Al and Marsha's Journal
 

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This was posted on his blog by my son Mark.
 
Mark's blog:        www.simmonscoaching.wordpress.com
  Mark's web site:  www.simmonscoaching.com

This is where I shine…

On August 9, 2001 my brother went missing, he was thirty-one years old.

On July 9th, 2001 Kevin went to our cousin’s lakefront campground and marina to work for the summer.  Kevin was a lost soul looking for his purpose.  He looked in a lot of places but never seemed to be looking in the right place.  Growing up he was always the “better looking” one. 

I had all the reason in the world to be jealous of him.  Kevin, however, lived in my shadow to some degree.  As I was going to school and opening a deli Kevin wanted something of his own…but could not find it.  It was not for a lack of trying.  The truth is Kevin never really knew who he was or was not comfortable in letting those around him know.  Living with him was tough but, as far as our relationship went; as long as I knew he was doing something or I heard something about him I was fine.

The idea came about for him to go up to Moberly Lake North of Chetwynd, BC.  Kevin, or as he was known to a lot of people; Akiva, jumped at the chance to get away.  The name Akiva is actually his given Hebrew name.  When we were younger he also wanted to go by the name Ashley.  This was part of his search of who he was.

I received a call at work the morning of August 9th.  I was told that my brother was missing and presumed drowned in the lake but nobody knew for sure.  All they knew was that the boat he was in was just offshore and half submerged with the drain plug pulled out and the fuel line ripped out of the outboard motor.  No one had seen what happened.

This was the beginning of 10 days of searching, both physically and of the soul.  My dad and I went to the lake on the first flight up on the 10th.  Sixty people including RCMP divers, Chetwynd and Hudson Hope Search and Rescue, locals, and members of the two neighboring aboriginal bands – the West Moberly and the Saulteau Bands came and volunteered to search the lake.  Most of the searching was dragging the lake with metal bars with giant hooks attached – hoping to snag my brother.  The RCMP brought a side scan sonar unit and, using one of the marina’s boats scanned the lake bottom for two days with no luck.

Half way through the search I found a nurse in Victoria who was training two cadaver bloodhounds.  She offered to come up with her dogs as long as we covered the cost of her transportation.  All that combined with use of side sonar was everything we could have used
for this search.  One of the volunteers even used his seaplane to do sweeps of the lake.

This was a very surreal time.  More than anything the problem was not knowing.  The searches came up with nothing.  The dogs that were supposed to jump in the water when they smelled a body slept on the deck of the boat…motionless.  My calls home each day to people wanting answers were frustrating, as I had no answers.  My son was five at the time but knew everything that was going on.  My brother’s son was six. 

During the ten days we searched we heard many stories about Akiva as they knew him.  Most of the volunteers who came out knew him.  They all had these amazing stories and things to say about my brother.  As bad as it sounds I had a hard time believing what people were saying as I saw a whole different side of him.  It was not all bad with him and he really did have a big heart and was a smart kid.  He just didn’t know what to do with it all.

On the night of the 8th day of searching, a Friday night, we were out on one of the deck boats with two of the dogs.  The sun was starting its setting phase down the west side of the lake.  We heard stories of how windy the whole area always is but when we had arrived there, and every day after, there was complete calm.  We were told how strange this was. 

While we were on the lake there was a lot of activity on the dock.  What was happening is that members of the two aboriginal bands were coming together.  They went out on another deck boat to the middle of the lake and held a sunset drum ceremony. The sound of the drums and the chants echoed and bounced off the surrounding trees and hills.  As sad as this all was, it was also magical. 

We were moved that people that we didn’t know came out to help in whatever way they knew how.  After the drum ceremony we all went back to the dock and met Richard.  He was introduced to us as the medicine man for the Saulteau Band.  We talked to him and said that we were not even sure that my brother was in the lake.  Richard assured us that my brother was absolutely in the lake.  You see, he told us; the Grandfathers spoke to him and told him so.  The rocks on the beach, the North, East, West and South, the Air, the land, the Lake…. everything spoke to Richard and told him so.  As he was speaking, like it was planned by a special FX team, orange lightening started to flash over the Saulteau reservations…. but there were no clouds.  Richard immediately said that the lightening was the Grandfathers speaking.  They were not happy that my brother was in their lake.  Richard told us that the Grandfathers would not release my brother from the lake until the family went home.  Richard took my dad aside, and gave him a cigarette to use in a ceremony where the father was to offer the tobacco to the Grandfathers, asking them to release Kevin by sprinkling it in the lake.

As we were still two days away from our planned departure we stuck to the plan we had – keep searching. Richard said that he would come out with us on the Sunday morning to give us comfort as we did one last search.  On the Saturday night all the volunteers and family and searchers gathered at the lake.  We held a memorial service on the lake.  Everyone made floating lanterns that we set sail at sunset.  It was spiritual, moving, surreal but most of all it was comforting.

                                                           The lanterns float on Moberly Lake. Each one made personally by
                                                            a volunteer, friend,  family…by people who cared.

Sunday morning we went out as planned with Richard by our side. We searched for a few hours then it was all called off.  We went home without my brother.  We had no answers, no clue what happened, and still don't to this day. 

The next morning I was back at work. I received a call at 10:30 am.  My brother’s body had floated up.  It was spotted by two fishermen on the lake.  Richard was right. The Grandfathers knew, Richard knew, the members of the two Bands knew what we did not.  They knew he was there and they knew when he would be found.  The wind started again.

My dad arranged to have his body sent home and a few days later we held Kevin’s funeral.  I wrote an eight page eulogy.  As I walked up to read what I had written I looked over the crowd of people and took it all in.  There were around 250 people at his funeral.  I started off with something I had not pre written – “As I look around at all of you I think that Kevin never knew how many people’s lives he affected – nor did most people let him know that he affected them”.

This story is many things but one thing it is not is totally sad.  Here is why.  Kevin was lost trying to find himself.  As we collected his belonging from the lake before flying home we found a journal he kept every day he was there.  His final entry in the journal that he wrote the day before he went missing simply said

“ this is where I belong…this is where I shine”.

 

This is Akiva rock. It is on the dock facing the area where Kevin was found.
It was made in his memory by one of the volunteer searchers and friends.

 Most of us go our whole lives trying to find our place.  Kevin found his.  Find yours and don’t stop searching until you do.

This is my memorial tattoo that I have on my back. The top part is the letter Aleph – the first letter of Kevin’s Hebrew name Akiva. The bottom part is the Orca. The tattoo is my tribute to my brother, the members of the Saulteau and West Moberly Bands and to finding where each of us shines.

 

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