4/3/06 The “Beautiful Boy” Has Gone Home
Just as I was not given a choice in the situation, neither was this family. I had to stare down fear in its face and keep moving, as did they. The difference now between us is that they have their answer, but it is not the type of answer any of us want. After more than 5 years of hoping and searching, Jeffrey Ben had been found deceased.
His story parallels my son’s story in many ways. Jeffrey was 18 when he disappeared and Jason was 19. Jeffrey was found a little over 5 years after his missing date. Jason will have been missing for 5 years on June 13th of this year. Both of these young men had loving and generous spirits, and were well liked by all who met them. They both dreamed of being a sportscaster. Had Jeffrey and Jason ever met, they would have had a great time trying to best each other with their knowledge of sports trivia.
Back in October, I wrote Jeffrey’s story on this blog. Out of all the stories I’ve written, his was close to being the only one with a continual daily stream of readers, even long after I published it. (Maura Murray’s story follows in readership.) Many of the stories have readership long after their publish date, but none like this. I watched in amazement, and quickly came to a conclusion. Jeffrey and his family must be such kind, loving people to have invoked such love for them by the thousands of people who read his story. Many of them were strangers, but something about Jeffrey struck a cord in them. Maybe he was the embodiment of every mother’s young son, awakening an urge to reach out with a loving, but protective arm.
Upon hearing the news, I was numb. I wanted to write something, but it seemed I could only stare at the blank page. The words didn’t come. I felt compelled to play his song, the one which to me represented him and his mother’s great love for him.
The words took on a new meaning and prompted my eyes to fill with tears. Even so, the family’s pain certainly had soared to new heights as illustrated by words his sister, Alisa, wrote on Jeffrey’s guestbook:
“I arrived home Monday night after a very difficult day of travel. I spent the entire layover in a public restroom, squatted on the tile, crying at the thought of everything. Memories, words, letters, perceptions, evidence, bones, arguments, disappointments, just everything beating me up...but at the end of this confusion the simple memory of my brother's long, slender feet...I'll never forget his feet. He would kick me with them when we were children and it would feel like sharp knives stabbing me when his thin bony heel would press into me...I would get so mad and we would go at it. At the end of it, I would be hurt...he would be hurt...we would be crying and somehow the compassion of loving someone more than you can understand would kick in and we'd want to nurture one another and make each other feel better. It was some of my earliest experiences with unconditional love, compassion, and connecting.
Yesterday I rode with my family as far as I could ride in a 4-wheel drive vehicle in the mountains. Afterward, we had a steep hike into a remote area marked only by boudler-like rocks. As metal detectors went crazy, I would fall to my knees and put my hands to the ground and dig with all the force my fingers had. I do not think I will ever forget how it felt to pull a rib from the earth, and all the emotions that came from that...I kept thinking about how if this was my brother scattered throughout this area...bones buried in various places where wild animals had dragged remains....eaten flesh over the years...this was beyond any words I could have ever learned, emotions I could have ever known, and as Jeffrey and my little 12 year old brother held the rib that is believed to be his hero, our brother Jeffrey, to his face to absorb it...I broke down. I felt that love and compassion that I learned from my brother and all I wanted was to hold my 12 year old brother and take that visual of that rib away from him, away from me, away from my mom who had this look/emotion that I had never known before...I wanted to put it back and pretend it never existed, but at the same time I became obsessed with finding more pieces of this wonderful brother that I was so fortunate to have him my life for 18 years....I never wanted to stop digging, searching, I wanted to dig, dig, dig, dig, dig. I had never known the feeling of holding a rib (that could be Jeffrey's) that was weathered and holding it so close to me....it was unbelievable but I felt such love.
With this dirt under my nails, days of not showering, bags under my eyes, tears at the drop of hat.....the only thing I can think about is that this amazing boy, this compassionate person with the biggest aura I have ever known...didn't get enough compassion from whomever may have laid him in that resting place....my heart aches to think about him, alone, cold, hurt, suffering, looking at the sky as it turned from dark to light...I hope he knew that I was looking in the same sky.”
I met Jeffrey’s mother, Linda, at last year’s Cue Center conference in NC. She was one of the family speakers who presented the story of the missing person in her life. She impressed everyone with her quiet but powerful passion. We had worked with her for a long time before that, but it was the first time, we’d ever met. She is also involved in our Campaign for the Missing, working to get legislation passed in OK that will improve the way missing person’s cases are handled by the authorities. When she is feeling up to working on it again, my hopes are that Jeffrey’s Law will become a reality. That would be a fitting way to honor his life.
You may read the original story about Jeffrey here:
A memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday, April 5, 2006, 2:00 pm, at the Clayton OK School auditorium.
Psychics and Missing People will continue on Tuesday.