You can anticipate that there will be an end to things. The end of a book. The end of a relationship. The end of life. But you can’t anticipate the “not knowing.”

It’s the not knowing that is the wild card.

There is an end to a season. In late summer plants will dry up, turn brittle and brown, and lay their stalks upon the ground. Then wait for their next season to begin anew. 

"Ring the bells that still can ring; 
 Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in"
- Anthem, Leonard Cohen

There is an end of hope. When you put all your thoughts and purpose toward trying to make something happen. But it doesn’t.

You can try to make someone change. (Which can’t be done, I’ve learned.)

You can tell them it is time for them to go. 

Until eventually you let the kite billow up into the air with your hope attached to the end. Then watch it until it is completely out of sight.

And you know it is time to move on.

There is but one thing that comes to mind for which there is no end. And that is when a child is missing. 

I once interviewed the family of a young girl who had been missing, at that time, for several years. 

It has now been decades.

There are the first hours after someone goes missing when hope still reigns. Then darkness begins to fall.

The hours turn into days, and the days into months.

And life, for that poor ravished, and stricken family, will never be the same.

I watched a family squeeze out possibly their last shred of hope as I interviewed them. Wrote down every fact. Every memory they could summon up about that child in the 24 hours before she disappeared. 

What she was wearing when she left. The time when she left. What the weather was like. 

You try to infer importance upon every small thing. Hoping it means something.

You never knew this child. Aside from what you saw in her room. What she had on her walls. What softball trophies were placed on display. 

The stuffed animals that rested on her pillow. The layers of dust that had settled on the window panes.

I gathered those facts and they took on palpable energy inside of me.

You will walk through the years of your life with them because you delved so deeply into their day-to-day life. 

It takes up residence in your mind and comes back every year on the anniversary of their disappearance. No matter how much time passes.

There is an end to seasons. In late summer you can expect the plants to dry up. To turn brittle and brown and lay their stalks upon the ground.

But is there an end to hope?

Until finally you must put a period on the sentence and shut the book for your own wellbeing. A figurative kite filled with your emotions billows up into the air with your last hope attached to the end.

Until it is so far up it becomes a dot and then is completely out of sight.

Family members who loved the child eventually die. 

What I find most tragic is that there is no “end” for them. No period at the end of the sentence. 

And you have to wonder if finally, perhaps blessedly, came an end to their hope.

You never knew this child. Aside from what you saw in their room. What they had on their walls. What softball trophies were placed proudly on furniture. 

What stuffed animals rested on their pillow. The layers of dust that had settled on window panes.

Yet you have gathered those facts and they took on the energy inside of you. You will walk through the years of your life with them. 

At odd moments, someone or something will remind you of them. A fair-skinned girl with blond hair; some little thing I recall but can’t put my finger on. 

Though I never laid eyes on the girl except in photos family members handed to me, or what was put on TV, it still haunts me.

The fact that a young girl left home one Saturday morning and never came home Saturday night. Or ever again.

Sometimes endings are good. Or at least they bring closure. And I think that is better than going to your grave not knowing. 

Wondering how long that child felt fear before the bitter terrifying end.

“No memory of having starred atones for later disregard, or keeps the end from being hard.”  -Robert Frost 

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25 Comments

  1. Limbo is what you are describing. It is what you experience when your husband is missing in action. It is like a ride on a wild tiger. A roller coaster ride of ups and downs. You hope for more ups. My husband was listed MIA in 1972. Some days are better than others. Some months are better than others. Some years are better than others.

  2. Judy and John are always in my prayers every day. Judy has worked so hard as a caregiver; this must be a horrible thing to face now. John will try his hardest to get well from the staph, I know. Let's just hope and pray he succeeds…

  3. We have the story here about the girls a disgusting person kept locked up in his house for years!! Evil lives. What's even more heartbreaking is the one young woman's mother died before they escaped. As I sit on the beautiful beach, not all that far from where they were held, I can't help but feel so sad that none of us had any idea they were so close while we were enjoying ourselves. The parents that experience this, they've truly know the meaning of hell. Sending up good thoughts for your friends. They've had a difficult time.

  4. I have no idea how a family can endure that type of loss. When I was a new court reporter in court I had a case they sent me to work on a few days, the BF had beaten the GF's little 4 yr old boy to death. They lived in an apt that didn't allow children, but she had two kids and tried to hide them. Being a vibrant little boy he was loud at times, and the BF beat him. I of course never met the little guy, he was gone to the world. But to this day when I hear of a case similar to this I think of that child and all the what if's that might have happened to him. Your writing is so eloquent, always makes us think. Judy and John have certainly been through a lot lately, they are on my mind a lot. Hopefully they can get this under control for John.

  5. I have always felt that one of the most difficult things for any human being to endure would be the disappearance of a loved one. The feeling of terror and helplessness, the imaginings, the wondering — always wondering, never knowing. It would be as if life stopped on that day … in fact for those involved it did. They may go forward on the outside, but inside their soul, something stopped. And with that they live out their lives. How tragic … how painful.

  6. I can't imagine the pain of a loved one gone missing. I hope it's something I never experience, and I pray for those that have experienced it. I just want to give you a hug right now. And Judy and John too. Praying for them…

  7. Such a sad post, so true in so many lives. The end comes to everything, everyone, eventually. Did you read that John and Sherry are going to stop posting at Young House Love for three months, then decide whether or not to return? So sorry to hear about John, and dear Judy so wonderfully caring for him.

  8. Beautifully said with feeling. In Minnesota we have Jacob Wetterling. He disappeared on October 22, 1989. He was eleven. His mother has never given up hope. Never. If it were me I would have been put away a long time ago. I would not be able to cope.
    I continue to pray for John and Judy.

  9. A very thought provoking post. Your words just flow so beautifully with the pictures. Like others have mentioned, I can't imagine the pain for families with missing children. Never knowing what was happening to them. After years of not hearing anything, I guess the only hope they can hold on to is their reunion in Heaven. So sorry about John. Prayers are being said for him and Judy.

  10. How sad….I can not imagine nor do I want to the pain that those families have and are going through!

    As to John and Judy I was getting ready to ask you about them….I will keep them in my prayers!!

  11. I agree, much pain in this post about Endings and yet life is a circle for us all and one day what we though was an end will be only a beginning in another realm. I hold tightly to that hopeful thought when my heart aches and seeks an answer to all the WHY's…

    Been thinking about John n Judy a lot today and trying to send them PEACE thru the ethers .

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