A Message from Beyond?
A personal note from Deborah about her family
I’d like to share a little background about my parents and the key role they both played in our project, even though my mother lost her battle with primary liver cancer a week before we first visited.
John W. and Alice Gatchell were adventurers at heart, even though they, like many of their generation, carried a lot of very conservative “play-it-safe” values. My parents loved to travel. During my mother’s early college years, she traveled to Puerto Rico without a chaperone, something unheard of for young women in those days. In 1946, she attended Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, without an invitation. She simply walked in like she owned the place. During my early childhood, every summer we took a road trip to California. My mother taught Spanish in St. Louis, and during Spring Break, she would often take groups of students to Mexico, to visit Mexico City, the pyramids, and spend some time on the beach in Ixtapa. My father took early retirement from his work as a physical scientist, and when I was eight years old, we moved to El Salvador where my mother taught English. Later we moved to Mexico where my mother taught math and my father taught science, returning to the States when I was fifteen.
My father loved to build things, something he learned from his own father, architect Harold Gatchell, who designed acoustics for Kiel Auditorium and the arches in the original Busch Stadium. One of their earliest summer projects together was a three-room traditional log home in Hillsboro. When I was growing up, my father took on a couple of projects rehabbing old homes. When my children were young, my parents re-designed and re-built the kitchen in my starter home, complete with customized cabinetry so that the sink would fit in the corner, making room for a dishwasher and added counter-space, an innovative solution in an eat-in kitchen barely larger than a postage stamp.
My mother was already bedridden when we found the cave on Ebay. She heard mention that we had found the place during my last two visits in her home in the Ozarks, but she never visited. She died on December 31st, 2003, a week before our first visit.
My father saw the cave with me during our due diligence. I wasn’t sure how he would react—whether he would like the place, or whether he would think we had lost our minds.
“Wow, if I were younger, I would take on a project like this,” he said, every bit as giddy as we were.
I wished for my mother’s approval, too, and while our attempts at financing were going very poorly, I found her sign. When my mother was alive, she could spot a four-leaf clover from fifty feet away. She had a knack for it, and loved collecting them. Flipping through the pages of a book in her house, quite commonly these pressed treasures of hers would pour out! I have never had that skill, but during a visit to the cave, it happened to me exactly like it used to happen to her. I saw it out of the corner of my eye—it stood out in a big patch of clovers a good distance away, and I felt myself drawn to it. There it was! A perfect four-leaf clover. Coincidence? Maybe, but I felt my mother smiling on me, telling me that I was on the right path.
My father continued his support and encouragement, until January 23rd, 2005, when he joined my mother, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Influences from both of them remain.