She hadn’t checked the forecast before the trip, so she’d packed her suitcase with all manner of clothes to counter any weather, and as she wheeled it toward the hotel she felt the bulging bag’s weight.
Sheri Linscott’s brother-in-law had died just two weeks after a recent surgery.
Now, she and her husband, Don, found themselves in Wichita Falls, Texas, checking into a Hampton Inn on Jan. 25, a couple days before the funeral in nearby Archer City.
John V. Linscott Jr. passed away Jan. 19 at the age of 78, according to the Dallas Morning News. His full obituary, published on Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Funeral Home’s website, is the story of an Army veteran and engineer who met his wife of 51 years on a blind date and built satellites — what would later become the Global Positioning System. And it tells of a man freed from four years of suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
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It was dusk when Sheri and Don pulled into the Hampton Inn parking lot. The two-day car trip from their Hilton Head Island home had taken them through Alabama, where they’d dropped off their dogs with family. They were drained, physically and emotionally.
And as she wheeled her bag toward the door, she had no idea she was about to have a reason to smile, that she’d find something that had eluded her for months, something she’d interpret as a message — from John.
‘Keep or Rehide’
Tammy Stambaugh lives in Keymar, Md., near Frederick, about an hour outside Washington D.C., and more than 1,400 miles from Wichita Falls, Texas.
She does not know the Sheri or her husband, and she didn’t know John.
She has a 9-year-old granddaughter, Nevaeh. “It’s ‘heaven’ spelled backwards,” Tammy said during a recent phone interview.
She and Nevaeh paint rocks together. Sometimes they get them from a local nursery, where they fill up a bucket and pay by the pound. Sometimes they hide them for other people to find.
Tammy belongs to Frederick Rocks, a Facebook group with almost 7,000 members, one of hundreds — if not thousands — of such groups across the country where people post pictures of stones they decorate and discover. When Tammy hides a rock, she puts a white sticker on the back. On the sticker she draws an “f” inside a square — the Facebook logo — and writes: “Post Photo,” “Frederick Rocks” and “Keep or Rehide.”
Sometime before John died, she’d picked up a bucket of rocks. One of the stones was shaped like a heart. She painted it red and decorated it with a small white heart, and the word, “LOVE.”
Then, she hid it.
Hilton Head Rocks
As she wheeled her suitcase toward the entrance to the Hampton Inn, Sheri spotted something red.
She bent down and picked it up.
“It was getting close to dark,” she said, recalling the moment. “I would have never seen it if it hadn’t been painted red. ... And being tired and driving that far, it really lifted my spirits.”
She’d known John for over a decade. She’d known he’d been sick for a while. She knew her husband would soon speak about his brother in front of gathered mourners, and that it would be a heavy occasion.
“It felt like (John) was looking down and saying, ‘I appreciate you coming,’ Sheri said.
It was the first time she’d ever found a rock.
Ironic, given that she’d started her own Facebook group, Hilton Head Rocks, 35 members, last summer — and that she’d almost given up looking for painted stones, because she never had any luck finding them.
‘A special place’
A couple of days after John’s funeral, Sheri posted a picture of the rock on Frederick Rocks’ Facebook page.
“Thanks to whomever left and painted,” Sheri wrote. “I think my brother in law was smiling down from above and gave me a small gift.”
Hours later, Tammy replied, saying she’d painted and hidden the rock, and that she was sorry for the Linscotts’ loss. She didn’t say it in her reply, but she’d placed the rock there on a recent trip to see another of her grandchildren. And she often hides stones at the Hampton Inn — and nearby restaurants — in Wichita Falls.
Sheri is still debating whether she’ll hide the heart-shaped rock on Hilton Head. She’s going to keep it till summer, she said. Currently, it sits on her kitchen counter.
She thinks of John when she looks at it. He loved gardening, she said, and he was a father of three. If she hides it on the island, she wants it to be “a place that represents him well.”
A “special place,” she said.
Somewhere near the beach.
Where children play.