James Brian Rowe. He was known as Brian most of my life. My family had a weird tradition of reversing first and middle names. Up until our final childhood move I was known as Lisa. I wanted a new, more mature name when we settled in Vermont, so Laura it was. Brian recreated himself too, he became James when he left his teenage years.
J.B. baby we’d call him. My youngest brother, Jesse, and I would tell stories of his abandonment on our front porch, by Indians. Dark hair and olive skin contrasted with our blondness and fair, freckled faces. Of course we were teasing, just like when we took photos of him wearing our older sisters’ leotard and tutu from ballet class. We liked to joke. Beyond the chiding, I hope my love was clear.
Tell the people you love that you love them, while you still can. Such a cliché, I saw this on Facebook somewhere, but it’s true. I wish I could tell him again. When he called that summer evening, just after dinner, I was watching my kids play outside through the kitchen window. It was time for dinner and I was thinking through options. He was both happy and sad, laughing and crying, he described the weekend conference he was attending, for self growth, he told me it was the answer I was looking for and should go, he said he’d never be the same. I was worried.
This was the last time I told James I loved him and the last time I heard his voice… for now, at least.
Ten years have passed since my brother’s disappearance. My intention was to write this post on his birthday or the anniversary, his missing date. Both days prove difficult to revisit these feelings: loss despite hope, grief minus closure, love plus confusion.
We didn’t realize he was gone until his friends from Colorado called my mom, still living in Vermont. James abandoned his vehicle and dog many miles outside of town. He went to a friend’s house requesting a ride to a trailhead. His thoughts were confused, he didn’t know what was real anymore. He hiked into the forest, barefoot and no equipment. He didn’t come back. The dogs and helicopters called in days later couldn’t find him.
I would have a lot of news to share should we be reunited. A move, divorce, new child, remarriage, would he recognize me? I like to think I, or anyone who has seen his photo on a poster, would recognize him. There are a lot of uncertainties.
Jesse, my next youngest brother, said he had an experience of giving James to something much bigger than us, to God. A similar surrender has happened for me. What choice do we have? I pray, my friends and family pray. Newspaper articles have been written, a website created, detectives communicated with, more prayers said.
Even in this, I believe God has a plan. In my sorrow, He has comforted me. James’ return will be of God’s doing. When the time is right, in this lifetime or the next, I believe I will see his smiling eyes again.
I have faith. I have peace.
I love you, brother. See you soon.
- Laura Lisa