Tonight I was at a neighbor’s house. She is an amazing school teacher who is getting close to retirement. She is also a widow. We were discussing some matters of her lawn and the deck that the neighborhood is in the process of re-staining. As I got ready to leave, she was kind enough to share a little of her story with me. She was 27 when her husband was killed as they were in a car accident returning home from a family vacation. They had 3 young daughters, the youngest being 9 months old. I know that people say their heart aches, or that stories like that break their heart, but that was not the case. I felt how much she loves and misses her husband all these years later. That love, is not heartbreaking.
As I crossed the street to my house, I thought of another family I know who has experienced similar tragedy.
I took the picture above of Jodi’s brother and his young family. We had just wrapped up a weekend family reunion at a cabin at Bear Lake. As we were packing up the cars, Shelley asked me to snap this picture. Little did I know, that it would be one of their only complete family pictures.
August 9, 2009
I will never forget that day. I had just recently taken a new job where I work. My manager had scheduled a training for me to come up to speed on what I would be doing. The training was conducted over the internet and phone. We had just started back after lunch when Jodi called me. She told me that her dad and brothers had decided to take a rare father/sons vacation together. Rare, because these three men worked harder than anyone I know. Her older brother Jed, was a pilot and had decided to fly the 3 of them to the Oregon Coast to go fishing.
Jodi and I were unaware of the planned trip, so it came as a shock when Jodi said, “They never made it to their hotel, and we haven’t heard from them since they left”. I was immediately sick to my stomach. Jodi comforted me saying that they would be ok. She was handling it really well and told me I should stay at work until we knew more.
I returned to training, but was not paying attention. A short time after Jodi called, I went to my boss, also a close friend of mine, and told him the situation. I had to be home with Jodi. The next hours were excruciating. Jodi had gone and picked up Shelley’s two oldest kids so that she could deal with the stress without having to care for her kids. It was agonizing as we kept them active and happy as we waited word. Around 9 that night, Jodi got the call from her sister. Police officers had come to her mom and Shelley to notify them that 2 husbands and 2 sons would not be coming home. I was numb. I did my best to comfort Jodi as we cried in our home office so that the kids would not see us. Shelley wanted to be the one to tell her kids, but it was late enough it would need to be the next morning.
The next few days after that are still a blur. I remember taking the kids to Shelley’s and watching her tell them that Daddy had gone to live with Heavenly Father. I love Shelley. She is one of my heroes! She is so brave. I remember lots of people coming to her house and lots of food being brought for the family. None of us had much of an appetite. I remember media starting to call Shelley’s house. We decided that I could manage that for the family. I remember talking to KSL, Deseret News, and KUTV.
The following weeks and months were challenging for the family. The funeral(s) were hard, yet helpful at the same time for me. The church was packed. I want to say there were around 1000 people that attended the service in our hometown in Idaho. The service and love that we felt from friends, family, and even complete strangers was amazing.
I was raised in a home that commemorated every Memorial Day at the cemetary. My parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents would go out and clean and tend to the gravesites of the many ancestors that rest in Rupert. Both of my grandparents are from families that were established there. I have two sets of great grandparents buried in Rupert, a set of grandparents, several great aunts and uncles, and an uncle, Lonnie Ray, who died within a few hours after he was born. All of them are buried in the same area, so memorial day growing up for me was almost like an extended family reunion.
Sometimes my friends would give me a hard time as their Memorial Day traditions differed quite a bit from mine. They would go camping, boating, or fishing. I was ok with that, cause I always liked the traditions we had. Memorial Day is even more significant to me now. In the Paul Cemetary, just a few miles south west of the Rupert Cemetary, Jodi now has 2 grandparents, her dad, two brothers, and our son now buried close to each other. All of them have passed since 2005.
Memorial Day is a time to celebrate and remember those who have gone before us. This is the 1st of a 3 part post. I wanted to give you some context about the 3 angels I will be introducing to you over the next two posts as I remember them and share some of my experiences with you. I have briefly mentioned these three angels before, wondering if and when I would share the whole story from my perspective. After talking to my neighbor about her husband she lost over 30 years ago, I feel it is time for me to share some of what I remember of Ron, Jed, and Jordan. Hopefully it will encourage some to remember their loved ones that now watch over them.
Pictures From the Funeral