Coming Home: Chapter 5

Colton and Aunt Karen 

Colton and Aunt Karen 

13 APR 2017

April 12, 2012. Evening fell and there had been no sign of Colton. He had said he would stop by Denver on his way south to Texas. Come morning I would find his orange Dodge Ram pickup parked on the side of the house. He had driven in the night and not wanting to wake us, he slept in his truck. Always so polite, that Colton. 

I scolded him for not waking us, hugged him, and quickly ushered him into the house. I hastily got dressed for work so we could have time to chat. He looked incredible, the best I had seen him in a long time, and it so warmed my soul. As we talked, he smiled and I was reminded of Colton as a boy, such a happy and polite child with the demeanor of an adult. After all, he had all those “kids” to raise. He called his siblings “the kids”. He took the title of big brother seriously and he had done a fine job of raising them up. If you’ve met them, you’d know that they are resilient, responsible, and a little bit ornery, just like their brother. 

Colton had grown up to be an incredible young man, the epitome of an old time cowboy, tough as nails, with a sharp wit, and ready for anything. He had true grit. He could do whatever he set his mind to do and got whatever he went after. I was so proud of him and so pleased to spend this morning with him.

Colton told of his plans to see his friends in Texas and look at some property there to set up a horse operation after he left the Army. We talked about his service in Afghanistan, family, and his Easter at home. Our time was short and I absolutely hated it. I wanted to call in to work and stay home with him, but I had to go. Nurses don’t have the luxury of calling in. After I left, my husband, Bob took Colton to Longmont to meet our son, Jeremy for breakfast. They had a wonderful visit. Soon, he was on his way to Texas. 

About 2 weeks later as I lay half-awake on a lazy Sunday morning, the phone rang. Bob was already awake and having his coffee, but I felt compelled to jump out of bed and see who it was. As I walked down the stairs I looked up and saw his face. And somehow, before he ever spoke the words, I knew. I knew Colton was gone. And my heart stopped.

How?! How could I have not known he was in such a bad place? I know him and I knew he had been fighting demons. I swear, I had searched his eyes and his heart for any sign of despair as he sat at my kitchen table. How could I have missed it? I’m a nurse with over 30 years’ experience; I know what to look for. I know the signs. How did I miss it? 

I beat myself up all the way home to the hills to be with my family. I screamed at God and cried buckets of tears. I should have caught it. This can’t be real. Not our Colton. Not this way.

Later, it would come to me, what I had missed. It was his peaceful resolve. Remember, I said Colton would get anything he went after? He had become accustomed to winning, whether it was wrestling, bull-riding, warrior competitions, and certainly any battle he faced, whether in war or in his personal life. The demons would not win as he had made a battle plan and he knew he would succeed. All other plans had failed, but this one would not. He had found peace in his decision. That, I tell you, is what I missed. 

This picture was taken the morning he stopped to “say goodbye”, April 13, 2012. I love you, nephew and I will always treasure those precious moments. 

- Aunt Karen