Memorial benches to honor fallen Girl ScoutOctober 15, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — The sun set on Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jasper, soundtracked by the clatter of plastic bottle caps, the chatter of Girl Scouts and church bells.
Several local Girl Scout troops gathered in the church’s yard Monday evening to sort, wash and weigh 400 pounds of recycled plastic lids destined to become memorial benches for their fellow scout, Isabelle Meyer, an 11-year-old who was killed in June when a tree inexplicably fell on her at the Girl Scouts’ Camp Koch in Cannelton.
“It’s just so, so tough still,” said Cynthia Meyer, Isabelle’s grandmother and guardian.
Isabelle’s sisters — Alana Meyer, 8, and Chloe Peters, 7 — and their scout troops joined Isabelle’s troop to clean and sort the lids. They were in charge of weighing the lids once the older scouts sorted and washed them.
Two of Isabelle’s close friends, Sarah Buechler, 12, and Kyra Phillips, 11 — who are fellow members of Isabelle’s troop, Troop 670 — were there to help clean the lids. The two were at camp with Isabelle when she was killed.
Kyra’s mom and Troop 670 co-leader Angie Phillips said the last few months have been hard on the girls as they’ve worked through the trauma and grief of losing their friend. It’s been a few months, but Kyra still panics when there’s a storm or when she hears an ambulance or emergency siren, Angie said, and there are still moments when the loss of their friend is brought to the front of their young minds.
While washing the lids, both girls nodded when asked if they missed Isabelle. They also nodded when asked if they liked the idea of memorial benches.
“I really think she didn’t deserve to die,” Sarah said. “This is a good way to memorialize her.”
As the scouts and their leaders cleaned and sorted the lids laughter and chatter accompanied the work, as did stories of Isabelle.
Cynthia remembered how much Isabelle loved to read.
Angie recalled how Isabelle was quiet, just watching and taking in every detail before she jumped into the action. Once she decided to participate though, Angie said, she could socialize for hours.
Jayme Buechler, a Troop 670 co-leader and Sarah’s mom, told a story about the troop’s recent trip to a rock climbing wall. When they first arrived, Jayme said, Isabelle wanted nothing to do with the towering climbing wall. But then she climbed just a few feet off the ground. Then a few more. Then, she climbed to the top and rang the bell. After that, there was no stopping her, and she climbed to the top several more times, hitting the bell each time.
“That’s the perfect parallel to her Girl Scout journey,” Jayme said. “Somewhere along the way, she broke out of her shell. She grew a lot.”
Isabelle joined the Girl Scouts in first grade and was in for five years before the accident that took her life. During those five years, she touched many lives, which lead a committee of Girl Scout leaders from the Perry County, Southern Dubois and Northern Dubois service units and the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana council to collaborate on a memorial for her.
After much discussion, Jayme said, they settled on two benches — one for Camp Koch and one for Camp Carnes in Jasper where Troop 670 holds day camp. Each bench takes 200 pounds of plastic lids and $300. The funds for the two benches came from the sales of a memorial patch for Isabelle. The multicolored patch depicts a dragonfly with the words “Isabelle with Love.”
The dragonfly has become a symbol of Isabelle in the months since her death, and on Monday, several members of Troop 670 wore the dragonfly charm necklaces they got in her memory. The necklaces include a dragonfly and a charm with the words “with brave wings she flies” engraved on it.
The symbol rose out of a story grief counselors sent Jayme and Angie to share with the troop after Isabelle’s death. In the story, a group of water bugs float beneath the surface wondering what lies above. One by one, they venture onto a lilypad, each promising to return to tell the others what’s above. When it’s finally the narrator’s turn to climb onto the lilypad, she heads up. Upon reaching her destination, she transforms into a dragonfly and becomes part of a beautiful world beyond her imagination. Eager to share the new world with her friends, the narrator flies to the surface of the water, but she is unable to venture beneath. The dragonfly realizes her only choice is to sit on the lilypad and wait for her friends to arrive so she can share the beautiful world with them.
After Jayme and Angie shared the story with the girls, they started seeing dragonflies everywhere, including one sitting in the garden outside Cynthia’s house. A connection quickly formed between the insect and Isabelle’s memory, and it’s brought comfort to the adults and children who knew her.
“When you see a dragonfly, you think of Isabelle and know she’s watching over us,” Jayme said.
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