Thursday, June 09, 2005

Family fight continues over child's remains

Further evidence the impact of divorce last a lifetime...and beyond. Sadly, this is the second case I've heard of divorced parents disagreeing about remains. The other involved a 15-year-old girl who died in a car accident. The parents (who lived in different states) couldn't agree on a burial site so she was cremated and they divided her ashes.

I don't want to lose the story, so you can either click here:

Family fight continues over child's remains

Or read the text below from the 6/1/05 issue of the Dallas County News.

The ashes of 14-month-old Christina Rater, who died 32 years ago last week after she drank poison on the family farm, are likely to stay in the mausoleum at Oakdale Cemetery in Adel forever. Steve McCalley of McCalley Funeral Home believes he is unable to release the girl's remains to either side of the family because of the family's bitter divide. He says he will release the ashes to the family only if both parents can agree what to do with them. But the child's divorced parents, Maja and Otho Rater, are not speaking. Otho Rater was one of the first parents in the state of Iowa to be labeled a "deadbeat dad" for failure to pay child support. Maja convinced Polk County Attorney John Sarcone to file criminal charges against her ex-husband for failure to pay child support. He spent time in prison for failure to support the children. At this point, the father owes $87,000 in back child support, plus $100,000 in interest. The youngest child is now 21. Otho Rater now lives in Hays, Kan., and did not return calls. Maja Rater lives in Casey and believes Christina's seven surviving brothers and sisters should be allowed to decide what to do with her ashes. The extended Rater family in Dallas County would like to include the child in the family plot, but the Maja Rater is not interested. "We wouldn't be caught dead in the family plot," she says. Her extended relatives are all in Denmark. McCalley held a public ceremony in May to inter the unclaimed cremains of Christina and three other people whose families could not be found. The ashes were placed in the mausoleum in case relatives might want to claim them later. Maja Rater says she was shocked last week to find Christina in the news after all these years. "Memories are coming back," she says. Christina was taken to a hospital after she drank poison, but she was brain-dead before anything could be done. "I keep on seeing her lying on the hospital bed, and me having to tell the doctors, 'No, no more.' I said the best thing for Christina was to let her go." Maja Rater says she doesn't know why her little girl wasn't buried when she died back in 1973. "I was pretty much a mess for a long time," the mother says. "When it happened, I was pretty much wiped out. It took me years to get over it." Maya Rater says that when a child dies, the trauma never totally goes away. "Some days are worse than others," she says. "It's part of your life forever."

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