An open letter to a girl I have never met.
As I type this letter to you, I’m gazing out my window, noticing how the autumn leaves seem to be shining more brightly this year. The array of colors adorning the trees are on full display as if you’ve been helping to paint this breath-taking tapestry for us. The way the sun further illuminates that palette of color convinces me that the canvas before me is somehow being painted in Heaven. I notice the beautiful, fall colors everyday and consider myself blessed to be seeing them.
But with the change in season, the reminder comes that your birthday is upon us and yet another year has passed without an ending to your story. For this, I am sorry. But because of this, I am motivated.
When I reflect back to your birthday last year, and where we were in examining your case, I am proud of how far we’ve come over the course of this past year: I met with the detective, the state police got started actively investigating your case again, the headstone you deserve was installed, new persons of interest emerged/are emerging, podcasts are sharing your story, and most importantly to me, Bridget and I were finally able to meet your two older brothers. If you played a part in having our paths finally cross with theirs–and I believe you did–I thank you. They are special people. Thank you for continuing to send us the puzzle pieces we need in order to complete the picture of what happened to you 49 years ago today.
As I wish you a happy birthday, I have this thought in my mind: Do I say today IS your 59th birthday? Or, do I say today would have been your 59th birthday? Do our loved ones who pass from this earth remain the age they were when they passed for all eternity or do they get to move forward in our minds as if they were still here? Are you still a sweet and spunky 10-year-old girl? Or, are you a 59-year-old woman? My heart understands that the spirit world doesn’t track years and ages, but my mind still seeks these answers .
Perhaps the truth is this: you are both a sweet 10-year-old child and a soul born to this earth 59 years ago. But more than anything, you are a girl who was loved and who is missed by so many, and that transcends age, time, and even death. Happy Birthday to you, Cheryll. So many of us are thinking of you today.
The Police Officer
As the kids are getting older, they ask more questions about you and I love telling them about how passionate you were about your family, your career, and your truck. They really love to hear about the grandpa they never had the chance to get to know here on Earth. And with every story, every memory, and every smile that emerges when we speak about you, we feel you there. I hope you too can feel the love we have for you to this day as it also transcends time, age, and death. You may be physically gone, but you are spiritually very present.
For all those times my boys pull some crazy antic and come out unscathed, I thank you, Pawpaw, because truly I know you’re their Guardian Angel. For all those days and nights Micheal is hard at work and you’re riding shotgun in the police car with him so that he comes home to us, I thank you, Dad, because I know you’re his Guardian Angel. For all those times I ask you questions like what does this mean? And, implore you to help me make sense of aspects of Cheryll’s case, I thank you, dear father-in-law, because I know you’re my Guardian Angel. And for all those times you helped a girl who was once lost in a fog find her way back into the light again, I thank you, Officer Rowland, because I know you’re her Guardian Angel.
Happy Birthday, dearest father-in-law. You are missed. You are loved. You live in us. I hope you and Cheryll celebrate for a moment together today. I hope you continue to lift her up. And I hope you two continue to move those puzzle pieces around up there because, as I hope you can see, we are working hard on our end to fit them all together.
So yes, it is October 19th. Again. Another year has passed. Despair remains. Confusion remains. Anger remains. But so does love… love remains. Memories remain. Passion remains. And more than anything, Cheryll, hope remains, and we are not giving up on you.