Gravity (2 0f 5)

When my Father finally arrived in Denver, Teresa was not at the terminal to greet him. Confused, my Father claimed his luggage and waited a few minutes before he was paged. When he found her, Teresa was in hysterics; she grabbed him and, looking at him through streaming tears said, pleadingly, as if he might fix whatever was wrong, “Kimball, mom and dad are missing.�? My beleaguered and bewildered Father spent the night comforting his sister, even as he fought his own doubts and sorrow. The next morning, an entourage including family, friends, and a general authority were waiting at the airport in Salt Lake—but my grandparents were not there.

The day before my Father was to return to Utah, his parents drove to Mapleton to see friends who were not home. Finding themselves with a free afternoon, they drove up Hobble Creek Canyon, where, near the top, an unseen rock tore the oil pan from the car. Because there is no through-traffic in the Canyon, they tried to walk to safety; without any other options, they slowly began the winding descent down the deserted road. As they walked, clouds gathered and snow began to fall. Soon, a wind picked up and whipped the snow about them, creating a directionless white chaos. Hours after darkness settled over the Utah mountains, they finally stopped for the night—huddling up as best they could together, hoping to make it until morning.

The sun rose hours later, the newly made mounds of snow gleaming like fields of diamonds; in the eerie morning clam, my grandfather arose to find his sweetheart had died during the night. He trudged on alone. Miraculously, with no supplies and little physical prowess, he somehow survived during three nights in the wilderness. By the fourth day, he was bone weary and his limbs were beginning to succumb to frostbite. Still he wandered, trying to make his way down the road toward the valley. Sometime on that fourth day, two men who had ventured into the canyon to recover a stranded vehicle happened upon Papa and quickly drove him to Utah Valley hospital—it was only then my Father and his family learned my grandparents’ whereabouts.

My Father, Teresa (now in Utah from Denver), Kathy (my Dad’s other sister), and a host of family and friends rushed to Provo to see Papa. A new medical procedure saved his limbs from being lost to frostbite, but such a blessing seemed somehow small in light of the tragic circumstances. I can only imagine my Father’s feelings that day—how does one articulate that kind of grief?

During high school, Teresa had grown to have a rare and close friendship with Brother Christensen, her seminary teacher. That day in December, he heard about the tragedy and drove to Utah Valley Hospital from Logan; he found Teresa there and, together, they searched for a place to talk. The hour, however, was late and the only room they could find unoccupied and open was a janitor’s closet. Sitting amongst the brooms and mops, with the smell of ammonia about them, they searched for words, but found only tears, and so Brother Christensen held Teresa’s head in his hands literally through the night as she sobbed and shook until morning.

Published in: on December 14, 2006 at 12:29 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Heartwrenching.

  2. Indeed.

  3. In the world as we think it should be, this is not supposed to happen. What a nightmare to come home from your mission and find out your mother died in such a manner. What a miracle that your grandfather survived!

  4. WOW! What a gripping real-life story. Incredible! What a test that must have been!

  5. Tyler… Just happened onto your post. My heart grieves for the lost love of your dad.

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