6 years?! How in the world have six years passed since that day?
Even as I sit here typing this and remembering, I break into tears and have to explain to my 5 year old what happened and why I'm sad...
Carl came up to Ohio to visit me that day. We joined a big group of friends and went kayaking on the Slippery Rock. It was a great day. Sun shining, birds chirping, warm... unusually beautiful for so early in the season...
As we took off the river, Carl's phone rang... which was weird given the lack of cell reception you get in the gorge there... we tried calling back, it was the hospital... but we didn't know anyone who was there, and we kept dropping the call. After calling our family, to make sure it wasn't any of them, I told Carl to call Jason and Jeff, that if something was wrong, they would have called us from there... we tried Jason, we tried Jeff... no answer. We dismissed the call as a wrong number and headed out to dinner with our friends.
This little irking feeling kept coming over me, and I kept having Carl call Jason's cell phone. We never did get an answer... but about 10 minutes later we got the phone call that changed everything.
A friend of ours, who didn't know our connection to Jeff, called us and told us there was a fatality at Splat. Ironically it had happened at the same time we got the call from the hospital... I was in the middle of eating and Carl was talking to him, I looked up at Carl, smiling... and then saw his face. I still remember the feeling when he told me. I remember having to tell the other 12 people we were eating with... I remember trying to call my professors at the University, trying to explain through my tears, that I wouldn't be there that week, that I was going to assist in a body recovery and to support my friends in our loss.
Carl and I drove back to my house, grabbed what we needed, and drove home. Driving up to our house, we passed the house Jen and Jeff were living in, we passed the house 2 doors down from us that was Jeff's, and we parked at our house... the house we only had because of Jeff.
It wasn't true, there was no way he died. I was convinced he was just stuck somewhere, injured, but safe. That we would find him in the morning. I held to that hope for almost an entire week...
The next morning we got up early, packed food for everyone who was on the Rock, and headed in. Carl boated in, I ran the trail. I actually beat Carl there.
The next 2 weeks were a blur for me. I spent them in tears, still praying that he wasn't dead. I was in complete denial. The only things that are clear to me are the unusually beautiful 2 weeks of weather, the support and love from everyone that came out, and the cross Jeff S. planted at splat.
Exactly 2 weeks after the accident we went to his memorial. We were singing Amazing Grace, and through my tears, I saw Jason take a phone call. It was the call alerting him that tomorrow was the day Jeff would be found.
My life has changed so much since the accident. My oldest son was born exactly 9 months after that fateful day. I have such mixed feelings this time of year when I look at him. Jeff changed our lives in every way possible.
Jeff's death scared me. It is the reason I have given up kayaking as much as I had been, I scarcely get out, and I haven't been an anything over class III since then. I think that has been a mistake. After reading Julie's post, I realize... Jeff wouldn't want that. We need to keep his memory alive, and to live life the same way he did.
I am going kayaking today.
To those on the Rock, I wish we could be there, and in some way, we are.
Jen, I love you hon. I miss you too. Please come to visit us soon.
Jeffrey Allen Mayfield, I love you. I miss you. I thank you for the gift of my son.