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Melting, Morphing, Meandering into the Future

A Mother Reflects on the One-Year Anniversary of Her Son's Death


Melting, Morphing, Meandering into the Future

Detail from "Echo"

© Carla Brown
Updated May 05, 2008
Freeze frame: Owen and Nat as teenagers, are sprawled out on the living room couch, talking about life, girls, family, music, any and everything that comes into their heads.
They're sharing, arguing, postulating about each of their frames of reference in regard to a meaningful purpose here on the planet Earth. They're standing their ground, they're laughing, they're stretching to understand each other's points of view.

Freeze frame: A sheriff's deputy and a local police detective are sitting in our living room on a Saturday afternoon, telling me about the body they just retrieved from the Petaluma River – Owen's body, four days after he went missing.
I'm screaming and pounding my foot on the cedar chest coffee table. That cedar chest contains tangible memories of our children's early years – the photographs, the drawings, the ceramic animals, the school report cards – so many things that contain pieces of their collective histories. Over and over, I scream, "No, no, I knew it, I knew it." Shock takes up residence, and I ask, "What happened?"

"Longing for Motion"

Sometime in the early 2000s, I created a file on my computer, called "Freeze Frames". Its purpose was to house the writing I was doing at the time, in several genres. I haven't added to it in quite a while. Instead, I'm living in freeze frames, and longing for motion.

According to wikipedia, "A freeze frame shot is used when one shot is printed in a single frame several times, in order to make an interesting illusion of a still photograph." This film technique is one used for dramatic effect.

I need no assistance in creating dramatic effect when it comes to sharing stories of Owen's life as an individual, a member of our family, within our various communities, and through his journal entries. His life was dramatically cut short, and the details are still a mystery. Our lives are forever changed.

Neither the freeze frames nor the still photographs in the cedar chest, can provide a modicum of comfort or acceptance, at this still-early stage.

We find comfort and acceptance of Owen's death only in memories with movement, sound, taste, and smell. Sight and touch will never be ours again – except through each other. Instead, we celebrate his life. All of us, our small circle of family and friends, are afforded the luxury of storytelling. And, through our stories, we find Owen in motion. Just the way he left us.

Four Missing Days

We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of Owen's passing. We don't have an official date of death, as the coroner could only provide us with the date when his body was found, June 2, 2007. He was last seen alive on the evening of May 29. What happened in the four days he was missing? Only those that were there that night, know for certain. And, they're not telling.

What we know about those four days, is a compilation of our conversations with Owen's friends at the movie theater where he worked, the young people with whom he played hacky-sack and music, and their late-night culinary adventures in our kitchen. "Owen, if you close the door to the oven, the pizza will cook better, faster…at all." Lea spoke those words in the middle of the night, just about three weeks before Owen disappeared. He and a couple of recent friends laughed at this forgotten detail of cooking for a premium outcome. Owen closed the oven door. The pizza was consumed in a few bites by young men with large appetities.

Owen's Death as Urban Legend

This last year has been unrelenting in our search for knowledge, in our search for the truth. We've not given up, nor given in, to what we perceive as a lack of effort on the part of our local law enforcement agencies. I was told from the first night I reported Owen missing, "He's a young guy. He'll come home when he's ready."

Only three weeks into the investigation, a police captain told me by phone, "We've got more than two dozen different versions of what happened to Owen. His death is likely to become an urban legend."

We made it known early in the search, that we were going to continue to seek, continue to engage others, continue to talk about how Owen left this life. We've encountered resistance on almost every front. But, we're not likely to stop our search. We know too much. We know too little.

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