Chapter 84: Searching
“Rob, I can’t just sit by any longer and not know what happened with Merri. I think we need to go look for her ourselves. What do you think? The girls are off to University and it’s just the two of us. We should do it.”, I say.
“I don’t know, how will we find them if the professionals haven’t had any luck? It’s been years. Maybe it’s time to just give up, maybe she’s gone.”, Rob says cautiously. “NO! I’ll never give up. You can’t give up either. We support each other no matter what. “, I say shocked that he would even think such a thing.
“Of course I support you, Merrilee. We’ll go, but you have to promise that if we don’t have any luck, you will accept the fact that Merri is gone.”, he says quietly as he puts his arms around me. “Okay, I agree. I have a good feeling though, it’s like I’m being pulled out to the sea by some invisible force. Let’s make arrangements as soon as we can. We can get Lauren to watch the house, the boys are married and in their own homes and the girls are at College.”, I say excitedly.
Later that day, Rob and I go shopping. We are on the lookout for a large house boat. We have more money than we know what to do with, so money is no object. We will have it delivered to the general area where the plane was last known to have contact. Houseboat shopping is fun, even more fun than shopping for a regular house.
We want one with plenty of room, in case… when we find Merri, there are other survivors with her. I pray that she hasn’t been alone all this time. We look at several and find one that has enough room for 8-9 people. Below deck there are bunks that can hold 6 and it has 2 bedrooms on the upper decks with double beds in each.
A large, open kitchen with all top of the line appliances. It also has a large family area, with games, books, and satellite television.
Rob meets with the Coast Guard and they plan out our trip, we will be in contact with them at all times and we can arrange for fresh supplies to be airlifted to our boat.
Several weeks pass and we finally get the go ahead for our trip. We have all the supplies and have made all arrangements. We have a huge party, inviting all the family over to celebrate Merri’s life and her soon to be rescue. Maci Jo and Manda Beth are at University and couldn’t get away due to studying for finals, but the rest of them came. Mason met his wife when he went to University, Ashley, as did Mason, his fiance Olga has recently moved to Lucky Palms, their wedding is scheduled to take place as soon as we get back. As I look around the house at all the beautiful faces, I’m overjoyed to know that soon our family will be complete and Merri will be home. I just know it.
We fly to a small island close to the location of the last transmission from Merri’s plane. I look around and see nothing but water and small islands. Rob has planned that we will be gone for about 6 months. I just hope that is long enough to find her. We board the boat and I take a look around making sure we have everything that we need.
Rob takes the wheel and we are off. I stand at the front of the boat and watch the small island disappear. All the next day, we see nothing but water.
Finally, close to dusk, we see some land of to the west. Our first stop will have to wait until morning. We don’t want to explore the island in the dark. Chances are that this isn’t the island that Merri is on, but we are going to check every island that we run across. Rob let me know that the rescue company did not get out and search each island individually, which really hurt me. As much as they were paid, they still cut corners. Our daughter could have been found if they had done all this themselves. I could barely fall asleep, I couldn’t wait to set my feet on the sand of that beach and look around. I still felt that pull, it seems stronger, so I feel like we are heading in the right direction.
Morning breaks, Rob and I hop in the little dingy and head to the island. It’s much smaller than I thought last night and I don’t have much hope that anyone is here.
Rob pulls the boat up on the beach and takes my hand. It’s a beautiful little island, with clear blue waters and white sandy beach. we search the island and end up finding nothing. No sign of life at all on this island. I’ll not feel sad though, it’s the first step in finding Merri.
We head back to the dingy and get back on the houseboat. Rob starts the boat up and heads to our next destination. It takes 2 days to get there and much to my dismay it’s obvious no one is there before we even get out fo the boat, it’s small and rocky and covered in jungle trees. There is no way anyone could survive on that small rock. We drive past the rocky island and look as close as we can, we can’t even see a way to get the dingy close. So, we move on.
The next several weeks pass this way. Several beautiful islands, but no people on them. We’ve seen wild animals and plenty of fish but none of the islands have Merri on them. I’m trying not to get discouraged though. I still feel like we are heading in the right direction.
Several more weeks pass, we are now in month 3 of our journey. We’ve had supplies flown in recently, so we are set for the second half of our trip. I am sitting on the deck relaxing in a deck chair when suddenly I feel my heart start to race. I feel short of breath, “Rob! Rob… I feel something.. I think something is wrong.”, I call to him.
Rob stops the boat and comes running. He brings me a cool drink, thinking I just overheated. “What is it, sweetheart? Are you ok?”, he asks. Finally my heart slows back down to normal, ” I think I’m ok. I’m not sure what that was.”, I say. I walk to the side of the boat and see the next island we are to explore. My heart starts to race again.
“Rob, I think this one is it. I have a feeling inside that Merri is close. I can feel her!”. Rob looks around and “I’ll try to circle the island, maybe we can see something more on the other side.”, he says quickly. I stand at the deck rail and keep watch. Rob slowly guides the boat closer and around the tip of the island. That’s when I see it. “ROB!”, I scream. “LOOK!”, I point to the beach. There are people playing on the beach, several people in fact.
He takes the boat even closer and we can tell the people on the beach are waving their hands toward us. Tears stream down my face, “I just know we have found her.”, I say. “I don’t see her though, I see a bunch of people. They are probably just on vacation or something. Try not to get your hopes up so high, Merrilee.”, he tries to calm me down. “Are you kidding? Vacationing out here in the middle of no where?”, I ask. As we make our way closer, I can see even more people have joined the original four people. There are now at least 5 adults and several children. I wave my hand at them. They all jump up and down and hug each other. I’m crying and laughing as I scan the beach. I don’t see Merri, but we have found someone.
We are close now, we transfer to the dingy and head to the beach. I look at each face, none of them are Merri. My eyes stop on one little face though. A child about 5 or 6, it’s Merri, or exactly what Merri looked like at that age. I grab Rob’s arm, “Rob, look at that child in the yellow. It’s Merri! Look at that face!”, I yell. Rob nods his head in disbelief, “It can’t be Merri!”, he says. “No, but it could be Merri’s child!”, I exclaim. Rob still doesn’t want to get his hopes up, I think he had almost given up on Merri and is just here to help me move on, but I know that she is here. That is Merri’s child. I would recognize my own grandchild anywhere!