(Start HERE for full “Before and After” series)
Tuesday, November 8, 2005 – He’s gone
4:30 am Carol calls to tell us things do not look good and they are airlifting him to Billings. She says we should plan to come and I wonder why. I still don’t believem but for the first time I am thinking maybe this is not going to be a he’s-rescued-and-everything-is-going-to-be-ok kind of story. Somehow I am able to go back to sleep. Â In the denial of sleep, I can forget the awful possibilities.
Everything has to be OK and then we’ll get back to our lives.
I wake up around 6:30 and Galen tells me he has been up since Carol called, praying and pleading for Gordon’s life. He tells me he believes he will be found.
Good, maybe things will be OK and then we can get back to our lives.
Finally, at 7 a.m., unable to bear it any longer I call Carol. Patty Hanson answers and hands the phone to Carol and she says those awful words, “He’s gone.”
November 8, 2005, 7 AM: My world stops.
Things are NOT OK and we won’t resume our lives as I had planned.
I do not talk about those words “He’s gone” for nine months. I refuse to think about them. I push them down as far as I can. It is only with the support of a loving counselor that I allow myself to think of these words and talk about them, write about them. And in so doing, the hold of these words is broken.
Galen calls friends of Mom and Dad and tells him to get someone over to the house to be with Mom and Dad, because Galen has to call them and tell them. I simply cannot call them and tell them yet another of their children is gone.
The rest of the day is a blur except for some very strong memories:
Scott asks me if this is going to be as bad for me as it would be if he lost one of his brothers. I said, no, I didn’t think so, because Gordon wasn’t really part of my everyday life. He was far away in Montana.
How little I knew!
How wrong I was!
I remember sitting on the kitchen steps, talking to my friend, Doris: “When I was a little girl, I prayed and prayed and prayed that he would be born and he was. And now I have prayed and prayed and prayed that he would be found and he wasn’t.” And I begin to wonder what good it does to pray.
(That question is one that I had to work though over the coming weeks and months. There were times when I couldn’t pray at all. It was a journey for me to come see prayer as a way to talk to our Father in Heaven, not as a way to get what we want. I knew that – with my head – I had to learn it with my heart. It was a process, but I knew God was ok with my doubts, my honesty. )
Galen makes the arrangements and by afternoon, we are on our way to a Memorial Service.
But I must stop and see 3 1/2 year old Jacob Thomas before I leave. I need his hugs right now. They tell him that Meena need hugs. They tell him she is sad because Uncle Gordon got lost in the woods and is now in heaven. He doesn’t understand a lot about heaven, but he does know that “ee-aa Papa” is there – and he cannot see him. He comes running to me and jumps into my arms, giving me big hugs and kisses. It is a comfort to my heart. And I love it that he remembers Gordon from their visit in April. So grateful for the Willow Creek Women’s Conference that brought Carol to Chicago and Gordon with her.
We arrive in Billings about 7:30 p.m. Greeting at the Billings Airport is always a happy time! This is different. Carol and Megan are crying. I look at Brian. There are no tears, but I will never forget the look of pain in his eyes.
Meanwhile, Carol sends the following email to her downline: My husband died of hypothermia on a hunting expedition in the back country of Montana Tuesday Morning. The memorial celebration service will be Saturday morning, it appears. My deep pain is tempered with the fact that I know he simply slipped out of his earth suit and into his robes of righteousness and is sitting at the feet of Jesus. If you want to read about his being lost in the mountains, you can find a wonderful article in today’s Billings Gazette in the local section by going to billingsgazette.com. I will be in touch with many of you in the near future. Carol Longenecker
Continue reading as the story unfolds HERE Day 3, Part 2