I click the red x and lean back in my chair. I have been working on outlining my novel, The Dream Tamer, and have just finished outlining Liam’s character. As I check my email, the phone rings. I pick it up.
“Hello, is this Mariah? This is Mrs. Strom. Is your dad there?”
“Uh, yes, but he’s down at the garage. I can…have someone take him the phone?”
“Yes, please. I need to talk to him.”
I give the phone to Daniel and watch him out the window as he runs down the hill. A faint whisper of fear wisps by me. There was something in Mrs. Strom’s tone…she sounded calm, but I could hear something beyond it.
As I sit down on my laptop, I hear Mom coming up the driveway. I close my computer lid and go out front to help her unload. She stops by the garage for a minute before coming up. The first thing I see as she gets out of the car is her tear streaked face.
“Come here,” she grabs me arm and pulls me into Levi’s room. She shuts the door and closes her eyes. I wait, fear clutching on to me.
“It’s Josh.” She says finally. “He…was taking a picture and fell into the river. They haven’t found him.” She bursts into tears.
I stare at her in dumbfounded shock. A million thoughts run through my mind, but only one reaches me clearly. Josh can’t swim.
“He’s not supposed to be near water,” Mom manages to say through sobs. I wrap my arms around her and we cry together.
“Dad and I need to go,” She says, continuing into her room.
“Of course,” I say, following.
“I need to leave the baby with you. Have the kids go to bed at seven, you can put on a movie for the little ones…”
My mind is reeling as she goes through the list. Terror is consuming me. Josh fell in the river…they can’t find him…he can’t swim…
He could die.
Dad enters the room. His puffy eyes and red face startle me; I’ve never seen Dad cry like this.
“What happened?” Mom asks.
Dad is crying as he explains. Apparently, Josh had been on a rock, taking a picture of the waterfall or something like that. But the rock was mossy, and he slipped, going over the edge.
“When did it happen?” Mom asks.
“Two o’clock!” Dad exclaims, crying anew. Sobs shake his strong shoulders.
“What?! Why didn’t they call? They should-“
“There was no cell service! They had to drive half an hour out to get a hold of us.”
“Oh Lord Jesus, save my baby…” Mom whispers. She looks at me again. “We need to go-“
“I know. Go.” My whole body is trembling as I stand. I look at the clock.
“I’m going to call my dad…” Mom is saying. I leave the room.
I walk past the younger children, who still have no idea what’s going on. I go out front and sink to the ground.
“Five hours.” I say, gazing at the mountains. “Almost five hours! Oh God, there’s no way he’s alive!” Tears pour out my eyes and sobs wrack my body. “Oh God, save him…save my brother. I love him so much. Give the searchers guidance and wisdom, lead them right to him, Lord. Please please let him be okay – don’t let him-“ My voice catches. “Please, Jesus, give them guidance…show them where he is. Please, get him out of the water…”
I bury my face in my knees and sobs freely. I have never felt so afraid, so petrified with fear. Josh…my wonderful, big brother Josh…might be dead right now. His body might be floating limply down the
And there’s nothing I can do.
A few minutes pass. The front door opens, and I see Dad. He looks at me, his eyes full. He takes my shoulders in his hands, pulls me to my feet, and embraces me. I cling to him, my tears soaking his shirt.
“I’m so sorry,” Dad whispers into my hair. “I’m so sorry…I shouldn’t have let him go.”
“I love you, Riah.” He says, looking into my face. “I love you so much.”
“I love you to, Daddy.” The grief on his face pierces my heart.
“C’mon,” We go into the house and back into their bedroom, where Mom is nursing the baby.
“I’m sorry to leave you, Mariah.” Mom is saying. I can hear the panic in her voice. “I just-“
“It’s fine, Mom. Just go.”
“All right. I love you.” Mom gives me a hug, and she quickly leaves the room with Dad.
I put on a movie for Levi and Valor, then go out to the kitchen to put away the groceries. I pray like I have never prayed before.
As I finish putting the food away, Andrew and Tianna pull up in the driveway. I go out on the porch and wait for them as they get out of the car. Tianna comes to me and pulls me into a hug. I cry into her shoulder, holding onto her calm assurance.
“He’ll be okay. They’ll find him, and he’ll be okay.”
Andrew comes and wraps his arms around the two of us. We stand for several minutes, holding each other, crying, praying. I listen to Andrew’s deep, steady heartbeat.
Is Josh’s heart beating right now? I wonder. Oh Lord, let him be okay.
“Who’s that?” Andrew asks, wiping his eyes.
We look and see a Sherriff’s car coming up the driveway. A man with dark hair climbs out. “Is Michael here?”
“No.” Andrew replies.
“All right. I’m with the Josephine country police department, and…well, does he know about-“
“Yes, he knows about Joshua. That’s why he left.”
The officer nods. “Okay. Now…”
I go back into the house with the children. I get them into their pajamas, read them a story, and put them to bed. Shortly after, Crimson calls me.
We spend the next half hour talking and praying. Hearing her calms me somewhat. I go out into the family room and check my email. I have one from Ted, saying that he’s praying for Josh. I reply, then go back to my mom’s room and read my Bible.
I read up to Psalm 13, then the phone rings. Andrew answers it. I pick up my phone and listen in, covering the mic with my thumb.
“…We’re calling off the search for tonight. It’s too dark to look anymore. Tomorrow morning, we’re going to get a couple deputies into the water. They’re going to boat down the river for about ten or fifteen miles. That’s about as good a search as we can do.”
I hang up and lean back. He’s gone.
As the horrible realization sinks in, I become aware of what song is playing from Mom’s iPod.
“It is well…..with my soul….He is God…..in control….I know not….all His plans…even so…it is well….with my soul.”
I just want to go to sleep. I think, lying down. I don’t want to live through this right now. I just want to sleep…
I see headlights out the window and climb out of bed. Mom and Dad are home. I hurry out into the kitchen, just in time to see Caleb.
“Hey, Sister.” He says. His voice sound strained.
“Hey.” I silently thank God for keeping him safe. After Josh had been swept away, Caleb and Stephen had run after him. He hiked for ten miles before he was found by the Search and Rescue people.
Mom and Dad come in. Their grief ravaged faces bring tears to my eyes again. Mom wraps me in her arms.
“They called off the search,” She said in a small voice.
“I know,” I reply softly.
She looks down into my face. “You know he’s gone, don’t you?”
“Yeah.” I bury my face in her shoulder and cry. My big brother’s gone…my wonderful Joshy…
Mom looks up. “Mike, we need to tell the kids.”
Dad nods, tears still running down his face. “I know.”
Dad gets the kids up and seats them all on the couch in the living room. Several silent seconds pass before Mom finds her voice.
She quietly and quickly explains what happened. I watch David, Daniel, and Janae’s faces. They stare at her in shock. Daniel is the first one to really comprehend what happened. He covers his face with his hands and starts crying.
David’s face crumples and he leans against Mom, crying freely. Tianna goes over to Janae and holds her as she cries. My heart feels like it’s being ripped open. To watch my family in such pain is far, far worse than my own pain.
After a little while, the children go back to bed. Mom and Dad are sitting on their bed. Mom is holding his backpack.
“He can’t be gone, Michael. I want to wake up and have this be a dream.”
“It’s real, Baby.” Dad’s voice is hardly above a whisper.
“No! He can’t be gone…” Mom bends over his belongings and starts to sob. Dad starts crying again. I leave the room, my heart wrung by their grief.
But grief and sorrow pervade the house. As I walk down the hallway, I can hear Janae sobbing, Daniel and David praying for God to save him. How can we live with this pain?
The Strom’s car pulls up. Mrs. Strom and Ariel get out. Mrs. Strom goes into the house to get Tianna, while I go to Ariel. We embrace, crying in each others arms.
“It’s so unreal,” I say.
“I know.” Ariel dries her cheeks. “How are you?”
“I don’t know. I just can’t believe this is happening.”
“Did you see the moon?” She asks, pointing to it.
I nod. “I was looking at it earlier.”
“Good.” Ariel manages a smile at me.
We’re able to talk for a couple minutes before Mrs. Strom and Tianna come out. They leave, and I go back into the house.
I’m tired. I want to go to bed, but I know that I won’t sleep. How can I sleep? Everything inside me aches. Finally, around 12:20, I go to bed. I don’t know how long I lay awake for – a couple hours? I doze off once, but only to wake again thinking of him.
I wake up at eight o’clock. I feel sick. Rolling out of bed, I get some clothes and take a shower, hoping that it would help me feel better. I found it refreshing, though it couldn’t wash away the ache in my heart.
Everyone I look, I see something that reminds me of Josh. He’s deodorant in the bathroom. His special eight-grain bread in the pantry. His clothes in the laundry.
Oh Lord, how can I live without him?
I go into Mom’s room. She lets me read all the sweet things people are writing on Facebook. I cry. I just can’t stop. Everything feels so messed up. This shouldn’t be happening – Josh shouldn’t be dead.
There are so many things that he left undone…so many things that he won’t get to do. He won’t get to be Andrew’s Best Man – won’t get to be at their wedding. He won’t ever get to watch First Impressions. He won’t ever make those pun-videos with Luke.
Well, that’s like Josh. Leaving in the middle of a million projects.
I remember with a twinge of regret how irritable I have been the last week; how angry I had been at him. He had been getting on my nerve, teasing me, scolding me…But I would love to hear him snap at me, if it meant that he was here again.
I remember when we had cleaned his room a couple weeks ago. We listened to Broadway, and he acted out all the parts. I had laughed so hard.
Can he really be gone? Is my precious brother really dead? I just can’t accept it; nothing like this has ever happened to our family. It feel so surreal.
But as I think about Josh, I remember where he is. He’s in heaven – with little Evan and Paul. It makes my heart to full for speech when I think of him up there, cuddling his little brothers. I wonder what they’re doing right now…
Right now, we’re waiting. Waiting for news. Mom is napping, hugging Josh’s ALERT sweater to herself. Dad and Andrew went for “a drive”. Andrew is so grieved, it makes my heart ache. He even wrote a song for Josh that made me cry. Everything is making me cry.
I know that this is God’s will. I don’t understand it, it hurts, I’m miserable, and I wish so much that Josh was still with us. But God let this happen for a reason, and I’m need to accept that. His ways are different than ours, but so much better.
Lord, may You get all the glory. And may I say it is well with my soul.
I love you, Josh. I’m going to miss you calling me “H”. :’) <3