|Caribbean Moon, 1987|
In 2009, I posted this comment on Facebook. I'm reminded of Kelly Presley again tonight as the Dodgers begin Game 7 of the World Series:
This is the time of the year I miss Kelly the most...the World Series and the start of the NBA season. He used to explicate every play for me, and, of course, tell me what the coaches and players should have done.
Shined On by His Grace
By Terri Elders
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life. --Psalm 121: 6, 7
After weeks of training in Belize, my Peace Corps group swore in on Sunday evening, November 1, l987. We feasted on rice-and-beans, waggled our hips to punta rock, and took a zillion photographs.
Finally my friend, Kelly, approached. “Come on, I’ll walk you home. I’ve got an early bus in the morning.”
We hugged everybody, wishing them good luck. I’d be working at the Council of Churches in the Mesopotamia neighborhood of Belize City, so I’d stay right in town. Most everybody else would move to rural areas. We’d joked about our jobs beginning on Monday, the Day of the Dead.
Though we’d been warned about muggers lurking in the shadows, Kelly insisted we didn’t need a cab.
“It’s just a few blocks, it’s still early, and we don’t look like tourists,” he claimed.
The harvest moon shimmered high over Caribbean Shores as we walked up Baymen Avenue toward our host homes. The air grew fragrant with frangipani, a welcome contrast to the odors emanating from the open sewers we’d recently passed.
Nonetheless, I grew uneasy as we passed a knot of what the locals called base boys, unemployed youth who gathered on corners to hassle passers-by for a shilling or two. I glimpsed a few glancing at us, then nudging one another.
As we neared a corner I heard quickening footsteps and two young men rushed up. One swung a bat at Kelly’s head. The other thumped something against my arm, then grabbed my shoulder bag and yanked. The strap twisted around my wrist, and I was jerked to the ground. As soon as my assailant could free the bag, the pair sprinted off toward the sea.
As I leaned over my friend, I realized that this was my darkest moment yet. Even as I wondered if either of us would survive, I realized the irony of the moment…just as we were about to begin realizing our dream of service, we’d been assaulted.
Kelly’s eyes were closed, but he breathed steadily. I noticed dark blotches on his shirt, and then realized that blood was spurting from my arm. I’d taken first aid so knew I had to stop the bleeding since an artery had been nicked.
“Lord, let me live long enough to get help,” I prayed, struggling to my feet. I ran several yards, shouting for help. Lights flickered on in surrounding homes, and people thundered down the wooden staircases.
“We’ve been attacked. I’ve been stabbed. Somebody please help me tear up my slip to make a tourniquet.”
While they ripped and wrapped, I stared up at the brilliant moon. Suddenly I no longer feared the outcome of the attack. Its light beamed down reassurance that the Lord would see and protect us. I felt convinced we would survive.
A police car arrived. “Please take us to the hospital,” I asked, “and let the Peace Corps director know we’re there.”
We survived. A stateside ambulance jet arrived to ferry us to Florida where I immediately underwent an emergency bypass operation. Eventually Kelly had plastic surgery to repair his forehead.
“It’s a miracle we didn’t die,” Kelly later remarked.
“The reassuring moonlight convinced me the Lord had other plans for us.”
Against all odds we both returned to Belize and successfully served our terms. Jointly we made a lasting impact on social services there. I believe we did the Lord proud.
When things look dark, I remember to repeat this prayer: Dear Lord, keep your light shining on me today. Keep me safe in both the sunlight and the moonlight and guide me to do your will.
RIP, Kelly Charles Presley
|Kelly's family remember him, St. Louis, 2008|