On the evening of January 18, 1992, as Heidi was out on a date, Tim and I were home watching Top Gun (which was Jamie’s favorite movie) when the phone rang. We paused the tape in the VCR, and I answered the kitchen phone. It was Daddy (Grandpa Ken). He immediately instructed me to get Tim on the phone. I assumed something had happened to Grandpa Philip (Great-Grandparents). Details of the initial news… escape me now. Only, I remember hearing he’d hung himself, but I didn’t remember hearing he’d actually died.
I remember lying on the floor of the kitchen… crying… in complete disbelief. “It can’t be! It just can’t be!?!” I had to know for sure. So, I called Carlton. He was just about to leave his home to drive into the mountains to the camp where Jamie was retreating. Carlton confirmed Jamie was gone.
The next thing I remember…FEAR. What is this going to do to Heidi? I had worked at a middle school at the time a well-loved eighth grade girl had taken her own life, so I knew the behind-the-scene precautions outlined by mental health professionals and implemented by school counselors… how do we tell her? Her twin is gone. How will she take it? Copy -catting is an unwanted reality. Heidi’s close relationship with Jamie would cast her into a shadowed statistic…to keep a closer eye.
I wanted to leave and go find Heidi. I was afraid someone else would tell her before we could get to her… not logical, but among my early thought. Tim reminded me that was nearly impossible and suggested we stay home. He called over a couple friends. One lived close by, and she arrived before Heidi did.
As we sat… and waited for Heidi to get home… and cried, my heart felt torn out of my chest. Memories flashed in mind…shock sent in silences… thoughts rushed again.
“How sweet to hold
A newborn baby
And feel the pride
And joy he gives
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face
Because He Lives…”
Gloria and William Gaither
Tim locked the front door, so we’d know when Heidi got home. She was irritated when she first pulled her key from the door knob questioning why we’d locked her out. I guess she realized something was wrong as her eyes darted around the room to each of us.
Tim asked her to sit down several times, but she just kept demanding, “Just tell me!” Eventually, he did. Again, I don’t remember all the words… but, the pain… palpable… as her legs crumbled beneath her. And her sobbing… exclaiming, “I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!”
That night… we knew we needed to get to Colorado as soon as possible. However, we needed sleep. I think I’d hoped we’d leave before sunrise. I wanted to get to my family as soon as possible, but Heidi wanted to go to church first. Tim decided we’d pack up for the 11 hour road trip, stop in at church, and head out of town directly from there. Tim shared the news with our Sunday School class by saying “We lost our ‘son’ last night.” This actually was confusing, so we had to explain he was our nephew, etc.
The Sunday School class responded… generously. They actually collected an offering to help us with the trip. The drive… long and quiet… outside of the reflective music filling the car. A salve to our souls… reminding us life is bigger than what we see, dream, battle… we’re not alone. When our souls sing, we remember. Who He Is.
“God sent his son
They called him Jesus
He came to love
Heal and forgive
He lived and died
To buy my pardon
An empty grave
Is there to prove
My Savior lives…”
Gloria and William Gather
continued … Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 5)