In Memory of Justin Boettcher

Memories - from Justin's Family
  Four days that changed our world - Memories from Justin's Dad.
I 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 husband.)

4 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 anything official. 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 done tonight.

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.

Late 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 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 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.

Late 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.

We appreciate 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 hug.

There 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 us.

And there 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 -
We arrive hour(s) early ... everything is in order, we have been well taken care of.

The 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 stand.

Some 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.

The four 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 were sung.

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 last respects.

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 photo.
 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 smile.)

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 summer,
... he always had something to say to everyone who stopped by.
And of course listening to him tell any story about his hunting and fishing

And now listening to others tell stories about Justin and thinking "Yep, that was Justin" ... and smile.
When we are no longer scared… - Memories of Justin and his siblings from Justin's Dad.

As I stood by Justin's casket at his wake,
... I kept thinking of all the times we have been scared for our kids.
...... These 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,
... Not seriously hurt, but with one eye swollen shut, you looked like Garfield for weeks.
I was scared when, before you were two, you had your first dental work done,
... The 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 boys.

I was scared when your Mother and I were divorced,
... But through it all, I knew you had each other, and you all did fine.
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 gold.
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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