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Grandchildren give consolation, hope
As if in a game of musical chairs - played to the tune of the home telephone, several cell phones and an eight-tone doorbell - Jerome Gourley cannot sit still. The doorbell rings: Neighbors with a casserole. The home phone rings: Friends from church. The cell phone rings: Channel 2 News.
It's been like this for seven days. Gourley removes his glasses, bright red grooves run down the each side of the bridge of his nose. He's tired. But something compels him to keep moving. Chair to chair. Into the kitchen. Into the parlor.
His son will be home in just a few hours. Perhaps then he can rest.
Perhaps then he can mourn.
If there has been one stilling force in the whirlwind that began the afternoon Gourley learned his son had been killed in Iraq, it is the 9-month-old infant crawling on the parlor floor of his Midvale home.
Addison King will never know her uncle Gregson.
But in her smile, in her cries, in her very breath, her exhausted grandfather finds hope and faith.
Jerome Gourley lifts the tiny girl into his arms, up to his cheek.
"New life," he says. "That's what I like."
Suddenly, if only momentarily, it is quiet. Jerome Gourley is still, save for the gentle rocking of the infant. And he is silent, save for the gentle rumbling of his voice.
"Yes," he tells the child. "I love you. Yes."
But the moment is fleeting. The cat needs to be fed. Details for the funeral must be worked out. A phone rings: Another friend with words of condolence.
"Yes, thank you, yes," Gourley says, back on his feet, pacing in the kitchen. "No, no, you just don't expect to be burying your children."
Two women come by from Gourley's church. One carries a tray with two loaves of hot, homemade bread. The other carries bowls of carrots, green salad and dressing.
Gourley pushes aside a vase of pink and yellow flowers and eats.
It's been maddening, not knowing when this day would come - not knowing when he would be able to welcome home the boy he lost.
Gourley is confident that the military does all it can to keep families informed. It even placed Gregson's brother, an Army major, in charge of escorting the casket home on the final leg of the trip.
Still, moving a casket thousands of miles is no simple business. The family didn't know until Monday when it would arrive.
"I think that uncertainty is the hardest thing to deal with," Gourley says. "They've kept us informed the best they can, but it will be a great relief to have him home."
The thought appears to be a calming one. Gourley stares down at his food and nods. He even smiles.
Suddenly, if only momentarily, it is again quiet.
And just as suddenly, he's back on the move. Less that two hours before the casket arrives, his wife and son's family will arrive at the airport. The plan is to pick them up, return home to drop off their bags, and return to meet Gregson's body.
In the airport terminal, Gourley sees his oldest grandson first. The boy, just 10, wears a football jersey and a wary smile. He's followed by two younger brothers, then his mother and grandmother.
Gourley hugs the boy and kisses his head, making the same gesture to the other boys and then to their widowed mother.
Gourley's wife, who left the day after they learned of Gregson's death to be with her daughter-in-law, falls into her husband's arms and sobs.
"I'm so glad you're home," he says.
He looks up and over to the stroller the women have alternated pushing.
A tiny baby girl, 3 months old, gazes up from under a pink blanket.
Alexa Gourley will never know her father.
But in her eyes, Gourley can see his son.
And suddenly, if only momentarily, it is quiet once again.