Everybody loves Evie: Family rallies around single mom after death of baby’s father
By Susan Shinn
The end came when Alex Gordon was buried on May 21, 2007, three days after being killed in a motorcycle accident.
“We were on our way back from the beach,” says his twin Jared, now 24. “I looked in my rear-view mirror and he wasn’t there.”
Jared doubled back and found the accident scene.
“He asked for me and I was there,” Jared says. “I reached out and I held his hand.”
There were no words.
“We could always exchange looks and know what each other meant,” Jared says.
He was with his brother when paramedics took him into the hospital.
“It’s OK, Alex,” they told him. “Your brother’s here.”
That was the last time Jared saw him.
It was over.
On the morning of May 21, 2007, Alex’s funeral, Brian, the twins’ father, was getting ready for a difficult day.
Jared and Jackie Chapman, Alex’s girlfriend, left the house early that morning.
Brian asked no questions.
When they returned, he was shaving. They asked him to come into the living room.
Karen came to summon her husband as well.
“Brian,” she said, “they need to tell us something.”
The family, including daughter Hillary, gathered in the living room.
Jackie was pregnant.
“We didn’t know how to feel,” Brian says. “We had just lost a son, and all of a sudden, you feel like there’s a piece of Alex in the world.
“It was what got me through the funeral.”
In many circumstances óbut not all ó pregnancy is typically a happy thing.
It wasn’t the case for Jackie that sad morning.
“I cried a lot,” says Jackie, who was just 19 at the time. “I just remember the lady at the clinic asked if I’d taken a home pregnancy test. I had. She said, honey, you’re pregnant.
“I was terrified. I didn’t know what my parents were going to say.”
Alex had an inkling that Jackie was pregnant.
He and Jared were playing golf a few days before the accident.
“He told me, Dude, Jackie’s late,” Jared says. “I said, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”
After all, Jared figured, he’d only be the child’s uncle.
“Alex knew it was a possibility,” Jackie says.
The day after Alex was killed, Jared and Jackie made a pact to be each other’s best friends.
“I wanted to be there for her because I knew it was a scary thing,” Jared says. “We still had to go on.”
As for Jackie, she had to make a plan, and make one quickly.
She’s that kind of person.
After Jared and Jackie told his parents, Jackie went to see her parents, Dennis and Cathy, who were in town for Alex’s funeral.
“My dad was worried about my future,” Jackie says. “He was afraid I wasn’t going to finish school.”
Jackie planned to return to Catawba that fall, then take the semester off when her child was born.
“That’s how it’s working out,” says Jackie, who’s on track to graduate in 2011. She’s majoring in music with concentrations in music education, sacred music and vocal performance.
“I would love to be an elementary music teacher with either a part-time or full-time church position,” she says.
Evelyn Alethia was born Jan. 28, 2008, with Jared at Jackie’s side.
Jackie’s days revolve around her daughter. Jackie is up each morning by 6:30 to have Evie at daycare by 7:30. Then she heads to Catawba. Karen and Brian keep Evie on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, when Jackie has late classes. She also works on campus.
Then it’s home to the apartment to have Evie in bed by 6:30 or 7 ó in time for Jackie to start homework.
Jackie definitely feels the pressure of being a single mom, but she’s grateful for the support of Alex’s family.
“Grandchildren are awesome,” Karen says. “It’s everything every other grandparent has said.
“We’re very available to her. We love having Evie here and we love Jackie. She’s part of our family.”
Also part of the family now is Aiden Alexander, Hillary’s son, who’s 10 months old. She is also a single parent.
“It’s definitely helped us a lot,” Karen says of her two grandchildren. “You are sad and then you see them. It really helps. We know how lucky we are.
“It really is a miracle,” Jared says.
Jared, who also majored in music at Catawba, introduced Jackie and Alex. The two families had much in common.
Jackie has twin sisters ó like Jared and Alex, they’re fraternal ó who are now 23.
“We said that Hillary was an unexpected gift,” Karen says. “Jackie said, that’s exactly what my mom said about me!”
The Gordons consider Jackie part of their family.
“We want to still be the support and be everything that the father was going to be,” Jared says. “We’ve had bumps in the road, but we know we are miles away from where we were two years ago.”
Jared continued on to graduate school in August 2007. He made it two semesters before he was overwhelmed.
“I just finally decided I can’t take it right now,” Jared says.
“People want you to finish grieving,” Karen says. “But grief is a journey.”
“We’ve all found help along the way,” Jared says. “When Alex died, it was like I died, too. I had to live my life by myself. I’m the same person, but without my other half.”
Jackie and Alex were a good match.
“They clicked right away,” Karen says, “and it was obvious they were meant for each other. It was a precious relationship.”
“It was like I’d known him forever,” Jackie says.
More than once, Brian says, Alex told him, “She’s got my heart.”
It would have been easy for Jackie and Jared to fall into a relationship of their own.
Right now, they’re still trying to find their way as individuals ó without Alex.
“We have an understanding,” Jackie says. “It’s like an unspoken kind of relationship.”
Jackie has remained close to Alex’s entire family.
“It’s the very best it could be under the circumstances,” Karen says.
“At this point,” Jared says, “we’re just best friends and we’re OK with that.”
He looks at Jackie.
She smiles, and nods.
Alex was an avid golfer and had just received his degree in turf management from Central Piedmont Community College. His family decided there was no better way to honor his memory than with a golf tournament that would benefit the ministries of his church.
The second-annual Alex Gordon Memorial Golf Tournament, sponsored by Central United Methodist Church, is set for Saturday, May 16, beginning at 2 p.m.
Cost is $45 per player which includes lunch. The meal will be served at 12:30 p.m.
For more information, call the church at 704-636-4101.