Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

Wanda Schmitt will accept nothing less than the truth, no matter how painful. She has been waiting for over a year for this truth to surface. That is how long her brother, 42 year-old Jeffrey Dale Nichols, has been missing from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jeff was afraid of something or someone. He told his family and friends this, but yet no one has been able to get to the bottom of this truth, the mystery of Jeff’s disappearance.

“I wish we knew what to do. Actually for the first month, I felt paralyzed. I couldn't get out of bed. I kept thinking I would wake up and he would be back,” Wanda shares the realities of this experience. “It was hard to watch the media attention on Lori Hacking. Jeff had disappeared just before she did from the same city. I knew that the situation was completely different and the police had reason to suspect foul play from the beginning. During this time I prayed for her family.”

While Wanda prayed and started research on the Internet looking for missing person’s resources, Jeff’s co-workers banded together and wrote testimonies, trying to convince anyone who would listen that there was more to Jeff’s story.

“Jeff's case is such a mystery. Here is a wonderful young man, father, son, brother who vanished. His life was going great. Jeff had a great job, wonderful son, loving family, and a good relationship with his girlfriend,” Wanda explained. ”Everyone who knows Jeff does not believe he walked away from his son, his job, or his family. He had so many positive things in his life he was looking forward to.”

Wanda was right in that those who knew Jeff did not believe for a moment that he left willingly. His co-workers, people who knew him for years, were quite sure there was more to the story.

“One truly remarkable thing about Jeff is his loving, caring relationship with his son. In the years I have known Jeff, he has given up a higher paying job and relocated several times to accommodate his son. Jeff lived each day for his son. The only way he would not be with his son would be against his will.” L.S.

“I spoke to Jeff several days before he disappeared. We talked about a staffing study and other work he was doing for the Tower. There was nothing unusual about his demeanor or behavior – no nervousness or anxiety.” L.W.

“Jeff was very stable. I saw him the afternoon before he disappeared and he said he would see me early the next day. Jeff would not disappear willingly. He loved work and his son; he had long-term plans at work.” K.W.

The morning of Jeff’s disappearance, June 8th, 2004, Jeff was planning on meeting his ex-wife before he went to work. Phone records indicate he was in the area of the planned meeting at 6am. On July 15th, 2004, Jeff's truck was towed from the same neighborhood in which he was going to meet his ex-wife. Jeff’s bank accounts and credit cards were never touched.

As they had no proof of foul play in Jeff’s case, it was difficult to convince the authorities that Jeff would not leave of his own accord.

Wanda relates the difficulties that go beyond emotional issues: “The feeling of being powerless is very frustrating. No one would listen when we told them Jeff was in danger. It would help if law enforcement was trained to better deal with missing person cases. By the time they realize something’s wrong, it's basically too late. Weeks and months are gone, and any evidence gone.”

Despite the hardship in dealing with the loss of someone you love in this manner, Wanda has been open to learning from her experience. “We realize the incredible amount of strength we actually have. My husband has been wonderful and supportive of the tremendous amount of time this has taken from our family. Some families would not have been able to deal with this but I think it's actually brought us closer. We are here to support and love each other.

I have also become more aware of my surroundings. I actually look at the people around me as I go about my daily life.

Life is precious, don't squander it. You need to stay positive and have hope that you will find your loved one, or find out what happened. Having a missing loved one is living with loss every day: a loss that doesn't go away. When someone close dies, there are rituals with a funeral or memorial to help you say good bye. You feel the loss but you have closure. When you don't know what happened, it's so hard to move on. You live with the ambiguity of this loss. You try to remain hopeful that your loved one will one day walk back into your life. It's like a roller coaster ride of emotions that you can’t get off.”

“One thing that Jeff loved was life. I know he would want us to enjoy our families and the lives we have before us. I think it would upset him if he thought he was the cause of such distress in our lives.” Secure in her knowledge of what her brother would want of her, Wanda chooses to live and love life.

After her aunt died, she found this writing from an anonymous author among her possessions. Now Wanda keeps it with her everywhere she goes, ever mindful of her brother and the love they share.

"Believe in Life, Not Loss

Believing in Life means we can trust-trust in nature and rhythm of life with all its constant change. We believe in transformation, change, and purpose.

Believing in life means we're not in bondage to the past. No matter what we've done, what decisions we've made, we set ourselves free to trust ourselves now. We trust what we feel, we trust what we know, we trust what we think we need to do next. Believing in life means we trust that the lessons we're learning are real. They're valuable and Divinely ordained--even when learning a lesson means feeling pain.

Believing in loss means we focus on the grief, on the pain, on the tragedy, on the inescapable reality of certain events. Believing in loss means we get fixated on what was taken from us, what we did wrong. We judge ourselves and our lives harshly. Believing in loss often means we stay stuck. We're afraid to let go of a person, place or thing that's no longer right for us because we're afraid to lose anything more.

Do you believe in loss? Or do you believe in life?

Believing in life means it's okay to let go. We can trust where we've been. We trust where we're going. And we're right where we need to be now. Believe in life."

Jeff would certainly be proud of his sister, her efforts to locate him, and the graceful acceptance of her painful life’s lessons.

How ironic that Wanda while searches for the truth about Jeff, she finds a truth about life.

You can read more about Jeff, and see additional photos on his family’s website for him:


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