I read things from all these brave people, who put their heart and emotions out there like gifts, for people who need to hear them, to know that their own emotions and shortcomings and failures are no worse than anyone else’s. I read them and I break. Because I measure out what I share in very tiny doses. I compartmentalize and bottle up. And almost two years into this journey of sharing my words here, I still am terrible at it.
So I’ll try to tell you about it. About this week, about another search for Austin, about walking away again empty handed.
It started almost two years ago really- back in August of 2012- when Monica Caison, the CUE Center for Missing Persons founder had a few days of not being able to stop thinking about Austin and where he was. She had images in her head of an area that matched the description of where we grew up. My mom had always thought that area was too far away from where he last was and didn’t make much sense as an option. I always thought it did. I’ve even had dreams over the years that we find him there. The only other area that we felt strongly about has been covered so many times, and that was all that really seemed left.
And in January of 2013, a small search took place. (You can read about it here) Much of the area was under water, and there were areas that really needed to be cleared to be able to fully search. It was swamp like and forest like, all at the same time. So the decision was made to come back at a later time, with equipment and more people, when it was also dry.
Then, 15 months went by. 15 months is a long time when you’re trying to stay hopeful that answers will come one day. It’s times like that where I start feeling like we’ll never know, and we’ll never bring him home. Where it feels like the positive outlook I’m constantly trying to keep up is crumbling. I tread very lightly and don’t ask often, because it’s a lot different when your mom is also a searcher.
But finally, a few weeks ago I got a call that they were coming back.
A group of people that we love and respect so very much arrived on Tuesday. These are the toughest women (and one man) that you’ll ever meet. They come from all walks of life, and from different areas around our state. They are a force that can’t be matched. Including my Mom.
But, it’s Spring in Florida, and the area that wasn’t covered previously due to how thick and wet it was was even more wet than before. And no less thick. So though some areas were researched, some are still undone. The team and their caravan of equipment, dogs and searchers kept on though, researching other areas that had always concerned us, and some that never seemed likely to me.
And left empty handed once again.
They worked hard, sacrificing time and money and emotions that they could have easily spent elsewhere. When I say they are heroes, it’s only because I don’t know a bigger word. I stood with them and laughed and shared and could not possibly have any more respect for them.
But yet, here we are.
And for one of the first times ever on this journey, I’m out of hope.
That’s the raw truth. I can no longer envision how this story ends, how I help someone else going through darkness with the hope that I know is true. I can no longer picture a service where we finally get to say goodbye and honor his life.
I’ve always said that Hope wasn’t about an outcome, but about knowing that good can come in any darkness, and we’re not alone. I know that’s true. I know that God isn’t limited in how He uses us, requiring a bow on a story. But how I wanted that.
Not the happy ending, but some ending.
Today hurts. Tomorrow will be better.
Thank you for loving us, for showing us Hope in human form, for searching with us or praying with us or feeding us or laughing with us.