It was a normal day… I was out in the cold, damp, Southern Illinois woods, working with my dad on his sawmill. I hated IL winters! So drab and dreary and wet and cold and miserable. My mom once kept track – and she didn’t see the sun for 6 weeks straight. That’s bad. Anyways. I was 17 years old. I was the oldest kid at home at that time, since all 4 of my brothers had flow the coop, and my older sister was teaching a term of school in another state. I worked with my dad on his sawmill most days of the week.
It was a Saturday night. I was exhausted as usual, so I didn’t stay awake very long that night. Knowing me – I probably tried to read a book, but fell asleep and gave up. But then something unusual happened. My Mom was shaking me awake.
“Kay! Kay! You need to wake up.” She was gentle, but I heard the fear and shock in her voice, even though she wasn’t speaking loud at all. I sat up, then jumped out of bed. Pulling a robe around my shoulders in the chilly air, I followed her downstairs. Dad was sitting in his easy-chair, looking frozen in time. I looked at mom. She sat down on the couch, and no one said anything for a minute.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” I knew something awful had happened, but couldn’t quite figure out what it might be.
“We got a call… Allan was in a wreck, and he’s gone.” The words were quietly spoken, but unbelievable. I sat stunned. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t know what to say. What does one say when their hero dies? Dad and mom told me how they had received a call from the local police office, asking if they could come over for a bit. Of course, Dad asked which child had died, but I guess protocol restrained them from saying over the phone. So they came. They told my parents that my big brother had been in an accident, and was dead.
The funny thing was, the accident had happened in the afternoon, and it was late evening before we found out. Even with time difference, it seemed strange.
Mom told me how Allan had been driving over the Cascade mountain range – headed to some family friends for the weekend. It was rainy and the roads were wet. He apparently skidded into the oncoming lane, and was struck by a 4×4 pickup – broadside. He was pronounced dead on the scene. The people in the other vehicle had a few minor injuries, nothing too serious. My brother was driving a SAAB. You know, those funny looking cars from Germany or somewhere?
After Dad and Mom were done telling me what had happened, I just got up and slowly walked back up to my bedroom. There were no hugs. No words of comfort with each other. Our family life was strained, and it never occurred to me to give my mom a hug. Which she desperately needed. There were tears in her eyes as I turned to leave.
I felt hollow.
I felt numb.
Its true – you can feel those rather abstract emotions.
Allan was the firstborn in my family of 8 kids. He was a quiet, reserved man. Tall, dark and handsome. Very intelligent and ‘bookish’. He loved a good book, and good music. He also had a wonderful dry sense of humor. He was always kind to us younger kids. One of my earliest memories is playing with my dolls under the kitchen table, while Allan mixed a huge batch of bread, singing “I’ll Fly Away” in his beautiful tenor voice. I was told later it was his favorite song. He was a good cook, probably because with 4 boys first, my mother taught Allan to help her in the house. He could clean and cook and tend babies as good as any woman. He never married. We gave him such a hard time about that, but in retrospect, it was a very real blessing, that he left no widow or fatherless babies when he died at age 30.
I am now 30. It seems so long ago – and yet so recent. How can something feel like that???
When I went back to bed that night, I remember laying there, feeling a dull ache in my chest. It was the first time I understood that emotional pain can be physical. I tried to sleep and forget it all, like a bad dream. But I couldn’t . I just wept and wept. Lying in the darkness, feeling all alone, I finally started talking to God. I said: “God, I don’t understand this. Allan was such a good person. He loved You. He was young and full of life. But I know You have a plan for everyone, and somehow this is part of your plan for my life. I accept it. But my heart is hurting so badly, I just want to rest. Please hold me, Father.”
Immediately I stopped weeping, and felt the Presence of God so strongly. I just felt a comfort and a peace… and I slept.
There were no physical ‘feelings’, but just the Presence of a true Father, comforting me. I learned an important lesson that night. You don’t have to understand. You don’t have to be an experienced Christian, you can be a spiritual baby – you just have to place your trust in God, and rest in Him. He will hold you through the toughest times. Later in life, I was thankful for this experience, as it helped me through an even darker time in my life.
There’s a part of my heart that is happy that he went on before – so my son, and several nieces/nephews can have such a wonderful uncle in Heaven with them.
I will see you soon, Allan!