Monday, March 28, 2011

Details of the day my Dad died . . . It's been 21 years

March 28, 1990 was a life changing day for my family and me. It started out wonderfully and ended completely tragic!! It's been 21 years since then and I remember it like it was yesterday. I would like to share with you what happened that day and tell you about my awesome dad!!

Every morning at 6 a.m. my family would meet for scripture study before any of us left the house for the day - March 28, 1990 was no different. Usually my dad would leave for work right after we had family prayer, but on this particular day, he happily announced that he would be driving us to school, instead of my mom. I remember that he was in such a good, happy, mood (as he usually was). When he dropped me off in front of my Middle School, he said, "Bye. . . I love you . . . have a great day!" (Those were the last words I ever heard him say.)

What a great way to start the day!! I remember being so happy all day and just feeling like everything was so good (school, friends, homework, etc.). After school, two of my friends came over to my house to hang out and we spent most of our time jumping on the trampoline. While we were jumping, we started to hear a lot of screaming and crying coming from inside my house (that was not normal!). Within a few minutes, my older sister came outside and with tears in her eyes she said, "Dad's been shot." What?!!! I was so shocked to hear that! Was she serious? I remember thinking, that wasn't possible. We both went inside and my sweet mom was just pacing all over the house, crying and saying over and over "I knew something would happen! I knew something bad was going to happen." I remember that she was on the phone with the hospital and they told her that she should hurry and come to LDS Hospital and have someone else drive her. They did not tell her the extent on my dad's injuries, so we were left to wonder.

Our Bishop's wife and dear friend, Pat Greenwood, came over to our house and picked up my mom, my oldest brother, my older sister, and myself. I remember getting in her van and seeing my little brother, Brian, standing by the car asking if he could come (he was 9). I'm not really sure why, but we did not take him and I remember feeling REALLY bad for him as we drove away. Our Relief Society President came and took Brian and my youngest sister, Tami (4 yrs.) to her house while we were gone.

The drive to the hospital was quite heart wrenching! My mom seemed like she was in shock and my siblings and I were just crying in the back seat. I remember thinking over and over and over again that everything was fine and that my dad was okay - I KNEW that he was not okay, though and I believe I was being prepared. I said multiple prayers, pleading with Heavenly Father, to make him be okay and I was hopeful, but not sure.

When we got to the hospital, it was very quiet as we walked in. Nobody was hustling around and it just seemed so empty. I remember that we were approached by one of the doctors and he said he wanted to take us to a room and talk. I did not know what that meant, but my mom later told me that she knew right away that that meant my dad had died. When we entered the room, there was a couch against the wall and our Bishop's wife sat on one end, I sat on the other, my mom stood by the door, my brother stood in the corner and I believe my sister sat in the middle of the couch. The doctor started asking us about my dad - things like his name and other information. He called him Brent at one point and my mom said, No, that was his brother's name. He then asked if my dad wore a certain type of contact lense and when he said that my mom said, "yes, that's him." The doctor then said, if this is your husband, then he didn't make it. Right at that moment, I remember my sister started screaming and kind of freaking out. She was crying and saying, "how are we going to make it? How are we going to do it without dad?" I can't remember specifically what she said, but she was hysterical! My older brother was standing in the corner and right when he heard that my dad didn't make it, he sunk to the ground and just started crying. My Bishop's wife started crying quite heavily and I remember breaking down into tears as well. I remember that I did not think it was really my dad though and I wanted my mom to make sure it was him. My mom just stood against the wall and went white as a sheet! I don't even remember her crying, I just remember her saying that she wanted to see him and make sure it was him. My sister was still going bellistic, so my mom told the doctor that she wanted my sister to go too. He said that she couldn't because my dad was not cleaned up yet, but my mom was adamant!!! She said that it was her husband, and her daughter had a right to see her dad.

While they were gone, I just kept thinking and praying that it was not my dad. I was so hopeful that it wasn't! When they came back, my sister was in my mom's arms and they were both weeping. My mom then told us that it was my dad and that he was dead. What an incredibly awful thing to hear!!! I couldn't believe it! How could he really be dead?! No way! He couldn't really be dead. I was in complete denial. My mom then told the doctor that he wanted to take all of us to see my dad. The doctor strongly counselled against this, but my mother persisted. The doctor warned us that my dad was not completely cleaned up and that what we would see might be disturbing - we still decided to go see him.

(Caution: Some graphic description is in this paragraph)
I remember the very moment we walked in the room where my dad's body was - it was quiet and VERY peaceful. It was calm and you could feel the presence of angels. The room was pretty large and seemed like it was surrounded by cement floors and cement walls. My dad's bed was toward the far end and as I walked forward to see him, it felt like his Spirit was right by my side (which I have no doubt that it was). When I turned to look at him, I'll be honest, it was quite shocking. He had been shot five times and one of the bullets had gone through his head or mouth and when I saw his face, it was already bloated from the shock of his death. I remember his tooth dangling in his mouth and I remember that his eyes seemed slightly open. The rest of his body was covered up to his shoulders, by a sheet, and I was VERY disturbed that they had removed his LDS garments! He did not look like himself in anyway, but I do not regret seeing him that way! I am grateful that I was able to. I remember just feeling SO sad that he had to go through that! I wondered how much pain he experienced and I was sad!! I weeped by his bedside as did my siblings, but my mom was strong and held it together for all of us. After we were done seeing my dad, the doctor took us to a large board room where they had tons of cookies and drinks for us - I was not hungry.

While we were in the board room, my dad's business partner and GREAT friend, came in. He was devastated! He just kept blaming himself over and over saying that it was his fault and it should have been him and that he would never forgive Captain Nemo for what he did. He was SO sad and SO angry. I had never seen him like that and I did not fully understand why he was saying those things and why he felt the way he did. (I learned all of those reasons later, and I will share it with you later, as well.) We were in that board room for what seemed like forever! I remember that my mom was on the phone a lot, letting all of our family members know before it aired on the news. My mom especially wanted to get a hold of my dad's mom because she knew that my Grandma would be watching the news and would not be able to handle finding out that way. I can't remember if my Grandma came to the hospital or not, but I do remember what it was like when we got home!

As we turned on to our street, I have never seen so many cars! They were everywhere. When we walked into our house, it was completely filled with people! I remember when I walked in the door, my dearest friends were all in the hallway from the door to the kitchen and they all came up to me and embraced me. We cried together and I was so grateful they were there! I don't remember exactly how we ended up in the Front room, but I remember that we were in there as an entire family and our RS president brought Brian and Tami to meet us. We all sat down and that is when my mom told my brother and sister that my dad was dead. It was so tender.

After we talked to Brian and Tami about my dad being dead, I remember that we all went downstairs and met with all of our relatives and good family friends. I remember my dad's high school friends were there and were sharing really funny stories about my dad. We were laughing and it felt really good. The next thing that I remember was my uncle Jerry (my dad's older brother) coming down the stairs and saying something as he walked down. I TRULY thought it was my dad coming down and I was so excited that he really wasn't dead. When I realized it was my uncle I was really sad (not that I wasn't happy to see him, but you understand).

(Caution: this paragraph contains some graphic detail.)
We then watched the news coverage of my dad's death and it was VERY sad to watch!! They showed a clip of my dad on a stretcher being taken from the ambulance and I will NEVER forget seeing his gray shows sticking out of the sheet. I just couldn't believe it! We later found out that he lived for about an hour and a half after he was shot, so when we saw him on that stretcher he may have still been alive. I remember wanting those gray shoes more than anything. I wanted to keep them forever. (As it turns out, we did not even get to see them for about four years until the man that killed my father finally went to trial. I remember the day they brought my dad's clothes and belongings to our house to see - they were evidence, so they were guarded well - and the first thing I went for was the gray shoes. I was so happy to see them. The clothes and everything were quite gross. They were covered in dried blood and the person that brought us the clothes to see showed us where the bullets went through his clothing. I had always felt VERY strongly that if it had not been my dad's time to die, the bullets would NOT have penetrated my dad's LDS garments. I know they would have protected him! We did not get to keep the clothes and most importantly, the shoes. I was sad about that.)

After watching the news coverage, we decided to have a big family prayer. We all knelt down in the middle of our family room and I think my dad's brother, Jerry, offered the prayer. I don't remember when everyone eventually trickled out and what it was like when we went to bed, but I do remember that the next day my mom allowed us to stay home from school and grieve together. My older brother opted to go to school because he wanted to go to seminary, but I can't remember if my sister stayed home or not. I did stay home and my closest friends actually stayed home with me. They spent the day with me, mostly in my room, and they just listened to me cry and tell them ALL about my dad. I'm sure I went on and on and on, but they just sat there and supported me - I will never forget that!

The next day, I decided to go to school - talk about a weird experience. As you know, I am very social and in school I was no different. I was friends with everyone and talked all the time. Well, when I got to school that day, no one would talk to me. I was avoided everywhere I went. It was so weird and so absolutely lonely. My close friends talked to me, of course, but everyone else just didn't seem to know what to say so they just avoided me all together. The story of my father's death had been all over the news and everyone knew what had happened. My dad was VERY well-known and VERY well-loved all over the country and especially in our community. He had been Bishop of our ward for years and was currently in our Stake Presidency. He was a true friend to everyone he met and he was super duper funny! People just congregated around my dad everywhere he went, so it was no surprise that he was mourned heavily by MANY!!! I also heard that there was an announcement over the intercom, at my school, on the day I stayed home from school, telling everyone about my father's death. I'm not sure if that helped or hindered, but it was thoughtful and I appreciated it. The only person that really talked to me that entire day, was a new boy name Kirby Heyborne (yes you probably know him as "The RM" or the funny missionary in "The Best Two Years", but I know him as someone who became a dear friend of mine and remains that way to this day). He sat behind me in one of my classes and leaned forward, tapped me on the shoulder and asked how I was doing. I don't think he will ever know how grateful I was for his kindness!! I probably never told him, but it was then that I thought, okay, I can do this - everything is going to be okay.

The stories and days went on and on and I could share much more, but I think this is pretty sufficient for what I hope my children will read someday and understand. Losing my father to death was one of the most unexpected, shocking, difficult, sad, experiences of my life. I have mourned him deeply over the years, but I have NO doubt that I will be reunited with him someday! I know that our family will be Together Forever and I plan to do whatever it takes to live my life worthy of those special blessings after this life. I look forward to the day that I pass through the veil and see my daddy waiting there, with arms open, ready to great me - what could be greater? I can't wait - it's going to be awesome!!! I still miss my dad like it was yesterday, but it feels really good to share all of this with you.

So . . . I bet you are wondering how and why my dad was shot, so I am going to tell you the quick version of the story.

My dad started his own business with one of his great friends, Harry Peacock, and named it Peacock and Larson Construction Company. My dad was the CPA and kept the books, while his partner was mostly onsite for Construction projects. His company was very successful and they took a bid to build a building for a multi-millionaire, Eugene Woodland (ie Captain Nemo). When they were building the building, Woodland did not keep current on his payments. As time went by, my dad's company was losing money, so they decided they needed to stop building the building and do something else with it. The courts awarded the building to Peacock and Larson, but they did not want to keep it. They decided to lease it out and on March 28, 1990, my dad's partner was scheduled to meet with a couple, at the building, to lease it out. When my dad was leaving work that day, he told his partner, that he would be happy to go to the leasing meeting for him, because it was on his way home from work (he was leaving early so that he could go to my brothers ball game.) When he was at the meeting, Woodland all of a sudden peeked around the corner, saw them and then left. They thought it was kind of weird, but kept doing their business. About 15 minutes later, Woodland came back. He went up to my dad and told him that he couldn't take his building away from him, then he unloaded two guns into my dad. There were about 9 witnesses there and as my dad fell to the ground (from a balcony, I was told), the witnesses chased after Woodland and tackled him down. One other man was shot in the hand, but they all ended up being okay.

My dad was rushed to St. Mark's hospital where they tried to save him. He was then life flighted to LDS hospital and later died. My mom was originally told that he died right away, but after further investigation, my mom found out that my dad actually lived for about 1 1/2 hours after he was shot. The nurse that worked on him at St. Mark's said she had never seen someone fight so hard to live - she knew he must have had an amazing family. I bet he knew he was going to die, but was fighting so hard to stay alive so that he could say good-bye to us. I used to think that I would have loved to have been able to say good-bye, but I don't feel that way anymore. I think it would have been way too hard to see him pass away.

Woodland was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial, but finally went to trial in 1994. He was found guilty on all counts and is now in prison. During his trial we met his oldest daughter who had a family of her own and she was SO devasted by what her father had done to our family. She was so apologetic and cried in my mother's arms as they embraced. I remember thinking how grateful I was that I lost my dad the way I did and not the way she did. It was very sad.

I have fully forgiven Woodland for what he did to my father and I feel so free not carrying the burden of not forgiving him. I feel SO sad that he did what he did, but I do not hate him and I do not blame him. The day after my dad died, we got together for our morning scripture study and we happened to be reading in Alma 60 at that time. When we got to verse 13, we all stopped and looked at each other in disbelief. It said, "13For the Lord suffereth the arighteous to be slain that his justice and bjudgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God." Can you believe that is where we were at in our daily reading, on the exact day after my dad was "slain?" It was a powerful testimony to all of us that my father truly did enter into the rest of our Heavenly Father.

I am at peace with my father's death, but I miss him more than you will ever know!!! I want to just hug him and tell him all about my adult life. I want to introduce him to my wonderful husband and beautiful children. I want to laugh with him. I want to dance with him. I want to go to Lake Powell with him. I want to go skiing with him. I want him to come to my performances. I want him to hear my latest songs. I want him to be here, by my side! I want, I want, I want, but wait . . . I already have all of those things! Because of my belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father's Plan of Salvation, I know that life is eternal. I know that my dad IS with me on many occasions and I know he has been by my side many times since he died. He will always be there and someday we WILL meet again!!!

I'll be ready, Dad!!!! I love you!!!


Allison said...

WOW, Thanks for posting this. It brought back several memories, and gave me an insight as to how my kids are feeling right now. I can remember my mom answering the phone and crying instantly, when she hung up I asked what was wrong and she told me.

Reading this made me realize so many emotions my kids are going through that I hadn't realized, having lost my mom as an adult.

I wanted to say thank you for posting this and allowing others to share your insight into this tough day. Wishing you and your family the best!

Lori said...

Amazing testament of the atonement, thank-you for sharing your testimony of forgiveness and love.

Bree Binks said...

MINDI---thank you for sharing this...I'm sure it's still difficult to relive. I'm glad, though, that you have become the person you have doubt this experience lends itself to the Mindi we all know and love today. The strong-willed, happy, forgiving and sweet Mindi we will no doubt love forever! I sure do miss you, dear friend!


Charity said...

I remember being at the services for your dad and in awe at the amount of people that came to support you and your family. You were all so loved at that tragic time, and still are today! Thanks for sharing your story. Hugs!

Marisa said...

Oh, what tears flowed reading this account! I miss your dad like crazy, what a GREAT man. Just to fill in the blank you can't remember with Grandma, my dad immediately upon hearing the news drove to Grandma's to tell her in person and be with her through the terrible grief. I can't remember how long he stayed with her, but I know it was at least through that night. I love you Mindi, you are strong and beautiful. I'm sure your dad is very proud of who you've become!

Quincy said...

I could say so many things, but basically, you are just amazing. I work as a grief counselor with families who have lost a loved one, and it's so great to read this, knowing that you were able to be strengthened through such a tragedy.

Thank you for posting!

Melanie said...

Mindi, you are truly brave and very trusting to put such a personal experience out there for others to see. I'm sure you will bless the lives of many--as you have already blessed mine. You are a remarkable person, my friend!
Oh, and by the way, my family watched the RM last night for the first time, before I had any idea of the connection. Just thought that would make you smile. :)

Mandy said...

Wow, Mindi, I never realized that your dad had died under such tragic circumstances. Losing your dad at a tender age is hard anyway, but I cannot imagine how much more difficult it was to have him die in such a way as he did. I admire you so much, and this just adds to that admiration. How wonderful to face that tragedy and come out stronger for it, more loving and giving rather than bitter and angry. I know you know, but as I read your wish list at the end (before you shared that you know you'll see your dad and he's with you now even) I just thought to myself how he won't need to meet your husband or your kids... he's seen them and loves them I'm sure. I'm sure he's watched over you many many times. How blessed we are to know that our Savior and his plan makes it so that we can be reunited with our loved ones. Thanks for sharing that very personal and sweet experience!

Tammy said...

I will repeat what everyone else has said. Thanks so much for sharing this and you truly are such an amazing person! It just goes to show that you can never know what someone has been through in life. I never would have guessed this had happened to you because you are such a positive person!

I also feel sad reading about your brother. Especially when I think of your 9-year old son and how he would react.

coxfamilyyourmineandours said...

Oh How the waterworks are flowing uncontrollably. I loved and miss your dad. He was and increidble man. A true example of how to live a Christlike life. He was so fun to be around and always the life of the party. I too remember that day vividly. Hearing my mom scream "no it can't be" as she recieved the phone call. She and your dad were extremely close. For years after every time her birthday came around she was sad knowing that she would not receive a birhtday call from your dad. She loved him dearly as we all did. How grateful we are for the blessing of eternal families. Your mom, you and all of your siblings have always been such and inspiration to me of faith and courage through the most difficult of times. Thank you for your examples. Love ya! angela

Andrea said...

Thanks for sharing this Mindi. You have an amazing attitude and perspective on an extremely difficult time. You are a true inspiration in the way you moved on and found forgivenes and peace. I always love to hear you tell stories about your dad because I can tell how much you love and admire him.

marcella said...

You and your family are amazing. What a beautiful tribute to a great man. Much love to you, Marcy

Monica Buchanan said...

Thank you for sharing this Mindy. I met you after this and I knew your dad died, butI never knew how your he died. You are such a neat person. I am glad to know you and I am glad we are friends. I'm sure your dad is very proud of you.

Jessa said...

Thanks for sharing that, I cried reading it and didn't even know your dad! You are such a strong amazing woman!

Afflecks said...

Thanks for sharing that, Mindi! There are pieces that I've never heard. You have some great insight and such a great testimony of the eternal plan of Happiness. I know your dad is with you. You are such a great example of forgiving and moving forward.

Forsyth Family said...

My dear friend--reading this really gives me some insight into why you are the amazing person you are! You are strong and steadfast. So grateful for your example of forgiveness and charity. Love you!

chandra said...

Mindi, I just wanted to thank you for such an amazing story and the strength you have shown. I am sure that you posting this helped you to remember all the miracles that happened from such a horrible experience. I think you are amazing and I for 1 am so glad that I know you.

The Cieslaks said...

Amazing, Mindi. I had never heard the details of your father's death and was very touched by your experience. Thanks for sharing.

I hope you and your family are doing well. I miss seeing you!

writegirl said...

Wow. Sat by the window with my laptop, reading this to Rob. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life with us - you did it beautifully! XOXO

Troy and Nancee Tegeder said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences Mindi. Our ward just had a family lose their father, so it is helpful to hear this from a child's perspective. What an amazing and strong person you are. I'm certain your dad would be so proud of you. You have a lovely family and I know you will see your father again.

Michelle@Somedaycrafts said...

I remember when your dad died too. My mom came home from one of my brother's basketball games and said that you dad was murdered. That word sounded awful. I cried for your family. I also remember Mrs. Christensen announcing it in reading as she cried. A lot of the students in the class were sad for you, some with tears in their eyes. I can't believe it has been so long, but then I can when I really think about it. My dad has been dead for over 10 years. Wow. Time passes quickly. You are amazing, girl.