9 years

9 years.
Everything has changed. Well, almost everything.
9 years ago, I was driving home and got the call that you hadn’t shown up for work. I had no idea where you were.
That hasn’t changed. 9 years later, and I still have no idea.

But yet, I was driving home to a home we no longer live in.

Your nephew had just celebrated turning 4, and now we marked 13 two days ago. He has lived this story, so he remembers stories, remembers searches, and knows your face well.
He won’t say so, and I don’t ask, but I doubt he remembers you, other than what he’s been told.
He was so sweet, asking people to “help me find my uncle austin” without really understanding what was happening.
Now he’s a kid that reminds me much of you (and me). He’s a smart ass, and speaks sarcasm fluently. He laughs at me, like we laughed at our mom.
The morning of an awareness event we did for you about 6 weeks after you went missing, I walked him across the busy street, his hand in mine, to register him for t-ball. We’d looked forward to that day for so long, and I didn’t want to skip it. We signed up, walked back across, and continued our quest to raise funds and awareness for an upcoming search.
The plan was to find you quickly, and get on with letting that cute kid learn to play ball.

9 years later and he’s a pretty darn good ball player, driven to be great. He is now a big brother, to the sweetest boy in the world (who is also a bit wild) who is already older than when you last knew Drew.
Then there is the precious toddler who brings new life to our home, who has her own difficult story that I’ll tell when you meet her. Well, I don’t think you’ll meet her, but maybe you already know… or if not, this isn’t the place.

But you see, everything has changed.

Michael has long ago given up his football playing cleats for coaching cleats, and stopped chasing his own trophies and instead now builds them. His health hasn’t been good.
Our mom and dad… well, they have their own stories to tell, I suppose they aren’t mine to share. They love us, love my kids, but your void can’t be filled.

9 years later and it’s still surreal. I still avoid discussing it much. What can I say?

9 years later and it’s still the same, because we still don’t know where you are. We still miss you. But yet it’s all so different, because time cannot stand still. It just doesn’t work that way.

9 years….

(note: this is a bit disjointed and not very poetic, and yet it fits because that’s how it is.)

 

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8 Years

If you turn the number 8 sideways, it looks a lot like the infinity sign.

If you’ve lived without knowing where your brother is for 8 years, it feels a lot like you’re turned all sideways and have been for infinity. But that sideways becomes your norm and you function quite well walking around sideways.

But after 8 years, I can still hear his laugh with no trouble. And in those moments it seems like maybe I’ve made all this up and he’s here, that at most I just saw him yesterday.

That’s what it’s like. Forever and yesterday, and turned sideways and sometimes feeling right side up, tears and laughter.

There is no new news, no new search or anything to mark the day. Sometimes that’s the way it is after 8 years. You get up, go to work, love your kids, go see a movie with friends, and carry on. I’m okay with that today. I couldn’t forget if I wanted to, but today I choose to focus on the laugh. My oldest ‘baby’ comes home from camp today and I’ve missed him and will hug him lots! One of our best friends is leaving in another week and we’ll hang out with his family and laugh. Each year is a bit different, and we each handle it differently. And there are other sorrows I could easily focus on right now, but not today.

Job 8:21

He will once again fill your mouths with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.

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Five Years….

Five years ago today was the last time I saw Austin.  Five years ago tomorrow is the last time anyone we know of saw him or spoke with him.  It’s truly unbelievable.  Honest to God unbelievable.  As in, sometimes I have a moment of thinking I’ve made up this whole thing in my head and laugh at how crazy I am for making it up.  Then I remember it’s real.

I’ve been trying to think of how to express what I feel, and I’m still at a loss.  But this photo might tell it best.  I’m standing beside those I love, with the past in the near distance, and holding out that smiling face hoping that someone will see the color and the life and remember Austin.  It’s not that our lives are now in black and white- but that our lives are now a canvas for sharing our story of hope, and any talents that we have, for those who are hurting.    

I’m not sure if Austin being gone was truly God’s will, or if Austin being gone was God allowing Austin free will while working in it and through it regardless.  I’d rather him just be here.  I’d rather not have to explain what I feel on the anniversary of the last time I saw him.  I’d rather not say that I don’t recall what we said, what he wore, or if he was laughing or smiling.

I’d rather not have had my son mention yesterday, on his birthday, that five years is a long time and we don’t know if Austin is alive or not.  I’d rather Austin have just been here to help us celebrate.

We don’t have that choice, so instead we hold him out, hoping someone remembers.  And we hold our story and our talents out, hoping we can help others who are hurting.  We remember what’s behind us, but we focus forward. 

Now that I write this out, I do know how I feel today.  Mostly, I feel grateful….that I had a brother, and that there have been so many willing to share their hearts and their talents with us.  And that makes the hurt so much easier to share.

**I also want to thank a good friend for taking these photos that express today so much better than words could.  Talk about sharing your talent….  George Bass Photography