May 15, 1980 was a bright sunny Thursday in Bend. We had just returned from Lake Tahoe earlier that week and were still smiling and talking about the fun time we’d had as we both got ready for work.
Joseph and I decided to meet back at home to have lunch together, and as lunchtime rolled around I raced home. I made sandwiches and as I was coming around the corner from the kitchen with my plate and soda in hand, the phone rang.
I put my 7up down and answered the call with my free hand. The voice on the other end was barely recognizable. I stood there listening to the words that were coming through the telephone line and holding the plate with my sandwich on it, not being able to comprehend what I was hearing.
As the words began to sink in, I began to sink. My plate dropped as I slid to the floor, unable to speak. Joseph ran to the phone and took it from my hand. He said something and words were exchanged, but I honestly don’t remember.
What I do remember is him helping me to the car and getting in and putting my seat belt on. I sat there motionless as he drove me to Madras where my brother lived.
The next thing I recall, I was at a funeral home speaking to a man about my brother. He kept telling me my brother was dead and I kept telling him he wasn’t. This is not something that was possible. It would be like saying the sky is falling, it just doesn’t happen.
Finally, he realized the only way to prove it to me was to show me. He led me to a room, where Johnny was lying on a table. I touched his cold face and knew the truth of it all. I can’t put into words the feeling that washed over me. I can’t even tell you how I got through the next few days.
Our father left all of the funeral arrangements in my hands. I had to sit in a chair at a desk with a man asking me questions like, what kind of casket did I want and do I want my brother cremated. These were questions no 21 year old should have to answer, but I did, somehow.
We held a funeral for him and all of our relatives that could make it, came. I sat in the front row during the funeral, tears running down my face. I didn’t have the ability to wipe them away. I just sat there crying. At one point I looked down and the entire front of my handmade dress was wet with tears.
Never in my life had I felt such profound sadness, and I didn’t think I would ever feel better or get over it.
I went through my days in a daze, not feeling anything or having any emotions. I was afraid if I started feeling, I would never be able to crawl back out of the despair. So I kept myself in check.
And then a few days later, Joseph asked me to marry him.