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.
Beautifully written. Thank you from another Minnesota woman raised in the the 80s. I now read this from many miles away. To my current neighbors and friends, Jacob’s story is just one of many, but as a 13 year old small town Minnesotan in 1989, I realize how much Jacob and his family’s story shaped our childhoods. His picture, his smile, the grief and the hope are all etched into our stories and our memories.
You are welcome, my pleasure.
Beautiful. :'( This says it all! Thank you!
Thank you Celeste, you are very welcome.
Lived in the area when things happened, and all the years later, we are now in colorado…. will always remember the smile of the photos and the tears in his mother’s eyes when she spoke of hope and bringing jacob home…. touches my heart as a new father myself and pray for peace in his family’s hearts. amazing family.
My girls were 10 and 14 when Jacob went missing. I remember the ache I felt in my heart of the simple prospect of losing one of my girls – and I remember praying to God to please bring Jacob home alive. I have prayed for years that there would be resolution for the Wetterling family. Patty Wetterling changed the world with her demonstrated resolve and hope for the safe return of her son. They have all lived in limbo all these years, but now the truth is known, Jacob is home and the true grieving begins. Your letter said it all. Thank you for saying what we all want to say but just didn’t have the words. I believe Jacob has been in the loving arms of God all these years, and God has surrounded the Wetterling family with his peace, comfort and love.
Well said, tears flowing as I write this note. I pray that the finality doesn’t make it harder for his parents. I pray for God’s care in their weeks ahead. Thank you for writing this message.
Thank you Mindy! This was so inspiring to read after all the media I have seen. And it is exactly how Patty Wetterling wants all of us to do. To continue to Live and Live for our Children…
Beautiful. Thank you.
My youngest daughter was 11 when Jacob was taken. Her birthday was a few days later.
I doubt that we will ever forget. May the Lord help the family to heal.
This is so beautiful and thoughtful. My own son was almost 7 years old with this happened to Jacob. It definitely changed the was I parent. Unfortunately, I became so overly-protective that I feel it affected their childhood. When I was young my mom would say “come home with the street lights came on” or when the city whistle blew which was around 9:00. Life has changed so much. I wish we could go back to the life style we had in the 50s and 60s. So many bad things seem to be happening now a days. Well, anyway, I just want to thank you for your beautiful story, it really touched me and appreciate your insight.
Thank you. It says so much of what mothers to young children the. And now wish to say. I only wish that each person who is moved by this could put their arms around the wetter ing parents to let them know their son is precious to us too.
Beautifully written – you echo the sentiments of so many of us here in Minnesota…..Thank you!
I was 10 years old when this all happened and it has been on my mind ever since. This story was very well written. I enjoyed reading from beginning to the end. I really hope that the family and friends of Jacob find closure now. Thanks for sharing this story.
Mindy: This was so beautiful. I lived just a short ways away when this occurred. For 27 years this has been on my mind. My son was only 1 1/2 years old when Jacob was taken. I was so worried to leave my son with anyone. When I heard this past Saturday that his body had finally been found, I cried once again. I would like to think that I would be as strong as Patty Wetterling if this would have happened to our family, but I just am not sure. She is the true meaning of strong. I, myself , want to thank you for posting this. It is truly beautiful. THANK YOU…God bless you, The Wetterling Family, and mainly Jacob.
As I found this on a friends Facebook page, the rain is pouring down, the day is gloomy and sad…..this was a perfect read. My mind has been on Jacob and that smile since the news broke. Thank you for sharing this, I thinks it’s a piece of what we’d all like to read. We need to believe the world can be good again. Thank you.
What a beautiful tribute for such an incredible little boy! As a mother of 3 that were raised in the 80’s , Jacob’s story was forever present. It’s a relief to know he has finally been found. I pray for healing for his family and thank The Wetterling’s for all they have done to protect children.
What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for painting that picture with your words.
My prayer would be: May God wrap Her arms around them. May She overwhelm them with Her peace which surpassed all understanding. May She allow them to feel a glimpse of the fearless place where you play on.
It is important we embrace the female part of the living God: the Spirit of tenderness, peace and motherhood. Jacob is in Her arms now until his earthly mother is reunited with him.
Beautifully written. Although I have only gotten to learn about Jacob and his parents recently, I have been touched by their story profoundly. Thank you.
I appreciate you taking the time to put into words so many of us feel. This has been so difficult for many of us who watched from afar, but shared the fear, pain and worry right along with the Wetterlings. I only hope our tears can take absorb some of their pain. Unfortunately, no matter how much we cry, there will never be enough tears for them.
Thank you for this. Thank you.
So well said – we need to remember that we will honor Jacobsbd his family by moving forward and living life to its fullest, sharing your gifts by helping others
Unbelievably written, thank you for putting into words how most Minnesotans feel. Beautiful, thank you again Bess
Would it be o.k. to share this ?
Thank you for sharing.
Of Course Sue, Please do!
Thank you for this, sums up what we all feel. I grew up in Paynesville and now live in St.Joseph. Our lives are forever changed and we will never forget Jacob…
Thank you, Mindy, for reminding us that kids still need to be kids. I have 3 who were 14, 12 & 7, at the time Jacob was taken, the last 2 being boys. We are close to a family who were neighbors of Weterlings, so were somewhat active in trying to find Jacob, we stood on the hiway forming a human chain, which is how my 7 yr old spent his 8th birthday, trying to find Jacob. I still hate the fact that, for the first time, I had to talk with my kids about this subject, & the look on my sons faces when I told them how to run away from someone with a gun, & that I’d rather they be dead than not know where they were…for 27 YEARS! I am so grateful for the things that Patty & Jerry have done over these past 27 yrs to make things safer for the grandchildren I now have, & I hope they finally find some peace.
Beautifully written, Thank you Mindy.
WOW! That is all I can say. As a woman who had a boy that was almost 5 years old when Jacob was taken, it hit home hard for me. My son’s name is Jared and he is now 31 years old and living in the cities where Jacob was from. Jacob’s story is one that will live on forever because it has changed the way of life in our world now. Sad as it is, I think that this was God’s purpose with what happened to Jacob. May your family have comfort in now know what has happened and may you rest in peace little angel. God bless you Jacob. We will always keep the light on in memory of you. Thanks Mindy for writing this. It was beautiful and touch my heart.
I was a new Mom. On that evening of October 22, 1989. My husband and I had just sat down and as I was feeding our new baby son his nighttime bottle the news came on with the story of Jacob…I held my newborn boy so close, I told him I loved him as I cried and prayed for Jacob and his family. We will never forget Jacob or his incredible loving family. All of us in MN and across this country have been praying for Jacob to come home. He is home and in God’s arms.
Beautifully said. Thank you for the beautiful story. Prayers for everyone
Thank you for this letter! Like many others who have commented, words can not fully describe what people across the country are feeling now after learning the truth of that fateful day and a sad, but final end to the search. I spent the first six years of my childhood in St. Joe (as we who lived there called it) and Jacob’s brother, Trevor, and I were in the same kindergarten class, we were friends. My family moved not too far, to a little town right next to where Jacob’s remains were found and I will never forget the day we saw it on the news…I still remember the old TV and orange carpet…and just laying there on the floor watching, thinking to myself…not Trevor’s brother. That day changed the lives of everyone living in those small towns in Minnesota…it changed our parents and it changed us, as kids…but we kept living cuz that is what people had to do, but every porch light on reminded us that we didn’t forget and didn’t give up hope. That hope needs to continue as everyone deals with the sad truth, keep hope and faith…and by all means live and love! If the Wetterling family can do it…then everyone needs to try to do the same. I just appreciate knowing that even through all of this craziness in the world, we can still try to remember to allow our kids to live…so thank you for your letter, your words, and your grace in trying to keep your children safe, preserving their innocence, and letting them live, as Jacob would have done.
Thank you for such kind words that were so eloquently said!! Tears flow for this sweet family and their heart ache!!
Yes. Yes. Yes. You said so much that I felt, but hadn’t articulated, and did so beautifully. God bless your clear-eyed wisdom and open heart. And yes, please, dear God, Who can do so, please hold Jacob, and the Wetterlings close. I am, have always been, unable to imagine their pain, proud and inspired by their grace and courage to never surrender to such evil and hatred. My youngest was 7 when this happened, and tho we lived 150 miles away, sometimes she would cry at night. We had just the month before, moved to a new home in the woods and she would watch the trees moving outside her window and ask “How could we know that the man who took Jacob wasn’t in our woods? What would we do if he snatched her out of her room? She is now a 33 yo mother of little boys, many states away, who immediately sent me the link that he was finally found. We will all carry Jacob’s beautiful smile in our hearts, it is one we will all recognize when we get there. And yes, let us live as we want the world to be, and be, for the children in it, the adults Jacob should have encountered, instead.
My heart broke then, and I never forgot him or his family…I’m weeping for thyem again at the sad ending, but glad for closure for them, to say goodbye and bring him home…the details must be sooooooooo hard to bear…but, I know God grabbed him up and wiped away all his pain and tears and erased it from his memory…waiting to be reunited one day, all healed and whole, with loved ones in heaven! God wrap them in your loving arms. xo Kay
This was a beautiful letter and it said everything we all feel bless yoI for these beautiful word. I felt such a pulling in my heart the tears ran as I read your word.God Bless you signed with love Sandy
I read this with tears in my eyes. So beautifully written!
Thank you for putting into words what most of us have been feeling, but have been struggling to say… I can clearly remember that frightening and heartbreaking time back in 1989 when Jacob was abducted. I was a young (22 years old) Mother with a 3 year old son and a 1 year old daughter, and I was filled with so many emotions. The first, of course, was sympathy and compassion for what Jerry and Patty Wetterling were going through, then came the fear and absolute horror that something like this could happen in a small town like St. Joseph. Lastly, the relief that it’s not your child… followed by the guilt for thinking that. I can’t believe the grace, dignity and courage the Wetterling family have shown from the very start-I’m not so sure I could be so brave. I am glad to know that Jacob is finally “home”, and will continue to pray for his wonderful family and all those who knew him-may they find peace.
There is a pile of tissues next to me, as I read your Letter for Jacob. Emotions we have all felt over these long 27 years and you so eloquently expressed, on behalf of all of us, who became a part of the Wetterling ‘family.’ I was born and raised in Minnesota, before moving to Canada, but always following Jacob’s story, seeing billboards and signs and keeping Jacob’s precious family in my prayers. Witnessing Patty, as she fought so admirably, bravely and endlessly for all children’s safety. THANK YOU Mindy for this beautiful letter. God has certainly gifted you as a journalist. Blessings
Thank you Marg for your kind words. You are welcome, my pleasure.
Touching, profound and tender. We have carried Jacob in our hearts all these years, and will carry him still. He was a little boy, rough and tumble and full of laughter. Yes, he died in a cloud of evil. But most importantly, he lived. Thank you for giving words to my heart.
He Lived. Thank You Autumn.
My son was born 5 months before Jacob was born and was a hockey goalie in youth hockey so I have always been aware of the years and the pain of missing him. Thank you for your letter as it is from us all…. God’s love to his family and yours, from mine…. Liz…. another Minnesotan
You are welcome Liz, God’s love to yours.
So beautifully written and so true. The Wetterling family are a strong and very special family. I too remember when this all started with Jacob: feared the worst and prayed that he would just come home some day. My heart aches for this family as this is not closure; this is a tragedy. Prayers for them all and of course for Jacob.
Thank you Sandi.
Mindy, you never cease to amaze me. You captured my heart & feelings in what you wrote. Speaking the thoughts that have raced through my head so many times, especially every anniversary, as I’d turn on our light, night after night. Hoping our light or any light, would show him, or any lost child a way home. I’d feel almost guilty at how grateful I was to have my boys home tucked in bed safe and sound; and praying I’d never feel that depth of pain.
I remember standing in my parent’s living room, an invinsible teenager in shock. I remember every detail of that moment, the unbelief of that day so long ago, maybe I wasn’t so invinsible. When I had my boys, like you, his face never left my mind; especially on the 1st anniversary after we moved to Stearns County, it was real here. Like remembering 9-11, everyone remembered the fear it evoked on them and how it changed the feeling of security in the safe little small towns. This didn’t happen in the big city, it happened too close to home for so many, and on a night like any other night.
Some days I’d send my boys off to play with a pit in my gut and holding back tears, believing… Hoping and believing. Reminding myself every time they walked out the door (even now with them in college, or should I say, especially now with them in college. :)) God holds them in the palm of His hands and He loves them even more then me, which seems impossible, but I know a parent’s love, so it has to be true.
The sacrifice Jacob and his family unknowingly made that day; not out of will but by the cruel world that engulfed them eventually made the world safer place. It also brought into the light the depraved darkness in the world, one which I wish I could turn off, because of Jacob, because of his family’s undeniable strength, love, and hope, they made the world a safer place for my boys, for all our kids, to grow, play, laugh, and be a child in. Jacob’s sacrifice, Jacob’s gift to the the world. He didn’t volunteer for the part, and the realness of it after hearing what he went through…
The truth and poignancy of what you wrote lingers in my mind, and in my eyes with tears! Write on and continue to capture our hearts and minds with the truths and raw feelings we all struggle so hard to verbalize. Thank you for being an inspiration and interpreter of what so many of us think and feel, you are truly a gift.
Thank You Katie for your Beautiful words!
Very well-written and touching. Thank you for your words and for passing this along to me this morning to read. Jacob and the Wetterling’s have taught us so much. It’s our job now to pass the hope and kindness on to our children and throughout our communities.