I could feel this day creeping up on me and the emotions swelling. It’s been a year since the tragic death of Adam, Elizabeth, and Jane. The grief sometimes feels manageable, sometimes feels impossible, and sometimes both at the same time.
Last night we went to eat at Chick-fil-a for dinner. We were there with some friends, so we sat in the large gathering table in the center of the dining area that seats a big group. One of my daughters said to me “I feel anxious all of a sudden, but I don’t know why.” And then a few minutes later she said, with tears starting to suddenly leak, “I realize why I don’t feel good. We were sitting at this table when you got the call.”
It was during my kids Christmas break from school last year, this day exactly 1 year ago, that I had brought them to Chick-fil-a for lunch. The dining room was so crowded that the only table left was the big one. We were sitting and eating when I got a weird call asking me if I was related to Adam Johanson.
While I am normally very suspicious about weird phone calls asking for personal information and rarely take them seriously, something about this call made the pit of my stomach clench up. I immediately called Matt and told him about the call and said “I feel like something bad has happened. I’m not sure why, but I feel sick about this call.”
Then Matt felt it too, the unnerving feeling that something is wrong. He decided to leave work and head home. He also started trying to get a hold of his brother Adam. When that didn’t work, he started a dialogue with his parents – everyone trying to get a hold of Adam and Elizabeth, and trying to find any information. Elizabeth wasn’t replying to my calls/texts either.
Matt was on the phone with his parents back in our bedroom when I answered the front door to the state troopers. They asked to come in and I waved them in, yelling to the back of the house for Matt to join us. I knew when I saw the troopers standing there. I knew. But, it wasn’t going to be real until I heard them say it out loud.
Matt came to the dining room where we sat with the officers, his parents were on speaker phone. They got to their point pretty quick and told us the devastating facts: we had lost Adam, Elizabeth, and Jane. I fell off my chair and started sobbing and screaming. I think I can remember hearing my mother-in-law yelling “no, no, no” through the phone. Our kids rushed in, afraid of what they were hearing and they all started to cry. Matt was crying too. At some point that seems fuzzy now, the troopers left.
Matt told me the other day that January 3, 2019 is the longest and hardest day of his life.
I wish I had something profound to say about all this, but I don’t. The grief is still fresh. Writing this out just now took me back like I was there again, reliving it. It’s weird when just a night out to dinner, a quick, innocent dinner at Chick-fil-a on January 2nd, could suddenly throw us into the past. There has been a million times like this all year, so I should probably stop being surprised.
There was an aspect to this day last year that I don’t mention much, but it has been on my mind a lot lately. That same day of the accident that took the lives of Matt’s brother Adam, sister-in-law Elizabeth, and niece Jane, my brother’s wife was supposed to be traveling with my niece and nephews on the exact same Texas road of Adam and Elizabeth’s accident. She decided to postpone her drive back to New Mexico another day until the weather cleared.
While I am so grateful that we didn’t lose any more family that day, lately I’ve been thinking about why. Why are some spared and some not? As tough as it is through the grief, I have to believe that it is all part of God’s plan. (However, I am adding this to my list of questions I have when I meet God someday.)
I’ve watched Matt deal with his grief in his own way this past year. He is such a rock. He is always willing to comfort me in my grief. Matt is more of the “still waters run deep” kind of guy. Matt doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve, but he feels them deeply. I can tell some of the times he is thinking about Adam, though, because he’ll lead the conversation in certain directions even though he may not come out and say the extent of what’s on his mind. We both know. He misses his brother and his best friend.
We all miss them. Our family loves their family. We were close. There is a hole in our lives where they should be.
I know from many of your messages that many of you experienced deep losses last year too. Thanks for sharing those with me. And thanks to all of those who reached out to comfort a “stranger on the internet.” Thank you, sincerely. I think of you, your kindness, your stories, and I remember that I am not alone. We are each carrying a heavy burden.