A mother’s story

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
?In all this cold and hollow world, no fount of deep strong, deathless

love, save that within a mother?s heart.? ?From Siege of Valencia



* * *



Donna Klose can tell you precisely when her world turned
upside-down.

It was 7 a.m., Oct. 6, when she answered the phone that rang at
her

rural Hillsboro home.



Her daughter, Brenda, was calling from Colorado Springs. She was

almost hysterical, but Brenda?s first words are seared on Donna?s

heart.



?I?m at the Quick Shop. I just called the police. Rhonda and Brian
are

dead.?



Rhonda was Donna?s 27-year-old daughter, Brian Whitney her
daughter?s

25-year-old husband.



As Donna would soon learn, they had been killed the night before
in a

fit of jealousy by Jason Tanner, 28, a man Rhonda had dated
briefly

while she and Brian were separated.



Police concluded Tanner shot the couple execution style with a

.357-caliber revolver, then turned the gun on himself.



A fourth person also died that horrible night: Rhonda was eight
months

pregnant at the time.



Neighbors told police later they heard shots, even screams, that

night. But no one called the police. Brenda discovered the grisly

scene when she stopped by the house that morning.



She also found one more thing that tore at Donna?s heart: Rhonda?s
two

sons, Tyler, now 5, and Devin, 3, who apparently had witnessed the

terrible act and were left alone in the house with the bodies of
their

parents the entire night.



Donna knew she needed to get to Colorado Springs as fast as she
could

for the sake of her two grown children who lived there, too, but

especially for her two traumatized grandsons.



She immediately and frantically called her husband, Mike, who was

working at Hillsboro Industries.



?He said he didn?t understand what I said to him, but he knew it
was

time to come home,? Donna recalled.



The Colorado Springs police called soon afterward to confirm the
bad

news. As soon as Mike came home, the Kloses took off for Colorado.

Tyler and Devin were heavy on their minds and hearts.



?My grandkids and I were always real close,? Donna said. ?I was
there

just two weeks before it happened.?



Driving as fast as they dared, they made it to Colorado Springs in

only seven hours and went immediately to the house of Donna?s son,

Keith, where the two young boys were now staying.



When they arrived, Devin was sleeping. When he awoke, he first hid

under a bunk bed in the corner of a bedroom.



?When he finally saw who it was, he came to me and wouldn?t let
go,?

she said.



Donna knew immediately what she had to do, what she wanted to do:
to

care for those two boys, not only through this immediate crisis,
but

forever.



* * *



?Mother is the name for God



in the lips and hearts



of children.? ?Thackeray



* * *



For the next four months, Donna and Mike tried to rebuild Tyler
and

Devin?s shattered world. With the help of Mike?s coworkers at

Hillsboro Industries and friends, they added a bedroom to their
house.



?We kept moving as fast as we could when we got here to make a
normal

life for them,? Donna said.



They also sought professional help for the boys. In the weeks that

followed, the couple did a lot of talking, a lot of listening, and
a

lot of loving.



Donna believes progress was made. She credits the play therapy the

boys received at Prairie View in Marion for bringing an end to the

nightmares they endured in the weeks following the tragedy.



As best as they could, the Kloses tried to answer the questions
the

boys asked about their parents and let them talk freely about what

they witnessed that terrible night.



?I always wanted to say, ?Let?s talk about something nicer,??
Donna

said. ?But they say you?re supposed to let kids get it out, or
when

they get older it will really hurt them.?



It wasn?t easy to listen.



?I?m the last person who wants to know more about what happened to

Rhonda,? she admitted. ?It?s like, ?I don?t want to know any
more.??



But Donna?s burden would only deepen.



In late February, she and Mike went to court to contest an effort
by

Brian?s parents, who live in New York, to take custody of Devin.



The Whitneys, who had declined any interest in caring for the boys
in

the days following the tragedy, were asking only for Devin. He was

Brian?s biological son and Tyler was not.



The case was complicated by a letter Rhonda signed at Brian?s
request

while the two were separated. The letter stipulated that Devin
should

be raised by the Whitneys if anything were to happen to them.



Donna said she and Mike tried to challenge the validity of the
letter

in court, and, in an effort to keep the boys together, even
offered to

let the Whitneys raise Tyler, too. But the Whitneys wanted only
Devin

and the judge eventually ruled in their favor.



?I couldn?t understand it,? Donna said. ?I told the judge, ?God,
they

lost their mom, their dad, a (unborn) sister they were all excited

about. And then they have to lose each other, too.??



The court ruled the Kloses could keep custody of both boys until
June

1. But when the boys learned of the decision to separate them, the

Kloses decided it would be better for all involved to expedite the

transition sooner than later.



The Whitneys picked up Devin and took him back with them to New
York

April 9.



* * *



?Is mighty, but a mother?s heart



is weak. And by its weakness



overcomes.? ?Lowell



* * *



Donna continues to work through the grief of losing her daughter

Rhonda.



?Mornings are my worst because I think about her before I go to
sleep,

and she?s the first thing on my mind when I wake up,? she said.



?Some mornings it?s like I don?t want to get up and do this, I
don?t

want to continue,? she added. ?I just don?t want to deal with
it?until

I hear that alarm clock and I know Tyler has to get to school and
I

have to get up and make him breakfast.?



Realizing the depth of his pain has helped her cope with hers.



?All three of my grandchildren (including Brenda?s young son) have

been through a tragedy,? she said. ?They have seen more evil than

we?re ever going to see in our lives.?



In addition to the death of her daughter, Donna helped bury her
father

recently and her mother has been diagnosed with a terminal
illness.



?Every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I think about what
those

kids went through, and it can get me going,? she said. ?I keep my
mind

concentrated on them and on Mike and his kids. I guess I don?t
give

myself a chance to totally lose it. What good would that do
anyway??



Others have helped her work through this time of crisis. At the
top of

her list is her husband.



?The minute we found out about it, and through all we?ve gone
through,

he?s been a rock,? Donna said. ?He stood right beside me, made
funeral

plans with me. It?s like I was numb and he would just keep me
going

through it.?



She also is grateful for the kindnesses shown to them by Mike?s

employers and coworkers at Hillsboro Industries.



The Kloses have also received gifts of food and prayer from people
in

the Ebenfeld Church, located near their home.



?There are a lot of good people in Hillsboro,? she said.



But the road is only beginning for the Kloses. Aside from dealing
with

their own sense of loss, they face numerous challenges as ?new?

parents.



Most of all, they want to maintain a bond with Devin, and help him

stay connected with Tyler as the two boys grow up in separate

households hundreds of miles away.



On a day-to-day basis, they also face the challenge of helping
Tyler

overcome learning disabilities as he begins his school career.



The responsibilities of parenting Tyler are myriad. Donna is still

adjusting to the change.



?I thought I was done raising children,? she said with a smile.
?It?s

kind of different. It?s like I know I?m going to be raising him
now,

and he?s going to be here forever. He loves it here, but in a lot
of

ways he?s still with his mom.?



And she, in a lot of ways, is still with her daughter.



?I feel like a piece of me is gone,? Donna said. ?But in a way,
this

has made me a smarter mom. My kids would call me and they?d need

stuff, and I?d always run to give it to them. But no matter what I
did

for them, I found out I can?t protect them from everything in this

world.



?When something like this happens, you think the best,? she added.

?You know your child was good, you know she?s in a good place, and
you

know she?s watching over you. You make it a positive thing.?



She envisions a positive outcome for her grandsons, too.



?I want them to grow up to be happy, content, safe, secure, and to

have good values,? she said. ?I want them to grow up knowing that
not

everything in the world is evil.?



And that includes guns. She said Tanner would have killed her
daughter

through any means available to him.



?I do not want my daughter?s death blamed on a gun,? she said. ?He

could have stabbed them, he could have burned the house down.
Nothing

could have saved my daughter.?



Except maybe one thing, she added: the willingness of neighbors
and

bystanders to g

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