Saturday, January 21, 2006

Steve's Passing

My sister wrote a brief email chiding me for writing such an uninspiring obituary for my brother-in-law Steve Merchant. It's true, I wrote something for just the barest of informational purposes and didn't give even the smallest hint of feelings or personal experience. I'd like to remedy that now.

I would like to respect the privacy of his widow and children by not giving too many details of his passing. However, I think it would be appropriate to include a basic outline of the events surrounding his death.

On Thursday afternoon, Steve went snowmobiling on Mount Spokane with two friends. He attempted a particularly difficult run through the trees and down a steep hill. His friends lost track of him and went back to look. They found him laying with his back against a tree with his snowmobile still running. He was already gone.

Rhonda, Glenda, the kids, and I first heard the news from Mike, who heard second hand reports about Steve having a heart attack. We called everyone we could think of who might give us a more authoritative account of what really happened. We spent hours calling and waiting before Rhonda was finally able to contact Lanith (Steve's wife). I really thought Rhonda was going to tell us everything was alright, but after several minutes she finally said, "He didn't make it."

It felt like a bomb hit our house. We all burst into uncontrollable sobbing, especially Glenda. I felt sad for myself, but I kept thinking no parent should ever have to bury their child. Glenda was beside herself; screaming and totally inconsolable. It was so hard to witness a mother losing her son. As long as I live, I hope I never have to see that again.

Thankfully, Val and Patsy O'Donnal, Bob Dodd, Jean Nibarger, Mike and Julie Norris came over to console us. They gave us blessings of comfort and left us with a feeling of strength.

For me, I felt absolutely dumbstruck between the similarities of Steve's passing and my father's passing 12 years ago. Both men were in their 40s. Both died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart attacks. Both died in the month of January. Steve died doing what he loved most; snowmobiling on Mount Spokane. My father died what he loved doing most; wardancing. It was just too much; I started having flashbacks of losing my dad, and then losing my aunt. Now this...

This was certainly one of the most difficult days of our lives.

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