Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Learning to cope

Batesons try to go on without daughter, Krystal

June 24, 2004

For the Bateson family, the world changed forever on June 13. That's the day Krystal Bateson, 13-year-old daughter of Kenneth and Theresa Bateson and sister to David died unexpectedly while on a softball tournament trip in Winfield.

"It's tough, it's really tough," said Theresa Bateson. "We've always been a foursome. Now we're a threesome. She was the one that kept us going."

Even though the pain, the loss, is so great, Krystal's parents feel lucky for the time they had with her.

"We had 13 of the most wonderful years," said Theresa.

"It wasn't like we lost a baby," said Kenneth. "We knew all about Krystal.

"A lot of people in that situation say 'what if, what if, what if they wanted to be a doctor, what if they wanted to be a policeman,'" said Kenneth. "We don't feel like we had the what ifs. She knew what she wanted to do and she would have been successful at whatever she did."

Krystal was extremely active in a variety of areas -- 4-H, softball, volleyball, rabbit shows and was an honor roll student. She touched many lives and the Batesons are seeing that now even more.

They also know there are more tough times ahead.

"She had so many things she had her hands on, especially with her friends," said Theresa. "Her birthday (July 2) is coming up. I know that's going to be hard. Fourth of July was her favorite holiday. She looked forward to it every year.

"It's just so quiet around here," she said from the kitchen of the family's rural Baldwin home. "She and David aren't talking."

"They were best buds," said Kenneth.

That, of course, is a major factor as the family continues to cope with the shock of losing Krystal.

"It's hard to stay focused," said Theresa. "I feel so very lost. I have Ken, but David lost his very best friend."

Yes, it's been extremely hard on brother, too.

"I loved her very much," said David. "I want to see her again."

And, that's another constant.

"I keep thinking she's going to walk in the door," said Theresa.

Still no answers

Krystal and her teammates on the Lawrence Phenix softball team had played in a tournament on June 12. The team went out to dinner that night. The next day, Sunday, June 13, Krystal was unresponsive when Theresa tried to wake her. She was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The initial autopsy found nothing. At this point, the official word is she died from "unknown natural causes." Results from various tests that might help determine a cause won't be back for six to eight weeks. It remains a mystery.

"They've ruled out things, but it's still unknown," said Theresa. "That's the frustrating part right now, the not knowing. Krystal just wasn't sick a lot.

"Believe me, no one wants to know what is was more than we do," she said.

Solid support

Through the hard times already, the family has been surrounded by support. That has helped a lot, they said.

"The support has been overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming," said Theresa. "Our extended family -- the rabbit showers, 4-H, school, softball team, volleyball team -- everyone has been so helpful. We are even hearing from people we don't know. It's been phenomenal."

"We've had other teams that we haven't even played against that are sending cards," said Kenneth.

And, that support started early. A neighbor, Bill Scott, had mowed the Bateson's sizable yard before they got home from Winfield. There was plenty of family, too.

"I have a first cousin who lost his son last year. He was 19," said Theresa. "I'm very close to my cousins. I hurt so bad for them. I told people I wouldn't know what it would be like to lose a child. They were the first ones here."

There were several get-togethers with family, friends and teammates prior to services last week. There was a grief session for the team on Tuesday. Visitation was on Wednesday in Lawrence and attendance was astounding.

"At Warren-McElwain (the funeral home), we had a line out to Massachusetts Street for two-and-a-half hours," said Kenneth. "Some older person there asked what dignitary passed away in Lawrence because he'd missed it.

"The mortuary hadn't seen anything like it," he said.

It was a similar scene the next day in Baldwin for the funeral. First United Methodist Church was packed. The funeral procession was extremely long all the way to Lawrence.

Team returns to play

The Phenix team voted to continue playing, despite the loss of Krystal, their first baseman and cleanup hitter. They played in a tournament over the weekend in Lawrence. The team will carry Krystal's equipment with them the rest of the summer.

"We packed her bag. I couldn't go. I wasn't ready," said Theresa.

Kenneth wasn't sure, either, but there were others who wanted him to go.

"It was hard for me to go, but there were others who wanted to go," he said. "As soon as I got there, there were four media cameras. The team had had a meeting earlier to deal with some feelings. I always kept score for them and they wanted me to do that, so I did.

"They had the No. 2, her number, in flowers there," said Kenneth. "It was hard. I couldn't stay. I told them how much they meant to Krystal and how much they mean to us."

Trying to move on

It's a day at a time for the Batesons. They continue to cope the best they can with the loss. Besides Theresa's inability to focus, they all have their trouble.

"I'm trying to keep busy," said Kenneth. "My head is buzzing all the time."

There are memories, too, such as the last evening.

"Krystal didn't want to go to the team dinner. She was braiding hair, everyone's hair, and she did it all the way up to the team dinner," said Theresa. "She wanted to go to the Harry Potter movie. I told her we'd go next week."

But mostly, the Batesons will concentrate on themselves to get through the many hard times ahead.

"A lot of our focus will be on the family and David," said Theresa. "We're not going to drop off the edge of the earth.

"One day, we'll be with her again," she said.

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