“Dad, Mom, I’d like to go to a friends cabin for the night… you won’t miss me too much will you?” Stephan’s dimples deepen and the twinkle in his eyes reflects his carefree spirit. He’s looking for our blessing. At 19 he’s trying to be independent but still has a deep connection with his family. Feeling the normal parent anxiety anytime your child is away from home, we hesitate, but feel he’s just going to a friend’s cabin. He should be safe. On his way out the door he stops to kiss his mother and playfully shoots a hockey puck my way. One last smile and he’s off.
Stephan’s journey through life has been a pleasant one. Growing up with 3 brothers brought him much joy. His multitude of friends were always a big part of his life even when he was brutally honest with them if he sometimes didn’t agree with their actions. Stephan was a friend to everyone. He loved life… and hockey. His current project was an old pickup truck that he bought with a quest to rebuild it from scratch. It was starting to take shape.
I open my eyes and wonder where I am. My body tells me I’m in bed but my mind is slow to react. I look over at my wife and see that she’s awake. She hasn’t slept. I try to move but my body feels numb. My heart aches. Blood pumps through me at an alarming rate. I feel as if I’m dying. My mind quickly remembers the past 24 hours and I realize where I am. I’m in every parent’s worst nightmare. Our family as we knew it has been changed forever.
I remember the 2:30 am knock on the door from the RCMP. As a Salvation Army Major I occasionally get a late night visit from them. I open the door wondering who’s family needs help tonight. “Major Hopkins… There’s been an accident. The canoe Stephan and his friend were in capsized. Stephan didn’t make it to shore. We can’t find him”.
73 endless days and nights. The pain and suffering our family had to endure was unbearable. The rescue team and volunteers work tirelessly but the pond is just too deep and the equipment is limited as to what it can do. We are starting to lose hope. We search online and locate a couple in Idaho who has equipment that has success in finding victims of drowning using sonar technology. “We’ll come right away” they said. Gene & Sandy Ralston arrive with their equipment and search the pond for just 29 minutes. They’ve found Stephan. I don’t know how to feel. I’m sad, I’m happy, I’m angry… I’m depleted.
What if we weren’t able to locate the Ralston’s and their equipment?
What if Stephan’s body were never found?
When would you ever stop searching?