Today I’m writing about a woman who has inspired me for many years.
Shirley Brown’s son Robbie vanished 43 years ago. In all this time not one shred of evidence has surfaced to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Many sightings were reported in August 1968 but none reliable.
On Saturday, March 5 I joined Shirley at a booth where she was presenting the work of
Courage to Cope, the organization she and son Ross founded to support families of missing children. Nothing like Courage to Cope existed when Shirley experienced a parent’s worst nightmare; no special counselors, not even a grief management group.
In her book Vanished Shirley tells how she learned to cope with the devastating loss of her son. One story stands out. Because Robbie’s body was never found, there was no funeral. Searches and investigations simply ended. Children returned to school in September and the Brown family tried to adjust to their new life without their oldest child.
Shirley, a new Christian at the time, survived on prayer. When the suffering of her two school-age boys became evident, Shirley prayed for a remedy. That’s when the idea came to have a private memorial. She writes –
That night I talked to Ross Jr. and Michael, telling them that we believed Robbie could not be alive. I explained that Robbie lived in Heaven now and we never again had to worry about him. They cried but it brought relief to accept that their brother was in a better place. Acceptance eased their grief and helped them put a traumatic experience in the past where it belonged. They could allow memories of Robbie to fade without guilt. Of course, they would never forget him, but the sting of remembering lessened.
It takes special courage to cope when life doesn’t provide answers. Shirley Brown found that courage in Jesus Christ who continues to guide her into a productive life.
(PS – I wrote Shirley’s book Vanished in 2007. It was one thing that I could do to bring her story to others.)