On Monday, May 12, 2008, we lost a precious little girl. Delaney Ketts was one of 4 members of my Brownie Girl Scout troop, and the daughter of close friends of ours. She and our daughter, Aliceon, we also very close. Her death was very sudden and tragic, and has left a hole in many of our hearts and lives. Her parents asked me to speak at the memorial service, and what follows is the speech I prepared. The grammar and spelling may not be perfect, but it's quite difficult to write coherently through such immense grief.
“Make new friends, and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. A circle is round and has no end; that’s how long I want to be your friend.” These are the words to a song integral to Girl Scouts, and words that I have held true since I was a scout years ago. People pass in and out of our lives, but those we remember, those who have an impact, are imprinted on our hearts forever.
I remember meeting Delaney at the first meeting she and Dianne came to. She was so open, so friendly. When I should have been the one putting her at ease, she was putting me at ease. She entered into the group seamlessly, making friends with all the girls she came in contact with. She ended that first meeting by giving me a hug, something she would do at the end of every meeting, and every other time we saw one another.
The first outing we had as a troop was a trip to Sea World for the cookie sales kick off. It was a special event open only to Girl Scouts, and was a dolphin show performed specially for us. It was ridiculously cold that night, and we didn’t realize that we would be sitting outside until that evening. Delaney and Aliceon were bundled up in coats, and I was trying to help keep them warm as we sat on cold metal benches to watch the show. Even though she was freezing, Delaney talked the whole time about how much she loved the dolphin show, and how excited she was to be there. Her enthusiasm helped make the evening a little less frigid and a lot more enjoyable.
Soon after that was our investiture, the ceremony that marks a girl’s beginning as a Girl Scout. In Jeff and Dianne’s family, scouting isn’t just an activity for one person, it’s a family affair. For our short investiture, Dianne’s parents, brother and sister in law were all present, as was Jeff. It was a very proud day for them, and you could see it all their faces, but especially Delaney’s. She was embarking on something that she knew meant a great deal to her father, as he is an Eagle Scout, the highest achievement a Boy Scout can receive, and also something that she knew would bring she and her mother even closer together than they already were.
Then came cookie sales. Oh, how the girls love cookie time! Standing at a booth in their uniforms, asking anyone and everyone if they would like to buy some cookies. All the girls were energetic in their sales, but there was something about the way Delaney was so politely passionate about it. She was asked very often what her favorite cookie was, to which she always replied, “Thin mints are the best cookies in the world! They’re so good that we had to buy a box for each member of our family because no one wants to share!” Who could say no to that sales tactic, right?
Delaney brought an indescribable energy to our group, and to my life. I knew as soon as she walked into the room, without seeing or hearing her. There was just something about her; you could feel her presence. There was a light that seemed to radiate from her, and a calm that was so far beyond her years. She knew exactly what to say to someone when they were sad, hurt or upset to make them feel better. And she could brighten any room simply by giving you a smile. Delaney was a very logical child, too, who wanted to fix the things that were wrong in this world.
When we finished cookie sales, our troop got together to discuss what we were going to do with the money we earned. Delaney’s first suggestion was to give it to charity. Of course, then we started talking about horseback riding, and trips to NASA, tea parties and other fun events. The one event that she kept coming back to was an overnight at the zoo. It seemed to speak to her love of animals, and was something that she thought would be a lot of fun to do as a group.
A week ago this past Wednesday, Dianne and I took all 4 of our kids to Winter Garden Pizza after scouts. It was something that we did periodically when the guys were out of town, because it gave us both adult time, and gave the kids time to spend together. On the way to dinner that night, because Mother’s Day was the following Sunday, and Aliceon and Heather were going to be spending Saturday evening at Jeff and Dianne’s, Aliceon and Delaney were in the back seat planning and scheming. The whole way to dinner, I listened to them talk about what they wanted to do, and how they were going to go about it. They had huge plans to get Dianne to take a nap so that they could set up a scavenger hunt for her for mother’s day. They wanted to make things for her, and write riddles. The only goal that Delaney had in mind was making her mom happy. That’s just how she was – she was more concerned with the feelings of others than with herself. It showed in our girl scout meetings, and in the times that we were together outside of meetings.
When I think of Delaney, I always see her upturned face smiling at me, eyes twinkling, freckles across her nose. I hear her saying, “Mmm, Miss Kerry…” and then continuing on with asking me about something or telling me some fact that she found interesting. Delaney was a very special person, and I was so fortunate to have her in my life, and in my troop, if only for a short time.
A Girl Scout troop becomes a family, and very quickly. We’ve only been together as a troop since December, but in that short time, the girls have come to care deeply for one another, as have we adults. Delaney was one quarter of a whole unit, and she will always be a member of troop 707. Her memory will always be with us, and the wisdom and love she brought to our little family will carry us through.
Delaney was a girl scout in every way. I would appreciate it if any and all girl scouts here present, both current and past, would stand and join me in reciting the girl scout promise in her memory.