Child’s funeral draws more than 150 mourners and supporters

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2001

Outside Ascension Lutheran Church, a child crying was drawn in chalk next to to the words: &uot;Don’t worry, God is always with you.

Saturday, April 28, 2001

Outside Ascension Lutheran Church, a child crying was drawn in chalk next to to the words: &uot;Don’t worry, God is always with you.&uot;

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Inside the sanctuary, the congregation sat transfixed by a tiny white coffin in front of the electric stained-glass altar piece. A blue teddy bear hung askew from one of the flower arrangements at 17-month-old Makaio Lynn Radke’s funeral.

&uot;Makaio was a child of God,&uot; said the Rev. Richard Spande. &uot;He was an innocent victim.&uot;

About 150 people attended the service for Radke, who died last week as a result of child abuse. Most wore blue child abuse prevention awareness ribbons on their shirts – most wondering how such a thing could happen in their relatively small and safe community.

&uot;I can’t answer that question,&uot; Spande said.

&uot;God might allow such things to happen, but he doesn’t cause them.&uot;

Everything happens for a reason, though it might not seem that way right now, Spande said. Something good could yet come from the child’s death.

&uot;But I think it is far, far too early to have even the slightest glimpses of what that might be,&uot; he said.

Radke’s baptismal candle was lit on the font where Spande baptized him only months ago. Through her tears, his aunt Suzie Pirhoda addressed the casket.

&uot;You are at peace now and I will see you again some day,&uot; she said.

Radke’s Godmother Amy Strand talked about the last time she saw Radke. At her house he played with her own son, ate tator-tot hotdish and took a bath.

Rocking in the rocking chair, he smelled just like a new baby, she said.

It won’t do any good to ask what we could have done differently, Spande told the congregation. Although a number of the child’s loved ones probably felt guilty about his death, they need to forgive themselves, he said.

&uot;I’m not talking about forgiving whoever is responsible for Makaio’s death,&uot; Spande said. &uot;We’ll deal with that, but that is not on today’s agenda.&uot;

&uot;Today I hear God asking us to forgive ourselves,&uot; he said.

In the front pew, Radke’s father Matthew put his arms around Peggy Radke and his own mother. He whispered to the three-year-old in his lap.

&uot;Our final home is never on this earth,&uot; Spande said. &uot;Our final home is in heaven. In that place we don’t need sanctuary, because we are with God face-to-face.&uot;

The funeral procession crawled through downtown past the Department of Human Services building. Police directed traffic and several people stood in front of their Clark Street store fronts.

At Lakewood Cemetery, on the shore of Fountain Lake, mourners stood very still in the spring sun. Some wrapped their arms around each other, others wiped at their eyes.

Mother Peggy Radke’s sobbing sounded like a single vibrato note drawn across a violin.

During the benediction, the fishing boat motored across the lake.

Several blocks away, Radke’s home at 505 Johnson Street was deserted. a snow shovel, rake and trampoline abandoned in the front yard. A pink tissue-paper wrapped flower delivery sat on the front step.

Peggy Radke knelt with her head on her son’s small casket, repeating: &uot;I love you Kai, mommy loves you.&uot;

Next to her, Radke’s three-year-old sister stood, holding a red rose taken from Radke’s casket spray.