A letter to my dear son
To my dear son, it's been four days since this nightmare began with a late night knock on the door. The Sheriff asked if he could come in and requested that my wife join us. I already knew what he was going to say; it's every parent's worst fear. The only question is whose name would we be hearing, Sonja, Mandy, Jake? Cindy quickly joined and he continued that the Sheriff Department had received a call from the Cortez Police Department in Colorado advising there had been a car accident and that our son did not survive. My mind was not willing to accept what I was hearing, perhaps it was case on misidentification or maybe this was all a bad dream. These doubts faded as Sonja and I arrived in Phoenix Friday morning, picked up your mom in Prescott and started our journey towards Cortez to make the necessary arrangements to bring you back to Washington. And on Saturday morning, when the funeral home director handed me your wallet and cell phone wrapped in a piece of paper titled "receipt of personal effects, name of deceased; 'Jacob'" any remaining doubts were gone, and the reality was that the beautiful, caring young man that we all loved so dearly was gone forever. The papers were signed and payment made, your body would be cremated later that day. We asked where you were, the director said in another building and then strongly recommended not viewing, he said the body on the table was not who you were and was not how we would want to remember you. We agreed.
It was then on to the "point of impact" where the steel light pole had in less then a blink of an eye obliterated consciousness and separated your soul from it's mortal body. It was a weed infested patch of dirt & mud, not at all a fitting place to end a life so full of promise and love. We left flowers on the post next to where your body would have laid.
Every step forward in this process was more painful then the previous, it was time to collect your belongings. We met the Ranger at the Visitors Center and he took us up to the house. Your room was very clean, your clothes, pants, underwear & stocks neatly organized in drawers, tee & dress shirts nicely hung. A checklist for the work you were going to do to your Jeep was on the nightstand. Your bed had not been made since you had last slept in it, so I sat on the edge and held your pillow to my face; it was a familiar smell that I remembered from when you lived with us in Bellingham. I was hoping for a connection to the Jake that had slept there just two nights before, but it only increased my sense of loss and the realization that we would never be able to see the continued growth of a great person & friend to many we knew you would become. I put some of your Forest Service shirts (the ones with your name on them) along with the SMU hat Mandy gave you at the PHZ golf tournament last year into a box to ship home. I collected your bank, school and tax information so we can sort out any of your outstanding financial commitments. The photo albums and other personal stuff were loaded in the back of your Jeep. Leaving your clothes, pot & pans, etc to be donated to local charities by the Rangers. All in all the physical sum of your 26 years on this earth were in the back of your car, I still can't believe I'm doing this, my little man I love was gone forever. My God, I would trade places with you in a heartbeat if only I could.
Our final stop was to see your friends Chris & Jeremy, they will recover from their physical injuries but I fear the "whys and what ifs" will haunt Chris for years to come, as they will me. Our prayers are with him. These things happen, life does not come with any guarantees. This is the reason why it's so important to let the people you care about know how you feel today, you may not be able to tomorrow.
As I headed back to Phoenix Sunday morning I tried to find something positive out of the past 72 hours, what I came up with is that I'm so glad that you were surrounded by loving, supportive friends who truly cared about you and that they will continue to carry your memory in their hearts. And that I know you were the type of man that people loved to have as a friend, I know I would.
As we move forward, all the memories of good things in your life will slowly replace the pain we're feeling today, we'll remember the things you've done, beautiful places you've been, the friends you've made. In time this will come.
Jake please know that I will carry you in my heart and thoughts as long as I live, you will always be the love of my life.
I'll write you again soon, Love Dad.