Tara Holterfield wasn't going to put up a Christmas tree this year.
No one could blame the Versailles women for not being in the holiday spirit.
She is still getting over the tragic loss of her 2-year-old son, Malachi Smith, in a flash flooding accident close to her home on June 15.
Malachi drowned when his father's car was swept away by current that covered Brown County Road 525 North, about three miles south of Mount Sterling. He was gone in seconds, and it took rescue workers nearly 12 hours to find Malachi in a nearby stream. He was found a half mile from where the accident happened.
Malachi's loss was a terrible tragedy, the kind that can't really be explained. A little boy filled with life and a love of Thomas the Tank Engine was taken from his family and friends way too soon.
Six months after the accident, Holterfield had to deal with her emotions as the family celebrated its first Christmas without Malachi.
"It's pretty bad," Holterfield said of her emotions leading up to the holidays. "At first, I wasn't going to have a tree or anything, but (husband) Tony's got six older children with 13 grandchildren. They are little kids, and we can't punish them for our misery. We put up a tree and went shopping."
After experiencing drought conditions throughout most of 2012, the region experienced a wetter than normal spring. Quincy received 17.61 inches of rain throughout April and May, almost three times as much rain as the city got during April through July 2012. The Mississippi and Illinois rivers swelled. The Mississippi River had its fourth-highest crest ever at Lock and Dam 21, reaching 27.24 feet on April 21. The Illinois River in Meredosia just missed having its record crest, coming one-tenth of a foot away from the highest ever when it crested at 28.6 feet on April 27.
However, most of that flooding had died down by the time a storm moved its way through the region on the night of June 15. The Brown County area was hit especially hard with between four and six inches of rain in a short time.
Smith and Holterfield were driving separately back from Quincy. Malachi was with his father in the lead car. They were traveling between 30 and 35 mph when they reached a hilly area near Ill. 107. Smith's car was swept into the creek. He tried to reach into the backseat to save a sleeping Malachi, but the current swept Smith away from the car. Smith survived the accident, while Holterfield stopped her vehicle before it was caught in the current.
The family has vowed to keep Malachi's memory alive. They hope to raise enough money to build the Malachi Smith Memorial Playground in Versailles. An all-day benefit was held in September. They are selling tickets for a gun raffle and are planning another quarter auction in the spring. Holterfield said the group has about $15,000 of their $20,000 goal. She is thankful for the support she's received from the community.
She doesn't want to stop with the playground either.
"We'd like to keep raising money to help other kids in his honor," Holterfield said.
She said any extra funds would go toward helping underprivileged children with scholarships for athletics and other activities.
Malachi is gone, but his family is trying to make sure he's never forgotten.