The moment was so overwhelming that 14 people didn't notice the oven burner had been left on high.
As Kris Linner's family sat down to Thanksgiving dinner in the fall in Stillwater, Minn., Linner and her two daughters had a surprise. They had made a book, and they hadn't told anyone. Not Linner's parents, not her niece, not her sister-in-law, not her two brothers and not her sister.
The book was about Linner's brother, David Brill Linner II, who died on Jan. 11, 2005, when a Yampa Valley Air Ambulance crashed near Rawlins, Wyo. Dave was the air ambulance director and a flight nurse. He was 36 years old. Pilot Tim Benway, 35, and flight nurse Jennifer Wells, 30, also died that night.
Ten months later, sitting around the Thanksgiving table, Kris and her two daughters -- Greta, 12, and Tina, 9 -- unveiled the children's book they had made about Dave.
They started the book in February, a month after the crash.
"We gave it to them just as we were gathering, just before we ate," Kris said Friday. "My children had kept it a secret for all those months -- they couldn't wait anymore."
In the moments that followed, the burner continued to heat up, forgotten.
"My family, I think, was so overwhelmed that they couldn't really respond at the time," Kris said.
Then the fire alarm went off.
Dave served as a volunteer firefighter with the Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Department. The timing of the alarm broke the ice, Kris said.
"Everyone said: 'Oh, that must be Dave.'"
"Since then, my family has responded (to the book) in a very positive way," she said.
The book, "my brother Dave: Living Through a Loved One's Death," went on sale in Steamboat Springs in February.
Although she has published several articles, many about grief, "my brother Dave" is the first book Kris has written. Greta and Tina drew the pictures.
Kris Linner said her brother's daughter, Abigail Rose, inspired her to write.
"I started with the purpose of writing it for my niece, who was 11 months old at the time, so that she would grow up knowing the stories that I treasure in my heart about her dad," she said. "It will be something for her down the road."
Abby turned 2 last month. She lives in Steamboat with her mother, Laurel Linner, a surgery nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Laurel Linner said that although Abby is just learning to talk and will try to mimic other people's words, tentative conversations about her father already have begun.
"We talk about it. She doesn't really understand, but she's starting to understand that her dad's not here," Laurel said. "She knows that she has a daddy, or had a daddy. I just feel it's necessary for her to deal with it. The road ahead of her is going to be challenging."
One day, Abby will be able to read this page in the book about her father: "They had a little girl. Her name was Abigail Rose. Dave had the biggest smile when she was born. He felt so proud."
Dave's partner, Tim Baldwin, survived the plane crash. Baldwin spoke fondly about Dave.
"He was just a wonderful person, a jokester, professional at his job, a great partner and teammate," Baldwin said. "We were partners on every mission. (I remember) his warm heart and his excitement to be at work every day. He always had something new for you when he walked in the door of the office."
Walking with others
The book tells the story of Dave Linner -- pronounced "Lin-near" -- from his birth to childhood, high school, a tour of duty as an Army medic in the Gulf War, his mountaintop wedding with Laurel, Abby's birth, his career as a nurse and service as a firefighter, and then that terrible, tragic night.
The children's book tells the story with simple, colorful pages. Kris said writing about memories of her brother -- she was 10 when he was born and often changed his diapers -- helped her and her family heal.
"I think it was cathartic," she said. "It particularly helped my children. Throughout the whole process, we were always talking about the feelings. I think it helped all of us kind of feel our way through the experience."
Kris, an ordained Lutheran pastor, has worked as a chaplain in hospice and long-term care for 16 years. Although she was in constant contact with grief and people struggling to deal with loss, she said "it's a whole different story when it hits home."
The toughest page of "my brother Dave" to write, she said, was a page about what came after her brother's death.
"I felt the most energy -- and I think the energy was anger -- with the page about the people that ignored me when I got back to work," she said. "I worked in a health care setting, so I expected more from people, but there were people who would just look at me and not say anything. I knew that they knew, but they would just look at me and walk on by."
After a friend read the book, Kris said, the friend told her: "Kris, I will never look at somebody grieving in the same way after looking at that page. I will never ignore someone who has experienced a loss again."
Kris said, "For me, that was very powerful, and that's my hope -- that the book will help people walk with other people during those feelings of grief."
On the shelves
The first printing of "my brother Dave," 500 copies, was finished in October.
Kris said she wants to print 500 more. The book is available at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Epilogue Book Co. in Steamboat, online at amazon.com and in Stillwater, Dave's hometown. Proceeds from sales in Stillwater are going to the Lyngblomsten Nursing Home at Lakeview Memorial Hospital, but Kris said a foundation for Dave has not been established.
"I'm still just trying to pay for the printing of the book," she said.
Kris and Dave's brother, Wills Linner, have sent the story of "my brother Dave" to Oprah Winfrey.
Kris said any publicity the book can get will help it touch more hearts.
"I really hope that it can reach as many kids as possible, who might need it."