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Memorial Dedication August 17, 1998

by Barbara Prentice

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for commemorating my son by your generous donations toward his scholarship fund, and by this eloquent memorial scheduled on what would have been his twenty second birthday. Thank you for showing your love and respect for Adam by spending your Sunday night here at the beach with us.

Memorial bench dedicated by Town of Barnstable on what would have been Adam's twenty second birthdayIs there another place on earth that would have meant more to him than meeting together in his memory here at Covell beach? And can’t you just see him over there in the lifeguard stand -- twirling his whistle and guarding the well-being of the many swimmers so seriously, as he always did, under the warmth of this great Cape Cod sun he’d loved so much?

This is the way I will always remember him; the beach, the ocean -- the sun, the surf -- it is so bittersweet for me now...

How ironic that such a responsible, well-rounded achiever -- someone whose greatest pleasure was in the satisfaction received by encouraging and motivating others -- would die so tragically, unecessarily, and under such hostile, suspicious circumstances; but it is true. When it was Adam's turn to ask for help, he was treated as a suspect, rather than a victim, and was not even given the proper medical treatment he so rightfully deserved. There is far more physical evidence to prove that Adam died as a result of foul play than by the “alcohol-related” speculations theorized by the University of Massachusetts campus police department (UMPD). For those of you who need updates on the investigation, I will be available after the dedication!

But we are here now to celebrate Adam in life, not death. I can do this best by sharing a few of the many blessings from him that the Lord has given to me since his death. These are precious gifts, and I truly don't know how I would have survived these last eleven months without them.


First, let me remind you all that, at this moment twenty two years ago, I was busy giving birth to my first child, whom I named Adam Gabriel Prentice, and who dared to make me suffer through twenty eight hours of labor. At 3:36 AM this approaching morning, I will experience my first year since Adam's birth of not celebrating his birthday with him.

Memorial group at bench dedicationYet, I will always have this memory of you all to cherish--Adam was always a giver more than a receiver, and what a memory he has given to me in seeing how much he was loved by your presence here now!

Words don't exist to explain the pain of surviving the first year without your child. Every day marks a new landmark. The first Christmas. The first snow. The first vacation...

Yet, this first year God has blessed me with a gift from Adam for every holiday I’ve had to endure without him. I’m going to highlight two of them now, but there are many, many more:

Christmas of 1997 Only three months since Adam's death; yet, I am expected to decorate the house, buy presents, hang stockings, cook. After all, I have a nine and eleven year old at home who lost their hero. Am I so selfish that I destroy their Chirstmas, as well?

...After spending a turbulent week prior to Christmas praying that I get through the holiday for the sake of my other children, I boldly asked the Lord to bless me with a gift from Adam indicating that he was all right. I had no other recourse, I simply couldn't go on without consolation. The onset of the investigation had begun. I had just learned that Adam had been handcuffed and mistreated by police themselves upon finding him at the scene. All, while he lay there at their feet impaled and bleeding. I was so remorseful that I hadn't been there for him. I believed that, had I been there, he would have lived.

Upon driving to my daily visit at Adam’s graveside the next day, I decided to stop off to buy a decorative cemetery log for his headstone. It was my Christmas present to him. What else could I give? Upon approaching his graveside, I noticed a splotch of color. A brilliant white, it seemed, but it had snowed lightly the night before, and I figured it must be the dusting of the snow.

Upon getting out of the car, I couldn't believe my eyes... A few weeks after Adam's death, I had planted three chrysanthemums in front of his headstone: two orange on each side and a purple in the middle.

As I looked down at the stubble remaining from the plants, right in the middle of the dried up purple plant I saw that the brilliant white I'd noticed upon driving up was one perfectly formed white flower, in tact with green leaves and a green stem, blossoming out of the dead purple plant! As a gardener, I knew the odds of this happening, and I realized that this was my Christmas gift from Adam, and the answer to my prayer.

It was such a miracle that I wanted to leave it for my daily visits, but I knew that I was supposed to pick it, so I brought it home. Two days later, when I went back for my daily visit, the maintenance crew at the cemetery were completing their winter prep work, and had weeded and clipped back all the plants at each headstone. Had I left it, I would have lost my Christmas gift.

The flower stayed in bloom at home for a week -- the week of Christmas. Upon dying, over the process of three to four days, it changed back to purple.

I pressed it and preserved it in cellophane, and bookmarked my Bible with it at Psalm 64, a verse that has given me strength as I search for the truth while battling the University that has kept it from me. Please read it whenever you face trial and tribulation. It will give you the comfort and strength to go on.

Mother’s Day/1998 Such a tough, tough day. I prayed for comfort on this, my first Mother's Day without Adam, because he always bought the most thoughtful cards. The last card he had sent me for Mother's Day of 1997 was a parallel of how he, as my child, was like my garden. It was called, "I Am My Mother's Garden," and it described the various nurturing stages of a son to his mother as a seed to the gardener. I always saved his cards, and it is a cherished gift for me now.

...On this first approaching Mother's Day without Adam, it was already after ten p.m. the evening before -- how could I get through Mother's Day without Adam's card? For the first time, I went downstairs to the cellar and began looking through Adam’s boxes from Amherst. Neatly stacked from the floor to the ceiling, there were six of them. I had gone through the things he'd left home already, but never those boxes that were packed by UMASS staff and waiting for us when we drove to his dorm to get his things. They were just to depressing...

After going through each box over the next few hours, I reached the last box. Touching his things, smelling his clothes, reading his handwriting -- it was so painful, but I needed to be close to him.

For some reason I sat down on the cellar steps with the last of his notebooks from the last box. It appeared to be a book that he used for homework to work out math equations. It was filled with variations of various math problems. It was dated simply, "Spring 1997," meaning that it had been from the semester before his death, not of his death.

On the very last page of this notebook, his handwriting caught my eye -- actual writing, not numbers and equations. Here it is, the very notebook I am holding up to you now.

I am going to close after sharing this note with you. Because, you see, it was addressed to me. It was a draft of the Mother's Day note he'd sent to me the year before, "Spring 1997." Evidently he decided to revise it, because the hand-written version I'd actually received in the gardening card said something entirely different.

As I began to read this card, it was exactly two minutes passed midnight of my first mother's day without Adam, yet here were his words addressed to me for mother's day the preceding year on mother's day of this year.

As I read it to you, please envision his beautiful smile upon us from his favorite lifeguard tower before us:

Thank you for being yourself; you are the best mother in the world. You've proven this to me time after time. Being away from home I realized that you have given me everything I need to succeed. Thank you for everything that you've done for me over the years. I wish I could come home to celebrate this day with you... But, before you know it, I'll be back. Happy Mother's Day! Love, Adam

I praise God for these blessings; and for the strength to share them with you with the eloquence and dignity my son’s life exemplified.

Lines from Mother's Day gardening card:

I am my mother's garden,
I am her legacy-
And I hope today
She feels the love
Reflected back from me.

The verse above was taken from Adam's last Mother's Day card May 1997

Adam and his mother at home shortly before his death

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