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.

a&alittle

How to Survive Your Heart Exploding

True to my last post, we’ve been trying to do more NOTHING. And for the record, we still fail most of the time and still stay crazy busy. But I’m finding more moments to rest, and am taking those moments to just enjoy and focus on our family, and to also think through what my real goals and dreams are- and which of those can be worked towards now, and which of those God may be saying “wait” on. That’s why I’ve been here less.

Sunday we did nothing. Both boys have been coughing like crazy, I’d had a pretty awful week, and Michael was feeling some effects from lots of new medicine. So we did nothing. And as the day wound down, I purposefully took a few more minutes with the boys, first laying in bed with Ben and then going to Drew’s room. He’s old enough that he rarely asks me to lay with him now, so I jumped at the chance when he asked me.

The conversation that ensued both broke my heart and reinforced my plans to spend more days like this.

As I laid by him and held him, I simply asked him how things were going with him. I usually just get one or two words to any question, and have to pry. But tonight I quickly got more.

We made a deal earlier in the day that exchanged some gift cards of his for an iPod (he hasn’t had one for quite a while after sending it through the wash, and I wanted to teach him the value by offering him one, but at a price) and he was upset about it. But not about not being able to spend the money. He didn’t want to lose something that someone he loved had given him. He was worried that if they went missing one day like his Uncle Austin did, that he would wish he’d saved everything they’d ever given him.

I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I thought my heart would explode.

Drew was just two days past his 4th birthday when Austin disappeared. A month younger than Ben is now. He remembers so little of him, but that seems to make it worse in ways, because he wishes he knew him more. He wishes he had more of him saved away.

Losing my brother is hard. But it’s nothing like the pain of watching my son lose him and not be able to give him answers.

I wish there was more than, “we just don’t know.” He deserves more. We all deserve more.

But while I couldn’t offer answers, I did remind him of a box in his closet. One that he never looks at, but I stash things away in. Cards from family, special things from school, and beside the box sits a big green dinosaur. That was the last gift Austin gave him, for his 4th birthday. And we’ll add these gift cards to the box. Not so much as a reminder of who gave him the cards, but of the night I was reminded how deeply he feels and loves, and how important it is to help save memories.

I can’t take it all away, but I can teach him that we never lose our memories or our love. And we don’t need stuff to keep that alive.

But I still won’t be throwing those gift cards away.

giftcards

 

 

 

Come Home

Do you see the same stars and sky tonight?
Are you warm and dry with a friend to make you laugh?
Do you hear melodies that calm your soul?
Are you held tight by one who knows your heart?
Do you long to come home?

Or

Maybe the stars are watched with their maker.
Maybe the joy never ends.
Maybe the songs are true and sweet and full of praise.
Maybe the very one who made your heart holds you tonight.

Maybe you are home.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

These were the words of my heart a few days ago as I was reminded that despite us missing Austin, God knows where he is, and some days that has to be enough.

It’s the very reason that I can be hopeful.

The hope doesn’t come in believing we’ll find him alive, but in believing that God has this. God has him.

Are you in a place today where you wonder if God is there, if he sees you or hears you? I’m there sometimes, wondering if despite His love for me, my hopes and dreams don’t matter as much as others.

But he says this-

Come Home. Rest in me.

No matter where we are, Home is waiting.

 

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Looking skyward from our Home

I’m Back

I’ve been absent here for a bit.  Some of you know that when there’s been a bit between posts it’s usually because I’m struggling with how to turn junk going on in our lives into something positive or sharable here.  It’s a bit different this time, with a conscious decision to give myself time to get through some stressful stuff and come back later.  It felt good.  But I also missed writing.  So here’s what you missed. 

 

The CUE Center for Missing Persons does an annual event called ‘Road to Remember’ that helps raise awareness of missing person cases, most of whom haven’t had as much attention as they need.  Monica Caison and her crew travel for about 10 days, on a loop that starts and finishes in North Carolina, but covers several states with multiple tour stops each day. 

 

Though the tour was coming through Florida this year, we decided not to host a stop.  In truth, we don’t need more awareness for Austin, we need more searches. 
And though we want to help with awareness of missing persons in general, and specifically of the families in Jacksonville we know with a missing loved one, this year the amount of work it would take during a very busy time wasn’t a good tradeoff. 

 

But then Austin was named as the tour’s honoree, right about the same time that my mom confirmed her job offer that would mean moving away and likely starting her first week the same week of the tour.  When the date/time of our tour stop was given to us, it also fell two days before I left out of town for a week, a day when I was being requested to travel to another city, and on a weekday afternoon when we wouldn’t have the help and support of the people we could normally count on. 

Super.  {eye roll}

But I managed to stay in town that day and made it work.  My mom managed to put off her start date a week. My fabulous aunt came in to town to help us too.  It happened.

 

For the record, I hate these events.  I like thinking, I don’t like feeling.  I like taking action, not looking back to remember.

 

Though very few people attended, we did meet our one goal.  We actually exceeded it.  We hoped to get just one news story about our missing shown, and we had one story air three times, showing the names and faces of many of our missing in the area.  We also had another story shown multiple times, again with many of their names and faces shown.

 

So, I guess after all there was progress and there was action.  It was a good day.

I spent the next 10 days immersed in a busy work week of travel and catching back up with my boys.

 

But I’m back after the craziness, and happy to be sharing with you again.

Hope you’ll stick around.

rally

Charlie & The Least of These

Earlier I was reading a blog post that was really powerful, but I had such a strong response to that I had to stop and wonder why.  You’ll have to go read it to fully understand, but in essence, Josh Collins reached out to truly see someone that most of us would overlook, a guy named Charlie.

I’ve never been that guy- the one who has so little, is unseen in society, or could disappear with no one noticing.  So why did I connect?  Because, if Austin is alive, he is no doubt one of “the least of these.”  And I realize that Charlie is loved by someone and maybe even missed by someone.

He may be someone’s Austin.

My brother didn’t disappear because he wanted a different life or because he was on the run from criminal activity or afraid for his life.  He didn’t take money and isn’t living the dream on an island in the Caribbean.  Austin disappeared because he was ill, because depression had taken over, and because he’d stopped seeing that it could change.  We believe that.  The only missing piece is what happened after those last moments we know about.  Did he become a Charlie?  Or are we right in focusing our search on a search for remains?  It’s unlikely, very unlikely, that he’s alive today.  But if he is, he’s almost certainly living a life like Charlie.

And maybe someone like Josh Collins is showing him some compassion and seeing him just for a few moments as God does.

Josh wrote that he thought about Charlie’s family, and about where Charlie had been and was going.  I pray that if Austin is out there somewhere today, that he encounters someone like Josh.  Someone who can see him worthy of being acknowledged and spoken to, and even helped.

Sometimes it’s harder to picture Austin out there facing a hard life alone than it is to picture him in the arms of God.  Sometimes for me, hope looks like the opposite of what people expect because of that and I shut out the possibility.

But I thank God that there are people willing to stop and see the Charlie’s of our world.  Not just because that’s what God wants from us, but because in someone else’s story, Charlie may just be named Austin.

 

** Josh, you impacted more than just Charlie.  Thank you.

 

Austin in happier days

Austin in happier days

Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

I had the chance to share this very important post on another site today (though it was written weeks ago)- it’s one I feel so strongly about, and hope that you’ll read and share.  It’s originally posted on Time’s Up Blog and I invite you to visit there to read more.  Though more than a month has past since this tragedy, we can’t forget.

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Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

 

by Anita Davis Sullivan

Saturday, June 22nd, I think you could hear our corner of Florida wail. It wasn’t the first time that something tragic has happened, but it was fresh and raw. Many of awoke that Saturday morning to reports of the abduction of 8 year old Cherish Perrywinkle the previous night. Shortly after, we learned that Donald Smith, the prime suspect, had been arrested during a traffic stop, with no sign of Cherish. And a very short time later, we learned that the body of 8 year old Cherish had been found, near the Walmart she was abducted from.

Within moments, there were questions. Why had the mother allowed the child to go with a man they had known for just a few hours? Why had the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office not alerted the public sooner that there was a child abduction? Why did the FDLE not notify the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which would have prompted the phone alerts for the Amber Alert?  Why had Donald Smith seemingly fallen through the cracks and not been treated as a Sexually Violent Predator as recommended by the Department of Children and Families 11 years ago?

I don’t know. No one has the answers yet.

And though I pray they come, and that other children may be saved by what our community learns through this tragic event, my focus quickly turned to how we can help those here now. I heard from parents who sat and talked with their children about ‘Stranger Danger’ or watched them ever closer this weekend. I heard from one mother who had the heartbreaking job of telling her 8 year old daughter that her good friend Cherish was forever gone.

And though we must teach our children, I fear that we teach them the wrong things too often. The real danger is not in strangers- even Cherish was taken and killed by someone who gained her mother’s trust, albeit in a few short hours. But it’s estimated that less than 5% of attacks on children are by a stranger.

We must focus on teaching our children what is appropriate behavior, and how to trust their instincts.

June 26, 2013 marked the six year anniversary of the day that my brother, Michael “Austin” Davis went missing from Jacksonville, Florida. He was an adult, and most likely wasn’t abducted. But from this experience sometimes comes a need to protect my children even more. To make sure that our family doesn’t lose another. So I do teach them, not to be afraid, but to:

  • Know what kind of touching is appropriate and inappropriate, and that it’s okay to say “No!” and get away from anything that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Know who we consider safe grownups are. These are the people in our circle that they should be able to trust. But always reminding them, that it’s okay to say “No!” to even these people if they’re uncomfortable.
  • Know that they never have to protect us. If someone threatens us if they don’t do what the person says, they don’t have to do it.
  • Get permission to go anywhere, and stay in groups.
  • Never help an adult without our permission. It can be a trick.

In six years of missing my brother, we’ve also had to deal with the question of how much to tell our oldest, who celebrated his 4th birthday just two days before his Uncle Austin went missing. No matter if it’s a lost family member or a lost friend, children grieve and need help doing so.

Here are my tips on helping your child through a time of loss:

  • Let them see your emotions.
  • It’s okay for them to know you’re sad, as it let’s them know it’s okay for them to be sad too.
  • Encourage them to share memories of their loved one.
  • Create a scrapbook or box of memories that they can look through and remember their loved one. Allow them to participate in adding to it. For example, my son has a great memory of my brother taking him fishing. I’d forgotten about it, but he hasn’t.
  • Communicate with caregivers.
  • Let teachers or caregivers know that your child may experience out of the norm behaviors as they cope with this. Let your child know they can talk to these adults in their lives about what they’re feeling.
  • Share stories with your kids.
  • Tell stories about the lost loved one as your kids grow, reminding them how much the person loved them, or would have loved seeing them grow. Keep them alive in the heart of the family, giving your kids a feeling of roots and love. My sons have limited family in their lives, but I always want them to know the love of family.
  • Be honest on a level they can understand.
  • When my brother was first missing, we didn’t know what to tell our son. We didn’t want to lie, but we don’t really know the truth. We don’t know where he is. We’ve come to realize that it’s okay to say “we don’t know but we won’t give up until we do” and keep the brutal details from him (like that we believe he killed himself). As he’s gotten older, we’ve added more details but always the truth as he could understand and cope with it.

There are no simple answers on how to keep your kids safe, or how to help them through a loss like this. Just as there are no easy answers on why this tragedy happened.

But on this anniversary of my brother’s disappearance, I do know that I can help educate parents, who truly just want to keep their kids safe.

Rest in peace Cherish. You will not be forgotten.

Day One

Two years ago I wrote about the day we realized Austin was missing. It was actually the day after his last known whereabouts, but we didn’t know that for a few more months.  I’ve already forgotten many of these details, and even what some of it felt like.  Remembering is painful, but remembering is good.  And since writing this I’ve come to understand how much sharing can help.  Both myself, and others who may need hope.  Thanks for taking this journey with us, all five years of it. 

Day 1
I often don’t remember details well.  I remember emotions, and I remember the overall feel of things, but not all the details.  But this day is different; this is a day I remember the details of. 
I went to work and had a normal day, nothing special.  I was wishing I was at the beach with my Mom and Drew, but was so glad he was spending time with family and knew he was loving it.  I missed him terribly, it was after all his first time away from us, but I was relaxed, knowing he was safe and I had a quiet house to head to.  But then my cell phone sounded with the ring tone of an unknown number.  I usually don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t know.  But something prompted me to pick it up- maybe it was the ease of the day, or maybe God prompted me.  
Later learned it was June 26

It was a voice I had heard once before, a voice to a face I had never seen.  But her voice, that call, would change everything.  It was Austin’s friend and co-worker (and more I would later learn), Kelly.  She was panicked sounding and said that Austin hadn’t shown up for work that day, and wouldn’t answer her calls.  She told me he had called in the day before and she hadn’t been able to get in touch with him since.  She said it was unlike him.  She said he had never just not shown up for work.  This was after all, a job he loved.   She said that I needed to call the police.  I told her I’d think about it, and would probably call.  I wasn’t sure I would, but wanted to calm her.  

    
I took it all in, with my mind quickly making up reasons why there was no cause for concern.  Sure I hadn’t seen him the night before or that morning, but he was an adult, I didn’t check in on him.  There was one moment of panic, that maybe he was in his room and was “gone”, the image of him with a gun flashing through my mind.  Michael was home, so I called him immediately.  I didn’t want him unprepared for what he may find, even as strong as he is.  So, I let him know about the call, and asked him to please check in the room.  I stayed on the phone, not breathing, but still driving down I-10 until he said “he’s not in there.”   But he also said that Austin’s computer was there.  Austin didn’t go many places without that.  His things all seemed to be there, no clothes missing, all 25 pairs of shoes in place (possibly an exaggeration, but he did love shoes).  
I called my mom, while still driving down I-10 and heading home, sure that I could piece the puzzle together and all would be fine.  I just needed to get home.  The closer I got, the faster I drove.  When my mom picked up, I quickly told her about the phone call.  It was another moment where I thought that it would become less real instead of more, after all, Mom solves everything.  Even when she doesn’t solve it, she brings rationale and helps you solve it.  I wish Mom could have solved this.  She stayed calm and asked questions, wanting to know all that Kelly told me, all that anyone knew.  There is a somewhat unfounded- okay, completely founded up until that time- thought in our family that I can’t handle difficult things.  It’s not that I can’t so much, as I just don’t.  I’ve always lived by a thought that if you ignore the issue, it may just go away.  Tasks and jobs I handle great, just once the decision of how to handle the issue is out of the way.  This is one of many things that has changed since Day 1.  
Mom and I discussed calling the police.  I had a strong belief that if I called and reported Austin missing, that he would come home in the middle of it, or shortly after, and be mad about it.  He would be mad that I thought he wasn’t responsible enough to handle himself, mad that we had looked through his things, mad that I had talked with Kelly.  Or laugh.  He laughed a lot.  I also had the completely untrue belief that most of the country has, that you need to wait 48 hours before law enforcement will take a missing persons report.  I have one other memory from years past, of a missing persons report trying to be filed on a loved one.  I recall police saying that it hadn’t been 48 hours, if they weren’t back by then, to call them (thankfully, they were found safe).  
Regardless, it was decided that we should call, and since he lived with me, I needed to be the one to do it.  I did some quick checking online as soon as I arrived home, and saw on the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office website that the person didn’t have to be gone 48 hours.  I also read that being suicidal was one of the possible reasons to get action quicker.  While I still wasn’t convinced, I called and said I needed to file a report.  
While waiting, I decided I needed to bite the bullet so to speak, and call my Dad.  I let him know what was going on, and he was immediately concerned and looking for something to do, something to help quickly solve the question of where he was.  I called my Mom back as well, letting her know I had called the police and would let her know what they said after.  She tried to stay calm, but I think it was tough.  I believe that they both had a similar reaction as I did- a bit of concern, but a belief that he would walk through the door shortly.  We all felt there was no real need to panic.  
The house was oddly quiet without the sound of the television or constant chatter and noises of Drew that normally filled the house.  There were no distractions, the house was very clean because we had just put it on the market to sell and had cleared all the clutter away.  I just waited.  
A uniformed officer arrived about an hour later.  I can clearly picture him standing, he refused the offer of a chair, which meant I stood also.  Michael paced around the house.  The officer stood at the end of my kitchen counter with his laptop turned away from me.  As soon as I gave the basic info, he pulled Austin’s information up and got wide eyed.  That alarmed me.  I remember telling the officer that I was aware that he had some outstanding tickets, and had a court date coming up for his recent arrest, but that it was all misdemeanor things.  I hoped I was right, hoped there wasn’t more we didn’t know about.  He confirmed for me that nothing serious was on his record, and nothing from the past week.  He had just been surprised at the number of tickets a 26 year old could accumulate, with several of them yet unpaid.   While the officer was nice, I instantly felt like he was being nice out of respect for me, while writing Austin off as a troublemaker.  
It was in the moment of the officer giving me the unsaid impression that he had no real concern, that it hit me- this was real, there was real reason for concern, Austin was gone.  I turned from being the passive report filer who thought there ‘may’ be a problem, to serious about it.  I gave the officer details of the recent discussions Austin had with Kelly, intent on convincing the officer that Austin was suicidal and they needed to take this seriously.  I gave him details of Austin’s life over the past three years, from breakup to job changes, to constant physical pain, all in an attempt to get the officer to understand.  As I convinced the officer, I convinced myself too.  Looking at just the facts, this could be bad.  Looking back, I had no idea how bad, no idea where this would lead and how our lives would change.  But at least I finally understood that it was real.  
The officer left after telling me that it would probably take about 10 days for a detective to be assigned to his case.  He emphasized that our family should take the lead in looking for him.  He suggested calling everyone we knew who he could have been in contact with, but not much else.  When he walked out of the door, while I still thought Austin may just show up, I knew we needed to start taking action.
Calls to the few contacts of Austin’s we had yielded nothing.  So Day 1 ended.  No one slept much in our family that night, or for many nights to come.  But, being the one person in the world who can sleep anytime anywhere, I did eventually drift off.  I woke repeatedly, always hoping I’d heard the lock turning, but never actually hearing it happen.  Michael stayed mostly quiet, but didn’t sleep much either.
The Early Weeks 
I won’t try to detail the steps and actions that everyone took.  There is so much that I won’t remember, or do justice.  I only know for sure, what happened from my perspective.  There were so many people involved, so many people that we will be eternally grateful to.  They may think they did no good because they didn’t find him.  They are wrong.  If you’re reading this and you helped in any small way, you did us a world of good.  You gave us hope.
By the morning after the report was filed, my Mom and a few family members from the Mexico Beach area (who had been gathered together for vacation) were on their way to my house.  By that morning, I also later learned that my Dad was tromping through woods all around my house.  Since Austin had been wandering in those wooded areas just days before, we all felt that if he had taken his life, that’s where he would be found.  No one wanted my Dad in the woods alone, his physical health wasn’t suited for it.  Thankfully, he had wonderful friends who stepped in and made sure he wasn’t alone after those initial hours.  We all knew that regardless of his health or physical ability, he would be there.  I loved him for that.  
Michael and I went to work, but he stayed as close to home as possible.  I tried to work, but I’m sure I wasn’t very productive.  I didn’t know what I should be doing, but I knew it wasn’t at the office.  But since I didn’t know what I should be doing, and I wasn’t comfortable asking for time off to search, I stayed.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing that I was able to continue on, or maybe it shows my previously mentioned pension for ignoring issues.  But it’s what I did, right or wrong.  
My Mom, two aunts and two cousins arrived that evening.    It was so nice to see them, that for a few brief moments, I almost forgot why they were there.  These are women of action though, so they got to work.  A flyer was designed quickly and taken to a print shop for copies to be made.  Every taxi company in town was called since we believed he may have planned to take a taxi to take care of the tickets.  His room was searched.  Boy was that a mess.  I was actually pretty mad with him over that since we had just put the house on the market and his room was not ready for prime time, or even close.  So not only was it searched, it was cleaned.  Homeless shelters were called.  Hospitals were called.  Media outlets were called and sent flyers.  
Speaking of the media…. Ah, the media and the misconceptions that the public has about the media and how missing persons cases are presented to the public.  We quickly learned, much to our naïve surprise, that it was all about the ‘story’ and not much about the person.  Austin was a 26 year old male, and though he had a sweet baby face with dimples, wasn’t too much of a story.  So getting any coverage was very tough.  There are cases that the public becomes wary of, with children or young women constantly shown.  They may have interviews on all the national networks.  They may have signs made and displayed at businesses and churches.  Their family members may turn down requests for interviews because so many come in.  That wasn’t the case with us.  That isn’t the case with most missing persons, but especially men.  Our family, and so many more we’ve met, had to beg for coverage.  We literally begged reporters and producers to show Austin’s face.  Because we didn’t give up, we did get a few interviews and did get his face shown a few times.  We were fortunate, so many don’t.      
We weren’t getting any information from the calls being made, so we decided to start getting flyers out.  Austin’s friend Kelly stayed involved and got a friend to make many more copies of the flyer than we thought we’d need.  In those early days we thought this was a sprint, didn’t realize it was a marathon.  Oh how I laugh at our innocence now.  While Dad and others continued foot searches of the wooded areas, we took to the streets with flyers. 
We actually had fun, which I know sounds odd.  At one point, I was in a vehicle with my cousin Mark driving, and friends Bart and Jason with us.  We had grown up spending time together in the summer, playing till all hours of the night.  So we laughed together about old times, about funny memories, and more.  I spoke earlier of irrational fears, and another surfaced with the flyers.  I had a real fear of going in places and asking to hang a flyer.  It makes no sense, I have no idea what ‘terrible’ thing I thought might happen, but the thought of doing it made me queasy.  Thankfully, we had Bart with us.  Bart knows no stranger and I’m pretty confident, has no fears.  Our differences can be listed out for miles, but I appreciate that quality in him.  While we went one direction, others in mom’s family went other ways.  
While we did that, others were organizing more ground search help, primarily friends of my Dad.  Word was also starting to spread and friends had started to venture out into areas on their own.  Often, we didn’t even learn about that until much later.  Everyone who knew about it wanted to help.  For some reason, I kept it quiet with our circles, and I honestly don’t know why.  It might have been a belief that if I started telling people it would become more real.  I think it had more to do with being confident we’d find answers quickly somehow, and didn’t need everyone involved.  (Here’s another spot to laugh at my ignorance, I won’t count them, it would be too self defeating).  
I did pray a lot through these early days.  Probably more than I had in years, even though my faith was active and strong I thought.  It was strong; it had just never been tested quite like this.  It was during this time that I started to think that I needed to redefine hope for myself.  It had always been a lightweight word, conjuring images of things I wanted and prayers answered in very specific ways.  The hope I had in my life was more about a bright sunny spin on life, a belief that ‘it will all work out’ than something real that had depth and meaning.   I wasn’t yet sure that I knew fully what was blooming, but I started to have a change in my heart.