Diane Diekman
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Cody Lee Paver
Cody, Aunt Diane, Mom Kayo -- January 1996
cody.jpg
--Diane Diekman photo collection

It's been ten years since our family lost its youngest member. Cody would be 15 and in high school today. The Pavers left San Diego, Cody's brothers graduated from high school in South Dakota, his dad died of a heart attack, and his mom lives in South Dakota, where Cody's jacket still hangs in her living room. During those ten years, the Navy moved me from Washington D.C. to Japan and Los Angeles and back to the D.C. area. Whenever I get to San Diego, I stop at Cody's school to photograph the tree his teacher planted in his memory. Cody, we still miss you.

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[Originally printed in the Clear Lake Courier -- July 3, 1996]

This isn't the column I intended to write last month. I had expected to tell about running a forty-mile ultramarathon in Tennessee on May 4.

Instead, that was the day I attended the funeral of my nephew, Cody Lee Paver.

He was five years old, the youngest member of our family.

He always called me "my Diane" and wondered when I was coming for my next visit. He once asked Kayo at the airport if the other people there were waiting for their Dianes, too.

When my sister, Kayo, called from San Diego late that fateful Sunday evening, she didn't have many details.

She only knew the brakes had failed on the truck her husband was driving, and Carl and his passengers jumped out before going over an embankment.

Cody fell under the rear wheel, and died instantly.

The decision to bring him home to South Dakota for burial was easy, since we had no family roots in San Diego.

My brother Keith called Eng's Funeral Home, and Jim and Elaine made all the arrangements, both for the funeral itself and for Cody.

Their assistance was invaluable. As Jim explained to me later, he called the mortuary network, which gave him the name of a funeral home in San Diego.

That funeral home retrieved Cody from the medical examiner's office, and ensured he was flown to Sioux Falls.

Engs even made paying the bill simple, with all charges on one bill. They paid the church and the mortuary network, which reimbursed the funeral home in San Diego.

The medical examiner's office charged no fee, because of Cody's age. (It was good to find out government can be compassionate.) Engs did not charge for their services either.

Cody had the prettiest casket I've ever seen. It was covered with white brocade fabric, a perfect complement for the colorful bouquets of flowers surrounding it.

Keith and I picked pasque flowers to add a touch of country. The little purple mayflowers sat on the altar during the funeral, and bloomed for several days on Cody's grave.

We did not expect five days of food, telephone calls and company. I quickly realized that when people want to help, but there are no right words and nothing they can do, they bring food.

We also didn't expect seventy people at the funeral and a hundred sympathy cards.

The outpouring of love and support was truly amazing, and much appreciated.

I believe Cody lived a full life, that he was never intended to be on this earth more than five and a half years.

When his time was up, he was instantly called to heaven--happy, healthy, and without suffering.

In addition to the speed of his departure, other signs are now visible through hindsight.

He was sent here to spread happiness, which he did in abundance. The words "beautiful" and "love" were part of his daily vocabulary. He sprinkled I-love-yous on everyone he cared about.

His kindergarten class wrote farewell letters, and it's amazing how many "best friends" he had.

A teacher wrote the students' comments. Many of the children drew pictures, usually including a figure with yellow hair. The following quotes are from six of the letters:

"Me and Cody used to be friends but now he's gone, but he'll always be in my heart. We rode trikes together at the playground. He'll be buried but he'll always be my friend. He was my best friend."

"Me and Cody play together. We make things together. And we get in line together. But now we can't play together no more"

"Cody should not have died. He used to be my friend. We used to play together and ride bikes. Cody was a nice kid because he was friendly."

"Cody and I were good friends. Cody had lots of friends. He drew pictures really good."

"Cody used to be alive and then he had an accident."

"Cody was my best friend. In the first day of school I took out a puzzle and I couldn't do it and Cody helped me. We always sit next to each other at lunch. We always did our work together. Cody died and I miss him."

Kayo told me Cody always cared that their house was watched when they were away.

He'd say, "I'll stay home and watch the house." Or, "Is Kellen [his brother] watching the house?" Or, "Lucky [the dog} will watch the house."

In preparation for leaving San Diego, the Pavers recently sold their home (the only one Cody had known) and moved to a temporary house.

Two nights before Cody's death, Kayo was amazed to see his jacket hanging from a hook in the living room ceiling.

She asked Cody how it got there, and he described in detail how he used the back of the sofa as a starting point for his climb.

Until the Pavers move again, that jacket will serve as a visible sign Cody is watching the house.

The poem in the obituary notice states, "He'll bring his charm to gladden you, And should his stay be brief, You'll have his lovely memories As solace for your grief."

We miss you, Cody. And we'll always remember you.

Copyright 1996 by Diane Diekman