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  • Writer's pictureSteve McAtee

The Journey Up

Updated: Mar 22, 2018

Our family arrived here in Colorado five days ago, on July 27, 2017. We intend to make the emotional climb to the top of Peak 1. We’ve had five days of altitude acclimation, taken two long hikes over a few days, and have been drinking a ton of water to get used to the altitude.

Today is the day. We will start at the trailhead at the south end of 2nd Avenue in Frisco at 5:30 a.m., with the hope to arrive on top by noon. Today, we face the emotions hiking and climbing through the mountains that our son, Jack, so loved, the peaks he shredded with precision, the very place he died, the place where I believe he met Christ face-to-face in the air.

The Tenmile Range stretching south from Frisco, Colorado, includes Peak 1 through Peak 10. In the old days the Ute Indians called Peak 1 “Yudah,” meaning “high up.” Some of the peak’s other names over the years include Frisco Peak, Summit Peak, Sterling Peak (from the silver mining days), and Utopia (“Ute-opia”) Peak (after the Utes). Our family calls it “Jack’s Peak.” Jack died near the top of 13,000-foot Peak 1 after he went missing in September 2014.

The 13-month search for Jack involved many thousands of man-hours searching this range. People from all walks of life from St. Louis, Missouri, to Kodiak, Alaska, created the fabric searching for Jack throughout the entire western United States.

There were hundreds, if not thousands, praying, loving, caring, helping. Their numbers included foot soldiers armed with posters, nails, and a hammer. There were hunters, truck drivers, bush pilots, a band of 65 search and rescue volunteers scaling upper areas of the bowls. There was incredible support from hundreds from an incredible church called The Crossing, a body of people standing in the gap with us and painting the spirit of love on a canvas, one scented with the aroma of Christ. So much hope, so much love, shown by so many before and after the reality of Jack’s death set in.

In lieu of flowers, we asked in the obituary that anyone so inclined make a donation to Living Water International in memory of Jack. He loved what Living Water does. In the shadow of dark sadness, our family watched an amazing light overshadow darkness. Within days, over $50,000 was contributed to the fund. Jack’s wells today provide the gift of clean water to more than 5,000 people in Kenya. They have all heard the good news of Christ.

The loss of a child seems counter to the laws of nature – I was not supposed to outlive Jack. Like being caught between God and a hard place, three years after his death I still shed tears. But the shedding of tears these days is different. It becomes a cleansing as I look up and out from myself at the tremendous love shown by so many, providing clean water to those in such dire need. In dawn’s early morning light, I imagine heaven – what it will be like, the great reunion awaiting, where all our stories will play out in eternity. Heaven, where Jack is patiently watching as time unwinds, awaiting our arrival. But for now, we have so much to live for, reaching out to the brokenhearted. Jack would want this, and so do we. So, we share our story. And we hope to hear yours.

Join our journey up Peak 1 – a journey interlaced with stories of love, grief, and joy. Some sad. Some hilarious. This story gives voice to our grief, indulging lamentation and joy through it all. In healing our broken hearts and binding up our wounds, God sheds tears and shares His broken heart with us. Welcome.

Steve McAtee

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