Wednesday, October 26, 2005

10/26/05 Stop and Smell the Roses

Brandy Shipp never stopped to smell the roses before her mother’s disappearance in December of 2004. She didn’t even like to garden. She was busy with her career.

Her mother, Summer Shipp, was last seen in Independence, MO doing door-to-door surveys. Her untouched car was found later on with her purse in the trunk. Closing in on a year later, Summer is still missing without a trace. Brandy now takes time to see the beauty in the things her mother loves. She hopes it is not too late to show her mother that she has slowed down. Brandy can only hope that her mother is still alive, trying to make her way back home.

Summer Shipp, the vibrant woman with the strawberry blonde hair and impish grin, found joy in the little pleasures of life. She loves her roses and her dogs. Her daughter remembers the conversations in which her mother tried to inspire her to stop and smell the roses:

“She would tell me, "Brandy, look at these roses that just bloomed!" and I would remark, "Oh yeah, they are great, but I have to get back to the office". But now, after 10 months since she vanished, I have been living at her house, and I have seen the roses bloom once, and then again and then again, and I realize what my Mother was speaking of. I can picture her watching her lovely dogs sniff the air. It’s the little things that she appreciated so very much. She has always been like that, but now that she is not here, I realize how important those little things are.”

This mother and daughter are very close. Christmas is not a huge holiday in their family, so last year, on a whim, the two of them went shopping in New Orleans.

“I called my mother a week before Christmas and I asked her if she would go to New Orleans with me and of course she said YES and we not only had a great time, but we found the most wonderful store going out of business, and I dragged my mom into it. (I thought they sold wine at that time---my Mom doesn’t drink.) In the store, we found the greatest tiles, yes, tiles, many, but not all of them broken. We proceeded to buy a bunch of tiles, and they are now are my kitchen wall. My Mother found all the good ones for me which was just weird, because I had a friend re-tiling my kitchen at the time.”

Summer would give her daughter a “payback” for the funny pranks she pulled, such as taking her into what she believed was a wine shop. Whenever they went out to eat, Summer would secretly tell the waiter that it was Brandy’s birthday, even though it was not. The waiter would never fail to bring out a slice of chocolate cake. To most of us, that would be wonderful, but Brandy did not like chocolate at all! Summer did, so she ate it. So, when you see that slight little smirk in Summer’s photos, you’ll remember her cleverness in playing pranks on Brandy. She is the mother who loves to make people laugh and smile.

She also has a generous side. Instead of wanting gifts for her birthday, she would give the people she loved gifts. “She is the most caring and trusting person in the world. My Mother is an amazing, joyful, well-liked and responsible woman! She is a homeowner and a businessperson. She spends her time thinking of how she can make a person laugh or smile and will go to great lengths to see a reaction. She finds joy in seeing others happy“, Brandy said.

An annual event shared by the mother-daughter duo was Thanksgiving with the homeless at the Salvation Army. Brandy remembers the funny and the serious side of this event:

“The Salvation Army "thing" that we do EVERY year on Thanksgiving Day is 'feeding the homeless', but it is so much more than that, because my Mother and I talk to the people there and we leave an impression. We are the people who actually care, and we like to get to know the homeless and everyone else there.

A few years ago, while my Mom and I were at the Salvation Army, there was news coverage. They filmed the people there getting their food and other things going on, but then the camera narrowed in on my rear end for more than 5 seconds. It was funny because the news reporter was talking, but the camera guy was focusing on my rear, and I was just standing there. I then put my hands in my back pockets and the thing that is funnier is that after seeing what they showed on the news, my best friend told me she saw my broken fingernail while they were scanning.

My Mother always wears “funky” aprons instead of the Salvation Army red one. It is funny because we attract so much attention anyway because of my big red hair and our presence. Last year, when my Mom and I were doing our thing, Mike Mahoney of Channel 9 interviewed me, and I said "I do this because it makes me happy to make people happy and..........." When I heard someone saw me on TV, I was so embarrassed, because on the actual newscast I said "…Happy to make people happy and that makes me happy to make people happy". Mom and I had a big laugh over that one.

But little did I know on Dec 10, I would be running from one TV Station to the next and not caring what I looked like. I was showing photos of my Mom because she was missing!”

The day Summer disappeared, Brandy was getting ready for the big Christmas Lunch at her workplace in which the “Secret Santas” were exposed. She was on her lunch break doing errands, when she received the phone call that her mother didn't show up for one of her jobs. Brandy recalls that frightening and life-altering day with clarity:

“I didn't really even register anything because my mother works for 12 different companies. My dad said to me: "Brandy, it's probably no big deal, but she didn’t show up for work one day." My Father is calming and realistic and rational. At this point, I didn’t think I needed any reassurance.

When it became clear that something was not right, I drove really fast to my Mother’s house and saw that her car was not there. I remember driving back to the office at about 100mph to get the keys to her house. When I got back to the office I was crying and saying "I am sure I am over-reacting, but it's my Mom". I was bawling, and I felt stupid, but nothing mattered. When I went back to her house with the keys, I realized the dog was in the house and had not been let out........”

Over the past 10 months, not only has Brandy’s life changed, but so has Brandy. She decided that she was not going to feel sorry for herself, and that she was going to be active in the ongoing search for her mom.

I can recall observing the efforts of Brandy to publicize her mother’s case. It was one of the more aggressive campaigns I had seen, which is necessary to get attention, especially in a missing adult case. Brandy wishes she had 24 hours a day to look for her mother. Still, she does quite well in arranging public events, and gaining local media attention. She meets weekly with the local police and other government officials. She has also attended events for other missing persons, even in other states. She wants to make a difference.

“Every day, for the rest of my life, will be devoted, in one way or another, to, not only my Mothers Case, but to many missing person’s cases. I want to, not only learn from others, but, I believe that I can help others and be an advocate.”

Brandy keeps busy in her work for her mom and others, but the fears that are certainly typical and expected are never far from her mind.

“I believe my mom was in the wrong place at the wrong time: A victim of opportunity. My greatest fear is that I will not be able to deal with reality, but actually that is not a fear. Many people, family or not, have their own ways of dealing with situations and this is such an unknown type of trauma. I always worried about my Mom. I want to believe my Mother is alive, and I don’t want to believe anything else until I have reason to. I know the odds and I have thought deeply about reality and that I might never see my Mother again.

I see her in my dreams. I try to log every dream I have involving my Mother, and you know what? She is always smiling, smirking, or laughing, and I think that it is a good thing. If I ever learn that she has felt any pain or suffering, I will ......., I don’t know what I would do.”

While waiting for the answer to the question Brandy poses: “Where is my mother, Summer Shipp?” she has taken up a new pastime:

“After seeing the roses bloom over and over, and seeing all the huge plants my mother has, I have realized how the little things in life are so touching. I have moved back to my house, and I am taking her plants with me to my house. I am doing all I can, and I will continue until my mom is found.

I can say that I have now smelled the roses outside my mom’s house, and there are a zillion plants that I am going to keep alive!”

Please take time to visit Summer’s Website:


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