By Matt Goldman
Staff Writer and Photographer
Fonda Powell's eyes speak volumes; more than any words ever could. They are a striking shade of light blue, but are softened from years of grieving. Her eyes have a distinctive type of sadness about them; one that could only be brought on by the loss of a child.
Powell remembers the night clearly. It was Nov. 20, 1993. Her daughter Angela Oakley - just 20 years old was married and had two young boys - recently bought a car with money she had earned from waiting tables.
"She was so proud of it because it was her first new car," Powell said.
Angela, planning on displaying her purchase was on her way to pick up some friends and then go "cruising" in Eminence. While driving on Mulberry road near the city limits Angela lost control of the car, slid off the road and hit a tree, killing her instantly.
"We still don't know exactly what happened. They wouldn't let me see the car," Powell said. "My one comfort is knowing that Angela didn't feel any pain."
It's now been fourteen years since the accident, but Powell's grief is still deep.
"[The grief] has literally made me sick. I have physical pain in my heart," she said.
As a way of coping with her sadness and to commemorate the life of her daughter, Powell and her family have adopted a unique holiday tradition. Not long after Angela's death, Powell received a handmade Christmas star as a gift. She was so touched by the present that she and her husband decided to display the star above their house in honor of Angela. It stands 15 feet above their roof and is often placed there on the anniversary of Angela's death.
"Sometimes we leave it up all year long," Powell said. "But Angela always loved the holidays."
Angela especially loved Thanksgiving. She loved it so much that weeks before she was killed, she requested that her mother make her Thanksgiving dinner even though it was still October. "She said 'mom I want Thanksgiving dinner now.'" She always had to have the biggest turkey we could find," Powell said.
Powell laughed off the request and told her she could wait until Thanksgiving, not knowing Angela would not be there in a matter of weeks. It remains one of Powell's largest regrets and has made her realize that sometimes it's ok to break the rules a bit.
"If your kids want to eat turkey in October, give them turkey in October. People need to love their kids," she said.
It is also Powell's memories of Angela and the Christmas traditions they once shared that helps her from day to day.
"She didn't know a stranger," Powell said. "She was always laughing and loved her babies. They were her life and she was so thrilled that she'd created these little boys."
Powell has a few other holiday mementos that she puts up every year, like a white beaded necklace that she hangs from her tree. It's a subtle decoration but one that carries with it a fond holiday tradition that she and Angela once shared.
"I bought it for her when she was 13 and she didn't really like the necklace and decided to hide it," Powell said. "I ended up finding it and as a joke I gave it to her the following Christmas, so she hid it a second time. So I found it, wrapped it up once again and gave it to her."
It was a long standing holiday joke for Powell and her daughter. "She is always with me in spirit," Powell said. "Through God's grace I have managed to stay close to her since her death."
For Powell, the message of the star remains a happy one, despite her personal grief.
"Always listen to your kids, love your kids and be safe at the holidays and cherish that family closeness, especially at this time of year."
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