SEARSPORT, Maine — Katie Davis had always wanted to visit Maine.
But the 21-year-old from Texas died this summer in a car accident before that particular dream could come true.
“She didn’t get to come to Maine,” her uncle Mike Davis of Stockton Springs said Wednesday. “So we’re going to bring a piece of Maine to her.”
That piece is a 1,500-pound glacial erratic boulder that her father, uncle and cousin dug out last month from a hillside near Davis’ home in the village of Sandy Point. That began a journey that so far has brought the boulder to Smith’s Memorials in Searsport, where workers carved her family name on the front and a special inscription on top of the stone.
“From Maine With Love,” it says.
The piece of Maine, with its message, now is traveling in a utility trailer pulled behind Davis’ truck. He and his wife, Ellie, will meet Katie’s father in Virginia, and he then will haul it the rest of the 2,200-mile journey to Amarillo, Texas, and its final destination: a site overlooking the young woman’s grave.
‘Burst of sunshine’
Katie was a mother to 8-month old Grace and a student at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. Her smile was like a “burst of sunshine in a darkened room,” her uncle said in his funeral eulogy.
“She just lit up! Even strangers just had to smile back. She had that kind of effect on people,” Davis said.
That smile has been gone since July 31, when Katie was sitting next to her baby in the back seat of a car driven by her fiance. When he pulled out in front of a truck, it smashed into the car. Katie’s body bore the brunt of the collision, Davis said, adding that he thinks she saved her daughter’s life by protecting her from the worst of the crash.
If true, it wasn’t the only heroic decision that Katie made. She also was an organ donor, and her body helped save lives and give others back the gift of sight.
The pain is still very fresh from her death. Her uncle has a hard time holding back tears when he remembers her. But an idea hatched over beers in Texas in the dark days after the accident, to bring a headstone down from Maine, has helped to give her family a certain measure of peace, he said.
“You can get a perfectly nice headstone in Amarillo, Texas. It wouldn’t have been as special,” Davis said. “This just seemed like maybe it would help — it’s kind of a cathartic exercise. When little Grace comes to visit her mother’s grave, maybe there will be a story to tell her.”
‘Rocks of record’
In August, Mike Davis, Katie’s father, Mark Davis, and her cousin Ben Davis gathered at Mike Davis’ house in Sandy Point village. They walked the property until they found the perfect stone, then rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
Ellie Davis said that the men of the family all have a big, endearing streak of romanticism.
“They all like the idea of a physical quest. It meant an awful lot to them,” she said.
They rented a trailer, managed to get the muddy boulder into it and then brought it through a carwash where they scrubbed it down.
They then dropped the boulder off at Smith’s Memorials, located on Route 1 in Searsport, even though no one was working at the business at the time.
“I happened to drive by and saw that rock,” said Charlie Smith, brother to owner Skeet Smith. “I said, there’s work to do. Eventually we’ll find out what.”
When they did, the guys at Smith’s Memorials power-washed the field stone and sandblasted it with the words the family had chosen.
Charlie Smith explained how the specialty equipment turns stones into memorials.
“This is one of the only things that I’ve done that is forever,” he said, calling the memorials, ‘rocks of record.’
“I love it,” he said of his work. “There, we find the evidence of somebody’s life.”
While the boulder will be featured prominently near the young woman’s grave, the Davises also bought a smaller headstone from the Smiths for the grave itself.
Ellie Davis said that when the brothers learned the story behind the boulder, they were particularly helpful and generous to the family.
They did not charge extra to load the big rock and they engraved a few lines on the smaller headstone for free.
“We have discovered that the generous kindness of strangers is another balm for the pain of dealing with a tragic situation,” she wrote in an email.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mike Davis helped the crew move the boulder to another trailer using heavy lifting equipment. His wife had new utility straps at the ready to tie it down. The couple left Thursday morning for their trip south.
“I’m hoping that it gives my brother some peace,” Mike Davis said. “He’s done the best he can for Katie.”
He said that in his funeral eulogy, he asked all the young people present to do something.
“Tell everyone that they love that they love them, and do it often, because you never know when your time is up,” he said.
“He also said to everybody to take care of each other,” Ellie added. “Family really is important. I guess, you know — relish what you have.”