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Continued: His words live on: Stay strong, stay tough

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 3, 2007 - 10:42 PM

Sometimes, worry wins. That's when she feels like she's drowning, too.

In her eyes, Peter rescued her from Kenya and brought her to the United States for a better life for their children.

She wonders who will rescue her from this?

"I don't know who will be my hero anymore," she said. There's no one left to turn to."

"Not the way I turned to him."

During the day, Helen draws strength from her children.

Justina, an A student who wants to be a pediatrician, has band performances. Andrew, 14, has football games. The younger children rush through the front door in their school uniforms. David, with Peter's mannerisms and energy, jumps around constantly, asking to play outside. Theresa brings home giggly friends.

Helen tries to laugh when she can. "Your dad would say, 'Come on, you hooligans!'" she tells them, trying to herd the family to the dinner table.

But now, when Justina, 17, asks to drive someplace after dark, or when the other children try to bargain about playtime, Helen is left to decide alone.

Peter's advice echoes through her head.

Stay strong, stay tough, she hears him. Say 'no' even if you know it's going to break somebody's heart.

Helen's brother, sister and niece, who came in from Kenya for the funeral, are staying as long as they can to help. Peter's siblings make frequent trips to town. Friends take Helen to Andrew's games.

She spends two mornings a week battling with the bills Peter used to handle. On the phone, arguing about discrepancies on a late bill, she refrains from telling what has happened.

"I don't want that 'poor lady excuse,'" she said.

But later, when the children have gone to bed and the house is still, the gravity sets in.

"I am afraid of sinking," she says. "If I stand still, I'm afraid I might go into the thought mode. ... I'm the one holding up the whole family."

* * *

On Peter's birthday, Oct. 12, Helen sent Justina to get eggs while she finished some paperwork. Then she opened a box of chocolate cake mix and started measuring. She slid the pan into the oven, kids licking the beaters, and made sure Justina knew her job was to take it out.

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