Monday, November 10, 1997
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Baird and all family,
Please allow me this opportunity to share some of my remembrances of Angela. First, I want you all to know that I am full of bittersweet sorrow at her death. At the time of her death, I was close to her in a different way from any other of my relationships at the college. I see more and more how much of an example she was to everyone. Always ready to help if someone needed it, she was never intrusive, and was always sincere.
I remember her laughing, and her smile the day we met behind the commons at the picnic tables with Joe and Sara. That year she had a lot of crosses to bear, while she was trying to find where to fit in. Towards the middle of the year, a group of us went to the beach to read poetry. You may know some of the names of the people in that group. It was while Michelle Lefevre was visiting, and so she and her brother, Justin, were with us along with Jon Burnham, Bill Dunn, John Finley, Clara Mathie, and several others. We had a little fire going in some rocks, and a few little flashlights to read the poetry if it was not light enough. I can still see her sitting facing to the northeast saying she had one, and then reading "The Highwayman." At the end of the poem she sort of humbly backed away with a smile as if to say: "So, there is my poem, I hope you all liked it, and I didn't waste your time." She didn't. I did not find out until the last two weeks of that year how much being invited to the beach that night meant to her, when someone told me that she came home from the beach that night crying, saying that that was the group she wanted to be with. It was with some of that group that she was coming up to camp with Wednesday night.
When we left that night, she made sure that we put the fire out completely. She told me that her Dad was a safety instructor, and had taught her very well how to clean up fires when you left a campsite. She was very proud of you, Mr. Baird. At the beginning of this year, I spent some time talking to her at the President's reception and I remember her telling me that when you lived in Colorado, some guys used to come around hitting on your daughters, and they would straighten right out when you daughters said their Father was Sgt. Baird. She had a good laugh from that.
Several times through this year I took her rock climbing. At the cliff we went to, there are two bolts and a tree to safety the webbing. When we dropped the rope from the top, we always doubled it over so there was a lot of friction coming through the figure eight, but this made the rope very heavy to hold coming around behind the back. I told her all this, and that it might be easier to hold the rope without going around her back after she had the feel for it, but even so, she always held the rope around behind her back because that was the safest way, and the way her Dad would want her to, she said. For this same reason she wore the helmet every time, whether she was going up or coming down the cliff.
On the Wednesday morning, I took her climbing with three others. While the two of us were sitting at the bottom of the cliff waiting for the others to rappel down, we talked a little about our families. She told me how you find how much you love your family when you leave home, and that at first she was happy to be moving on to something new, but it did not take long for her to realize what she had in a sense left behind. When Joe and Sarah were engaged she said that she was happy, but the realization that she would be the oldest one at home hit her pretty quickly. She was really looking forward to finally having the whole family together again at the wedding on the East coast.
She loved you all very much; I don't need to tell you that I am sure, but I do nonetheless. We, and six others started up to the punchbowls a little after 6:00pm that night, she had a bag and a gallon of water, and her winter coat, because we were expecting it to be cold that night. Against her will, I took the water from her at the very beginning, because I only had one bag and both my hands were free. Right after I took it I made sure she was not going to be 'offended that I took it." She laughed, and said no, but that I did not have to. A little further up the trail, she offered to take some of Shannon Gaffney's things and put them in her bag, which she did. After about an hour of walking she and I were at the back of the group. I had offered several times to take her bag from her, but she had said no, she was able, and she had packed it, finally though, she relented and let me carry it for her, while she carried her coat. Before we started up the side of the last hill she offered to take it back, one last time, I said no I was okay. We got to the top of that last hill, she and I at the end of the group. I think that we had slowed for some reason and she turned toward me. It was dark and I didn't know that we were so close, she slipped, and I could not stop her. I ran down and found her next to the cliff on her back. I could not understand her, but I took her left hand and told her to squeeze it if she could hear me. She did, and I said let's pray together. I began the Hail Mary, and those were the first words she said. Shannon Gaffney then came down and took her hand and started praying, we put blankets over Angela to keep her warm, and sent someone running for the helicopter.
She was one tough lady. The whole time she prayed with us instead of crying out from the great pain she was in. It was the prayer that calmed her, and we were able to talk a bit after that. I told her about Lourdes, and when we prayed, I told her to imagine Our Lady in the grotto as she saw in the movie "Bernadette's Song." That morning she had told me that she loved that movie, and used to watch it over and over. She was having trouble getting out the whole prayers, and so I told her to pray in her heart, and we would pray out loud. We said the Act of Contrition and several Hail Holy Queens, Our Fathers and many Hail Marys. I was holding a shirt over the cut on her head, and when she got sleepy, I would touch her head with my thumb, and tell her "Angela, Angela, you have to stay awake." Every time I did she opened her eyes again, and stayed alert. I asked her if she wanted to have my Rosary, she nodded, and I gave it to her, putting the cross in her hand first and then the middle piece with the head of The Blessed Virgin. She took it and held it in her left hand all the way. A few times Angela asked for water, Shannon put it into a styrofoam cup and then I poured it into her mouth in little bits for her to swallow and then wet her lips with my finger.
At one point she asked us to pray to her Guardian Angel; Shannon and I did, while she listened and prayed in her heart I am sure. When she was sleepy, I asked what she wanted us to pray for, and she asked us to pray for aborted babies. I will never forget that reply; her love for the unborn and the aborted is one of the most beautiful things about Angela's life. We did pray for them, and then I asked her again, she responded that she wanted us to pray for her Dad. I asked her if it was because of the diabetes, she nodded and said he was also out of a job. So we prayed aloud for Mr. Baird. Several times that night, she said aloud that she wanted her Mom and Dad to be there. I remember telling her that they would come down to the hospital and see her as soon as they could.
By this time word had gotten to Campus, and Mark Kretschmer, John Finley, and several others had run up with First Aid and blankets, and the whole campus was in the chapel praying Novenas and Rosary upon Rosary. I remember asking her if she was happy and peaceful, and then realizing she wasn't happy and asking "Well, I know you're not happy, but are you at least peaceful?" She nodded her head. A little bit later, someone came up from the campus to Angela and said: "Angela, the whole campus is praying for you." She heard and just tipped her head back, as if her heart was pierced with Love. It was a little later that the helicopter came in and started circling to find a place to land. I remember feeling flooded with joy and I am pretty sure that I saw a smile on Angela's face. They dropped two paramedics in, and went back for more. They found their way down to us, and after I told Angela I would be right near, I let go and let the paramedics in. I showed one of the paramedics the way up to the helicopter a little later to bring down another four firemen that were coming in. When I got back, she had been asking for me, and I came and took her hand and let her know I was there. I had to leave for a bit while they put her on the litter, but I came back before they took her up the mountainside and was with her. After they got up to the landing zone they took the faceshield off, and I stayed with her until the helicopter came in. I said goodbye then, and she left.
I want all of you know that Angela was the strongest one of us down there, selfless in her prayers for the aborted babies, talking all the way to the hospital and even telling the nurses at the hospital a little of what had happened before she went into surgery. Any good that I was able to do for her was by the grace of God, and through the prayers of many. I know the Doctors at the hospital were moved at her strength when she came in, and were relieved when she received the last rites. Three of the firemen came to the memorial mass in the fire engine. I talked to them after, and she was so calm, they expected her to pull through; they needed some closure on Angela's death.
Her death has touched many people deeply. The day after her fall, Thursday, close to a hundred people from the college came down to the Abortion Clinic to say fifteen decades, and the chaplet of Divine Mercy; where Angela had been without fail for more than a month every Thursday. The memorial mass said for her was overflowing the seats, and the singing was some of the most beautiful there has ever been. The college has also become much more closely knit in dealing with her death; the people going to the abortion clinic will with renewed Love for the unborn and aborted.
I want you to know that I am very blessed to have known Angela, and even more, to have been there when she was dying. In one way it is a great loss, but in another, there is a lot of good to be found coming from her death. Thank you for all you have done for me, you and Angela are in my prayers.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
In the Love of Christ,
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