My husband and daughter wanted me to start a blog years ago. A blog about my love for design and décor. A blog about our awesome family of five- or “5Pack” as my husband would call us. Never, not in a million years, did I imagine I would start blogging because I wanted to share my grief which was caused by unexpected death of the love of my life.
It all started back in the late 80’s. Travis was my high-school sweetheart. He sat behind me in home-economics class. We would talk continuously and how I wanted him to ask me out. I recall one time, after basketball practice he said to me, “I was gonna ask you to prom, but you are already going with ____”. I quickly responded to him, “You should have- because I wanted you to ask me”.
I still have his senior photos. The one which he said “To a pretty cool chick, with a “so-so figure”. I kept everything that he ever gave me. The love letters, the cards, our prom flowers and receipts, our honeymoon tickets, our pregnancy tests strips, his last Kleenex.
Travis graduated high school in 1988. He came back for my Junior and Senior prom. This time- I asked him.
I chose to attend my college- because he was going to school at the same college. I turned down scholarships at other colleges. Luckily—we were meant to be and married after I graduated. We dated for six years and he asked me to marry him on December 23, 1993. On September 3, 1994- I became Mrs. Travis Vorachek. The happiest day of my life. I remember it like yesterday.
Travis and I were blessed with our first born (Sydney Ann) 13 months after we married. I remember the smile and pride on his face. How he loved his baby girl. He would hold her and dance around our small home. He told me he wanted more children. After a few miscarriages, we were blessed with our 2nd child- another girl. He again grinned from ear to ear. Anyone could see the love he had for his daughters. He earned for a son, after Samantha Catherine. (our 2nd born) turned 1- he told me that we should try to have a son. I excitedly told him- we didn’t need to try for I was already pregnant. Eight months later- his one and only son, Jacob Travis was born.
Our children were his life, he was the most amazing father. He smiled when the girls would put makeup on his face and paint his toes with glittery nail-polish. The two girls and him attended numerous “Daddy-daughter dances”. He watched over 14 years of ballet and dance recitals. He spent an infinite amount of hours in the back yard, kicking the soccer ball with Jacob. Yearly, he and Jacob would go to “Goose Camp”. His love for life, and his children was evident for all the see.
He was the father whom was cheering their child on the sidelines, while joking with the parents. He was the father who would dress up at Halloween. He is the father who would draw chalk on the driveway and let you swing in your jammies.
He called himself “Super-Trav”- because he was truly SUPER. He looked forward to seeing the kids graduate, walk his daughters down the isle, play “Daddy’s Little Girl” and dance with Sydney at her wedding. Let Samantha dance on his feet at her wedding and see Jacob wed the woman of his dreams.
As I sit here and write, I am looking at the shiny silver container that holds his ashes. I see the flowers from the funeral, the baskets of cards and the rock from the land which took by Travis.
The last time I saw the love of my life was 13 days ago.
13 days ago- our nightmare started.
Throughout our marriage, Travis would always tease me about my love for surprises, holidays and birthdays. Just two days prior to him missing, he surprised me with a birthday supper with our children and my parents. I walk in to one of my favorite restaurants, surprised to see our oldest, Sydney Ann and her boyfriend and my parents. Balloons surrounded the table. I immediately had tears in my eyes. Jacob looks at Travis and giggles, “she’s already crying”. Travis looks and smiles, “Happy Birthday Jewels”.
On Friday, 11.6.15 Travis went deer hunting with his father. That AM- he called me at work and said he was leaving to meet his father and would see us later. He asked me to pick up Jacob from hockey at 6pm- for he would not be home in time. Like any day- we texted and talked throughout the day. At 6pm- he texted me stating he was heading up to my brothers farms to pick up the ATV-ranger that he had just purchased months prior and he would be home later. (I will never delete the text).
He called Jacob and I after hockey to see how practice was. He told Jacob that he was so very proud and could not wait for Jacobs first ever hockey game which was the following Friday. (Jacob just started skating and hockey in May). He told me that he loved me and would be home shortly- but he was gonna go to the land first and scout for some deer with the ranger. He said that he was coming home for he had to get up early at 4:30 am and meet his dad out at the land the next morning at 6:30. We talked about my concern of him getting home later and having to get up so early. I suggested that he stay at the land (as he would usually do when he scouted for geese and hunted the next early am). He told me that he would think about it and call me later.
At 8pm- travis called and said he was at the land and decided to stay overnight and meet his dad early the next morning. We said that we loved each other and we would see each other the next late afternoon- evening.
Saturday at 9am- I received a phone call from my mother-in-law stating Paul was at the land (Travis father) and the ATV- ranger was flipped over and Paul could not find Travis. My heart sank. I immediately called Paul. When he arrived a 6:30, Travis pick-up windows were frosted over and Travis was nowhere to be found. It took Paul two hours to find the flipped over ATV- still no Travis. I frantically told Paul to call 911 and I would be on my way. I had never been to the land- I didn’t know where to go.
I called our daughter, whom was at work. I told her to come home as soon as she could and bring her siblings to the land. I called my family. I remember my brother- in- law driving to the hunting land- which was 1 1/2 hours away. My heart was racing. When we turned north on the gravel road and I saw all the water- I started to sob. I was terrified Travis was in the water or cattails which surrounded the infinite bodies of water (Sloughs).
I recall seeing three ambulances, county sheriffs vehicles and numerous people and ATV’s. The next hours were a blurr. They would not let me or my children see the crash site, We were not allowed to see his pick-up. We were not allowed to search. They brought me a bright orange hat that was soaking wet (it was opening deer season). I fell to my knees.
Throughout the day, I had stay at the command center. I was responsible for answering all their questions. The helicopter flew over, searching for my husband. The search dogs were escorted throughout the vast land and multiple bodies of water. The drone was searching above. I felt like I was living a real life “CSI or Criminal Minds” tv show.
As the day grew to dusk, I was told they would search again at 0800 the next morning. I recall not wanting to leave the land. I begged to stay, I was torn in different directions- my children needed me to go home with them- their father was MISSING! I didn’t want to leave Travis in the cold, dark night. I sobbed and cried the entire 1 1/2 hour ride home.
My sisters stayed with me. Our children were all home. I wanted to be at the land before the sun arose. I needed to be near my Travis. I carried a rosary he gave me years prior. I wore one of his favorite hunting shirts (I have not taken it off 13 days later). I went to a road which looked over all the land- I prayed to God, I prayed to Travis, I prayed and begged Travis to hang on- I prayed asking God to lead me to him. I told Travis to listen to my voice and hang on.
I had heard numerous volunteers had met at a local small town earlier that morning, I remember looking back at the country road and seeing hundreds of cars traveling, Hundreds of ATVs, Hundreds of people – coming to find my Travis. I remember a friend from our high school who brought water, soda and food for all the volunteers. I remember talking with the county sheriffs department, Water rescue, criminal investigations unit. My mind was in a constant fog. Holding on to the rosary and praying that Travis would be found – Alive.
They say over 400 people searched the rough terrain. 400 people risked their lives and put their lives on hold to find our Travis. The helicopter was once there to pick up any change in temperature. The water (sloughs) were clear- some shallow- some deep. The cadavare and scent dogs were searching long hours. I had brought Travis pillow from our bed and clothes he last wore for them to get a better scent. They searched every area within a 5 mile radius (If I recall correctly). Yet- dusk came and searchers were sent home. I had to leave Travis in the cold once again. Deep down- I knew that he could not survive his third night in the cold- yet I continued to pray and beg God to find him- Alive.
Monday morning- we were worried we would not have as many searchers for it was a work day. I was wrong- once again- I was there around sunrise- this time- I was not allowed into the land. The entrance was taped off- just like a crime scene. His pickup was taped off. I could not see the razor crash site- for the razor was taken to the local sheriffs department. I was once again asked if he was suicidal, would he leave me and the kids, would he have gone somewhere. I remember talking to the water rescue about the days “search plan”. it was now an eight mile radius, ATVs and groups were going out and searching the land and some areas 3-4 times. I knew if Travis were alive- he was not in the area and was somewhere hurt and nonresponsive. I knew if he was in the area- he was in the cattails- not alive.
Monday- they allowed all people to search- all but me and my children. Jacob- our 12 year old son searched anyway (with family members). Our two daughters, Sydney and Samantha were on their way. they were exhausted from the prior 48 hours.
I was asked if Travis owned a glove in a certain color, did he have tickets from October for a local college sporting event, did he wear a black head band. I was on a constant roller coaster of emotions and fear. I finally remembered that I had not eaten all day and went to find a banana. I remember my sister coming to me and said “they found him”. I fell to my knees and cried. I looked at her and she shook her head. My Travis- my love- was dead. The next few moments- hours were a blurr. I remember throwing my rosary into the dirt, screaming that God had failed me. Screaming that I had failed and could not find my husband, crying that he was not coming home like I promised every moment. Yelling that the searchers and the best technology could not find him. Where were our children? Where were my children who no longer had a father? Where was Jacob? Sydney and Samantha were not there? Who found Travis? Where was he? How could God let this happen? I wanted to see him, I needed to see him.
I hear Sydney screaming and see her falling to the ground. I see Jacob sobbing and Samantha struggling to walk with tears rolling down her eyes. My life was literally crumbling in front of my eyes. My children’s lives would never be the same.
Where was he? I demanded to see him. Water rescue told me that his body was found in 6 inches of water near a larger slough and they would need to take the airboat to retrieve him. I was told I could not go. I was told I could not hold him. I was told I could not see him. I begged and sobbed. I begged to hold my husband where he last took his last breath. I begged to hold me husband where he was all alone and no one was there to hold him while he died. My husband died all alone. No one to hold him, No one to comfort him. No one to kiss him. No one to cradle him. The thought suffocated me. I could not breathe – I could not see- I could not go on.
How do I comfort our Sydney who is screaming and lying on the cold earth? How do I comfort our Samantha who took off running, how do I comfort our one and only son, Jacob who was weeping in the fetal position. I lay, I lay crying next to Jacob. I beg our two daughters to be near. We all wept and cried- together at the loss of their father. Jacob kicks off his muddy boots and bolts off running. Running towards where his fathers deceased body was found. I was told he ran through four adults and law enforcement jumped on a four-wheeler to catch him. He was running, running to his dad. Running to be held by his father. Running like his dad taught him to run.
The minutes felt like hours. The tears and agony continued. I wept and blamed myself for not finding Travis. “Im sorry, Im sorry, Im sorry I couldn’t find you, Im sorry I cant bring you home”. Why didn’t the best technology find him? Why didn’t the helicopter find him? It was right over him? Was that area actually searched days prior? How did the dogs not pick up his scent? Why couldn’t we have found him sooner- maybe he would be alive?
I begged to see him, I begged on my knees and demanded to see my husband. pleaded and begged. They would not let me.
I remember demanding the sheriff to let me see my husband and telling him that he could not deny me that right. I firmly told him to complete his investigation and let me see Travis before they move him. Before they carry him out, Before they touch him. I was told that Travis was already in the ambulance. I was upset. He offered to show me a picture. I didn’t want a picture. I wanted to see and hold my husband. He was mine, he was mine for 27 years.
They agreed to escort me to see Travis, after much pleading and arguing, Sydney was also escorted. I was strongly advised to not allow my children to see him. Travis parents, brother and sister also rode with us to the ambulance. We were told that we could not touch “the body”. The body- the body is my husband, I can touch him if I want. The sheriff looked at me and said he had handcuffs. We drive- we drive by the slough which the dog was “strongly” attracted to all three days of the search. We drive to where the ambulance seemed to be completely out of place. We were greeted by local law enforcement and ambulance crew. I was stopped and strongly advised to not let our Sydney (who is 20) not to see her father. The kind investigator who talked with the kids and I the day prior said it is not a “last remembrance” that Sydney should have. They encouraged me to see Travis first and then make a decision.
I was going the see my Travis. I was going to see my love. I was going to see my husband, the father of our children, my best friend, my support, my future, my past. I was going to see him -after they removed his body from the muddy cattails- where he laid in six inches of water. I was told half his face was submerged, I was told he was laying on his side, I was told his eyes were closed. I was escorted up the metal steps into the side of the ambulance. I was not told that he was in a plastic body bag, I was not told that he wasn’t wrapped in warm blankets. When they showed me Travis face, I immediately fell, I had no strength, I wanted to die. I could not let my daughter see him “she cant see him, she cant see him, she cant see him”.
I was escorted out the ambulance and saw Sydney weeping. Travis family were allowed to see him while Sydney and I yelled at each other. She demanded to see her father, I told her no, she told me that I could not deny her seeing her father, I told her no. The sheriff asked me if he should drive the ambulance away. I yelled “NO”. How could I deny my daughter what I was begging and pleading earlier and was denied. I told Sydney she could see him and she needed to hold on to me and stay by my side.
I was escorting our first born, our child, Travis first pride and joy. I was walking, crying, arms locked around each other- Sydney was going to see her dad. The man that thousands have been searching for. The man, the man that would never come home. When Sydney saw her father, she stopped crying. She looked at her dad and said sternly “OK” (pause) “OK”. We left the ambulance. Sydney looked at me and said, “Im so mad, Im mad at you because you were gonna deny me that! I now have a little closure”.
We were then escorted on foot to where they found Travis. The cold, wet earth was below our feet. It seemed we walked for a miles. I vaguely recall- thinking- how could he walk this in the night, in the dark, in the cold, no coat on, 24 degrees. My mind flooded with many thoughts- did he have a concussion, did he have an internal head bleed? Did he suffer? Did he have a heart attack? Did he collapse? Did he die from hypothermia, Did he die of a drowning? He was all alone, his last vision was him being all alone, was he scared?
Travis body was found by my brother in law. 1000’s of searchers and his family found him. Jacob was searching with his uncle up until 10 minutes prior to finding Travis. His body was in 6 inches of cold, muddy water a few feet from a large deep slough. How did he not fall into the slough? Did he become hypothermic and cold and fall down and sleep?
I walked – I walked after they drove away with my husband. I walked on the land that many searchers walked for days. I walked on land that was foreign to me, Land that I had stared at and prayed too for countless hours. Land that took my husband, the father of my children.
Samantha, Jacob and family members were now being escorted to where Travis was found. I had to go back, I had to be with our youngest children. The deputy told us that he had gone out to the land one late night and told us to close our eyes. The darkness was black. Friday night- there was no moon, there were no stars. The sky was black. Travis was walking, trying to find his way back to us, but couldn’t. I believe he had a head injury. He would not walk in the sloughs, he would not walk 1/4 mile in thick cattails. Jacob told everyone, “Dad was smart- he’s a smart hunter, he would never walk in water or cattails. If he felt water- he’d tell us to always step back”.
As my siblings escorted the kids back to “headquarters”, I walked- I walked again, sobbing, weeping, talking to Travis, angry at God. I went to where I think the ATV crash occurred. (they never did show me). I fell to my knees and sobbed. I spoke to Travis. By my knees- I found a rock. I picked up the rock and carried it. I carried it until I found my son (the girls had left with family). I carried the rock to Travis pick up and trailer. Jacob and I put the back of the trailer up together. We got into Travis pick up and drove, I wept. Jacob wept. We were leaving without finding Travis alive.
The fear. the fear of the future without Travis immediately flooded me. He was at the peak in his career. We were doing so well as a family. We were making life long decisions. We were suppose to grow old together. We have no Travis. The 1 1/2 ride home felt forever. Jacob sobbed, “who’s gonna take me to school? Who’s gonna take me to hockey? Are we gonna lose the house? Are we gonna struggle financially? What is the last thing dad said to you?” Why did this have to happen? Why did this have to happen to us? I assured my son that I would do all the above and we would be OK.
The next few days are a complete blur. I don’t remember a lot of things. What funeral home? Does he want to be buried or cremated? Does he want flowers on his casket? You can rent a casket for the viewing.
The funeral home:
After the state medical examiner was done completing the autopsy, Travis body was taken to the funeral home. After requesting- we were told that we could see Travis. I wanted the kids and I to see him before anything was done with his body. I wanted to be able to hold and kiss him. I wanted to hold him and tell him that I was sooooo sorry that I could not find him soon enough, tell him that I am sorry that I could not bring him home like I promised, tell him that I am sooooo sorry that I didn’t ask him to come home on Friday night.
The kids and I decided to have a viewing of Travis during his prayer service (Celebration of life) and funeral. We the wanted him cremated for I honestly want him with me forever. All four of us were able to see Travis at the same time. He looked sooo handsome. He looked sooo good. I was able to hold him and kiss him. I could hold him as long as I wanted. No rush, no urgency.
Each of our children reacted differently. We have always seen their personality differences and how they react to life’s occurrences. I was able to easily accept their reactions and not expect them to all be the same. My heart was breaking for my children, my heart was being torn apart.
On the wall were numerous urns. There I stood, with our three children, picking out a container which would hold the ashes of their father. It didn’t seem real- it couldn’t be real! All four of us liked a silver urn. A few minutes later- Sydney and I liked a black urn. I then told the three children that they could choose. Sydney and Samantha looked at Jacob and said “Jakey- you choose- which one do you like?” The silver urn was his choice, and a identical smaller urn will be for Jacob.
The children chose to have tator-tot hotdish and cheese cake for the funeral meal served at church. Travis always shared how he loved tator- tot hotdish and none of us cared for it. He didn’t like sweets but loved cheesecake. His funeral meal would be tator-tot hotdish and cheese cake.
I knew Travis wouldn’t want flowers on his casket. On Thursday am- I drove by myself with Travis pickup and trailer back to the land. I know I wanted the cattails where we found his body, I wanted the cattails for the funeral. More importantly- I wanted the cattails for our home. All the way- I was crying, screaming, talking to Travis. Asking him to watch over me and our children. Asking him to assure me that he would be with us. Asking him for a sign- any sign. The weather was crappy- blustery and snowing. How was it beautiful and sunny the three days he was missing? I yelled- I begged for a sign- a sign that he was listening to me. All of the sudden, my cell phone beeped and someone texted me “Are you ok”.
The picture above is where the ambulance was parked. After wiping my tears, I looked and saw just a glimpse of beauty. I could see why Travis loved nature and all its splendor. I had no idea how to back his pickup and trailer out of the woods and area. I just knew he would guide me.
I take photos of everything, Travis and the children always tease me. I didn’t know if I would have the strength to go back to the land another day, I knew I wanted to capture this memory. As the thousands of memories I have captured prior with Travis. I took the above photo. I plan on enlarging it and portraying in our home- I have it saved under “last breath” on our computer.
I was once again driving away in HIS pickup without HIM. The law enforcement removed everything from the pick-up. Even the garage door opener and phone charger! Why wasn’t HE there with me. Why did this have to happen? Why could HE just wait until we found HIM? Why didn’t I tell HIM to come home?
I am still in awe at the amount of support and love shown to my children and our families. We called our home the “Vorachek Walmart”. We had cases and water, boxes of chips, enormous amount of paper plates, cups and napkins. About 12 dozen buns. All the food and baked goodies. The list goes on and on and on. I am humbly thankful.
But- I honestly didn’t want any of it. I wanted Travis. I wanted my husband. I wanted my childrens father. I wanted all the “Vorachek Walmart” to go away and just give me Travis.
The prayer service
I knew that I had to speak- I knew that I had to share with others what I thought of my love. How does one prepare in only a few days and show the world how awesome their spouse is? I usually have months or years to plan for birthdays, graduations or holidays. I felt like we were preparing for a surprise party for Travis. I felt that he would walk in with his smile and give me a huge hug and kiss. HE didn’t.
Our oldest, Sydney Ann spoke with eloquence and strength. How HE would have been proud of her. I continued to feel as if I was in a fog. This could not be real. HE was not the one in the coffin. We were not all at the church to share our memories of Travis. I thought we would grow old together.
We talked about buying a lake home. We talked about me quitting my job or working part time. We talked about taking the kids somewhere warm this winter. We talked about renting the lake home a few weekends and surprise the kids and take them ice fishing, sledding and hanging out. We talked about our future- now it is GONE!
Others shared their stories and memories of Travis. I broke my heart that these were stories about the past and there will no longer be new memories. The stories were all old memories.
The kids- Travis will not be there to witness them graduate, he will not walk our girls down the eisle. He will not hold and play with our grandchildren. He will not start brokering business with Jacob. I feel SOOOOO cheated. I feel so upset.
I wake up and tell our children to get ready and dressed up. I encourage them to shower and put on their clothes. The girls went shopping a few nights ago to buy a special black dress for their dads funeral. They were suppose to be buying dresses for the upcoming holidays. Jacob knew he wanted to wear the camo 1/4 zip and pants that his father purchased him just a few months ago. The girls bought me a dress. A beautiful black dress. I have not worn a tight fitting dress and now I am wearing it to my loves funeral!
I don’t remember the funeral. I vaguely recall people coming up to me and telling me how sorry they were. I recall seeing my kids sitting in disbelief. I recall seeing each of them sobbing at their dads casket. We each placed a photo with Travis and asked to have it cremated with his body. I chose the senior photo which he gave me over 28 years ago and our last Christmas photo. I also had our wedding flowers. The beginning of our relationship and the end.
Today- is 14 days since I last saw my love. 14 days ago- he was texting and talking with me like he always did. Joking with each other via phone or text. Looking forward to the weekend and special Sunday meal he was to prepare. I am taking hour by hour. I have no strength and I cry in outbursts and become very angry. Angry that God took him away from me the kids. Angry that he was cheated, Angry that my kids no longer have a father. Angry that our Sydney is now “wondering what the purpose of life is”, Angry that Samantha has not wept and is trying to “move on”, Angry that he missed Jacobs 13th birthday yesterday.
We release 45 balloons for Jacobs birthday. 13 of the balloons were for Jacob. Family, friends and classmates met at his middle school and we released the balloons to heaven for Travis to hold. Trying to move on is difficult.Trying to create new memories without Travis upsets me- he is to be here with us.