Dear Jeffrey, 3 days until you’re 28…

I’ve learned that choices define you and (in more ways than even I can understand) others are contingent upon who I am to define parts of them.  Like you, Jeffrey, the choices you made while you were walking this earth presented choices that may not have been presented to me otherwise.  Some choices are poor and you can never take back, but at least they’re yours.  Though, a choice that takes away the choice of another is – in a lot of ways – a mortal sin that destroys the grace of not just the one left without choice but all those contingent upon. This becomes a domino effect of freewill genocide.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, and sometimes I knew good-and-well I was making them (I file these under the ‘mistakes I knew I was making’). However, today my soul rings of the voices and experiences in my life that moved me…changed me in one way or another…leading me closer to my truth.  I’m no longer in a goose hunt for truth searching frantically for instant gratification at the expense of others.  Truth journeyed into my heart.  It’s within me already and so many others contribute to it.  In so long as I am honest with myself, I’m honest with the world and putting forth energy that builds meaning.  I admire you, Jeffrey.  The energy you put forth into the world had such unequivocal grace, and that choice defines me and has become my only weapon.

Eternally grateful,

Sissy

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Dignity

As I pack, yet again, to move to another place to put my stuff, I pack my brother’s urn into his green-velvet box with the words ‘Dignity’ written inside.  I suppose it’s the name of the boxmaker, or the company in which the funeral home orders from.  The words I only see as my little brother travels from place-to-place with me.

Dignity; an oxymoron that his few bones in that pewter urn, which were scattered over the Oklahoma mountain after decomposition from one (or two) that threw his dead body out like a sack of rotten potatoes, rests in such a capsule being that he was 6″3.

I think about that scene in Face Off where the kid, so innocent and unaware, is amidst the gunfire and chaos as Over The Rainbow” blares through his headphones.  That’s how I imagine my brother spent his last moments; innocent of the pollution around him.

Although at times I think about one of the most famous Shakespearen quotes, “Et tu, Brute?” I wonder if my brother felt the ultimate betrayal like Caesar when he realized that someone (or two) he deeply cared about was the hand that took his life, and LET ME ASSURE YOU IT WAS SOMEONE (OR TWO) THAT HE ADORED.  The moment he realized he was going to die, he also realized he was betrayed.  Can you imagine leaving the world with that knowledge?  You die alone, this much is true, but it probably feels less scary to see those you love around as you make the transition into the afterlife.  The last look of this world my innocent brother got was deception.   It makes it hard for me to not betray my opposition to capital punishment, I’ll tell you that!

It won’t be long until I unpack by brother, yet again, and read “Dignity” on his green-velvet box as I place him on my desk where he belongs; beside me as we write his story.

The Missing

I added a category of links called “The Missing” and felt the need to detail why it was such an important addition to Wrestling The Hyperbole.  It’s not just a ProSocial effort, but each one of the sites I have linked have become a family member in a sense. 

On January 29th, 2001, an eighteen year old boy disappeared and wasn’t heard from for five years.  Merely five months into his eighteenth year, Jeffrey Lee Ben, was no longer a child by the legal system and not an adult by ways of the world.  Nonetheless, he was considered a missing adult except to former Sheriff and felon, Elvin Flood, who chalked it up to a runaway case.  Flood was at the reigns of the very first missing person case in Clayton, Oklahoma, and due to the aggressive campaign of Jeffrey’s loved ones (lead by Jeffrey and my mother, Linda Miller), the highest profile missing person case in Oklahoma. 

We spent five tortuous years searching for Jeffrey even when the legal system worked against us and those hired to protect-and-serve proved to be incapable of just that.  I can’t even count on two hands the number of times my mother was told she would have to drag a body of water herself for her son, and she did, because they had more pressing cases like what to have for lunch.  They most always supplied the tools for searching for Jeffrey, minus the compotence, but it was my family in the trenches earning your hard-earned money for those that protect-and-serve.  Once the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation got involved, which was typically always after mom got some national press, they promised us and the world that they “would find Jeffrey Ben.”  As soon as the cameras were off, they stopped returning our calls.  The only investigator that invested in my brother’s case was bogged down by protocol and ultimately forced to become a paper pusher. 

Thankfully, our mom never stopped searching and pushing forward enough to put a small visual in the back of the head of a common logger.  In March of 2006, by an act of God, two loggers did everything they typically never do at their jobs that resulted in finding a human skull.  Two months after the five year mark of when my brother went missing, his remains (that mountain critters fed on after his body was dumped–like garbage–less than a mile from the last person to see him–my cousin’s house) were positively identified and we had our answer to the five-year question; where is Jeffrey?  The family was allowed up the mountain where Jeffrey’s skull was found, the same mountain that the  law enforcement had not deemed a crime scene, to dig for more remains.  The evidence we found could not be used (a cigarette butt that indicated someone else was there that night, coins all before 2001 that had fallen out of Jeffrey’s pocket proving he was dumped by the way they were scattered down the mountain, threads of his clothing to answer what he was wearing, and other evidence) since it wasn’t indexed by a police officer or ‘investigator’.  The great State of Oklahoma permitted us to pull ribs, teeth, and other pieces of my brother from their soil without any involvement because since we got our answer it was good enough for them.  Hell, the killer was probably less than a mile away and probably would require a lot of work and since we were too busy mourning the death of our loved one we wouldn’t be going to press.  Our family didn’t even get a mental health specialist assigned to us for grievance and trauma for the unimaginable torture we had just gone through.

The above  true story is pretty damaging to the system and certainly to one’s soul, but it is by no means a unique story.  My brother, Jeffrey, was a smile in the hearts of so many people that offered so much of their support and searched in the trenches with us to find this boy that had somehow touched their lives.  The links to the left of these words are amazing people or organizations that selflessly educate and advocate for the missing and their families.  I do hope you will take the time to visit their sites because all it takes is one person, like yourself, to change the status of a person missing.  Much like my brother’s status that changed in March 2006 to ‘deceased’–after five years of cyclic mourning without any means to the last stage, acceptance–we were finally able to lay my baby brother to rest (April 5th, 2006).  Many families are not this lucky (how’s that for wrestling with hyperbole).

I will be posting more about my brother as the months come.  I’m buttoning up my first book (Divide Community, a memoir), but on January 29th, 2010, I will embark on a missing person story like no other so keep checking back for updates.

 

jeffrey2

The Devil’s Smile.

This is a little poem I wrote after seeing a photo of the last person to see my brother alive.  Look at him…how could ANYONE hurt such a wonderful kid.

RIP

RIP Jeffrey lee Ben (DOB: 08/23/82; Missing: 01/29/01; Laid To Rest: 04/05/06)

The Devil’s Smile.

Your voice drills a hole in my heart,

I hope I never hear it ever again,

Imagery of your life conjures up hatred I never knew existed,

For you took the life of someone I loved,

Dropped his body off at the top of a mountain for a critter’s treat,

I hope you taste my brother when you eat,

When you’re sad and all alone,

May you feel that January cold like pins and needles in your eyes,

As you lay your head to rest, You feel the rocks stabbing through your spine,

I hope you feel every pain you gave to my brother,

You murdering piece of shit,

You’ve raped my spirit,

You’ve killed a saint,

You’ve lied through your teeth,

I’m trying to bite my tongue,

But the lasso of grief has tied my feet,

Karma is my only ally,

Your maker one day you’ll meet,

In the meantime I hope this you read,

As you walk in hell at God speed.

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