Before I explain the emotions of the day, I want to express my sincere apologies to those that I should have called, emailed, or made some sort of contact with. Kevin & I found out late Friday that today would be the day to take Jake to his final resting place. I received the call while at the Hilton Hotel setting up for the 2nd Annual Crop for Cancer event that took place yesterday (which raised over $27,000) I had no time to think about making the necessary calls and I truly apologize. My parents didn't know for sure until 2 hours before departure & my closest friends weren't even called, I feel terrible about it, however, I also believe it was just as it was meant to be & I know everyone was there in spirit regardless if you knew that it was taking place.
If you happened to look out to Mt Susitna today, you'd have seen the most beautiful view I think I've ever seen. The entire surrounding area was covered with dark thick clouds, with the exception of Mt Susitna & the Alaska Range. It was amazing! The sun was peaking through & just lighting the area up.
As Kevin & I were getting ready to leave, I was in a flurry to find the aviation map that had the latitude & longitude coordinates of where we were going, and I couldn't find it. After searching 3 areas that I 'just knew' it would be, Kevin made mention of a photo box that has Brianna's name on it. Finally as I got to the bottom of the box, there it was. I stood up & hugged him tight. Thanked him for thinking of this little box, as I just couldn't stand the fact of going & not getting near the same spot.
My parents & Kevin's parents met us at Era, where we would take off from. We decided not to take Amanda as we didn't need the extra things to deal with, like her not taking to flying well, as she has never been in an airplane. We were supposed to take off about 10am, but Winston, the pilot, was running late & got stuck in the McDonald's drive thru! haha I didn't happen to look at the clock when we did finally take off, but I do believe it was around 11:00ish. The view was breathtaking. I had forgotten how pretty this State is from the air. Those that were on the ground watching us from Pt Woronzoff could see the helicopter until we landed on Mt Susitna...wow!! I couldn't have asked for a better day. Even though Anchorage was cloudy, the view of where we were going was spectacular, as if God was saying, it may be dark now, but light is just around the bend.
Once we were in the air, I made a point to look down at Pt Woronzoff. I knew I wouldn't be able to see 'people', but I did see a few cars & flashes of light as they took pictures.
The ride over was full of both silence & laughter. Winston used to work with Kevin, and if you've ever worked for a good employer, you know the 'like family' atmosphere. I remember Winston turning around & looking at Kevin saying; "having you on board with me just isn't right! A bit scary!" We all couldn't help but laugh. It was nice to have laughter at a time that is so sad.
As we were approaching the mountain, we saw 4 Grizzly bears; mom & 3 cubs!!! It was the coolest thing! They were running around & looking up at us not knowing where to go or what to think. Winston took us up over the mountain so we could see the view on the other side, something we were unable to do the last time. It was so great. Then we circled around & started looking for anything that looked familiar. We had the longitude & latitude coordinates from when we took Brianna, but it only gets you 'close', not exact. Once we saw what appeared to be 'the rock' we found a safe place to land. I'm not convinced we were in the exact spot, but I have to force myself to think that it's ok. I know they have already found one another and are running around all over the place.
Once we got out of the helicopter, we soaked in the view, a view that was better this time then last as there weren't any clouds above or around us. Although it was freezing (43 before wind chill), we made the best of it. We looked down the mountain where we had seen the 4 bears & saw them looking up at us; we were about a mile away from them.
With Winston on 'bear watch', the six of us began to walk down to 'the rock' & proceeded to take Jake out of the urn. I was downwind this time, so Kevin asked if I wanted to release him. After swallowing hard, I agreed. At that time, my dad joined us & wrapped his arms around us both. All I could do is sob. I remember taking a moment to feel the wind on my cheeks & looking at the picture of his sweet face that I brought with us, while unwinding the twist-tie. I then grabbed a hold of the identification tag that was at the bottom of the zip-lock bag & let him fly in the wind.
Then, my dad moved in beside me & began to release the ashes of our childhood dog, Misty, who they have had in an urn for the last 13 years. So now, not only does Brianna have a brother with her, she has a puppy to play & run around with. I wish I could put into words how I felt during the time I was there, but it's just so mixed. I was happy, sad, exhausted, relieved, & now cold!
We took a few more pictures of the surrounding area & loaded back into the helicopter. I wish we could have stayed longer & just reminisce, take in the moment & relax a little, but it was so cold & since we weren't dressed in hats, gloves, & other cold weather gear, I knew it was time for us to go.
As Winston maneuvered us off the mountain, he circled around the area so we could have one last look & then started moving away from the mountain. With Jake's picture held tightly in my hand, I admired the view on the way back & cried.
I'm so grateful for that 'family like' atmosphere; if it wasn't for that, this event may not have been possible, or at least wouldn't have been free. I know what it meant to Winston to be able to take us there because he knew what it meant for us.
We arrived back about 12:15pm & afterwards we didn't do anything. We all arrived in 3 vehicles & we left going our own ways. Once Kevin & I got home, his sister brought Amanda back to us & we visited for a little while. Shortly thereafter, Kevin's brother arrived & joined our visit with his sister. We talked about the trip over & other non-related things that made us laugh. Once they left, we put Amanda down for her nap while Kevin & I laid in bed & watched the recording of our Sunday night shows. It didn't take long for me to just fall asleep. When Amanda was up from her nap, we went over to my parents house for dinner. All & all it was a relaxing day, something I desperately needed.
It felt good to have this big weekend behind me, I just wish I could have stopped the time to reflect on the events a little more closely.
I'm just a wreck...strength to hold my head up high is gone. I feel so much guilt. Guilt for not letting everyone know when this was taking place, how could I keep everyone so informed over the last 2 months, yet fail to tell you when we were doing this? Guilt for those of you that got the wrong impression of us not wanting anybody there to watch us.
Guilt for not video taping the event when I had the camera with me, guilt because I don't think we were in the exact same spot, guilt because I wasn't with my family the last few days because of Crop for Cancer, guilt because I feel I let the Crop for Cancer team down on Saturday as I slowly began to fall apart, guilt for letting Jake go...it's just never ending.
I hope I can get passed all the guilt that I feel...because I'm not liking it at all. I do have some uplifting news. I heard from LifeAlaska (Organ Donor) last week & they tracked down when & where Brianna's heart valves were implanted, since I had never received confirmation (oversight). Ironically, they were implanted in a 19 day old baby girl from California in February 2003, the same month/year that Amanda was born. Jacob's heart valves will be on hold for a little while longer because of the autopsy tests they are running. I can only hope that one day in the future, I'll hear of another little one who is able to survive on account of my beautiful son.
I also hope that in time, we will have the answer we so long for. Thanks again to each of you. You've helped us in many ways, and we thank you. I know that many couldn't have been there, even if we would have got the word out, so for all of you that weren't there, I hope you can get a small taste of what it was like by looking at the pictures that I've provided. Click on any one of them to view it larger.
See the Grizzley's?
Jacob Tyler Aldridge Born July 28, 2005 Passed Away September 20, 2005 Placed on Mt Susitna October 9, 2005
View from Pt Woronzoff
Natalie Grant - Held From the album Awaken
Two months is too little They let him go They had no sudden healing To think that Providence Would take a child from his mother While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued What has changed and Why should we be saved from nightmares We're asking why this happens to us Who have died to live, it's unfair
Chorus: This is what it means to be held How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life And you survive This is what it is to be loved and know That the promise was when everything fell We'd be held
This hand is bitterness We want to taste it and Let the hatred numb our sorrows The wise hand opens slowly To lilies of the valley and tomorrow
If hope is born of suffering If this is only the beginning Can we not wait, for one hour Watching for our Savior