Apparently, I am not finished writing about it. But it seems I am wrapping up. Another post has to be about thanking all who have helped.
This is how it happened, just the facts beyond the public news channels, before I get it mixed up and for those who still wanted to know, but did not want to ask, or we did not want to tell it again:
January 2, 2009, was an extremely cold day, the like we rarely experience, close to -40 degrees Celsius. Stefan had slept late, having come home late. It had become hard to keep track of him, especially since he did not always pick up my cell phone calls and he did not always respond to my text messages. He did not want to be interfered with at this time of his life.
He got up sometime after noon. I was in the kitchen. He started going in and out, presumable packing some things up. At the end of that he yelled up from the basement exit that he was going to grandmother’s house to work. He did not come to get any food to eat in the kitchen, probably because grandma spends all her time trying to feed the guys. He never came into the kitchen to kiss me good-bye. I thought to call after him, to say good-bye, but I thought I wasn’t going to nag for the same thing again. I left it up to him since he was practically out the door already. That good-bye kiss might have been just enough delay to not meet that truck that day. But that is just one of the hundred would have’s and should have’s. So, that’s how I never even saw him that day, only heard him from downstairs.
After that, I phoned my cousin Marion in Mainz, Germany, for a New Year’s call. It must have been during this call that Stefan and Matt died only one mile from where I was sitting. They slid downhill going south on the Rural Road onto the intersection with 643 unable to stop. The 643 is a secondary road with very heavy truck and bus traffic from the fertilizer plant and oil industry. A loaded water truck ran right into the driver’s side of Matt’s little car. Both roads meet going downhill and it was extremely slippery. None was able to avoid the other. It was a huge side impact. There was not an ounce of sand on the approach to the intersection. The entire weekend after the fatal accident there was not an ounce of sand in that intersection. We always knew it was a dangerous place even without being icy. In addition, both roads could have been constructed differently to make the intersection much less dangerous.
Martin was at work, for a short day. Andrea was driving home from Kimberly, BC with her friend Thomas.
Martin, then, came home around 3:00 that day and passed right by the accident scene, with all the emergency vehicles there. He could not recognize the crushed vehicle, only noticed that there must have been fatalities, not suspecting anything else. He came home, he changed, and he went to grandma’s house to help with the work the boys had started, there. This time he had to be detoured. I did not hear from him that the boy’s whereabouts were unknown, once he had gone to his mother’s. They had not been reliable about their coming and going and communicating about it, as has been mentioned.
At 5:00 pm I wanted to go to Gibbons to do some banking and go to Curves. At the intersection with the 643 I could see down the hill that there were many emergency vehicles, etc. and that there must have been a horrible accident. I was prevented from going down that hill and had to make a long detour going the opposite way. When I got to Gibbons, I went to the bank and said: “There must have been some horrible accident on the 643.” When I went to Curves I said: “There must have been some horrible accident on the 643.” I did not expect any bad news, thinking everyone was at grandma’s house. It is amazing how you don’t think that these things could happen to you. They always happen to someone else. In fact the RCMP was at the door of my house with bad news, right at the time I was in Gibbons.
Shortly after 6:00 I got back home, and Andrea started phoning from her cell phone, now approaching Fort Saskatchewan. Stefan’s friends had been phoning her on her cell phone saying that Matt had had a severe accident and someone was with him but nobody knew for sure who it was. Stefan’s cell phone was going unanswered.
This was my clue that that we might have a tragedy on our hands. I phoned Martin at his mother’s and found out that the boys had not been there all afternoon. That was extremely bad news. So far, it might have been that Stefan was at grandma’s while Matt is driving around with someone else.
I phoned Matt’s family’s house and spoke to Matt’s father. He said to me incredulously: “You don’t know?” So he told me that Matt was dead and that the other passenger was also dead, and that the other passenger was carrying Stefan’s ID. I had missed the RCMP when I had gone to Gibbons.
I phoned Andrea back on her cell phone and told her and she fell apart. She was now 20 min. from home. I phoned Martin and he left his mother’s house to come home right away. Before they both pulled in our driveway, some of Stefan’s friends came to the door to tell me the news, also.
To me, somehow, this right away became a situation that needed to be managed, like dental emergency, like a kid screaming his head off in the operatory. And for a long time, it is all surreal. I phoned Stefan’s other mom, Nadine, just in time before her husband went out to play hockey. So they were both home together. She could not believe it. Just a month earlier she and Stefan had attended the funeral of his birth-cousin, 17, lost to suicide. She had been so proud of Stefan, attending with her, looking great, mixing and mingling. He had been like an angel, she said.
For another 30 min. we could not get any other confirmation. Finally, the RCMP arrived around 7:30. It must have been a crisis team, consisting of three women. The RCMP officer had tears in her eyes. We said that we’re ok. Thank you, we have our own pastor. They can go. We did not phone our pastor that night, we did not feel we wanted to ruin his evening; it also was not the right time. It would have been late by the time he got here. Mary was there and the Alliance Church prayer chain was already in action. Word travels fast. Thomas was here.
We sat up late, and had a suitable prayer from a book. (This was the prayer, I looked it up this morning; the ribbon was still there, and I still remember where I could barely get the words out: “Almighty and everlasting God, You give and You take away according to Your wisdom and grace. We give thanks for all the mercies granted to Stefan during his short life on earth and for taking him to Yourself. Enable us to accept Your holy will that we may be comforted with the assurance that through the power of Holy Baptism our beloved was delivered from sin and has been received among the saints in glory. Keep all of us in Your grace that when our last hour comes we may depart in peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord and Savior.”, from Visitation using LW Little Agenda.)
The next day was incredibly hectic. The pastor came out during our breakfast. We had devotions and picked hymns. The neighbors, our former pastor and his family, and others came to sit with us most of the day. There was a constant stream of people at the door with food and flowers. The phone rang all day. Nadine and her husband came over. The whole day we cried and laughed and looked a pictures and could not really believe what had happened. It was the strangest day of my life. To my best friends and church people I just said: “Don’t come. Just pray.” It was overwhelming.
The other perspective is of the man at the scene, Gerhard. I spoke with him several months after. He became known to us via an employee. For a long time, I did not have the courage to speak with him. It would be good to some day also speak with the truck driver.
Gerhard was travelling east on the 643. He heard the incredibly loud sound of the impact. He looked up and saw Matt’s car being pushed about 20 m down the hill and into the ditch. The wheels of the truck where over the driver’s side. Gerhard stopped as he reached the scene to provide aid. He gave up on Matt, who must have been pinned under and was not giving sign of life. Stefan was on the other side and Gerhard found vital signs. He attempted to give something approximating CPR with Stefan in the car.
The truck driver was losing it, running in circles in the snow, not able to deal with the 911 call. Gerhard settled him in his truck with blankets. As it was so cold Gerhard also froze his fingers. EMS seemed to take forever.
Stefan died right there with Gerhard beside him.
Gerhard is a devout Christian man and he said he was praying lots. He was just hoping that the boy was saved. He was happy to hear we are a Christian family and hopefully doing alright. I am glad to hear, too, that there was a Christian man with Stefan at the time, though I don’t try much to imagine the scene. I felt bad that I was so close by but knew nothing for so long. But Gerhard said it was much better that I was not there.
EMS took Stefan into the ambulance to provide shock. Gerhard was hoping that he might come back. However, it was in vain. Their necks were broken, as we learned later and would have imagined anyhow. It was harder to get out Matt. Martin and I identified the bodies at the Medical Examiner’s office.
This is how your life can change in a second. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
But also: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11). Yes, we believe it. It is also a fact, a fact to come.