Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Worst Case Scenario

by Julie Coulter Bellon

Two nights ago, my oldest daughter was preparing to do a night hike of a mountain near our home. Lots of people do it in this area, and some even come from far away to hike it, because it’s a very tall but accessible mountain that takes about six hours or so to get to the top of, and then you have a spectacular view of the sunrise. I was a little worried about this trip for her, because the only other people in our family to do this hike were my boys and they were with their scout leaders. I mentioned my concerns to her, that there could be bears on the mountain, that she could run out of water and get dehydrated, and that I didn’t really know the people she was going with very well. She assured me that she would be fine, introduced me to one of the guys going on the trip with her, and took a camelback of water with two extra water bottles. I have to admit, I felt a little better. (Until I read her Facebook status that said “I might die on Mt. Timp tonight.)

She left at 11 p.m. after I made sure to tell her I loved her and then I went upstairs to get ready for bed and say a prayer for her safety. At 5:20 a.m. my husband and I were awakened by a severe thunderstorm. The lightning was flashing so often it felt like I didn’t even have to turn the lights on in my bedroom, it was already illuminated every few seconds from outside. The rain was pelting down and the thunder booming so loud across the sky that it woke up my other children. But all my husband and I could think about was our oldest daughter, out in this lightning storm, on a mountain. A very high mountain. And that she would be close to the top of the mountain by now, maybe above the tree line with no shelter to protect her.

We tried her cell phone, but it went straight to voice mail. My husband suggested we pray for her, and we did, but I just couldn’t get the worst case scenarios out of my head. It’s the part of me that drives my kids crazy. If they’re ten minutes late for curfew, I freak out a little because I imagine them in a ditch bleeding somewhere or that something equally as horrible has happened to them. This time was no different. I imagined her not knowing exactly what to do---hike back down to the trees, or would she lay on the mountain and get soaking and muddy so she wouldn’t be the tallest thing there for the lightning to hit? I hoped that her friends would know not to get in the little metal shed at the top of the mountain. What if there were a mudslide? What if they went missing and we had to contact search and rescue? What if her last Facebook status ever in her life was, “I might die on Mt. Timp tonight? If something really had happened to her, that status would haunt me forever. I couldn’t sleep anymore with those thoughts going through my head and neither could my husband so he turned on the TV to look at the weather channel.

Unfortunately, the TV was already on a channel when he turned it on, and the program was about Mt. Everest climbers that never come back. My mind immediately wondered if that was a sign, and when I voiced that to my husband he quickly turned the channel and shook his head. Thankfully, he is a very calm person and doesn’t think like I do. We got to the weather channel and were surprised that the only place in our entire state having this severe of a storm was right around the mountain she was climbing. It was also reported that there had been 143 lightning strikes in the last thirty minutes. I sort of wished we hadn’t turned that on, because I’m sure you can imagine what my mind was thinking with that information.

We didn’t sleep the rest of the night and when she arrived home at 10:00 a.m. the next morning, I almost felt weak with relief. I honestly can’t recall a time when I’ve been so frightened for one of my children. When she told me the story of what really happened to her up on that mountain---some miracles that had happened to her group during that raging storm and even during the experience of realizing that a cougar had started tracking a few of them when they’d been separated from the main group, I felt frightened all over again. But listening to her unforgettable experience, I knew that our prayers had been heard. I was just so glad she was safe, and I wanted to wrap my arms around her and sniffle and cry and tell her that I loved her and if she ever put anything like that on her Facebook status again I would kill her myself.

Sometimes people wonder where I get my ideas for stories and characters and I think that my ideas come because of the way I usually think of worst case scenarios. What if terrorists did this or what if this or that happened to a regular person. In this case, I came away with having thought about a lot of worst case scenarios for a mountain hike, but the real takeaway for me is that I now know what deep, helpless fear for a child feels like. And while I hope to never feel that again, I know I probably will just because I have a lot of children. So maybe I’ll use it in a book someday. Sort of as cheap therapy. And I think if you are an author, you know what I mean.


At 8/05/2010 1:35 PM, Blogger Krista said...

Wow. Use that emotion you surged through, too! Glad your daughter and her group are alright.

At 8/05/2010 5:36 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

What a terrifying experience for a mother! (I'm sure you were a lot more frightened than your daughter was!) I'm so grateful all is well.

At 8/05/2010 5:58 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

My kids did the same hike just before my son left for his mission. We got a call the next morning that the boy he'd been riding back with fell asleep and rolled his SUV on I-15. Fortunately they were all okay, but I know the feeling.

At 8/05/2010 9:19 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

So glad everything turned out okay!

At 8/05/2010 10:35 PM, Blogger Debra Erfert said...

Aren't we the sum of our experiences? If this saying is true, then face it Julie, by the time you have an empty nest, you're going to have a heck of a lot to write about. Please remember, strong emotions have a way of fading over time, just like the pain of childbirth. It’s the same with details. I hope you're keeping copious notes. I think writers have the best ability to express their feelings, whether it’s done electronically in a blog, or scripted in ink on paper.

You joked about writing being cheap therapy. Don’t laugh. Words can heal as well as hurt.

I’m glad your daughter is all right.

At 8/05/2010 11:56 PM, Blogger Taffy said...

Phew! I'm glad all turned out well. My son's scout troop decided to do that hike @ midnight and couldn't find the trail (they were already at camp in the canyon). They kept getting stuck on cliffs! They made it back to camp @ 8 AM, never reaching the top.

At 8/06/2010 7:06 AM, Anonymous kitchen tables said...

Wow! If I was there I think I don't know what to do. I am just so glad that everything goes well. This is such an amazing experience.

At 8/06/2010 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not just authors - if you're a mother, you know how this feels.

I had a son who was a bit of a dare-devil, and would take off with a group of friends and his skate board, and be gone for hours and hours.
I've seen the kind of tricks teens pull - riding down the middle lane of a busy highway, etc. on those things, and I was sure he would kill himself.

He also had a habit of going for long walks in the middle of the night when the teen angst got to be too much.

One such night he was gone from midnight to 5 AM.
I chewed him out royally when he returned, and expressed those "bleeding in a ditch" fears.

From then on - when he would go off on long jaunts somewhere, I always found a note from him that simply said "Not Dead."

...Well, that's something anyway.

He's a responsible adult now, (Hallelujia!) and we both survived.

Thanks for sharing your story.


P.S. That storm was crazy, wasn't it?

At 8/06/2010 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad everything turned out ok. I was wondering if the Broker Dealer Lawyers had anything to do with it. I really appreciate your story and I wish you best.

Thanks for the great read!!!


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