My husband died on May 28, 2014, but we didn’t learn of his death until May 31. Today (May 31, 2016) is the 2nd anniversary of the day I had to tell my children their father was dead. The scene below still haunts me and probably always will.
When the 3rd call came in I took the phone, went into my darkened bedroom, and sat on the chocolate brown leather couch. Search and Rescue had been dispatched that morning.
“Holly do you have someone with you?”
“Yes, I do. I am not alone.”
My friend took my hand.
“We have not found the team yet, but we did find some gear spread out on the Carbon Glacier.”
“What does this mean?”
“We don’t know yet, but we do know that the debris is in a direct fall line from where the team was. They were climbing on a ridge 3300 feet directly above the scattered gear.”
I hung up the phone and told Friend what she had said. They had not yet declared the team dead but in my mind it was a done deal.
Within hours it became official. The team had been swept off the ridge. Everyone was dead. They could not recover the bodies. The story had already made international news. My children were not yet home. At 5pm, in a haze, I answered a knock to the door.
“Hello. I am from King5 news. Is Holly Patrick home?”
“I am Holly.”
“I am sorry to intrude during this time. Can you confirm that your husband, John Patrick, died in the Mount Rainier tragedy today?”
“Yes. My husband is dead.”
“I have a video crew down at the street. Can we come in and take a statement?”
I began to shake.
“In a few minutes someone is bringing my children home and I will be telling them that their father is dead. Please leave.”
Melanie (age 5) and Isabella (age 9) were away, unknowingly enjoying their last days as children of innocence. They arrived home soon after the reporter left, shepherded by family friends who already held the dark secret. I sat them down on the dog scratched sagging white leather sectional. I put them in the corner of the couch, away from John’s favorite seat, away from the spot still dented by the shape of his bum, away from his already-present ghost.
I said it softly, but simply, because my spirit had temporarily left my body. I was an empty shell with moving lips.
“Dad died on his climb. Dad’s dead.” I said.
We all started crying and screaming, as one would expect us too. Melanie yelled “My dad’s dead… MY DAD’s DEAD”. Isabella hardened and froze up. We all grabbed each other, hugging and sobbing. For an hour or so, we bounced between hysterics, frantic questions, and despair. Melanie said, with great concern, more hysteria, and saucer wide eyes –
“But… but Mama, Dada was always the one to use the chain saw when we were camping on our land. WHO WILL USE THE CHAINSAW?”
Melanie was angry, afraid. “But MOM, you don’t know how. You don’t know HOW to use the chainsaw!!!”
“Then I will learn. I will learn to use the chain saw. I will saw up the fallen trees, chop them into firewood, and make the fires. I will do it all.”
“Ok, Mama. Ok.”