Several weeks ago I posted this story on "a separated son" about a woman who has bought some of my art. After a bit of a relationship developed, she told me the horrifying story of her son who went missing on his 23rd birthday in the year 2000. Here's a tribute letter she wrote to be read publicly at her church in Florida: A tribute to Joshua a remembrance of the last conversation I was to have with my child...a reminder of his faith in Christ a reminder of my hope in Christ...The truth of the Season of Easter...for us all... "My son... my son, your life was a precious gift. I must have thought you were immortal - if I ever thought at all - For I never, ever considered that you might leave us. Now you have taught me to revere life. I see that it is fragile and precious that it can disappear in an instant. What a treasury of lessons your leaving has uncovered. Would that I never forget - and if I do, because I am human... let my scarred heart remind me with pangs of missing you." Iris Bolton On Josh's 23rd birthday, November 4, 2000, he went to the beach, kicked off his shoes and walked away into the night. He has never been seen or heard from again. But in his going, I was to discover the gift Joshua left behind for me.... In the weeks that followed his disappearance, I would go to that place Ed had found his empty shoes and follow what I imagined were his footprints down the beach. They led me to the foot of the cross. Where else could I go but to the Living God when a disaster so cruel had torn my world apart? An entire nation flocked there in the wake of 9-11. I, as a broken woman, threw myself down there two years ago, and it's there I have remained. And this is how it happened. November 3, 2000 was a brilliant fall day. The weather was still warm, but I remember the feel of the late afternoon wind on my face as Josh and I drove home in the car. He was telling his little nephew Trace all about how it was going to be when he taught him how to fish, when he suddenly turned to me out of the blue and asked if I remembered the two thieves crucified next to Jesus on Calvary. I still remember the moment... can see the expression on Josh's face... can see in my mind the color of that blue sky out the window next to Joshua's face... It is a moment frozen in time in my memory-it has played over and over again in my heart as the last conversation I would have with my son. In Luke 23:40, one of the criminals crucified next to Jesus on Calvary, turned to Jesus and asked Him to remember him when Jesus came to His kingdom. And Jesus said, "I assure you today you will be with me in paradise". The following night Josh did not come home from work. I have never seen him again. There is a song that says "I believe what I believe... it's what makes me what I am" but I was about to find out the truth about what I was... the hard way... because I cried out "No... no... God. Not OUR son..." And I struggled with the not knowing...the praying without the answer I sought... the nitty-gritty about my faith... would I believe even if the answer remained a mystery? And I would hear Josh ask me that question again and again as God began to smooth out the rough places in my broken heart In paradise...my son could be with Jesus in paradise... I also now understand the term "sacrifice of praise". I don't want my son gone. I long to know for sure if he is dead or alive... However, the one thing I do know for sure is that I serve a God who is so good, that he assures us all of eternal life through the death and resurrection of His only son... God has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes and He promises that in eternity there will be no more mourning or crying or pain. On this earth, I still cry... I am not through mourning my son yet... nor will I ever be as long as I am on this earth... but God has let the darkness of my loss lighten just enough that I can recognize that my son is either now, or will be, forever in eternity with Christ... just like the thief who died beside Jesus that day so long, long ago. I do praise the name of Jesus. I praise him for my extraordinary son, Joshua... and for His extraordinary Son, Jesus. Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil." These words are filled with hope... for when we face dark, difficult, discouraging and even despairing moments on our journey through life, God is always there to hold us up and get us through... I honestly cannot imagine a darker, more despairing moment to survive than the loss of a child... yet especially here, God has been faithful to hold us tightly while we grieved ... while we fought to accept the reality of it all...He has never left us alone... and I know He never will. As well, I am convinced that Joshua is in His arms right now... whether on this earth or home in Heaven... and until we meet again, God Himself is watching over my precious son. Through that indestructible Spiritual cord, we are connected for all eternity.