Wednesday, June 28, 2006

6/28/06 The Pouring Rain, Part III

It just couldn’t be true that those bones belonged to Amber. She couldn’t be gone. I felt as if I knew her after spending all these months with her family. Now I would never get to hear her laugh or sing. I would never get to meet her and see for myself why they called her their “pistol”. There would be no miracle for the Harris family.

I sat motionless, staring at the TV screen. I watched, but did not see. I listened but did not hear. From a distance came a noise that was not discernable at first. It grew louder and made its presence known. It was the sounds of the Harris family home; the sound of sobbing and of other angry, unbelieving voices. If pain had a definitive sound, this was it.

I remember very little of the rest of that evening. I tried to call their home later on, but could not get through. I decided that I would not go unless I was asked, in respect of their time of private grieving. I hoped and prayed for strength for their family as they entered into the new mystery of their daughter’s death.

I felt selfish that I had ever thought the body might be that of my own son, and it ended up being their daughter. They had hugged me and comforted me in the time of waiting, and when it had been revealed privately 2 days prior that the remains were female, Melissa told me that she was so happy for me. I was amazed at the depth of compassion in that simple and unselfish statement.

I had to work the next day. I somehow make it through, faking pleasantries throughout the day with my customers.

Some of our board members were able to make arrangements to meet early that evening and then pay a visit to the family. I prayed for all of us to say the right things and play some small part in comforting the family. I wanted to wave a magic wand and make it all go away for them. Who could even imagine something like this happening? It wasn’t a TV show, it was real.

I had been riding the roller coaster of emotions for weeks and I wanted off. I craved some semblance of normalcy, although nothing is ever truly normal in a household with an empty chair.

The next day, Sunday, was my younger son’s high school graduation. We were determined that his triumph would not be marred by these events. We had to switch gears from grieving loss of life, and celebrate his life. I was determined we would not speak of the events of the past few days. I vowed that the day would belong to Michael. After all, his life, since age 13, had been overshadowed by the loss of his brother. Considering all he has gone through, he turned out remarkably well; a fine young man with a warm heart and a zest for life. I fought back tears as the graduates marched into the arena, my son among them. I was so proud of him.

The sun came out that day and danced among the raindrops in my heart.

To be continued…………..

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

6/20/05 The Pouring Rain, Part II

So, for one very long week we waited alongside the Harris family. I wish law enforcement would have at least told us the remains belonged to a female. They knew, but decided they weren't going to reveal anything. Every few nights, I would visit or talk to the family and we would talk about our hopes and our fears. The waiting was taking a toll on all of us. I remembered clearly the time we had to wait a couple of years before this when the body of a young man was found in CA. He had been brutally murdered and authorities thought it was Jason. It was 2 1/2 weeks before we found out through DNA testing that it wasn't Jason.

I still remember the horrible thoughts and the visions that would come into my mind while waiting. No one should ever be in a position of having these visions, but it seems inevitable that the mind wanders to that dark place where we "see" what may have happened to the person we loved. The mind takes you to the scene of the decaying and brutalized body, despite your objections. You wonder and hope beyond hopes that the end came quickly. What were his last words? What were his last thoughts? What kind of person could commit such atrocities? The questions seem endless. You fear for your loved one and you also fear having to enter into a new mystery. Most of us discover ways to deal with the ongoing trauma of having a missing person in our lives, but to be forced to deal with a new trauma is unthinkable.

It was not our time for answers. On Friday afternoon, May 19th, I was out doing errands. I took my son to the DVM and waited in the car for him. I decided to take that time and check in with Melissa Harris to see how she was doing. It was approximately 3:15pm. We talked for a few minutes about the prayer vigil that was planned for Amber that evening. She was getting ready, so we did not talk long. I arrived home at 4:50pm, and as soon as I sat down, my phone rang. It was one of my board members. It had just been announced on the news that the body found in the park belonged to Amber. I thanked her for letting me know, and turned on the local TV news.

All the stations were carrying the story. I watched, but could not seem to grasp what I was seeing. It just did not seem as if it could be true. I could not deny what I saw, and it then hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought of Brad Dennis of KlaasKids and wondered if he knew what had happened. My hands shook as I dialed his number. He needed to be told. I knew when he answered that he already heard the awful news. Neither one of us could speak. We sat in silence, the pain like an invisible wire connecting us. I choked back the tears and said goodbye.

It was not raining outside that day, but it was in my heart.

To be continued.........................

Monday, June 19, 2006

6/19/06 The Pouring Rain, Part I

There was a day in May when it began to rain. It seemed as if the rain would never end. It was relentless in its mission, which to me, appeared as if it was to pound at me until I collapsed.

In some ways, this rain actually began last October. I remember with clarity where I was and what I was doing when it started. I was in Lincoln, attending the 5 year missing day event for Gina Bos. I was called to go on stage and give a brief talk. I opened my mouth to speak and the only word I wanted to utter was "No.". At that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks that the next time we would face this annual date, it would be our 5 years, too. Needless to say, whatever I said was not what I planned, and I doubt it was effective.

'No" meant that this couldn't possibly be happening. It objected to the surreal life that was now ours. Surely we could not be at the 5 year mark. 5 years is much too long to be surrounded with this mystery, like a cloud hanging over our daily lives.

"No" meant that rather than having this empty hole in my heart that Jason should be here with us. Like a thief in the night, his life was snatched from us, depriving us of whatever might have been in his life: a celebration of his college graduation, a move into his own home, his marriage, and perhaps even the birth of his children. So many things can happen in 5 years. It's a half of a decade!

"No" wanted to snuff out the past 5 years and have him back with us. It tried to demand that he be safe and sound and that we hear his voice and his laughter once again. "No" wanted another hug and was even willing to settle for one that was brief in contact.

All of the "No's" did not change anything, however. Time kept marching on and us along with it, like reluctant soldiers off to war.

Spring came and brought flowers in the way of blessings, but it also brought reminders of our situation and the possibilities. It almost seemed to be timed in a certain interval. In early April we learned that one of our longer term cases was found deceased. We'd worked with Jeffrey Ben's family since the early days of Project Jason. He was about the same age as Jason, and had been missing for 5 years. In mid-April, we were told that Lorne Boulet, Jr. was also dead. At the end of April, it was the family of Shay Eisenhardt who received the answers that none of us want. She, too was dead.

On May 11th, human remains were found in a park north of Omaha. Authorities would not tell us that we could rule out those remains as having belonged to Jason. The media swarmed over the home of Amber Harris, a 12 year-old girl who had been missing since the end of November. We assumed they did because her case was well covered in the news in recent times, and ours was not. There was a rumor that the condition of the bones would lead one to think the remains were much older than what could belong to Amber. The media didn't know anymore than we did. No one was talking.

We had grown close to Amber's family throughout the past 5 months as we provided our services to them for their missing daughter. Now we both waited and wondered. We hoped the body did not belong to anyone we knew. We hoped that perhaps it was an older homeless man whose family had either died or lost touch, so that no one would be hurt from the answer that was to come. Sometimes I would hear rumors that sounded like it could be Amber and then the next day I would hear something that sounded like we could not rule out Jason. It would be a week before we knew the answer.

The rain continued to pour.

To be continued......................................
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