Autumn Mae Steele , Eulogy Jan.17th,2015 -on Jan.6th2015 Autumn Mae Steele was shot & killed by Burlington Iowa Police Officer Jesse Hill when he shot her dog Sammy,Sammy survived. 1 bullet hit Sammy 2nd bullet killed Autumn
“They whom we love and lost are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are.” St John Chrystom
For those who don't know me I'm Jim....Amy's husband and Gina's brother-in-law. When Gina asked me to give the Eulogy this afternoon I thought it an honor. Autumn was a very special young woman, and to be provided an opportunity to speak about her is a privilege I jumped at.
Autumn's Aunt Amy put together a photomontage and musical accompaniment that is absolutely beautiful, and that which I hope you've seen and listened. The photos clearly show Autumn's radiance and beauty, her eyes smiling as much as her face... Her beauty beyond description. The music represents those pieces that some of you remember her by, music that she loved, music that inspired her, music that we, at some time, shared with her.... She had an ear for music and Her taste ran the gamut...from the Beatles to Willie Nelson, from Evenesence to Louis Armstrong...and Anouk to Yo-Yo-Man.... Taken together, her photos and her music, one cannot help but be drawn to her....
Like the season, Autumn radiated beauty and color...the splash of gold, rust, green, and red that envelop your senses when you marvel at nature's artistry are the colors that framed her beauty....her warmth reminds you of that first fire you huddled around when the season's brisk air surrounded you....her smile and sparkling eyes show as bright as the stars and moon on a crisp Autumn's night.... her laughter and joy echo off the still air, and her love of life swirls around you like the winds of a changing season....
Autumn was a wonderful young woman whose glowing beauty, radiating smile, and loving presence was a blessing to us all.
She was imaginative, inquisitive, funny, and able to capture you in her enthusiasm with an electrical charge.
She had wisdom beyond her years, her perspectives insightful..... An example is a story Gina told me when Autumn left the nest to start her career in Atlanta...upon Autumn's departure Gina started to build her stable of animals...cats, dogs, chickens...you name it... It took Autumn to point out to Gina that her 'obsessive compulsive' animal collection effort was an emotional response to Autumn leaving the house... something that Gina initially denied but came to accept as truth... and it took Autumn to show her...and telling her "you need to get a grip mom..."
But she didn't like the word 'NO.' For some reason that word created a boundary with Autumn that was not easily breached. Whether it was those two letters, the shortness of the word, the manner in which it was spoken, the finality of the word....who knows, but Mark and Gina became very conscious that that word was forbidden when talking to Autumn. So for years Mark and Gina sought a word or another manner that would convey the same message, didn't incite the 'NO' reaction, yet got the point across.... At the end of the day it became less of a confrontation and more it became a running family joke, resulting in much laughter...
She was funny and joyful....she found humor in the simplest of things, quick to smile, quick to capture the moment.... learning to drive was a humorous event, as Mark taught her to drive a stick shift by having her drive up and down Bobcat Hill, Ft Benning, GA. The humor she found in that endeavor and the fun she enjoyed with Mark...well, you can't replicate those times or memories....
She was a talented, intelligent leader, a honor student,she was a member of her High School's Principal Advisory Board, and the Drum Major for the High School Band. She exuded leadership, didn't shy away from challenges, took her responsibilities seriously, discharging her duties with intelligence, common sense, and most importantly, enjoyment. Although she was unassuming and preferred to 'fly under the radar,' her presence alone wouldn't allow her do that....
She was a very successful Dental Technician and Hygienist, gaining recognition and praise for her work ethic, professionalism, and determination. She was advancing faster in her field than most college graduates, gaining a reputation within her field, and collecting certifications at a rapid rate, yet she still sought new challenges and responsibilities. The Dentists who she worked for recognized the uniqueness of Autumn's skills and would facilitate her learning by teaching her 'Dental procedures' that went far beyond her work description.
She was imaginative and an inventor, having developed a personalized retainer for young kids/adults to wear that included putting images of their school mascots, team logos, or anything the child wanted on that retainer....she removed the stigma of having a retainer, allowing the kids who wore them to 'show off' their device rather than hiding that device....pretty insightful if you ask me...
She was a musician who practiced religiously, perfecting her mechanics and style. A little known fact outside of the Waters-Colbert family was her constant warm-up routine where she used 'Danny Boy' to get her 'groove on...' She loved her music, dancing freely, expressing herself humorously, and always enjoying the rhythm.
She was a Patriot, proud of her heritage, proud of her country, proud to be an American. Proud of her Granddad Klinner's military service, his accomplishments, his dedication.
She was a wonderful, caring mother whose desire to be the best mother was an enduring effort that she never gave up on... She loved her two sons, Kai and Gunner, with a passion that requires no explanation....
And she loved her family, both immediate and extended.....she loved her cousins, aunts, and uncles, she adored and loved her Grandma Klinner and Granddad Klinner, she loved her sister and she loved her brother, she loved Mark, she loved her father, she loved her mother, and she had love for Gabriel.... All of us benefited from her love, all of us grew from her love, and all of us will forever have her love....
What Autumn meant to us is just as important as who Autumn was.... Each of us have a moment, a period of time, an event, a situation that we will forever hang onto as each of us, in our own way, remember Autumn.
For me, it was the time I spent 3 hours with her driving from Atlanta to Grandma Klinner's house one Thanksgiving weekend, many years ago... To this day I value those 3 hours because those 3 hours are mine.... I had Autumn to myself.....we talked about nothing, but talked about everything....we laughed....and we sang...
And I am sure we each have a similar story.
But I want to share with you the words of her her sister Kaci and her cousins Holly and Jillian as they share with us all a little bit about Autumn and what Autumn meant to them. And I am sure we can relate to their comments in our own way...
"...this was the girl who taught me my favorite card game, the girl I stayed up entirely too late with every summer/Christmas/thanksgiving at Grandma's house, the one who nearly got us all in trouble throwing grapes at the ceiling fan (I think. Anyway, there were grapes and a ceiling fan and something about that situation was her fault, I'm pretty sure),.... Autumn , you hit me hard, girl. I will miss you.
Kaci (Autumn was Kaci's 'Sissy')
"Wow, what a beautiful soul... No words can explain the terrible loss in my family right now. She has taught me a lot of what I know today. She wanted nothing more than for me to get my life together& which I have been
working really hard at.... I'll never see her again, i'll never get to call and see how she is doing. BUT I know she is looking over and protecting me, my family, & her 2 little boys..
I find it difficult to put into words the many memories I have of my cousin, Autumn. There are just so many of them and so much to write. A lot of those memories aren't just of Autumn, but of all of our cousins, Aunts and Uncles, too. I can remember the times spent at our grandparent's house for Thanksgiving dinners; Christmas dinners followed by the opening of gifts and stockings; Easter-egg hunts while dressed in our best and finally, Summer break. Those were the days of exploring in the woods, fishing and wading in the creek, or the plain 'ol mischief that comes with being kids and eventually driving each other crazy, including our grandparents! We all had that one cousin that we just "clicked" with, but we were all still very close.
Needless to say, I have spent the past week-and-a half reminiscing all things Autumn. From taking adventurous road trips to visit family in another state, to bonfires at her house; or the way we could be a bit overzealous with our use of fireworks on the Fourth of July and New Years. It's a wonder somebody didn't get hurt, but we had fun. One memory in particular is whenever I hear the song "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by Tears For Fears. Immediately, I am taken back to happier times when she and I would sing that together, every time we would hear it playing. That song is even more special to me now, and always will be.
She had a passion and dedication for playing music and I loved that. After all, it was Autumn who sparked my interest in learning to play an instrument. She gave me that push and inspiration to join the band at my school, where I learned of a special kind of love and appreciation for music, like she did. It may not seem like much to anyone else, but I am grateful to her for that and really should have thanked her.
Autumn, you are deeply loved and missed, more than you will ever know. May your lively spirit live on in your precious sons, Kai and Gunner, forever.
-See you on the other side, my dear cousin."
If there is a lesson for all of us to heed..... it is what these beautiful young ladies emphasized in their own way and in their own words.......value who you have, value what you have, but most importantly value the time we spend together, expend the energy to stay together, and most importantly, let's get together.....
A poem by William Blake, called "To Autumn"....This one stanza stood out as an apt description of our beloved Autumn....
I would like to close my comments with a stanza from a poem by William Blake, called "To Autumn," and finally with a Traditional Native American Prayer. The stanza is a further description of Autumn as we see and remember her, and the prayer is from Autumn to us....
"The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning,
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head."
And her prayer to us......
"I give you this one thought to keep
I am with you still - I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the sweet uplifting rush,
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone -
I am with you still in each new dawn."