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  • Elizabeth Cornwall

After I woke up from my March 25 dream, I called my parents and brothers and asked them about their efforts to find Kerry over the past 25 years. I got his social security number and started trying to find out if he was receiving benefits (or maybe even paying into the system) or even if he was listed as deceased. I started a research notebook: a binder with lots of college-ruled, blank pages and unlabeled page dividers.

Every family has a secret, and Kerry was ours.

My dad, who lived in Boulder City, had seen a 2009 a newspaper picture of a man in a Las Vegas food line run by a man I later learned that the homeless called Tony Baloney for the love-filled bologna sandwiches he made from his own funds. My dad had tried to find this man with no luck. His resemblance to my brother was striking I tucked that information in the back of mind.

I continued my life as a working housewife — three hot meals on the table every day, attending my Master Gardeners class, taking my special needs son to his theatre class and job, and teaching embroidery to homeschooled girls. Except, that my day-to-day life soon became overwhelmed with the multiplication of phone calls and meticulous records of each and every one and using my project management skills to think through my next research move.

I started a Facebook page called "Find My Homeless Brother," a gmail of the same name and got on Twitter where homeless advocates bleed for me and my story and gave me endless suggestions.

Day by day, I grew more confident in my search — calm and sure despite the skepticism of many.

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  • Elizabeth Cornwall

It was Great Lent. I was reading all kinds of spiritual books and praying all kinds of prayers — practicing the Our Father in Greek comes to mind. I had one foot in the Roman Catholic camp and the other in the Orthodox Christian one. I was reading about Mother Teresa seeing the face of Christ in the distressing face of the poor and the homeless. I was reading the biography of St. Mary of Egypt who roamed the desert: homeless in search of something ineffable. I was standing in the unveiled presence of God praying, in part, "Heal me, O Lord, from the pain caused by the death of my loved ones, which is oppressing me. Grant me to regain peace and joy in the knowledge that You are the Resurrection and the Life. Make me an authentic witness to Your Resurrection, Your victory over sin and death, Your living presence among us. Amen."

On March 25, I woke up with the most astonishing dream that had me in its grip for almost five months and beyond. I dreamt that my brother Kerry, who at that time no one had heard from or seen for 25 years, was telling me that he was alive! He told me he was staying sane by working a puzzle. He told me he was coming home. I woke up and asked how can I help my long lost brother find his way back?

Little did I know that angels had appeared across America with tidings — I was in Florida and they showed up in the Pacific Northwest. Tidings that would eventually solve a 25-year-old cold case. That many people would pay a part in this dream come to life. That I would come face to face with the distressing face of Christ in the poor and homeless. That I hoped to find my brother wandering in the desert like St. Mary of Egypt, only this time in the wasted desert of north Las Vegas where every morning the passed-out bodies of men and women dressed in rags and near to nakedness (like St. Mary) may be found.

I started making calls, I started a research notebook. And I picked out an embroidery pattern to occupy my hands when my heart and my mind were distressed.

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  • Elizabeth Cornwall

When I was in graduate school and trying to translate the 14th century letters of Giovanni Colombini, I drank a lot of Suisse Mocha. This was back in the 1980s so I'd like to say I was an early coffee snob but my ever-increasing consumption was mostly a form of avoidance of the difference between 14th century Italian word usage and modern-day. I wish I had had the embroidery habit to keep my hands busy because I gained weight on a day-long diet of this sugary drink.

But the important thing to know about Giovanni Colombini is that he ministered to a lot of homeless people and people deeply affected by the Black Plague. One half to one third of Italians died then. It had an all-consuming effect on the survivors. He was the proverbial rich young many who gave away everything.

My brother Kerry was an early supporter of my historical studies and everything I did, despite the fact that it was so different from my family's expectations and cultural experiences. There I was, slurping copious amounts of Suisse Mocha and reading scholarly articles in French, German, and Italian and all certain people could say was, "You'll never make a living with a master's degree in history."

After my brother went missing and in the years and decades following, I developed a certain fondness for the homeless, hoping upon hope that Kerry was homeless and not dead and simply choosing to stay away. I understood the need the stay away, as well but not from the homeless. I imagined someone somewhere else was serving my brother like I was doing. So I drank a lot of International Coffee and served the poor when I could.

During these times of plague and stockpiling, don't forget to buy bottled water and easily bagged food and give it to homeless because they can't stockpile. They can't horde toilet paper. They are someone else's brother but really they all are our brothers and sisters.

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