Stories and Memories

Rachel L Horlings – wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker – beloved.

This site is dedicated to stories, memories, pictures and any thing you want to write.

Comment to upload a picture.

NOTE: Recordings of both the Hendricks Chapel as well as the Hillcrest Chapel services are available on the Memorial Services page.

221 Responses to Stories and Memories

  1. I just found out that Rachel passed on today. So fortunate to have met and talked with this incredible person. Many days while a graduate student at Syracuse University I would run into Rachel either on campus or on a neighborhood street. Some of those days, unfortunately, I was focused on the difficultly of life and navigating the doctoral degree path. Rachel succinctly and nicely reminded me of the broader picture of life and the many advantages I should enjoy in order to make life for others better. In part, Rachel was a reminder of my place, direction, and possibilities. The world would only benefit by emulating Rachel’s life vision and practices. Thank you Rachel

  2. Camilla Agostini

    Here am I again, my friend.
    I think you would like this! Remembering with joy 🙂

  3. Camilla Agostini

    Wherever you are, my friend, here goes some earth-angels singing for you 🙂
    UBUNTU… Estamos juntos!

  4. Camilla Agostini

    Syracuse, 2009

  5. Camilla Agostini

    Today I understand something
    Rachel spread seeds in many places
    When she died she multiplied
    She is still in my heart, growing


  6. I can’t let 2013 go without saying goodbye to my dear friend, Rachel. Several times over the past months I have started writing something to eulogize my friend and been unable to finish, as though if I didn’t write anything maybe her death wouldn’t be real; maybe she would still be out there doing her life’s work waiting for me to run into her again. Today is the day that I put my thoughts down in writing.

    We lost some great African icons this year; people that had profound and positive impacts on my life. On December 5th, we lost Madiba. I grew up listening to folk songs pleading for the release from jail of Nelson Mandela. I can hear the refrain now and see the music videos, “Free Mandela, Free Africa”. Mandela inspired billions around the globe and was on my list of people that I would have most liked to meet.

    In the spring of the year, on March 21st, we lost Chinua Achebe, one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. I grew up reading Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People, Anthills of the Savannah. I remember the time as a young boy, that I traveled with my father to meet with Achebe at his home in what is now Anambra State.

    Neither of these losses was as significant to me personally as the news that I received on Sunday, March 17th, that my good friend and high-school classmate, Rachel, had tragically and suddenly died the previous day by electrocution. Rachel and I had been close friends in school, and although the years since had put many miles between us as we had gotten caught up in our lives and careers, I still watched with admiration from a distance as Rachel checked off one achievement after another. I was as proud of her and her accomplishments as if she were a sister (I actually do have an older sister named Rachel). She was one of us, Hillcrest 97, and she was taking the world by storm.

    Even now, months later, her death seems all too raw. The cynic in me asks why she was taken in her prime, with her whole life ahead of her and many tasks left unfinished. My heart screams that life is not fair and echoes the old refrain that the Good Die Young. Of course, there is the obligatory doubt that creeps in about the intelligence of the Almighty; He must have read the plan wrong!

    The disciple in me mourns the loss of a friend as I wait for the day when the Redeemer will wipe away every tear and make all things new again. As I wait for that day, I am thankful that I knew Rachel, that she was a part of my life, and I remember all of the good things about who she was. Rachel was a great friend! She was salt of the earth, had an infectious smile, kind to a fault, cared deeply for others, and she loved a good adventure.

    I have a vivid memory of a varsity basketball game in 1996 with hundreds of spectators crowded around the court in the Jos night under the bright lights with standing room only. There was scaffolding erected next to center court, about thirty feet high, where maintenance work had been performed earlier that day on some of the outdoor court lighting. In the middle of the game, there was Rachel climbing all the way to the top of the rickety scaffolding to take pictures for the school yearbook and having the time of her life sitting on the very edge of that scaffolding thirty feet above the concrete court. The next day, the school administration announced that students were not allowed to climb on the scaffolding. That was Rachel. I remember when she wrote a school paper on planes and talked about taking flying lessons. Of course, who could dream up a more adventurous way to make a living than as a Maritime Archaeologist? It’s ironic in some ways that her tragic death happened in so mundane a way as working on her computer. It would have seemed more apt if her death had occurred while riding a bull shark to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, or trapped beneath an ancient shipwreck that suddenly shifted on her.

    I think the thing that I admire the most about Rachel is that she wore her love and devotion to God on her sleeve. She lived her faith out in the open for all to see. That’s inspirational to me, and a standard that I can strive for. Without a doubt, Rachel is now with her Heavenly Father. She’s probably already leading tours around the farthest reaches of the universe and breaking stuff that’s never been broken before. No doubt she’s already on a first-name basis with all of the saints that have gone before her. If she were to speak to us now, perhaps she would channel Achebe in saying, “There is no cause to be afraid. I have seen Jehovah, the Magnificent, the One that gives life to those who find favour with him.”

    I came across this poem a few weeks ago (author unknown), and it immediately made me think of Rachel:

    Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free,
    I’m following the path God laid for me.
    I took His hand when I heard His call,
    I turned my back and left it all.
    I could not stay another day,
    To laugh, to love, to work, to play.
    Tasks left undone must stay that way,
    I’ve found that peace at the close of day.

    If my parting has left a void,
    Then fill it with remembered joy.
    A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,
    Ah yes, these things I too will miss.
    Be not burdened with times of sorrow,
    I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.

    My life’s been full, I savored much,
    Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.
    Perhaps my time seemed all too brief,
    Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
    Lift up your heart and share with me,
    God wanted me now, He set me free.

    So, Rachel, my friend, it’s not goodbye but merely, “see you soon.” We will meet again in those heavenly ranks and lift our voices in that great hall to join the cacophony of the believers before the throne of Grace. Take care of yourself till we meet again, and won’t you please save me a seat down near the front.

    Your friend and classmate,
    – Oni Maxey

  7. Rach- I miss talking to you, even as briefly as I knew you- and everyday now my daughter Bella, looks at your piggy bank and says “pretty” – not knowing what it even is- and my heart swells- because you were that- pretty inside and out and touched so many lives! And as you can probably see- I have a son now too- surprise! I know you would have laughed at me- and teased me, as I did you before you left-(not to get hurt like your previous knee blowout)- &s0 it goes, I miss our chats! See you on the other side my friend!

  8. I met Dave Ball at a meeting in Oregon yesterday. It didn’t take long for you to come up. You are truly remembered and missed around the world Rachel.

  9. Camilla Agostini

    Still thinking of you, my friend. Still missing…
    Our “geopraphical” distance now got really worse, but somehow I still have you with me..
    I feel myself privileged to met you in this life.
    Muita tristeza, saudade sempre…
    But.. how you use to say to me, smiling: “no proooooblemmm”… Let´s keep walking.

  10. Andrea Pollock

    I was privileged to be a student of (Professor) Rachel Horlings last fall in her Underwater Archaeology class at SU. The loss of Rachel was such a stunning slam that I could not bring myself to write anything until now. Rachel’s rare focus and zeal for life was immediately apparent to anyone who met her, as expressed in the bittersweet reflections within this forum, and those that were shared at her memorial service, which was a heartrending but fitting tribute to a person of abundant character and beauty. The sadness that I feel is an ache of incommensurate depth, considering I had only made her acquaintance this last year.
    Rachel had many talents, but the one I witnessed personally, twice a week for a semester, was her inspired teaching ability. She had an unusual grasp of the many disparate avenues that lead to positive learning outcomes, and an absolutely uncanny and seemingly omniscient control of the classroom. Without a doubt, Professor Horlings was one of the most brilliant instructors I have had the pleasure of experiencing in my academic career. Moving from absolute seriousness to delightful playfulness as the situation warranted, her teaching gift is one I will never forget.
    Syracuse Stage presented an adaptation of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” last fall, which Rachel attended with Alphonso, and I did with my good friend Cindy; we both thoroughly enjoyed the sea shanties, realistically tumultuous ship’s deck on the stage and nautical sound effects activated by stepping on the brick pavers at the entrance to the theater. I had also let Rachel know about the upcoming production which will be performed by the Cortland Repertory Theatre in August, “Shipwrecked!” and I know she was planning on going to that, too. She put it in her calendar for August 2013, and she said she hoped to see me there.
    Rachel, I miss you, and to use one of your favorite expressions, yes it is “as clear as mud” that all who knew you are forever bereft of your presence, but filled with the memory of your incredible spirit. As those of you who are familiar with underwater archaeology already know, mud-covered sites yield some of the best-preserved artifacts, protected as they are from tidal movement and destructive organisms and processes.
    Blessings and condolences to all of Rachel’s friends and family members,
    Andrea Pollock

  11. John and Agatha Thomas

    Rachel has been a very likeable person in her lifetime. The memories of the old good days still linger on our minds – when she would sometimes cheerfully exhibit her ton-boy characteristics. I remember her telling us she has told Al to let go of this naughty girl, but he wouldn’t burg to her advise. Al, we know you have enjoyed every time you spent with her, and wish to let you know that she will remain appreciated by all who have known her, but most importantly God’s friend forever.
    Remember that your strength to pass through this time is in God’s hand and you must not loose touch of that.
    Will keep praying with you!

  12. Nancy and John Sawyer

    Dear Andy, Linda, and family,
    Thank you for sharing the story of Rachel and for such a beautiful ‘Thank You’ that you sent to those greeting you. We are so sorry for your having to go through such a traumatic time in Ghana. We have been praying for you all, and we know the Lord is a God who comforts! We will continue to pray!
    We always remember Rachel as someone with a lovely smile! She always was very respectful to others from little on. She was very knowledgeable and knew so much from the Bible. We were her Kindergarten Sunday School teachers, and Rachel was always so excited about adding something to the discussion. Her hand was always up. I (Nancy) remember one time when we were in the OT and were talking about a specific Bible character and Rachel wanted so badly to say something, so we said she could speak. She was wondering if we knew who the parents were and we didn’t know. But Rachel did! Praise the Lord for the wisdom He gave her at such an early age! She had such a desire to learn. She taught us some of that excitement! Praise the Lord for her life. We can rejoice that Rachel knew Christ and is now with Him! Nancy and John

  13. Kira Kaufmann

    Thanks to all who have already posted and thank you Rachel for all that you gave of yourself for others. Rachel had told me she was headed back to Elmina but I did not hear about her loss until this past weekend. I feel her loss profoundly as she came into my life when I was at one of the lowest points ever, right after my father died and I also had been going through an awful work situation in Florida. Rachel helped me to believe in archaeology again – to believe that as archaeologists we could move beyond politics as well as other individual’s obsession for titles and power – to work as a team and accomplish amazing archaeological research.
    I met Rachel in 2009, when she was helping at the LAMP fieldschool. We just got to chatting and she invited me to Elmina if I could spare the time, although she had no money for extra help. Amazingly as life would have it, I made the time and told her I wanted no money, that I would totally volunteer and I considered this a way that I could pay it forward to students like her – to finish their degrees. She offered me some reprieve in lodging, if I wouldn’t mind rooming with her. She even went so far as to buy (and use) nasal strips, because she snored quite frequently (as Al would know).

    She was always so much “larger than life” with her determination, her expectations, and her humor. She absolutely was a force of nature – making whatever needed to happen, happen. Yet, she exuded empathy and understanding for others and whose life circumstances were different from hers. Her faith was always present, usually in subtle and non-intrusive ways. Her love of Al and her family, always threaded in between what she said and did. And Al, although we spoke on the phone, we never met. But I want you to know that in the wee hours of the morning or at night after a long day on the water, Rachel would talk of you: your caring nature, your intelligence, your humor, and just all about you. She had so much love and admiration for you – it was always a part of her stories when she would talk about you – which was a lot!
    I have so many memories of that short field season and so many pictures. I wish I could share more than one. My favorites – ones with her family (Mrs. an Mr H., prayers for you and you both are in my heart), ones with the two amazing men (Darren and Casper) who helped that field season and this one, ones with her smile (Always infectious), ones with her being silly, and ones showing her caring nature (one posted with new puppy). The one that strikes me now is the one with her and Papa Kofi (who passed away in 2012). He also was an old soul, ingrained in his own culture but willing to try to understand the why shipwrecks/underwater archaeology is so important to some of us and so worth pursuing.
    Thank you Al, Rachel’s family, friends, and God for being there for her and for sharing her with all of us. Rachel you will always be cherished as colleague, as a friend, and as an absolutely amazing soul.

  14. Drew and Sarah Pietruszka

    What a loss of God’s grace and beauty. We are heartbroken for you all and cannot fathom the depth of pain and confusion that must ensue from a life cut so short. With prayers for peace, Drew and Sarah Pietruszka

  15. I didn’t know Rachel, but I know I would have loved to!

    It’s touching to read through these posts and see just how much of an impact this strong, smart, beautiful, and adventurous young woman had on so many people. I’m deeply inspired by her exuberant, full, and faithful life. What a role model to look up to.

    I’m praying for all of you who are close family and friends. May our Lord’s peace and comfort surround you during this difficult time. God has a multitude of reasons for allowing painful circumstances. I’m confident that He has already brought blessing to many parts of the world through the remembrance of her faith & inspiring life. I pray you will experience the deepest of JOY as you reflect on the incredible life Rachel lived. To us it seems as though Rachel’s invitation to sit beside Jesus came a little early but God knows exactly what He’s doing and His timing is perfect. To God be the Glory for a beautiful life lived!

    Uncle Andy and Aunty Linda, thanks for being such an inspiration and testimony of God’s grace and love even during this difficult period. You’re truly pillars of faith here in the Jos community.

    Even when life is tough, God’s grace is far greater!

  16. Saweda Liverpool-Tasie

    Thank you so much for posting Rachel’s memorial service. Rachel was an elementary school classmate of mine at Hillcrest School Jos and her family and mine continue to live in Jos, Nigeria. She was so fun loving and cheerful. It was really lovely when we reconnected by Facebook many years later to see that she continued to be a lively, fun loving woman with a very powerful christian testimony. I learned of the tragic news of Rachel’s passing from friends on face book. My feelings went from shock to sadness…back to shock…to a few questions to God (why her and why now?)…As I continued to follow the posts on FB and watched her interview on line “The Hauns in Africa”, my feelings went on to admiration and pride with a sad but joyful assurance that she was definitely in a better place. As I watched the memorial service, sadness returned…but it was partly and largely overtaken by that joyful assurance seeing how many lives she had touched and blessed. May her gentle soul rest in peace and may our lives be such powerful witnessess to the faith that we claim…to the glory of God. Adieu dear Rachel…You will definitely be missed!

  17. As we all were, I was struck by the power of all the emotion, the love, that was in Hendricks Chapel yesterday. I held my beautiful wife, Leigh, a little closer, cherished my friends a little more, and I hope I can do this a little more each day.

    I was moved by the song playing before the beginning of the ceremony, while pictures from Rachel’s life were showing. The lyrics carry a message that, I think, hit on many of the unexplainable feelings that we had, and also speak to the joie de vivre that Rachel possessed. They are below.

    Peace, joy, and hope to all.

    Johnny Clegg (featuring Savuka)
    from the album Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World

    One day I looked up and there you were
    Like a simple question looking for an answer
    Now I am the whale listening to some inner call
    Swimming blindly to throw myself upon your shore

    What if I don’t find you when I have landed?
    Would you leave me here to die on your shore stranded?

    I think I know why the dog howls at the moon
    I think I know why the dog howls at the moon

    I sing dela, dela ngyanya, dela, when I’m with you
    Dela, sondela, mama, sondela, I burn for you

    I’ve been waiting for you all my life, hoping for a miracle
    I’ve been waiting day and night, day and night
    I’ve been waiting for you all my life, waiting for redemption
    I’ve been waiting day and night, I burn for you

    A blind bird sings inside the cage that is my heart
    The image of your face comes to me when I am alone in the dark
    If I could give a shape to this ache that I have for you
    If I could find the voice that says the words that capture you.

    I think I know, I think I know, I think I know,
    I think I know why the dog howls at the moon
    I think I know why the dog howls at the moon

    I sing dela, dela ngyanya, dela, when I’m with you
    Dela, sondela, mama, sondela, I burn for you

    I’ve been waiting for you all my life, hoping for a miracle
    I’ve been waiting day and night, day and night
    I’ve been waiting for you all my life, waiting for redemption
    I’ve been waiting day and night, I burn for you

    Sondela, sondela, mama, sondela, I burn for you

    I’ve been waiting for you all my life, hoping for a miracle
    I’ve been waiting day and night, day and night
    I’ve been waiting for you all my life, waiting for redemption
    I’ve been waiting day and night, I burn for you

    Burn for you, I burn for you…

  18. Thank you for posting Rachel’s memorial service. Even though I wasn’t able to be there in person, or even watch it live, I am thankful that I was able to see it later on. I loved hearing about her passions in life and how much she loved God and those around her. Rachel was an amazing person who left an impact on so many people!! It was powerful to hear the drums and music, and it was great to hear Calvin and Al share about Rachel. Thank you! Keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers – may he surround each of you in His comfort and grace.
    Love, Christy

  19. Juanita Brouwer

    What a treasure it was to be part of Rachel’s memorial celebration through the live stream. Thank you. God’s peace, strength and courage with certainly with you as you celebrated her life. Rachel obviously touched lives in a tangible way, being Jesus’ hands and feet in all she did. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Hugs!

  20. Patty Waterhouse

    Thank you so much for allowing me to attend the memorial service via live stream. Rachel’s life was a powerful witness to the Good News of eternal life in Jesus. Can’t wait to see her when it is my turn to join her one day in heaven. Rachel you inspired all of us to live life to the fullest and to take the time to love all who come our way. Rachel had many adventures in her life but none like she must be having right now. My prayers to the family and to Al.

  21. I am watching the memorial service of my friend and classmate Rachel on the internet from Lagos. I remember her from Hillcrest in Jos as a happy-go-lucky upbeat and cheerful person who always had a smile on her face. Everyone liked her.

    A few years later when I was transferring to Florida State University I came up to Tallahassee for orientation. I contacted Rachel and she generously gave me a place to stay for a few days. She gave me advice about the university and we watched a Seminoles football game together.

    Like me, she returned to africa after spending time in North America to follow her dreams. I admire her for doing what she loved. My heart felt sympathies to her family who are some of the closet friends and colleagues to the McCain family.

  22. Saudade.

  23. Chuck Harmon, Allen St Neighbor

    I was deeply saddened to learn of Rachel’s tragic passing. I was looking forward to her return to Allen Street to tell me more exciting stories about her expeditions. She was such a wonderful person. I will miss seeing her sitting on the porch steps when I walk my dogs, I will miss her perpetual smile, her cheerfulness and her wonderful stories. My deepest sympathies to Alphonso and all of Rachel’s family.

  24. Patti Clark - Diagnostic Imaging Center

    Alphonso and family –

    Today at work we received the terrible news. Words cannot express what the heart feel. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

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