100: He Can’t Hide from God... or His Mother

100: He Can’t Hide from God... or His Mother

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

He Can’t Hide from God... or His Mother

Love builds bridges where there are none.

~R.H. Delaney

Every mother knows the day will come when she must let go of her children, but I never expected that my letting go of our son would have to be so total, so complete.

When our twenty-two-year-old son, Lorne, became a missing person statistic in January of 1986, I kept asking, “Why me?” Missing person stories only happen on television melodramas, not to loving families like ours. After all, we didn’t have problems of divorce, poverty, abuse, alcohol, or drugs. My husband and I had been involved with our four children and their many activities. How could this happen to us?

The first month after Lorne’s disappearance was a frantic blur. Our son changed from a University of Arizona student to a Tucson Police Department case number.

First it was thought that since Lorne was a long-distance runner, he could have fallen into a ravine in the Catalina Mountains behind his old high school. Soon, Search and Rescue, tracking dogs, the Sheriff’s Department, and police helicopters became involved. People on horseback and on foot, along with Lorne’s former high school cross-country coach and team, thoroughly combed the trails. There were no leads.

Meanwhile, I felt overwhelmed. I became consumed with, “What if?” What if I hadn’t shown long, lanky Lorne how much I loved him? What if I hadn’t understood this quiet, good-natured young man who kept his successes and worries to himself?

I shed numerous tears, took ulcer medication, and quickly descended into an “I can’t” phase. I convinced myself I could cope no longer. I felt hopeless. There was nothing I could do.

But slowly, as the weeks passed, I got back into a daily routine. I returned to my teaching job. I quit looking at time as a huge block, and worked on getting through each day.

One day I had a serious talk with myself. Lorne’s disappearance wasn’t my fault! I’d been the best mother I knew how to be to him—to all our four children. What was it about Lorne that I’d missed?

Thinking back, I tried to understand what had happened. Lorne had always shown a strong desire to please everyone else... but maybe not himself. His boss, the head athletic trainer at the university, described him as “reliable and responsible,” and his friends said, “He’s one of those people everyone likes.”

Leaving so abruptly was out of character for Lorne. Had he grown tired of pleasing other people?

No one, including me, ever dreamed that the guy everyone liked might have problems. But if I could have done anything differently, it was too late now. Lorne was a grown young man and could legally choose to be gone.

One day while lunching with friends at a Chinese restaurant, I opened a fortune cookie. The little slip of paper said, “Your sense of humor allows you to glide through difficult times.” It was true. I’d always laughed easily and had a healthy sense of humor. It was my strong point!

I resolved to get that laugh back in working order again. I pinned that fortune cookie to my bulletin board, where it remains to this day. I was ready. But where was Lorne hiding?

The man in charge of the Salvation Army Missing Persons Bureau patted my hand. “He can’t hide from God,” he said.

“Or his mother!” I replied, standing straighter.

At homeless feeding stations, I held up a poster with Lorne’s picture and the words, “Have you seen me?” The posters were also displayed in various shelters and blood donation centers in the Southwest. Lorne’s extreme vision correction prescription went to optometrists in the western states, and his dental records to the national computer system. My husband and I engaged two different private investigators.

My attempt to get Lorne’s case on the television program, Unsolved Mysteries, proved unsuccessful. The producer said that it “didn’t have a strong story line.” It was a strong story line to me! I did prevail, however, in getting his case on a syndicated show called Reunion. I felt that someone somewhere had seen Lorne. Yet despite all our efforts, Lorne remained “missing.”

And twenty-three years later, Lorne is still gone without a trace. Meanwhile, I have had to go on with my life—coping with being a widow, helping my grandchildren, being there for our other grown kids when they need me. But most importantly, I’ve worked on keeping laughter in my life.

I’ve never stopped looking for Lorne in crowds, but now I remind myself that I’m looking for a middle-aged man. And since time has marched on, what if we wouldn’t recognize each other?

If I’m ever lucky enough to see Lorne again, I have a mental list of things I want to remember to tell him. I want him to know his friends liked him so much that they began a scholarship at the university in his name. I want to laugh with him at the humorous antics of his older sister’s children. I want to sit next to him and talk with him about his hopes and dreams.

I have never stopped loving Lorne and never will, but I like to think the love I send him now is somehow stronger. Loving Lorne without knowing where he is feels like a ribbon flowing from my heart. It travels across time and forever. We never totally let go of our children.

I believe what the man at the Salvation Army told me so many years ago is true. My son can’t hide from God... or his mother’s love.

~Sharon Landeen

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