Dear Dan

Dear Dan,

I can’t believe it’s been a year.

One year since the day we stayed up late and awoken early from sleep in anticipation of the call we were waiting for from S. Lake Tahoe police – that you were found safe and sound, partying with strangers on your way to your own campsite. But we never heard those words.

Instead, we were told by the sheriff that he and search parties will commence their work trying to find you as soon as daylight broke and the fog has lifted from the waters.

The following day, even when two crisply dressed coast guard officers in uniform with stern faces knocked on our door, along with the S. Lake Tahoe sheriff on a tiny speakerphone, to tell us with organized PowerPoint documents – where they looked and focused their search in the vast ocean-like Lake, the flight routes and patterns taken by the airplane and helicopters, the sonar sweeps on multiple boats, pointing to maps as they talked, indicating with pictures of the equipment used, where other sheriff jurisdictions and volunteers on foot looked combing the entire area of the lake and then shortly after ending the conversation – that they didn’t find you, that they will end their search to keep their own men safe, that “they have done everything they could and that they’re sorry”, we still didn’t understand what they were trying to tell us. Our ears refused to hear those words. Our minds couldn’t comprehend why they were ending their search; it has been less than 24 hours. Our hearts were not ready for the pain to set in, to believe it was all true.

You were missing and, likely, forever gone.

I can’t believe it’s already been a year. Your goofiness and “que sera sera” approach to life is a lesson and a constant reminder as I pick up the pieces you left behind and try to make whole of them – knowing that the puzzle will never be complete.

Your smile, the twinkle in your eyes, and the cherished memories we shared, the trips, the adventures, the parties, the constant get togethers for no reason, the talks, the quiet moments, are forever etched deeply in our hearts.

Sometimes it feels like you’re still around because you are alive in my thoughts and I take you with me everywhere I go. I still see you. I talk with you in my dreams. I hug you. It’s all very real. Then I look at the picture and earthly reality sets in – you are not here. And I’ve acquired a young boy, overnight, like a new pet.

I know that your soul has departed to a better place. One year later, today, hideously reminds us of your absence, of the pain and struggles we have experienced since the day you left. Today brings us back to the reality that we will never joke with you, see your smile and hear your voice again. The beautifully etched memories of you burned a hole right through us. A big piece of us is gone. It can never be filled. Time will never heal us. Not in this lifetime.

We love you and miss you so much, Dan.

Why did you have to go?

In memory,

Dan Vu Pham

3/2/1975 – 6/8/2017