Goodbyes hurt the most when the story is not finished and the book has been closed.
They hurt even more when the book has not been closed.
Such was the heart-rending radio interview I heard driving to work last Friday morning. A plea for volunteers to assist in the search for 3-year old Kaden Young of Waldemar Ontario, swept out of his mothers arms by raging floodwaters of the Grand River on February 21st. As of this writing, he (his body) has not been found; leaving behind a family in excruciating pain. Kaden was a life that did not have the chance to live out fully and a book that cannot yet be closed. Never before had I ever contemplated inserting myself into such an undertaking, but I was drawn in this time and Saturday morning I drove to Waldemar not knowing what was in store.
I was afraid.
I am a “city guy” in my late 50’s, fit but with a wonky back, never a fan of camping, have a poor sense of direction and my idea of being outdoors is riding my road bike along a street, path or trail in Toronto, Southern Ontario or the Canadian Rockies. What do I know about being around a partially frozen river, the brush and a forest in below zero temperatures searching for a deceased child? Those are the physical fears I had. The emotional ones – well – you can only imagine. More on that later.
But I made the choice to be in Waldemar by 9am on Saturday morning – about a 70-minute drive northwest from my home in central Toronto.
In my backpack I had; protein bars, a clementine, a banana, a peanut butter sandwich on gluten-free bread, water, a change of socks, a roll of toilet paper, Band-Aids, a Swiss army knife and most importantly, a battery back up for my iPhone. I was wearing my relatively new hiking boots I purchased on a recent business trip to Calgary. Long underwear was a must, several layers of upper body clothing, a toque embossed with the mystic symbol Ohm and earmuffs as well. In addition, I brought two pairs of gloves to wear one over the other. Oh, and one Manchester United scarf. Yep, quite the city boy in the woods!
I was ready … a recurring theme in my life.
So there I was standing amongst dozens of people at the base camp of the search, Kaden’s home, listening to Richard the group leader, review instructions for the day. First and foremost, the safety of each and every one of us was paramount despite what we were there to do. And he told us what to do and what not to do, when we find Kaden.
I can’t begin to describe the people who were there, many who had been searching for Kaden since Day 1. Remarkable souls. Dedicated to the task. They were from the surrounding area of Waldemar / Orangeville, Guelph, Cambridge, Peterborough, Tillsonburg and many other locales as well. A vast majority, who like me were not related to the family and had no connection to them whatsoever. But unlike me, most were true outdoors women and men. They could read a terrain as Galileo could read the stars in the sky, track the path of where the floodwaters had washed through, and decipher sounds in the cold air, as could an always-alert deer.
I had stayed a bit behind the others with our team leader Shawn while he was checking some things out (safety first) and Brian stayed back of the others to wait for the two of us to catch up. With the three now together, Brian alerted us to what he was hearing in the distance. It was the distinct noise of ravens or crows making repeated and excited croak / shrill sounds. Shawn went forward to investigate. Brian and I nervously remained where we were waiting for Shawn to return. Those were anxious and fearful moments – about fifteen minutes actually to think about what or who might be out there.
We often talked in two’s or amongst the group about our mission. We were there to bring Kaden home. None of us that I heard from however, wanted to be the one to find him. In my mind, I was there so another would be in a different place in the field or forest where Kaden was. That was my role. At least that is how I motivated myself to be doing what I was doing. There were times on my first day in particular where I felt the trepidation of pulling back some debris or searching under a fallen tree and not knowing if that impending action would uncover Kaden or a part of him as was graphically yet tenderly explained to the volunteers.
It was a deer bed surrounded with coyote tracks and birds feeding on a deer carcass.
I could go on but some of it is too emotional to delve into.
Why did I go?
All I had to do was to make a choice.
Alternatively I could have gone to the gym, watched golf, taken a nap or written a blogpost – but certainly not this one!! Still, all I could think about was how dare I not go out? I was already contemplating this in my mind and I had sent an email to the group telling them I would be there. If I didn’t go, it would be a betrayal – to me. That is just how I felt about it.
So what are you afraid of? What is holding you back in life? And I am not implying you should be going to find Kaden, but if you are so inclined, I promise you, there will be no regrets.
Are you afraid of the unknown as I was? How it will turn out? Should you be doing something else? These are questions we face every day in many aspects of our life.
So, we prepare the best as possible. We absorb all the information we can get our hands on and make a decision with the optimal information we have at the time.
Everything for a reason. Everything for a purpose. We just don’t fully understand.
P.S. You can follow #bringKadenhome and learn about search information on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/208839769860904/
I ask myself why more people don’t go search. After all, most people are good at heart and would want to bring a child back to his mother. It has to be that sense of fear you describe. That fear, even if people aren’t consciously aware of it must be a very powerful thing, and I’m sure it was not easy for you to attempt to set it aside and focus on the bigger picture. My heart goes out to Kaden’s family. I pray he is brought home soon.
I hope that your prayer is answered speedily.
Thank you for sharing your voice here.
Thanks for this story and reflection. I am impressed and moved by what you did. The search for Kaden is a sacred search in which you are honouring that little boy and his family. These acts strengthen the world.
Laya – thank you for your comments. Perhaps this time of year motivates more sacred acts.
Hi Stuart, I remember you coming out. It was the scarf 😉 I’m English (Trudy) one of the team leaders. Thank you so much for facing your fear and coming out to search. X
Thank you Trudy – you guys are awesome.
I loved reading your article. This poor family, so sad. I can’t tell you how many tears I have cried for him, for them. I drove up with my daughter, and her boyfriend the first weekend it happened, and brought some food, and coffee. It was certainly heart wrenching. I want to make another trip up, I follow the story regularly, and I can’t believe that he still hasn’t been found. So sad. You amongst many are an amazing man for being so selfless to help.
As you have done yourself Bobbijo, we all do what compels us to do. Bless you.