I left our porch light on for you last night. You’ve finally made your way home. I walked out onto my driveway before bed. It was a beautiful night-a welcomed hint of the crispness of Fall. My heart was tender. I looked up and down our street to see other porch lights lit-other homes like mine, where young boys play. You see Jacob, my eleven year old son has the kind of childhood you dream of for your kids. He gets on his bike and sets out to find some kind of neighborhood game anytime he wishes.
Last night he and his older sister watched Mrs. Doubtfire up the street from our house. It was outdoor movie night. Robin Williams in drag up on a big screen, set up between where backyards meet, kids sprawled out on blankets under the stars. I’m told this time there was cake instead of popcorn.
I sent the two of them, eleven and fourteen together, each of them with a cell phone in their pocket and with instructions to walk home together after the movie. It’s the way I parent. I do my best to let them be kids. But if I’m honest, all the while, there remains this tiny bit of fearful unrest knowing that I can’t protect them from all things.
I was fourteen that October you went missing. Your story seemed to captivate the public. We all wanted you to find your way home. For months your disappearance dominated the evening news-leaving your school picture etched forever in my memory. Parents started to parent differently. Gone was the age of “come home for dinner”. And just as life happens, time just slipped away. We started to remember your lost smile in years gone by.
Your name, your picture, your amazing mother, the anniversaries, lit porch lights, false leads, all of these sadly seemed to expose that same bit of fearful unrest. That place of fear for the unimaginable, not just for what happened to you Jacob, but for all the worst kinds of evil.
As I share my life with my own eleven year old boy, I know that you were more. You were more than how your life ended, and who you were is what I wondered about as I drifted to sleep.
I spent time this morning reading about your case in my newsfeed. I was hoping to learn more, more about who you were on October 21st, 1989.
This is what I learned; you had a giant smile, you had sandy colored hair and blue eyes, you loved your family, you liked sports and riding your bike, you played the trombone, you were the goalie on your school’s hockey team and you dreamed of becoming a professional football player some day.
These are the things I’m going to try to think of now when I see your image, either on a screen or in my mind’s eye. The trombone, hockey, and your big smile.
Somehow to say “rest in peace” doesn’t quite seem to fit. The darkness that this life can sometimes bring leads me to concentrate on the next. So Jacob, may you play on and so will we. We will enjoy neighborhood games, riding bikes, bonfires and movies under the stars. We will play on so that evil doesn’t win.
For your parents, whom have worked tirelessly to bring you home and have worked to be a voice for all missing and exploited children, may God wrap them in His arms. May He overwhelm them with His peace, which surpasses all understanding. May He allow them to feel a glimpse of the fearless place where you play on. Godspeed little man.
Mindy’s book Embracing Charlie was honored with a Finalist Title in the Christian Inspirational Category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.