EDITOR'S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from The Land Between by Jeff Manion (Zondervan).

Welcome to the Land Between

One late November morning when I was in seventh grade, tragedy reshaped oru family and segmented time - life before the accident and life after.

During the life before the accident, my parents had served together planting churches in southeastern Idaho for fifteen years. My sister, the eldest, was thirteen. My younger brothers were nine, four, and an infant. I was twelve. My dad's father had died, and my parents were hurriedly preparing to depart for the funeral in Michigan. They would need to drive through the night to make it in time. Of the five children, four of us would be sent to stay with various friends, remaining in Idaho. Jamie, my two-month-old brother, would be traveling with my parents because Mom was nursing. They planned tobe gone for two weeks.

While sifting through a large box of family pictures last month, I discovered a handwritten note neatly penned by my mother thirty-five years ago. The information in the note provides instructions for the care of my nine-year-old brother, Jon, during my parents' trip. As I read the note, I was struck by Mom's neat penmanship and attention to detail in the enumerated list:

1. Hot lunch ticket to be paid on Monday — $2.25 a week.

2. Trash pickup is Thursday.

3. Jon's bedtime is 9:00.

4. Jon's bus comes at 8:35 in the morning and brings him home around 3:45.

5. Clean sheets are in the trunk. There are some in the family room too.

6. The timer on my dryer works opposite of what it should. If you have a large load, set it for about 10 minutes; if just a small load, set it for 50 - 60.

7. Our doctor in Poky [Pocatello, Idaho] is Dr. Brydon, but we also go to Dr. Thurson here in Blackfoot. It would probably be easier for you to take him to Dr. T. if he needs a doctor.

Thanks so much for helping out this way. We'll probably call a couple times to see how things are going. We're supposed to get home Dec. 15. That's a long time to be gone!

That night, on Interstate 80 in western Nebraska, our family van veered off the road and rolled several times as it crossed the median before coming to rest. My father and baby brother sustained minor injuries. Mom was thrown from the van and died hours later at the hospital in a nearby town.

We were not ready to lose her. I was not ready to lose her.

The terms dizzying or disorienting do not carry the weight of our experience as I try to adequately depict the emotional swirl of those days. The heart had been removed from our house.

Mom had always been at home when I ran down the streetfrom the bus stop after school and flew through the front door.

Our yellow house on Jewell Street was a split-level home where the landing opened to stairways leading both up and down.

My daily entrance ritual began with yelling an announcement from the landing that I was home. I think I did this to discern whether Mom was upstairs or down. After the accident, I found myself mindlessly reenacting this routine from years of habit. Up the driveway, through the door, "Mom! I'm home!"

And then the deafening silence slapped me with the reality that she was gone.

A few months after the accident, my father accepted a position as a teacher and administrator of a small Bible college, and our family moved to East Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It is an affluent community with old brick homes, manicured lawns, and mature trees. Dad found a great buy on a nice house not far from his work, so we landed there. Socially, I did not belong.

Junior high can be awful in any town, and I could have been awkward almost anywhere. This just happens to be the setting where my awkwardness was overexposed due to my cultural illiteracy. Blackfoot, Idaho, where I had spent my grade school years, had simply not prepared me for statusconscious East Grand Rapids.