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Today, I turned on my computer and this popped up on my desktop— unbidden by me— my brother's Las Vegas Missing Person's report and his identification number. This is 7 years after my great labours to secure both. It just happened on a new computer where I had never opened up this contact file.

You don't get a missing persons report 25 years after someone goes missing without a great deal of sweat and toil. I still have the big binder with all the research but seeing this was like going around north Las Vegas all over again following the police homeless liaison, Officer Mary, and a few other cop cars, and seeing all the passed out bodies, the untold human waste, literally littering street after street. They were happy to take me around in the early hours because they said it was unusual for someone to look for a homeless brother.

I had to secure the missing person's report in order to have my DNA uploaded into the database. And to get the missing person's report, I had to go to Las Vegas. A place I do not prefer.

For the uninitiated, and face it, most of us want to be, this is a national database of John and Jane Does buried in unmarked, unsung, usually paupers' graves. I really believed I was going to find my brother alive but homeless after 25 years but I had stumbled on this website and a former cop from the town were I was living, me in Lakeland and her on a great Northwest prairie.

That I ever consented to give my DNA in the first place was how smart this former Lakeland cop and then administrator truly is. When I began my search for my brother, a Las Vegas coroner told me to look at this website after gingerly bringing up paupers graves to me. So, I noodled around and found a 6'2" man who was apparently buff but who did not have a head included in his grave. Intrigued, I emailed and got Janet, the solver of a famous Lakeland cold case.

She called me. We chatted. She told me I needed a missing person's police report. She kept in touch with me over a two month period while I did my research, speed dialled every agency there is, and generally neglected my other jobs. Right when I was about to leave for Vegas, she called me. She asked if she could send a police technician to my home and take a swab. I was distracted-busy but said yes because by that time, Janet had become my "friend." sending me a book or two from Amazon, giving me advice, and chatting about what was then my new town, the lovely, the charming Lakeland, Florida.

So, there it is. The facts that hit you on any random Tuesday, years later. He was such a cute kid and his purity of heart is there. It's a light that never goes out.

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  • Elizabeth Cornwall

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Decades and decades ago, my four brothers were at home waiting for our mother to give birth. The eldest brother was everything an eldest brother should be: responsible, smart, in charge, and a leader. He was always handsome and very successful.

When our dad came home from the hospital with a picture of me, this archetypal eldest brother took that picture and went door to door in our north Dallas neighborhood — he would turn out to be the consummate sales and public relations guy — and said, "Look what I got for my birthday!"

Born on his birthday, my mother started and finished childbearing on the same day. She'd joke that he was the alpha, and I was the omega. Indeed, we had more in common than even I had with Kerry, and he adored me and flashed my pictures around for decades thereafter. Kerry was characteristically tight-lipped and held his cards under his particular hair shirt.

The day the eldest brother died held great meaning as well. I mean the specific date: April 23rd. My brother was named for two very powerful saints, and one was St. George; I don't think my Protestant parents thought they were giving him saints names though.

I had a paper icon of St. George that I placed in his hospital room a year ago when he was dying of lung cancer; I also started reading the Psalms to him. After he was moved home, I placed that same paper icon in his bedroom as he received hourly morphine. I kept reading the Psalms.

When we were all gathered around his bed after he had passed away, his son let out with a loud "What is today? Is it St. George's Day?" He was referencing how Brits refer to April 23rd, a day that once held great religious significance just like St. David's day, but is now mostly a secular national holiday.

I said yes, walked around my brother's body, and got the paper icon and gave it him, my brother's unbelieving only child and son. I prayed the Psalms until they removed his body, going down the stairs and into the funeral home vehicle. I'll never forget the long, slow and highly meaningful look the youngest worker gave me.

If it needs spelling out, it was a blessing that my brother died on St. George's feastday.

Saint George, pray for us!

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  • Elizabeth Cornwall

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

When I was curious schoolgirl, I used to open my mother's dresser drawers and filing cabinets and have an old fashioned look-see. Once, I came upon a black and white photograph of men in white sheets and pointy white hats. Later, I came upon an obituary whereupon Hugo Black was an honorary pallbearer of a direct ancestor. Later, I learned he was not only a senator and Supreme Court justice but had espoused anti-Catholic views and was a member of the KKK.

My brothers and I grew up in Birmingham during the integration of schools in the late 1960s. We lived the burden of Southern history and especially in regards to race in Bomb-ingham. My grandfather's unholy trinity was to rant against "Catholics, n- - - ers, and Jews. I learned to abhor that from a young age and was never more confirmed in this than when a Chinese family moved in across the street, and I spent a lot of time teaching the young ones English when I was in the fourth grade. My grandfather had plenty to say about that and about them.

You're a prisoner of history until you aren't. Somehow, I escaped by studying French in high school and thus learning about eye-opening European culture. I also studied world history at the feet of a lady who was a world traveller. Mrs. Mann shared her slides with us so that the Roman forum, the Greek Parthenon, and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul came alive. From that point, I was hooked on history.

By the time I made it to college, I asked my German teacher what classes I should take to broaden my horizons, Dr. Black suggested art history. And so I sat in a darkened room with a Jewish art history professor who opened up the biblical scenes of classical, medieval, Renaissance, and early modern art far more than sitting in a Presbyterian church every Sunday ever could. Suddenly, I found something that I was very good at — training my God-gifted ability to see and write about what I saw.

When we were given the choice of five architecturally significant buildings to visit, to research, and to write about. I chose St. Paul's Roman Catholic Cathedral. I stayed for services. I took instruction from the priest, and then I "poped." I left behind the anti-intellectualism, provincialism, and racism of Birmingham. I was no longer a prisoner of my history. But it meant that I was an outlier with my family and with most of the people I grew up with as Alabama has only ever had between 3 – 5 % Catholics.

If you must be an outlier, then escape the circumstances in which you were born by following the innate gifts that God has given you, ask other people for advice, and strike out on your own in just three easy steps.

I joined my brother in my new outlier status at the tender age of 19. What I did decades later would seal that status. I had my dream about Kerry when I had one foot in one world and the other in a world that I would have never guessed that I would discover.

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