The Night We Buried Our Friend In The Jungle

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On 4 June 2012, 13 year old Jasmine Lowe was reported missing by her father. She left her house to go to her mother’s salon in San Ignacio but never arrived.  At about 2:00 pm on 6 June her body was discovered in a field. Due to the rapid rate at which her body was decomposing her father was told by the authorities she should be buried immediately. He received permission to bury her on his land a few hundred yards downstream from us on Barton Creek. At 6:00 pm we received a message that people were on the way. We did what we could to prepare to assist.

Jasmine and her father, Chris, were some of the first people we met in Belize, our children were about the same age and we all became friends. They were regular visitors to Barton Creek Outpost and were involved in most of our kids’ birthday parties and other events through the years. We often called young Jasmine, “J-Lowe” to distinguish her from the other Jasmine in their circle of friends, “J-Fo”. We called the group of girls “The Jungle Pixies” and, when they were younger, they dreamed of forming a band of the same name. Chris is a chatty guy with hundreds of stories. He will sometimes sit with our guests and regale them with tales of old Belize where no roads were paved and they road in old British military flatbed trucks instead of busses. The guests love it. Chris also makes and distributes amazing granola, granola bars and is the only producer of peanut butter in Belize.

The news of Jasmine’s disappearance was hard on all of us but we held out hope that somehow she would come home safely. I was cutting the grass when my wife came down with bad news, Jasmine’s body was found. We quickly called the kids together to tell them but as we were trying to get our 13 year old daughter to join us we heard a terrible cry. A close friend of hers, temporarily schooling in Germany, had informed Kaitlyn (through Facebook) of the news. Jacquelyn and I gathered our children together to cry and pray. We were all distraught but Kaitlyn was inconsolable, our daughter had lost a close friend by horrible means. Our sweet Kaitlyn has not experienced a lot of pain in her life and something of this magnitude was like a ton of bricks. I wept for her loss of a close friend as well as the punch in the gut she received as the cruelness of this world was exposed to her. I am sorry honey, now you know.

When we received word that people were on the way out here to bury Jasmine we got changed and considered making refreshments, we figured we would see a few people over here at some point. I put on work clothes, loaded some shovels and a pick into the truck and we decided Jacquelyn would stay at the Outpost with our two youngest children. As I was gathering flashlights and changing batteries questions about this whole scenario were running through my head and I found myself suddenly motivated, rushing around, doing this and that. I stopped and wondered what I was doing, “Are you excited to dig Jasmine’s grave?” I pondered that question for a few moments and determined I was relieved to be actually doing something. Since the first news of her disappearance I have felt useless. Everyone has been asking, “What can we do?” and feeling helpless. At least now I thought I could contribute to the situation in some way. Kaitlyn, our 11 year old son, Logan, and I loaded in the truck to go meet the incoming people.

The gate to Chris’ property is only a few hundred yards from our place and shortly after arriving there a couple vehicles showed up. Chris has been a licensed tour guide here for many years and has a lot of friends who are tour guides. About 6 of them showed up and they also had tools to dig a grave. As we were breaking out tools and formulating a plan we began to see headlights coming down the dirt road and lighting up the misty night. I had envisioned a few guys digging a grave and our Pastor (Chris and Jasmine attend the same church that we do) would say a few words as we covered her resting place. No so. Trucks and SUV’s began to arrive in groups of two and three with most carrying a load of mourners. If you are not familiar with the use of a pickup truck as a mass transport vehicle in a third world country, well, I assure you it is something that would give a Tennessee State Trooper a heart attack. We sometimes pack them full, making use of every inch of available space.  Several vehicles arrived full of Jasmine’s Scout Troop with one pickup packed with at least 25 people.  I quickly broke away to retrieve my wife & two little ones and when I returned I continued directing parking efforts into a large, dark, slightly muddy field. From the black interior of many vehicles I heard, “Hey Jim”, greetings from people whose faces I could not see. Chris had shown up, Jasmine’s mother & her church, more tour guides, a school bus, vans, cars, trucks and our entire Wednesday night church service showed up driven by our Pastor and his wife. The group would not hear of being left behind despite the fact they were told they would have to wade through a creek, in the jungle, at night to get to the site. Jasmine’s body was delivered as well.

As it turned out, a few tour guides manned some canoes and ferried people across the creek while others hiked through the dark bush and over a high, sketchy, swing bridge to make the crossing. There never seemed to be enough flashlights but everyone was helpful and I suspect about 150 people made that crossing. It could easily have been more.

When it seemed that the flow of vehicles had stopped I crossed the bridge and headed towards the site. As I made my way to what the children called, “The Beautiful Spot” I recognized the intoxicating scent of Night Blooming Jasmine, the significance of it brought more tears. Chris and Jasmine lived here when they were not in San Ignacio and they planted a wide variety of fruit trees and tropical flowers. It is a hidden paradise with a fresh spring running through the plot and it was their favorite place to be.

The scene at the site was surreal. In the clearing, people were milling about holding candles that cast moving shadows over their faces and the surrounding jungle. A small generator hummed somewhere, whispered conversations, crying, the occasional laugh and people hugging everywhere.  I found Jasmine’s small, white casket covered with flowers and a picture of a “Missing Child” poster of which she was the subject. Her casket was supported by 4 buckets as if they were the legs of a table. I prayed there and I hugged her sister, Suleny, expressing words she had probably heard too many times already. Suleny stayed there for some time as if to be close to her sister one last time. I hugged my wife, loved on my children and felt like an extra in a bizarre movie.

As I was aimlessly wandering about I ran into several friends including my Pastor, Mike Leonard, of Shining Light Baptist Church.  I am not sure I’m much of a Baptist but I like Mike.  Mike is a good ole boy, spent 7 years in Army Infantry and is flat out committed to his mission. Those are three of the reasons I like him. Pastor Mike and I walked around a bit, spoke with people and watched men younger than us dig a deep grave in the jungle. A police officer supervised the work and was the one to make the call when it was six feet deep. I think it took over three hours.

I happened to be standing right there when the officer deemed we were ready to proceed and we found there was really no plan on how to transport the casket to the grave. I told Chris I would be honored if I could help carry Jasmine’s body and he consented. Six of us, including two Mennonites, carried her through the spring and over to the site, Chris alternately helped and took pictures. As we were carring the casket our church congregation sang Jasmine’s favorite hymn, “I’ll Fly Away”.  Ropes were not immediately at hand so we waited while some tour guides retrieved some so the casket could be rigged to lower. A world of emotions swept over me as I lowered Jasmine Lowe’s body into that hole. As I consider it now I think, “Dear God, please don’t have me do this for my child”, was the foremost.

When the time came Pastor Mike stood upon the large pile of rich earth and gathered the crowd. With bare light bulbs strung over the grave and the generator in the background, he spoke about life and death. Our Pastor told the crowd that Jasmine was a special young lady, active in the scouts and a faithful member of our church. She had heard the call and trusted Christ as her savior a year before.  With Kenroy, his right hand man, holding a flashlight Pastor Mike read from the Bible and assured us that Jasmine was in a better place and it was we who had lost here, not her. Along with others, I wept for our loss.  I wept for Chris, a single father raising a young daughter who was now gone. I wept for a world in which monsters live and prey on children. I wept as my kids threw dirt into their friend’s grave.

When that was over I picked up a shovel and helped fill the hole. At some point my emotions subsided and it simply became hard work. I looked over to see Pastor Mike with a shovel in his hand, working and sweating and I wanted to stop what I was doing and tell everyone, “If you need a Pastor, that is your man!” Today I regret not doing so. There seemed to be something significant in the fact that people who knew Jasmine were digging her grave and covering her body. Truthfully, when I first arrived on the site I was relieved to see others digging the grave but when I got involved in my part I was glad to do it. I found that I don’t want some backhoe digging my grave, I hope my friends will sweat and cry in the dirt as we did that night.

Chris said that Jasmine’s funeral was an adventure, just like Jasmine. As a matter of fact the two of them had recently climbed Victoria Peak together, father and daughter. I think I know Jasmine better today than I did a month ago but she is gone and I won’t get to appreciate that insight and watch her grow. I know Chris better today than I did before this and I will never forget the strength he has shown during a time of unimaginable tragedy. Several of my friends and I, all fathers, have recently uttered the question, “Can you imagine?” No, we cannot. I can only have faith that God’s promise to Paul is true for us as well. Paul asked God, multiple times, to remove an affliction, God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient.” I cannot imagine how that can be, but I pray for God’s grace on Chris Lowe.

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About BelizeBritts

Jim and Jacquelyn moved to Belize in 2004 after spending much of their adult lives as US Navy Deep Sea Divers. Jacquelyn specialized in the Navy's Marine Mammal Program handling sea lions and dolphins with the US Navy's Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) as well as conducting underwater repairs on navy ships. Jim was a Navy Chief specializing in underwater repairs to ships and submarines as well as operating a recompression chamber for the treatment of injured divers. They moved to Belize in 2004 from Pine Island, Florida where Jacquelyn is a 4th generation native. Jim is from all over but calls Nashville, Tennessee home. In March 2013 they moved back to Pine Island, FL to spend more time with their family.
This entry was posted in Belize, Ex Pats in Belize, Living in Belize, San Ignacio, Belize, Travel Belize, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to The Night We Buried Our Friend In The Jungle

  1. Steven says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of the lost of Chris’s daughter and the close friend of your little girl. My prayers go out to you, your children and Jasmine’s (J-lo’s) parents and siblings. Its an awful world we live in and it seems know matter where you live heart break always seems to find us. God bless you all.

  2. Rosey Goodman says:

    😦

  3. Jim – Tracye and I just met Jasmine that weekend before she was taken. She helped me at market that Saturday and sold us some peanut butter, pumpkin seed and Granola bars. The day we met you at church, was the last day we saw Jasmine. Like everyone, this hit us hard because “things like this just don’t happen to us, it happens to other people.” I wish that we were there to lend our support, help dig, do what ever we could. But by the time we heard all this, we were already back in the states. So I have been sharing what has happened with all my readers and posting it on facebook. A lot of people now know who Jasmine and Christopher are and many prayers have been offered up. Thanks for writing this, it helped bring some sort closure. I pray that now the healing takes place and the fond memories will grow.
    In His Service,
    Ray & Tracye Gano
    New Braunfels Texas

  4. You are a good man and I am saddened by this account. You did not mention how she died other than to say there are monsters who prey upon the young. If this is what occurred, I would not stop until justice was served. Again a terrible tragedy, and as always in your blogs, neighbors helping neighbors. I commend you for the heart you have.

  5. Sara says:

    I know Pastor Mike and his family very well, and I knew that God would give them His grace during this hard time. I have heard of Kaitlyn from my close friends Jessica and Alanna, and I will be praying for her as well! My heart aches for all of those who knew Jasmine. Please know that many prayers are going up for the family, friends, and congregation.

  6. kay says:

    thank you Jim…

  7. Jenn Miller says:

    There are no words. We’ll never forget our time at your Outpost and our 14 year old daughter returned last winter on her own, bringing a group of her teenage friends to share the awesome… just one year older than dear Jasmine… my Mama heart is broken. Our love to all.

  8. Sheila F says:

    My heart felt deepest condolences go out to Jasmine’s family and friends. I do not know why the Lord allowed this to happen to this beautiful child. It is beyond my understanding. Dear Lord, please bring some peace and comfort to those who love Jasmine now as she rests nestled safely in your arms.

  9. Janna Lee says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write and post this. I am a friend of the Leonards and you described Mike and his dear family well. I will continue ro pray for the safety of their and your children. May the monster be found fast and security be given back to the community.

  10. Teri McLaughlin says:

    Totally at a loss for words here. For there are NO words to even begin….please know that I have cried and prayed with all of you, as you buried this precious little life.

    Thank you for sharing the service with us here. Beautifully done.

  11. sara young says:

    Jim – Your words (and actions) bring solace to people during inconsolable times – so deeply sorry for this tragic loss and for the pain you’re all enduring.

  12. Sandy A. says:

    Oh gosh, I am just sitting here with tears running down my face. Sad sad sad ever since i heard what happened.

  13. My heart hurts for Christopher, his family, all of Jasmine’s friends and for the good people of San Ignacio. You are a good friend and I thank you for sharing your story. Jasmine is in a better place and it is us that have been left behind. Thank you.

  14. Kevin Arthur says:

    You took me there and let me experience it. Thank you for your words Jim.

  15. Amy Kavanagh says:

    Thank you for you post. You made that night so alive and vivid.
    We had prayed that Jasmine would return safely. It is hard to see things like this happen to such a precious child of God. May God continue to work in the hearts and lives of the people in your community. We will continue to pray for her father and the folks at the church. God has a plan, and I pray that lives will be changed and converted to our Lord Jesus Christ. That God will get the glory through such a precious little one.

  16. Barbara says:

    Thanks for this post. Love to Jasmine’s family and friends, from Oregon. Love to the entire community in Cayo. I hope that justice will be done and the people of Belize can find peace.

  17. James Britt Sr. says:

    I only knew Jasmine through the photographs you posted of your “gatherings” at the outpost. I also heard Kaitlyn speak of her when we all stayed on Ambergris Caye in February. “She’s my best friend,” Kaitlyn beamed. I feel terrible for Christopher and won’t even suggest that I understand his pain. I’m sure that every time he looked at that beautiful, playful, laughing little girl, he thought “my cup runneth over.” As a grandfather of 14, I know that feeling.

    I’m proud of the pro-active and extremely sensitive role that you played. . . helping to comfort Christopher while consoling your own family as you helped lay Jasmine to rest.

    Our prayers are with all that knew and loved Jasmine and we should always remember that Love does not die. . . people do. So when all that is left of Jasmine is love. . . give her away.

    Grandaddy

  18. twocanview says:

    Reblogged this on Twocanview and commented:
    A touching story from those who knew her…Jasmine Lowe

  19. Kim says:

    For Chris, his family and friends:

    Look not where I was
    For I am not there
    My spirit is free
    I am everywhere
    In the air that you breathe
    In the sounds that you hear
    Don’t cry for me dad
    My spirit is near
    I’ll watch for you
    From the other side
    Here in God’s arms
    Safe along His side
    Smile at my memory
    Remember in your heart
    This is not the end
    It’s a brand new start

    We were lucky enough to meet Jasmine and feel we have lost a dear friend – my thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.

  20. Susan Fuller says:

    Thanks for sharing the experience…

  21. fin says:

    This just broke my heart…cant stop crying….Such innocent girl….May God Bless the LOWE family…And may the peace wanted comfort your heart.

  22. Alberto Morales says:

    Dear Jim,

    Your words are full of love and compassion, thank you for sharing and I’ll be praying for her, Chris, and your family, I hope to see you all very soon.

    Alberto

  23. Suzanne Rue says:

    Jim, thank you for your words. I did not know Jasmine, nor Chris, but I feel as if I do. I will never know why bad things happen, why precious ones are taken from us. But what I do know is that God is good. He is loving, and He hurts when we hurt. I lost my son, Colton, when he was only 19, one & a half years ago. It is so very painful, yet time is like a balm on my wounds. May god continue to bless you and your family and give all of you peace. The peace that passes understanding.
    Remember John 16:22. Where Jesus says that now we are sad, but one day we will be happy. The kind of happiness that no one can take away from us.

    Love,
    Suzanne Rue
    Marguerite Bevis’ sister
    Uvalde, Texas

  24. Winsom says:

    Thank you for this … ..it took away the torture my mind kept playing of what she went through……My mind now have a calmer nicer picture to play….Blessings

  25. Miriam Ochaeta says:

    thanks for the account….RIP Jasmine

  26. Mandy Cyphers says:

    Jim thank you for sharing your heart.

  27. Thank you Jim for those wonderful words about Jasmine; although I didn’t exchange words with her before and really only knew her from a distance; I know Chris (her father). This tragedy has really hit us hard and as a mom it breaks my heart into a million pieces. My tears are falling as I write my comment and can’t even begin to imagine what I’d do or feel or react if it was my daughter. Thank you for taking us there to her burial through your words and pictures. You sound like a good man. God bless and protect your family. We are praying that justice will be served and this monster is caught and dealt with.

  28. Dee marie says:

    This brought tears to my eyes…..I’m here with a heavy heart! My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Lowe and the rest of the family and friends of a beautiful Angel (Jasmine Lowe) 😦

  29. Lara says:

    My tears keep flowing, thanks for sharing your last moment with Jasmine. I felt anger, hurt that we were unable to bring her home safely; betrayal from the system we have in place that should help us and work with us to ensure that our children are safe from pedhophiles.
    My deepest condolences to Christopher and the rest of the family, you are all in my prayers.

  30. Karen says:

    Along with thousands more in Belize, I held may breath and prayed that Jasmine would be found safe and well. I too asked, “can you imagine?”. Truth is, I just simply cannot. Thank you for your beautifully articulated account.

  31. Cary says:

    I have a niece the same age as Jasmine was and 3 daughters of my own and I could not imagine this happening to me! Its sad that parents have to put their child to rest because of sick people we have walking around. I pray for Jasmines parents that they have the strenght to go on and for once let there be justice for this beautiful child whose life was cut short!

  32. Jadine Fritzler says:

    We prayed for Jasmine’s safe return to her parents…now we pray for God’s peace and comfort for them. Thank you for sharing, and for letting us know that she did know Jesus and she is with Him now. I pray for my own girls and all the daughters of Belize.jadi

  33. Shannon Britt says:

    It’s amazing how such a tragedy touches people at such great distances. We never had the opportunity to meet Jasmine, yet we mourn her loss as we are shocked by the circumstances around her death. My heart goes out to her family as I wonder how they find the courage to move ahead in the face of such great loss.
    I thank you for your recount of Jasmine’s burial put in such personal terms.

  34. Anastacia says:

    Jasmine Lowe was truly a special child in life and in death. Her story has touched the lives and hearts of so many people who did not even know her. This is such an eloquent and touching account of her burial; I think I cried through the entire thing. Rest in peace precious child.

  35. Deborah Lowe says:

    I was very pleased to hear of the out pouring of family and friends that occurred on Wednesday night at Barton Creek. Your account of this event, was what we who couldn’t participate, needed to hear.
    Martin and I got to experience this place 3 years ago with Jasmine and family. Now I can imagine her there in the surroundings that she loved.
    I have been watching old videos and looking at pictures of Jasmine’s and Suleny’s last visit with us here in Texas, and it brings on smiles and laughter, as well as a deep sadness.
    Thank-you so very much!!!! God’s blessings to you and your family.
    Martin & Debbie Lowe

  36. tulio says:

    rest in peace jasmine our prayers are for u and ur family,may judgement be done,may good give chris strenght,i am a dad i lost a son i know d pain,may jasmine rest in peace

  37. The Winsome Word - Susan Brill says:

    Jim thank you for writing and sharing this. Somehow that night feels like part of the healing from the tragedy for those of us who loved her. Praying for peace for those who loved her and justice for the one who harmed her.

  38. Judy Fischer says:

    Jim,

    Thank you so much for your write-up. It has answered so many questions. Jasmine was such a sweetheart. She was my “adopted” daughter at the mother/daughter banquet the Friday before Mother’s Day. We had such a good time. She was so excited about having climbed Victoria’s Peak and being the youngest girl to make it to the top. She was spilling over with all the details of the climb. She drew a couple pictures for me that evening, and on Sunday she brought her sketch book to church to share with me and told me to pick a drawing to take back to the states with me. I picked a picture of a bear holding a heart with the word “love” on it. I will cherish those pictures always. She sat with me at church that day, and she fell asleep against me; I think she was still tired from climbing that mountain! (I’m sure it had nothing to do with Pastor’s sermon!) We exchanged e-mail addresses before we hugged and left church that day. The day after we got home I had a message from her, and we started e-mailing back and forth. I was really getting to know her on a personal level. When I got the news that she was missing, I was physically sick. When I got the news that she was found, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how something like that could happen to her. My heart has been broken, and I pray that God provides the comfort and strength that Chris needs to move forward. I also pray for all Jasmine’s friends and family during this very difficult time. Not being there during this time has been hard, but your words have helped ease the pain. Thank you.

  39. Pingback: Of Life, Death & a Mouse Named Frederick

  40. Melanie says:

    Having no words of comfort of my own, but wishing I did.

    Would you please pass on our condolences and assurance of prayer support to Chris.

    He may not remember us, but we met at church almost exactly one year ago.
    I distinctly remember Jasmine and the lovely conversation we had.
    We were a group of five from Canada looking to purchase the Martin’s farm at Barton Creek.
    May God be your comforter.

    Melanie and Joe Van Kuren

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