they had settled in that area. My daughter Nikki and I attended the wedding. My children grew up with her children, Nathan, Kevin and Andrew Woolen. Kevin was one of Nikki’s best friends, which meant Nikki spent time at Sue’s house, and Sue treated her like one of her own.
Sue was there to help when Carol Deweese and I organized the first swim team in Morgantown. That’s the Sue my oldest daughter, Natalie, remembers. The Sue I remember is the woman who believed in the rights of the disabled—her brother had Down’s Syndrome—and any activity or program that helped or encouraged children.
I lost touch with Sue after she left the Butler County area, but I will always remember the things she brought to my life while she was here. When Nikki was in the last semester of her senior year, we hit a rough patch. Basically, Nikki was angry with me for being her mother. Sue was there as a stand-in, someone whom Nikki felt she could trust, until Nik and I could work through our differences.
Sue had an intense side to her personality, but she was also the first to see humor in a situation. I loved listening to the stories she would tell about her children. My favorite was “Stop, Drop and Roll.” Kevin and Andrew were barely school age at the time, and they had seen the promotional ads on TV that had instructed children to “stop, drop and roll,” in the event that their clothing caught on fire. The message was picked up by the public school system, and soon every child, including Kevin and Andrew, knew exactly what to do if fire came anywhere near them.
One morning, unbeknownst to Sue, the two boys had drug a chair over to the stove where they placed a skillet onto a burner turned to high. They added a package of bacon, which quickly meant smoke and eventually fire. Sue was in another room of the house when she heard the boys rolling that way. She looked up just in time to see Kevin and Andrew stopping, dropping and rolling their way past her and right down the front porch steps, all the while reciting the mantra, “Stop! Drop! And Roll! Stop! Drop! And Roll!” The flames were contained to the skillet in the kitchen. Neither boy had any sign of burned clothing, but they had seen fire and quickly sprang into action.
At the visitation for Sue on Friday night, Andrew told us that on the day of the accident, he and his mother had met at a park in the Paducah area (where Andrew lives) in order for his mom to then follow him to the hospital where his wife had been admitted to have the couple’s second child. Sue wanted to be present for the birth of her grandchild. On the way, Sue was hit from the side by another driver. Andrew spent the next few hours between his wife’s room, where his son was coming into this world, and his mother’s room, where she was slipping away. She remained conscious long enough to ask Andrew to kiss her forehead, because she could no longer see him, and to call out, “River, I love you,” to her grandchild. I can’t imagine being Andrew. I can’t imagine being any one of her sons. They also lost their dad sometime in the past two years.
There were so many people at the visitation that Garey, Natalie, Sabria and I stood in line for almost two hours to get to talk to her husband and children. Woody remembered me from the wedding. “It was the beginning of the best six and a half years of my life,” he said. I could believe that. I hope only that God remembers that and all of the other good things Sue added to our lives. I pray that he sends a stand-in for her sons. A replacement won’t be possible. One doesn’t exist.