of Justin Boettcher
Memories - from Justin's Family
||Four days that changed our world
- Memories from Justin's Dad.
wrote this both to help myself come to grips with the situation, and knowing
that some people visiting this site may have never been to a funeral. This is
being writing about 11 months after Justin's death, some things have been
intentional left out of the time line.
March 19, 2002 -
Tuesday 3am -
At about 3am we are awakened by our daughters who had answered the phone, it is
my oldest son "Justin was in an accident, and we aren't sure if he is going to
make it." I don't think the news sunk in right away because I just sat there
and repeated the news to my wife, as she flew out of bed and said let's go.
My wife, our younger daughter and I left
immediately, by the time we were on the highway, our oldest called back "You
can come to the house, they aren't sure they will take him to the hospital."
(My wife and I live with her two daughters
about an hour away from where my five kids lived with their mother and her
am - By the time we got to the house there was still no update. As we walk in,
it is now about 4am, there are already dozens of people there. Lining the rooms
are suitcases and snorkel equipment...the whole family was going to be leaving
later today on vacation. Everyone has their way of dealing in a crisis and
someone has to take charge, and this morning it was our oldest...answering and
making calls, keeping everyone updated with some help from our youngest
daughter. Our youngest son would deal with it by staying out of site for most
of the day. Our middle son was in an upstairs room with one of Justin's friends
who had been at the accident site.
From Justin's friend "J", we
knew that Justin had been at a party and had left "early" because he had things
to do later that morning before they left on their trip. Someone leaving later
had seen the truck in the ditch and returned to the party, notifying everyone
else. Some (or all) went to see what had happen...but then they got scared and
wouldn't stop, "J" had to almost jump out of a moving truck. Someone called 911
and "J" stayed with Justin until the authorities made him leave. I expect I
will have chill's down my spine and tears in my eyes the rest of my life
whenever I think of "J" sitting there with Justin as he... was later pronounced
at the scene.
For now all we knew about his condition was that he was pinned
in his truck under a electric pole.
...we would find out later
that Justin's pickup truck had left an icy road, flipped on it's side and hit
an electric pole with such force that it crushed the top of the cab into the
seat and bent the frame under the cab.
6am - We start calling people
and letting them know what we know...even though we still have not heard
...like the rest of these four days, I will remember each of
the phone calls I made that morning.
7am - Still nothing official
and as long as we didn't know... there was still hope (??) By now neighbors
have been bringing over food...and more people are coming over.
11am - I
don't know if or when we every got the official word, but by now they would
have been telling us good news if there was any. The officials and Chaplin had
left by now, our older daughter had arrived with our granddaughter, and many
others had come and gone. We were now making calls to the undertaker, setting
up a time for later that day.
1?2pm - We are at the funeral home, there are arrangements to
be made, flowers, a casket. There are a dozen plus of us there... our parents,
kids, siblings, preachers. By now two of Justin's aunts have 'taken charge' of
most of the things that need to be done. The undertake is the one who was at
the crash site... he 'thinks' we can have an open casket, but he doesn't know
yet for sure. The funeral home can only hold 200 so we decide to have the
funeral at the school on Friday, as it was a day off.
Evening - People have been
coming and going all day, I have no idea how many. Out of state friends and
relatives have started to arrive... We leave, there is nothing more that can be
3/20 - Wednesday
... a very long day ... nothing to do but
wait...Justin's friends made plans to meet at the crash site that evening.
- Coming from an hour away, we meet up with the precession a few miles from the
site. There are about 2 dozen cars...we get to the site...we park and walk.
Never wanting to be in the center...my wife and I stay to the rear of the
crowd... Justin's mom and others are by the pole. I really don't remember
everything that happened that night...as we stood there people came up and
hugged us... at the time I couldn't look to see who they were, but thank you.
Finally one of Justin's uncle's started to speak... Justin had gone out west to
go hunting with him shortly after '911' ...and he shared some stories of their
time together. Then a friend of the family said a few words ...and had us all
in tears again. Someone had brought candle's for us all to light... but with a
wind chill somewhere below -0- we never did get many lit, and the ones we did
didn't stay lit.
3/21 - Thursday
...another very long day ... I don't remember
most of it...only that I didn't/couldn't eat, something I would regret later.
afternoon - Visitation - We got there an hour early and people were already
there... By the time visitation was supposed to start, people were lined up
from the casket, through the funeral home and to the front door... and it would
be that way for the next three hours. While my son ment the world to me, I
never could have imagined he had touched so many lives.
Justin's mother was first in
line by the casket... and did not leave Justin's side until everyone who came
had come past. I did what I remember people doing at visitations... mingle. But
our friend who had spoke at the crash site the night before found me and told
me that I would regret not meeting everyone one of these people who were a part
of Justin's life. (she was right) I spent the rest of the night in line...
except for a couple of minutes when my not eating all day got the best of me.
everyone who came by both the visitation and the funeral ... while I do
remember most of you ... I can not mention everyone here ... but here are bits
about a few that stopped by ...
There was "J" from the night
of the accident, who I would see in line ... only to see him leave before he
got to the casket ... I don't know how many time's it took him to get to the
front of the line.
There where three that night that told me ... "you will never
get over this." In a strange way, it was comforting to know there were others
that had gone through this. To the two of the three that I knew when they lost
their child ... I had no way of knowing what you were going through, until I
was there myself.
There was the young man in the wheel chair who came and parked
a few feet away from the casket. Finally after quite some time, Justin's mom
went over and spoke to him. He told her "I really didn't know Justin that well
... I just know that could have been me."
There was our family friend
who stood with us in line most of the night ... and somehow knew who needed a
were the members of our family who sat there all night, we only had time to
speak for a few seconds ... but the whole night I could see you were there for
was my cousin and her husband who were also there the whole night, and sat with
us as the night was coming to an end ... she had lost her brother and
sister-in-law a couple of years before to a drunk driver. (a few weeks after
Justin's funeral, she and her husband were hit head-on. They both spent a few
days in the hospital, but are now doing fine.)
3/22 - Friday Funeral -
arrive hour(s) early ... everything is in order, we have been well taken care
funeral is held in the 'Performing Arts Center' ... flowers line the stage,
Justin's casket is down in front of the stage ... those that came late had to
of these people I have seen now the fourth day in a row ... but today is
different ... the sob's are quieter ... reality must be setting in.
parents go up to the casket to say our final goodbye's ... we finally realize
that we have been standing there 10 minutes, and no-one is going to come and
close the casket until we sit.
... notes from the funeral can
be found on this web site ... along with links to a couple of the songs that
Graveside - Minnesota in the winter ... makes for a short
graveside service. Most from the funeral came, braving the cold, wading through
the snow to try and get close enough to hear. Picture people trying to squeeze
into an elevator ... that's how we were ... and it helped break the chill of
the wind. I remember few of the details other than partway through the service,
my youngest son putting his hand on my shoulder as we stood there paying our
Lunch - ... the first step to returning to 'normal.' Everying
that can be behind us is, and we have a little time to talk to those who have
been there with us / for us over the last four days. The lunch hall never got
quite full and we noticed there were very few of Justin's friends there ... we
found out later that they had opted to return to the crash site for a group
||...you Made us Smile, Justin
'trouble.' - Memories from Justin's Dad.
(as a pre-schooler, I started calling him "Justin Trouble," he
was always up to something, running ahead pushing the bounds
... but he always had a good heart and a
I would call him "Justin Trouble,"
but then he'd make you smile,
There was the time at about age six, he
wrapped up one of his toys in Kleenex and tape,
... because HE wanted to
give his younger brother a present on his brothers birthday
....... for the
next dozen years, the kids got smaller presents from me AND a present from each
of their siblings.
And the time at about age eight, we were at his
Grandparents staying overnight on the farm,
... I awoke in the early before
the (other) kids,
...... but Justin had been out helping the Grandparents
unload hay for an hour already.
And as he got older, seeing him working
at the those little "hotdog" stands you see in front of grocery's in the
... he always had something to say to everyone who stopped
And of course listening to him tell any story about his hunting and
And now listening to others tell
stories about Justin and thinking "Yep, that was Justin" ... and
When we are no longer
- Memories of Justin and his siblings from Justin's Dad.
As I stood by Justin's casket at his
... I kept thinking of all the times we
have been scared for our kids.
are a few of those times.
I was scared the day you were born,
... And you had to be rushed to another hospital before your
Mother could even hold you.
I was scared when
you took your walker down the stairs,
seriously hurt, but with one eye swollen shut, you looked like Garfield for
I was scared when, before you were two,
you had your first dental work done,
tears were running down your cheeks
but you never said a word.
I was scared when we found the two of you with
an empty bottle of pills,
... We rushed to the
hospital, they would later tell us the bottle must have been almost empty.
I was scared every time we had to put you in
the hospital croup tent,
... Sometimes you had
to share with your brother, and the nurses still remember the night we had all
three of you in.
I was scared the summer we
lived at the lake cabin,
... We didn't hardly
let you outside without your lifejackets, but what a summer for four pre-school
scared when your Mother and I were divorced,
... But through it all, I knew you had each other, and you all
I was scared every time we went to
the pool at my apartment,
... I couldn't swim,
but with the help of 'floaters' you all learned to swim like fish.
I was scared the only time I lost you, it was
at a state park,
... We found you holding on
to the mirror of our car with both hands, "So no-one would take you."
I was scared when we would go 'rock climbing'
along the cliff's
... Now as a Grandparent, I
am petrified of walking those same paths with a child.
I was scared every year when I took you on our annual trip,
... But on the road, you were always good as
I was scared with every broken bone,
... The worst by far was your leg, which
caused you to limp for years.
I was scared
every time you fell, from your first step,
To falling off the roof, out of tree's and out a window.
I was scared
until death puts 'scared' behind us.
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