I will try once again to get the words out of my mind & off my fingers and onto this page. It has been difficult for me to formulate Eva’s words onto the page without somehow losing the importance and sincerity of her words. I pray that this all comes accross right and that it helps someone who might be struggling with questions over this sad event. Eva is such a strong, wise woman and her faith is remarkable. And I might add that so is the faith of Joey. That sweet boy spoke to his church family last week – stood up and spoke right into that microphone – and thanked us all for being there for his mom, him and sister. An amazing kid! He was before all this… and he continues to be now… as he becomes the man of the house.
(I have Eva’s permission to write and post this story.)
It was Saturday, the last day of their Wyoming vacation. Joel had spent the first part of the day fly fishing with his buddy Jim. Eva and the kids spent the time at the hotel pool, accompanied by Amy (Jim’s wife) and their kids.
The men came to the pool in the afternoon when they had “caught 20 fish”… and joined the kids in the pool for a while. (apparently, they were gone a little longer than the wives expected – and their excuse was that they were not going to stop until they had caught 20 fish!)
Toward evening, they all headed to Jim and Amy’s house to have a taco dinner. On the way, they decided to stop and see this particularly beautiful spot in the river called *Lunch Counter. Eva said it was gorgeous. They hiked on a little further down stream to a smaller area that the kids could jump off some rocks and into the calmer waters of an **eddy in the river. The current of the eddy brought them right back around to the pebbly shore where they could just walk out and do it again. They were there for some time enjoying the scenery, the cool water and the sound of inexplicable joy.
This was not an isolated area. There were people kayaking, playing at the edges and * watching along the sides at * Lunch Counter as well. This area was but a few miles from the reservoir.
As they were getting ready to head on out and go have tacos, Joey (Joel and Eva’s 10-year-old son) was going for his last jump off the rocks. Of course Joel stayed in the water waiting for him. But for some reason, Joey did not just come back around in the current of the eddy like every other time. Either the rivers current had changed or he jumped a little farther out… nobody knows for sure, but he was most definitely caught up in the fast river current.
As soon as they realized it, Joel went out after him. He got to him and kept him up above the water, talking to him and telling him what to do the whole time. (For those of you who don’t know Joel – he is an avid outdoorsman, and an ex-lifeguard.) Apparently they went down the river about a quarter of a mile before Joel was able to shove Joey to a rock where he was quickly rescued by a kayaker. The kayaker, after depositing Joey on shore to the waiting arms of Jim, took off again into the river to get Joel.
Eva and Amy, with the girls, headed back up the trail to the car. They sped down to the site in the river where the kayakers get out. She expected that he would just ride it out down to this spot and then walk out of the river. He never showed up.
After a few minutes and asking every kayaker that got out if they’d seen him, they realized that they were in real trouble. They called for help. Rescuers were there very quickly and with the help of some of the kayakers they began to scour the water and the shores for him. They searched into the night.
Eva kept a keen eye out for the kayaker that got Joey off the rock. She wanted to thank him. She needed to thank him. She also needed to know what he saw when he went back out for Joel. It was a part of the river that she couldn’t see – and there was that nagging gray area in her mind. She needed some answers. But she never did see him.
She spent a sleepless night waiting.
By evening the next day, the searchers told her to take her kids home. They would continue the search until they found him and there was nothing more she could do. She went unwillingly. Somewhere in her mind, there were still a few crazy scenarios that could have happened. It’s possible. Anything’s possible.
Alas, she reluctantly boarded the plane for home without Joel on Monday morning with her distraught kids in tow.
She and the kids were kindly boarded first on the plane. As she sat waiting for the other passengers to board, a hand rested on her shoulder. She looked up into an unfamiliar face. The man gently said, “I know you probably don’t recognize me, but I am the kayaker that got your boy off the rock.” Eva, began to weep.
He pulled away and apologized telling her he was very sorry to upset her and began down the isle. Eva grabbed his hand and said, “No, You don’t understand, I’ve been praying to find you. I wanted to thank you for rescuing my son.”
They hugged, talked and shared phone numbers. He was able to fill in that vexing grey area for her. What a blessing. What a miracle that this man would be delivered to Eva at that moment. See… he actually lived there in Jackson Hole. He normally wouldn’t have been on a plane at all. But he was taking his teenage son to a specialist in Salt Lake City for an appointment. Truth is… he didn’t even recognize her… his son recognized Joey. How truly amazing. It helped start her off on her long road to a healed heart.
God is good – even in the midst of tragedy.
To all of you who know and loved Joel, I hope this helps. I know it did for me. A reminder that God still has his hand in this even though it seems like He wasn’t there at the River when Joel needed Him. We don’t understand the why’s and how’s, but He was. And He had that kayaker lined up to be on that plane… to speak to Eva what she needed to hear.
God was there. And He continues to be with Eva and her family, as Joel rests until that glorious day!
This week, as we prepare for our Celebration Of Joel’s Life on Saturday the 14th, at the Peachtree City SDA Church where Joel so selflessly gave of his time, his energy, his knowledge and his love for God, I ask that you please keep his family in your prayers. They will need many prayers for strength and healing as they work towards picking up their bruised and broken hearts and moving on in this life. They know they will some day see him again… it’s just going to be a difficult wait.
Cards/letters may be sent to the Peachtree City SDA Church on the behalf of the Fegarido Family, 4957 Hwy 34 East, Sharpsburg, GA 30277.
Delta has also created a fund for the continued education of the kids, Joey and Jamie. If you’d like to contribute, contact any branch of the Delta Community Credit Union and ask for the Joel Fegarido Honorary Fund.
We love you Eva, Joey and Jamie.
Let our Sovereign Lord hold you in his nail scared hands and comfort you while you wait for that glorious day.
*All links and photos are not mine or Eva’s and are in no way related to this event. They are photos I’ve found on-line to kind of show you what the river looks like, although I do not know exactly where they were on the river.
**Eddy – An eddy is a place in a river where the water is moving in a different direction or different speed than the main current. Eddies are made by rocks in the river, outcroppings along the side, behind logs, bridge pilings, and also on the inside of bends or along the side of the river. Eddies are places where kayakers can sit and stay relatively still instead of floating downstream. Eddies come in handy for scouting, resting, accessing playspots, etc.