I've just been through a couple of pretty emotional days. On Friday, I got out of work early, so my mother and I headed for the area where Mark's body was found to place a balsam spray in the water. We are not familiar with that area, and, when we got to the parking lot, we were dismayed to discover that we would have to hike a 1.1 mile trail. After some deliberation, we decided to go for it.
What a trail. It twisted this way and that; it crossed streams and a seemingly endless, overgrown meadow; it went uphill and down. We climbed and slipped and huffed and puffed. We left skid marks in the muddy mess. My suede boots are ruined, and my pants were covered with mud up to the knees. It was really something.
When we reached the end of the trail, my heart sank. Instead of leading to the river, the trail brought us to a scenic overlook. It is a pretty spot, with two coves, an intertidal marsh, mudflats, and the mouths of two tributary streams, but we weren't there to enjoy the scenery. Having to turn around and face that 1.1 mile hike back to the parking lot was extra difficult because I was now carrying the burden of my disappointment.
Because of the conditions of the trail, the round trip took an hour and a half. My back wasn't very happy about that unexpected hiking expedition, and neither was my psyche. Once again, I found myself feeling defeated.
We ended up going to the area where Mark's duck blind was located. My mother and I walked along the railroad tracks, trying to find a good spot to drop the balsam spray. We didn't want to just toss it in the river, because the current would take it in the opposite direction from where we wanted it to be. We stopped at a little cove-like spot, and I noticed that a couple of rocks were positioned in a way that would hold the balsam spray in place in the water (for a while, at least) if only I could manage to drop it between them.
I did it! My mother grabbed me in a hug, and we cheered. At last something had gone right.
Yesterday, Michele, my mother and I went to Patti's to bake cookies. The main reason Patti had organized this activity was so we could get together with Mark's fiancée and her daughter, but, at literally the last minute, Tamica called to say they were unable to make it because she was sick. The rest of us had a good time, anyway. Patti has a lovely, warm and inviting home, and her homemade Bailey's-style Irish Cream helped to take the edge off life.
Things got rough when Patti brought out the stuff she had collected from the Sheriffs Departments. Mark's jacket, in particular, had quite an effect on me. I held it in my arms and cried, wishing I was hugging my brother instead of his empty jacket.
Later that evening, I read the copy of the police report Patti had given me. It was a very painful experience, and caused me to break down again. These are the excerpts that got to me the most:
"10/21/06…this agency was contacted for a possible water emergency. At 10:35 AM, Larry S located Mr. P's jacket in the water about ¼ mile south of the blind. His hunting tag with his name was on the back of the jacket. One sleeve was turned inside out as if P (Mark's last name) may have tried to take it off while in the water."
"On 11/15/06 while on patrol in the east channel I found P (Mark's last name) approx 3 miles south of his blind on the west side of the east channel approx ½ mile north of […]. The body was recovered from the water and put into a stokes basket from the coast guard and then relayed to […]."
"On 11/15/06, I was notified by Sgt. A that Deputy S had located a body in the Hudson believed to be that of this missing hunter, Mark P…. I responded to the Coast Guard Station… The body was on one of the Coast Guard vessels and was covered in a blue tarp. I photographed the body covered and uncovered, and Sgt. B called the ME's office and spoke to the ME (Medical Examiner). It was determined that the ME was not going to respond to the location, and […] funeral parlor responded to claim the body."
That's my BROTHER they’re talking about. It hurts so much to imagine what he must have gone through, and it hurts so much to go on without him.
I love you, Mark. Merry Christmas.