Eaglie's Aviary

Sunday, September 07, 2003

The most beleaguered class of St. Ignatius. It's our claim to fame. In a few short years at St. Ignatius, I've seen almost as much death and tragedy as I've seen in my lifetime. Evan Clark, our classmate for one year, was killed over the summer after freshman year while mountain-climbing. I remember going to the "Do-It-Yourself" booksale and seeing the notice about that taped to each of the tables. Then, Ian Thorton, not in our class, but in our year-afters (class of '05), died in our school hallway. I saw him collapse. Only days after that was September 11th, 2001. Last year, Michael Monahan, our classmate for three years, died extremely suddenly and without warning. Now, our friend and classmate, Beth Buttita, has fallen to the illness she fought throughout her time at Ignatius.

Beth faced more trials than I can ever dream of. She did them with a smile, too. A wonderful, sweet, unforgettable smile. I've only known her from a service trip, though. Many others were closer, whether they were friends with her, in classes with her, or had crushes on her. She certainly was cute.

On the road to Kentucky, I did not know what her name was. I did not know her at all. Maybe I'd seen her once or twice, back when she had long hair. Curious, I listened in to a conversation between her, Fr. Ross, Mr. Lord, and other students. Throughout the conversation, I found out her name, and a whole lot more.

I found out all about the surgery and medication and treatment and also about all the pain and work she had to go through. I was floored. She was going on a service trip?!?! I'd be at home, with my ass in bed and a bowl of chicken soup somewhere within arm's length. Not preparing to face the wild and feral insects of Appalachia.

During the trip , she was funny, energetic, and sweet, to use just a few of the major ways to describe Beth. She joked, she prodded, and she played our silly little games we made up to stay occupied (namely, the "Name Game" or "Bowl"). She and I battled for the sink every night to brush teeth and whatnot. Of course, I let her win.

Dogs took to her sweet side as well. Usually, she was out by the van, helping the more grounded workers. There were several dogs on the site, though, and there was one very timid one. It was a white dog, and to pet it was a gift. Everyone struggled to touch the dog, and usually it ran in the opposite direction. The white dog came up to Beth by itself, though, and let her scratch behind his ears for minutes on end (a truly impossible feat for the rest of us). Then, there was Skip. The little Jack Russell slept in Beth's bed without so much as asking whether he could. So, the pup stayed overnight in our bunkroom several times (with Beth mostly, also Pat, though Pat had to make Skip stay with him).

Beth tried to help as much as she could on the worksite. I remember seeing Boone (our carpenter) giving her and a few of the other girls hammering lessons. I also particularly remember when I was working as "roof bitch" (the technical term, as coined by Chaz, for the person whose job is to get everything for the roofers), I had some trouble wielding the very large plywood boards the roofers needed. Beth tried all she could to help me. She and Ariane worked with me to hand the boards up to the roofers, and now, there's a roof on that house.

On our way home, Iggy on Tour stopped at Cracker Barrel, under the direction of Charlie. We stayed and ate and talked. I then asked the table I was sitting at (Pat, Charlie, Wyatt, and Beth), "Would you think I was really nerdy if I told you I was going to a comic book convention tomorrow?" Everyone said no. Beth actually said, "No! Comic books conventions are awesome!" She was sincere, as was everyone, it seems. I cannot tell you how awesome of a person can say that.

I came back to school, hoping to see all my buddies from the trip. I especially was hoping to see how Beth was doing (she hadn't been all that well on the trip). Last week Thursday (Aug. 28, 2003), I found out Beth was dying. I wrote a message to her on a copy of my travel journal and had it sent (along with several other notes from Harlan alums and Ignatians) to Beth. We waited.

Wednesday morning, I heard the intercom click, as it always seems to when tragedy strikes. The second it clicked, I knew. I never got the chance to see Beth after Harlan and talk to her in the halls of Ignatius. I never got to share photos or stories. I don't ever get to graduate with her. To Beth's friends and her family, Mr. and Mrs. Buttita, and Sara, I will never feel quite the loss you felt. But you're not alone in missing her. To Beth, and to all our classmates who have died, we miss you, and you are in our thoughts and prayers.



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