HUNDREDS OF TIMES during the past 30 years, I’ve passed North Grove Cemetery along busy Minnesota Highway 3 between Faribault and Northfield.
Not once have I stopped to explore this final resting place sheltered by trees butting a small white church. You know how it is. If you pass something often enough, you fail to notice it after awhile.
That is until recently, when a flash of red in a corner of the cemetery caught my eye. My husband, whose vision is far superior to mine, managed to read the words—WE LOVE u BRittnEY—on the handcrafted sign cornered with four red hearts.
There was no time to tour the graveyard that day. But on a recent Saturday, we stopped.
In this small Norwegian cemetery, I found an abundance of markers for Oles and Sophias who died long ago. But my focus was on the corner memorial created for 20-year-old Brittney Rose Landsverk. Five years have passed already since her April 2, 2010, tragic death flooded my community of Faribault with grief.
Brittney drowned after the young man she was dating drove a car in which she was a passenger into the nearby Cannon River. Mitchell Bongers would later admit to drinking, plead guilty to criminal vehicular homicide and receive a four-year prison sentence.
I cannot fathom the agony Ron and Kelly Landsverk endured while searchers looked for their daughter’s body in the twisting Cannon River. Eighty-seven days of wondering and waiting. And then, a life-time of grief at the loss of their only child.
I don’t know the Landsverk family. But I am a mother and a part of the Faribault community. That is enough to connect me to them. When a child dies in such a senseless and tragic way, the impact is far-reaching. It touches all of us.
Visiting Brittney’s memorial, I got a sense of who she was, what she loved, how much she was loved/is still loved and missed.
She was a young woman who apparently liked Cheetos and Mountain Dew, Hello Kitty and butterflies.
Born in South Korea, Brittney Rose arrived in her parents’ arms on May 1, 1990. She is named after her paternal grandmother, Rose. Brittney’s memorial is located next to Rose and husband Kenneth’s gravesite.
Roses grace the memorial. The flowers seem symbolic beyond honoring Brittney Rose’s name. To me they also represent that adage, “Stop and smell the roses.” We never know when the roses may cease to bloom, when their sweet scent will merely linger in the memory of our days.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling