Over twenty-one years ago, my brother, Brian, went missing. He had struggled for years and we were immediately worried. We searched and searched for nine gut-wrenching weeks, his body was eventually recovered on north avenue beach.
To say that our entire family was devastated is a huge understatement. My parents lost their youngest child, their only son, and my sisters and I lost our baby brother.
And yet, somehow, life, although forever changed, went on…my nephew, patrick, was born a month later.
My dad referred to him as the “blessed distraction”. And he was…for all of us.
Life, although difficult at times, is so beautiful. And it does go on…
But life stopped again a little over three years ago, when my step-father, John, went missing. We searched and searched for two of the most miserable weeks a family should face. at one point, when his location was discovered, my mom quietly asked me, “are you going to go down there and bring him back?” I was literally jumping out of my skin at the thought of sidling up next to him at some random bar and saying, “Please come home…We all love you so much.” How many times did I have that reoccurring dream with my brother… "Come home, you are loved, please come home…”. I wept while sharing my plan to get him with one of my best friends and a key member of the search team, her response, “this is redemption”.
And then it happened again. Before I could book a flight out there, his body was found by a man in a boat just off of the coast of key west. We were completely devastated.
I kept thinking about how John lived his life and how, at least on the surface, he always chose to see things in a positive light. A friend gave me a gift with this definition of grace after I described John to her.
“Grace: life is a classroom. We are both student and teacher. Each day is a test. And each day we receive a passing or failing grade in one particular subject: grace. Grace is compassion, gratitude, surrender, faith, forgiveness, good manners, reverance, and the list goes on. It’s something money can’t buy and credentials rarely produce. Being the smartest, the prettiest, the most talented, the richest, or even the poorest, can’t help. Being a humble person can guide you through your days with grace and gratitude.” ~philosophy
On the verge of having a major nervous breakdown, I reached out to anyone who would listen to me tell my family’s story. One friend referred me to the afsp (american foundation for suicide prevention) and the out of the darkness walks, which helped a lot. Thanks to the loving support of friends, family and the afsp, team choosing grace was created.
Over the last three years our team has been choosing grace. We’ve raised awareness and funds for research, education, suicide prevention efforts and support for those left behind. We are not alone. It seemed as though our family was beginning to heal. This could not happen again.
And now we face another loss.
Two weeks ago, my sister and brother-in-law lost their son, Patrick. He is gone. The person who absorbed so much pain on behalf of others, couldn’t bear the pain anymore. It is beyond comprehension.
I cannot do anything. I cannot do enough. I cannot take away the pain his parents feel and I cannot stop my own pain either. My sadness, which I know is secondary to his parents’ and my father’s pain, permeates everything.
It is hard, but I think we are all trying to choose grace again. Our friends, family and complete strangers are helping. The kindness that Patrick shared with us just by being born is being paid forward… Acts of kindness in his honor have been reported in 21 states, as well as mexico, the netherlands, u.k., canada, and these acts continue every day thanks to one simple hashtag: #noochieraks.
The givers and the receivers are experiencing the same feelings of kindness, love and joy that we experienced from knowing Patrick, or as I call him, “noochie”.
A couple of days ago, a friend gave me a truly unique and special gift from the giving keys...for me, she chose the key to GRACE. I promise I will pay it forward. As their founder says, “every key has a purpose.”
Every life has a purpose.
I am still searching for mine.