Closure: Our Emotional Return to Jackson Hole

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Getting Closure: Fifteen Years Later

As surprising as it might sound, my husband and I wanted to go back to Jackson Hole to revisit the scene of our accident. Fifteen years had passed and we felt a return trip would provide some closure.

If you haven't had a chance to see my accident lens, it's called "Life-Changing Accident." It details the death of our precious niece, Susanna, during a family vacation.

Briefly, a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for my mother and father-in-law went horribly wrong. It's taken years for our family to put the pieces of our lives back together - hopes and dreams were initially shattered, as the old wagon wheels carrying nine of us slammed into the waters of a raging whitewater creek.


All personal photos by WinWriter.
Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Detection Copyright. © 2013. By WinWriter. All rights reserved.

To Go or Not to Go

Beautiful mountains Every time the topic of a vacation back to Jackson Hole came up, I chickened out when it came to making the arrangements. Sometimes I even cried thinking about it.

Could I handle it? How would I feel when I stepped onto the same ground that caused so much anguish?

I just emotionally wasn’t ready to go … until June 2012. Even writing about it is hard.

As the days grew closer when we were to fly to Jackson Hole, I had to give myself several pep talks:

I can do this!

We needed the closure, but it was going to open some emotional wounds.

Jackson Hole is as Beautiful as Ever

Jackson Hole traffic My husband and I worked out a great plan. Since we were spending four days in Jackson Hole, the first three would be spent enjoying all the beautiful town has to offer.

We decided that on the actual anniversary date, June 21st, we would head back to the ranch and to the scene of our accident.

Jackson Hole is as beautiful as ever, just a lot more traffic. We took lots of pictures and browsed through the cute little shops in town. Everyone is very friendly there, the locals and the tourists alike. We stayed at a great, scenic hotel. Wonderful food and accommodations helped keep our minds off the “visit” to come.

Our God is an Awesome God

One of the most breathtaking moments for me was taking the sky ride up to Rendezvous Mountain. Such exquisite beauty here – God’s awesome creation.

Once we got to the top, we were able to get off the ride and walk around. We took lots of pictures and sat around for awhile before we had to leave. I’ve never felt so close to the God of the Universe. I thought about Moses in the Bible being on a mountain in the presence of God.

My husband and I prayed together, right there on top of the mountain. It was a touching moment that I will never forget. To be there and pray out loud to the God of Heaven and Earth, filled me with such a sense of gratitude and humility, that it’s hard to put into words.

We thanked Him for our lives and that we would be able to see our beloved niece again in Heaven.

That night, I wondered if I was going to get any sleep. A big day ahead.

A Defining Moment

Grand Tetons The next morning, the 21st, we woke up with a sense of “something else big is about to happen.” We got in our rental car and drove about an hour to the accident scene that, many years earlier, became THE defining moment of my life.

As we drove, it all started coming back to me – familiar terrain and road signs. All gave me a sense of it’s too late to turn back now. We passed a little floral shop and stopped in to buy some roses for our niece. I started to get teary eyed as memories came flooding back.

We pulled into the ranch and drove down the long road to the main house.

There it was.

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Majestic Tetons

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The Old Porch Swing

the old porch swing I remembered thinking how different and yet the same everything looked. The trees were overgrown, campers were milling around everywhere, busy with their own activities. Possibly the biggest numbing feeling I had, was seeing the old porch swing in front.

Looking at it took me back to that fateful day. The wagon ended up in the whitewater creek and we were all feeling the shock. We had to get help and made our way back to the main cabins. My nephew carefully led me from the rescue vehicle, limping and bruised, to that porch swing where I lay for what seemed like hours while everyone was trying to find my missing niece. Search parties scattered everywhere, covering every inch of the woods and the creek.

I pleaded with God on that porch swing so long ago. I literally begged Him that searchers would be able to find her. Over and over I pleaded with Him. I couldn’t walk since I had broken bones. So I lay there broken in spirit and all alone. If you read my other article, you know that hours later, searchers found my niece and she had drowned. It was devastating news.

Closure Brings Healing

little pink roses We walked past the porch swing and made our way to the office to ask permission from the new owners to go to the accident scene and lay flowers. We were treated with much kindness. After a short visit, we got in our car and drove along the rocky trail to the edge of the creek.

It was there that every single memory hit me like a truck. As I stared out the car window, I couldn’t help but look at the trail and think about what happened there.

How life can change in an instant. What a wake up call it was for me. We picked up the tiny pink roses and lay the flowers on one of the large rocks.

These are for you, sweet girl. You’re in our hearts and we will see you again.

Have You Thanked Him Yet?

God's Creation Life has thrown us a lot of curve balls, some of which are hard to even talk about.

Are we mad at God? Absolutely not! We praise Him knowing that He never left us during this difficult time.

Thing is, as believers, we were never promised an easy life. Why do so many people misunderstand that? Why do so many blame God when something bad happens to them? No one, not any believer of any faith, has a free pass. It’s a harsh reality of living in a sinful world.

What God has promised is to never leave our side. We can acknowledge and honor Him for the many blessings He’s given us. We can pray in Thanksgiving. There is comfort in that.

The loneliest time I spent on that porch swing – was later filled as my husband and I saw evidence of His Grace in the loving support we received from many friends, a local pastor in town, and more.

I urge you to remember that we’re on this earth for just a little while. Please don’t ever take your life for granted. You don’t know what could happen tomorrow. Cherish the ones who love you and pray for the ones who don’t. God gave them to you, and you to them.

Have you thanked Him yet?

One of my favorite songs

I love when our choir sings this

His love is perfect and it Never fails.

Beautiful song that I love to sing along to

A shining purple star

On January 28, 2014, this lens was awarded a purple star and on February 2nd, Lens of the Day. Thank you Squidoo editors for this very special recognition! It means a lot to me.

I'd love to know who stopped by

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  • lazywrites Feb 04, 2014 @ 1:24 am
    I'm deeply touched by your story, true enough Closure brings healing. God bless you!
  • WinWriter Feb 04, 2014 @ 3:24 pm
    It truly does. Thank you, lazywrites for stopping by.
  • Rob3 Feb 03, 2014 @ 9:12 pm
    This is such a touching tribute to your niece and well done having the courage to return to the scene, I remember reading about your extraordinary earlier account of the tragedy. On visiting Jackson Hole last July my thoughts were with you as I retold your story to my traveling companions. Live every day to the fullest and many congratulations on LotD.
  • WinWriter Feb 04, 2014 @ 3:24 pm
    Rob3 - thank you for everything you said. Wasn't Jackson Hole beautiful? I hope your trip was wonderful.
  • favored1 Feb 03, 2014 @ 12:03 pm
    Sometimes it's hard to believe scripture when God says "I have plans for that are good and not evil" when things like this happens. But we also need to remember the rest of it, and that His plan (in ways we can't understand at the time) will bring good. Maybe your testimony will lead others to Him, I don't know. What I do know is that the comfort of the Holy Spirit will turn this around in His favor and give your family the peace you need. Congratulations on LotD.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 2:38 pm
    Favored1 - that is my prayer. I thank God for my life and my goal is to proclaim His goodness, no matter what the circumstance. Your visit means a lot to me.
  • vallain Feb 03, 2014 @ 8:31 am
    I remember reading your earlier lens about this tragedy. It and this are a beautiful tribute to your niece and may it give you a measure of relief from your grief and regrets.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 10:24 am
    It really has and I thank you so much for your visit.
  • YayasHome Feb 02, 2014 @ 11:10 pm
    I am so sorry for your loss. You are right that our Father never leaves us. He is always there. I have often wondered 'bout those who ask, "Why me?" when somethin' bad happens. Curiously, I have never heard anyone ask, "Why me?" when really good things happen; have you? Hang in there. Our Father loves each of us an' I know your niece will see you again someday.

    Congratulations on the Purple Star an' LOTD!!! Inspired awards for a very deserving page. You did well.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 10:20 am
    It will be a joyful reunion in Heaven. Thank you for your insightful comments. I really appreciate it.
  • veryirie Feb 02, 2014 @ 11:01 pm
    What an emotional trip to share. I'm so sorry for the loss of your niece.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 10:03 am
    Thank you for the kind words and for visiting my lens.
  • Palmerl Feb 02, 2014 @ 10:29 pm
    Thank you for sharing your sad experience. God is so wonderful!! I hurt for you.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 9:54 am
    He IS wonderful. I wish more people could see it. I pray for the lost every day.
  • RinchenChodron Feb 02, 2014 @ 10:22 pm
    Nicely written, emotional and intimate. Sorry for your loss. Great job - congrats on your Purple Star.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 10:16 am
    Thank you. Ultimately, it was a joy to write about.
  • Cercis Feb 02, 2014 @ 6:30 pm
    Hi! This is Cercis stopping by to read and think about what you've written. It certainly did take a great deal of courage for you to return to the accident site as well as lay it all out here for others to read. It is wonderful that you had your husband for support and comfort. You certainly deserve the "purple star" as well as "Lens of the Day." This lens was finely crafted with your beautiful photos and comments and explanations along side of them. Thanks you so much for sharing your fine work with us
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 10:32 am
    Your thoughtful comments make me smile. Bless you for everything you said. You have a gift of encouragement. I hope you have an amazing day ahead :)
  • leahjsongs Feb 02, 2014 @ 5:09 pm
    Praise the Lord for this awesome testimony, giving thanks in all circumstances.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 9:42 am
    Amen. I felt it was important to put pen to paper and write about it. Thank you for your encouragement :)
  • Steve_Kaye Feb 02, 2014 @ 4:53 pm
    Each day is a gift. Congratulations on receiving the LOTD.
  • WinWriter Feb 03, 2014 @ 9:40 am
    Thank you, Steve. I'm a big fan of your lenses. :)
  • rauspitz Feb 02, 2014 @ 2:27 pm
    Very inspirational lens. Congratulations on getting the Purple Star and LotD!
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 3:21 pm
    Thank you so much :)
  • RoadMonkey Feb 02, 2014 @ 1:59 pm
    We are indeed here but for a little while and we do not know what will happen in the next minute, never mind tomorrow. I am so sorry for the heartache you must all have gone through from this accident and glad you have finally found some closure.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 12:27 pm
    d-artist, my Sister in Christ - thank you for dropping by and your words of encouragement. Hugs :)
  • d-artist Feb 02, 2014 @ 12:03 pm
    Congratulations on LOTD! I remember reading the other heart wrenching story, and reading this as hard as it was...made my heart fill with Joy, knowing your closeness to God...your tribute trip is heartwarming, but sad because you have lost a loved one, but then you know God as we do, you know that He has a reason for all things. Getting closer to Him and the understanding that He is in control. Thank You for sharing this! Yes, I wake up Praising God thanking Him for his ever loving kindness, for giving me my second chance in life. God Bless you and I know He will heal your heart.
  • esmonaco Feb 02, 2014 @ 11:37 am
    All of our fates are in the hands of God, May he bless and shine his light upon you and your family. Thanks you for sharing a part of your life.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 11:49 am
    esmonaco - you are so right. Our fates are in the hands of God. I wish more people realized that. He created the tapestry that is our life. Praise Him! Thank you for your visit.
  • DaisyDixon Feb 02, 2014 @ 11:34 am
    What a very deeply meaningful and moving lens. Your a brave strong woman!
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 11:56 am
    Thank you. That is such a nice thing to say :)
  • StephenJParkin Feb 02, 2014 @ 11:24 am
    I understand your grief. In High school our Head Boy was the only survivor of the plane crash at Llubijana in the former Yugoslavia and another boy in our class Paul Taylor lost his entire family when the plane his father was flying crashed. He was the only one not aboard as

    Well written LOTD well deserved.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 12:16 pm
    Thank you Stephen and thank you for sharing a little of the sadness that you went through as well. I really appreciate your visit.
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Feb 02, 2014 @ 8:43 am
    I was deeply moved when I read the first article about this family tragedy and the same is still true. I can only imagine what it took for you to seek that closure. Of course, the true closure will be in heaven. I appreciate how you share your faith. Here's to the peace that passeth all understanding.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 10:39 am
    I am so appreciative of your visit. Thank you, RenaissanceWoman2010.
  • Merrci Feb 02, 2014 @ 8:39 am
    Congratulations on a well deserved Lens of the Day and thank you for sharing this with us. It makes me want to put my arms around you and give you a hug, but God already has that taken care of. Bless you.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 10:27 am
    Thank you Merrci and hugs back to you for your kind comment. His love never fails.
  • grammieo Feb 02, 2014 @ 8:07 am
    How very inspiring and beautiful. Your story needs to be read by lots of people. Our God indeed is an Awesome God. Thank you for sharing your heartbreak and healing.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 10:19 am
    He is awesome indeed. Thank you!
  • tonyleather Feb 02, 2014 @ 7:55 am
    Very emotional and moving lens. Thank you!
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 9:48 am
    Thanks tonyleather for reading my lens. I'm glad it touched you in some way.
  • LynnKK Feb 02, 2014 @ 7:36 am
    It took a lot for you to revisit and then to share the details. I hope both journeys bring you peace. Congratulations on both the Purple Star and Lens of the Day.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 10:12 am
    Thank you, LynnKK!
  • christinsword Feb 02, 2014 @ 3:40 am
    God bless you all. I am so sorry.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 9:39 am
    Thank you for saying that. I appreciate your kind words.
  • lawrence01 Feb 02, 2014 @ 3:30 am
    Thank you for sharing your story. Something like this takes time before we're able to face up to it (for me it took years) but with God's help we can face anything Sometimes what we need to hear is 'Because he lives I can face tomorrow'
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 10:03 am
    When I read your comment, I immediately thought of the song that our choir sings, "Because He lives ..." You are absolutely right, we can face anything with God's help.
  • RubyHRose Feb 02, 2014 @ 2:45 am
    I could feel my body remembering, like you were, reliving everything. I agree, the going back is good, to see how everything changes when we can see from a different perspective. That is what I loved about the picture of the two of you high up on that ridge. Breathtaking. Healing. Yes, God is love, still, sharing your story, how brave. Congratulations of your shining purple star!
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 9:56 am
    It was very freeing and healing to be up there on that mountain. Thank you for the congrats. I am humbled by the recognition.
  • Upon-Request Feb 02, 2014 @ 2:01 am
    Unfortunately, I have also had to say goodbye o a beloved niece due to a terrible accident. While there is always a hole left, seeking closure is truly a step in the right direction. May your faith always provide illumination for your path. Congrats on your star!
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 9:45 am
    I am sorry to hear about your niece as well. Thank you for stopping by.
  • scarlettohairy Feb 02, 2014 @ 12:59 am
    So sorry for the loss of your niece.
  • WinWriter Feb 02, 2014 @ 9:52 am
    Thank you scarlettohairy. That means a lot to my husband and me.
  • sousababy Nov 15, 2013 @ 7:20 am
    This is extremely moving. I returned to the site of where I was stranded as a college kid in the Cumberland mountains 5 years later - and I felt a sense of closure. I think it's important to SEE that life goes on by doing so.
  • WinWriter Nov 28, 2013 @ 4:18 pm
    Thank you Rose for your kind words :)