Since 2001, the date January 29th has held a significant meaning in my life; it was the date that my brother disappeared. My family and I suspect it was the date of his actual wrongful death. I’ll never forget that Superbowl weekend for as long as I live. An Oklahoma State University plane carrying basketball players and some media personnel went down that Friday killing ten in total. In Superbowl XXXV The Ravens beat the NY Giants, 34-7. While watching a rerun of Law & Order, life flung the words “Jeffrey is missing” into the zeitgest of that 2001 weekend.
The commemorative weekend comes every year in the pecking order of “Jeffrey is missing,” Superbowl, and the OSU crash. It reminds me of one of the birthday cards you get that has all the meaningful events of your birth year listed out in a souvenir manner.
The first year (2001) I spent in a dreamlike state watching planes, people, cadaver dogs, police officers, horses, and my family searching frantically yelling “Jeffrey” over every inch of a mountain. The second year (2002), we brought flowers to the site where the truck my brother was driving was planted found. The third year (2003), we released balloons for him. The fourth year (2004), we continued our ritual. A few months after the last year we did that (2006) his skull and less than a handful of bones were retrieved from a remote place (approx. a mile from my uncle’s house) in the mountain. In our minds, Jeffrey was graduating from missing to dead, while he should have been graduating from college. In 2007, January 29th officially became the anniversary of his death.
While his presence never leaves, the cyclic mourning of a missing person has subsided and found closure in his death. Unfortunately, many families do not have the morbid blessing of knowing whether or not their loved one is dead and continue to live in the abysmal cycle of grief and hope, which can be a crippling mixture at times.
Many families of the missing begin extraordinary journeys in life because of our loved one’s indelible spirit and inexplicit parting from our world. You can find some of these to the left of this blog posting, and in January 29th, 2010, I will be embarking on mine.