October 24, 2013

Daniel's Obituary

My brother's funeral will be this Saturday. I wanted to post the obituary here for people who I'm not friends with on Facebook.

My dad asked me to write it. I was a little intimidated about doing Daniel justice, and I'm sure I didn't, but you can never really do a whole life justice in one obituary. I'll also be doing Daniel's life sketch at the funeral (got to figure that out still!).

Daniel James Swindler was born on April 3, 1975 to James and Marjorie Ricks Swindler. Very early in Daniel's life, his parents realized he had an exceptional mind. He had no shortage of energy and talent, which drove him to excel at skiing, karate, art, and academics. Throughout his life, he lived for learning and discovery; he sought enlightenment and truth from many sources. Daniel was loving and nurturing to his seven younger brothers and sisters, and he frequently expressed his love and appreciation to them.

As Daniel matured, he gradually experienced a change in his temperament and abilities. That which had previously been so effortless to him became a struggle. Friendships became harder for him to maintain, but he loved those around him as much as ever. While attending Alta High School, he ran Cross Country and had a passion and talent for athletics. He persevered and overcame many of his hardships, managing to graduate in 1993 with high grades despite the adversity he faced.

Daniel served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Managua, Nicaragua from 1994 to 1996. Though challenging for him in many ways, he served the Lord honorably and enthusiastically. After returning home, he continued to live with devotion and a strong eagerness to serve. Daniel studied the scriptures until the teachings became an inseparable part of his character. He loved to visit LDS temples, and was often found serving in the temple the entire day.

After his mission, Daniel's challenges only increased. He was diagnosed with bipolar, and later schizoaffective disorder--a huge obstacle for someone who had started life with such an incredible mind. His continued optimism and hard work enabled him to graduate with a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University in Latin American Studies in 1999. He had several jobs over the years, but his interests were primarily devoted to God, learning, and exploring the outdoors.

Daniel was no stranger to suffering. He fought an intense mental illness that most of us could barely imagine. He spent much of his life trying to make sense of the world and endure his trials. He was never able to marry and have a family, which he wanted more than anything. Despite all of this, Daniel continued to fight for his happiness. He was blessed with an unusually strong amount of hope and faith, and he never let go of either.

In August of 2010, Daniel stopped by to visit his grandmother. This was the last time he was seen by his family. No word came from him after that, and his family feared the worst. Almost three years went by with no news, but through a miraculous turn of events, his family discovered that he had passed away in South Carolina in October of 2010 while hiking in the outdoors that he enjoyed so much.

Daniel will be greatly missed by his parents, siblings, and in-laws: James and Nancy Swindler, Joseph and Ashley Swindler, Michelle Swindler and Tyler Jones, Stephanie Swindler and Stephen Wells, Lisa Swindler and Jared Campbell, Jamie Swindler and Nicholas Wahlin, Jennifer Swindler, and Matthew Swindler.

As grateful as we are to receive closure, our hearts grieve for Daniel and we miss him. We find comfort in the assurance that he has been reunited with his mother and other beloved family members. We look forward with joy and excitement to the day we will meet Daniel in his whole and perfect form.

Funeral services will be held for Daniel Swindler at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 26th, at 4300 North Canyon Road, Provo, Utah. Guests are welcome to arrive at 10:00 a.m. to greet the family.

(The official obituary and the guestbook can be found here.)

October 4, 2013

My Brother's Story in the News

First of all, I have to say thank you to everyone for all the kind comments, emails, calls, hugs, everything! We have all felt grateful to so many people, including plenty we don't even know, who have sent their condolences or let us know that Daniel's story has touched them in some way. I've gotten messages from several people in South Carolina who followed along with the story in the news and I'm really impressed with the kindness they've shown to us.

This may be the last photo taken of Daniel.

Some local Utah news stations and some in South Carolina have interviewed us and featured Daniel's story. Here are a few of them.


KSL: Search for missing Utah man ends in South Carolina
This is a video interview we did with me, my brother Joseph, and my sister Stephanie. You can see my sister Jamie and sister-in-law Ashley briefly too. I am definitely not a fan of being on camera, but it wasn't quite as bad as I imagined it would be. It helped a lot that Ashley Kewish, the interviewer, was as sweet as can be. (Funny story: when she arrived at my brother's house for the interview, my sister Jamie said, "Oh, you look familiar. Where do I know you from?" Ashley was like, "Well . . . I am on the news." Obviously. Cute li'l Jamie.)

KUTV: Lehi Family Finds Closure after Body is Identified
My brother Joseph and his wife Ashley did a video interview for this one.

Salt Lake Tribune: Missing Lehi man's body ID'd in South Carolina

Deseret News: Family solves mystery of Lehi man missing for 3 years (same as KSL article)

South Carolina:

The State: Sister's hunch solves riddle of Lake Murray body
WLTX: Utah Family IDs Missing Man From SLED Reconstruction

And a few from when the body was first found:

There are several other mini articles mentioning that Daniel Swindler's body was identified, but they don't really contain much story. My last blog post has the most information.

Thanks again to everyone who has written us kind messages! We really appreciate it. It helps alleviate some of the sadness we are feeling right now. We're planning on doing a funeral service on October 26th in Provo, Utah. Anyone who would like to come is welcome.

September 23, 2013

Finding Daniel

After nearly three years, the search for Daniel Swindler has come to an end. Our family was heartbroken when we recently learned that his body was found in South Carolina on October 20, 2010 and was never identified, until now. Daniel left Utah in August 2010 without any indication of where he was going, only telling his roommate, “I’m going to hit the road and see where life takes me.” 

Over the past few years, we’ve had very little luck and almost no help from the police or detectives we’ve contacted. When a 35-year-old leaves under apparently normal circumstances, the police consider him voluntarily missing. His privacy rights are of greater concern than his safety, even though Daniel had an extensive history of bipolar and schizoaffective disorder that made him potentially unsafe on his own. He was reported missing in Utah at the end of 2010, when we realized it was an abnormally long time for him to be away. He had previously been gone for three months at a time without contact with our family, and he had traveled to other states numerous times, so we were not immediately alarmed when we found out he had left. He had no phone, computer, car, social media accounts, and hardly ever checked his email; he made himself nearly impossible to locate. Up until three months ago, we couldn’t acquire his bank records, even with a lawyer for a dad. Basically, we were on our own.

I’ve always felt a personal responsibility to find my brother. All my siblings have put in their individual efforts to find him, such as calling mental hospitals, creating a Facebook page, and even calling people who share our last name due to Daniel’s interest in family history. In January 2011, one of my sisters was able to get into his email account and discover that he had made a reservation for the Extended Stay America Hotel in Columbia, South Carolina. He also hadn’t logged into his account in several months. She called the hotel and found out that he had checked in on August 19 and checked out sometime in October (but they wouldn’t tell us exactly when). This turned out to be the most important lead we had. We went forward with this information, my dad even hiring a private investigator who eventually got into Daniel’s bank account. He then reported that he had found Daniel at the same hotel we had already known about. The local government investigators could only tell us that Daniel’s name didn’t turn up on a national crime database. As time went on, we had fewer and fewer options, so we started to believe that we’d never know what happened to Daniel. We knew he had been trying to acquire a visa, so we figured he could be absolutely anywhere. In fact, my dad discovered through his bank records that the last transaction in Daniel’s account was a purchase of an Amtrak ticket to Riverside, California. This directed his attention there, and he considered every city along the train’s path to Riverside as well. He called Amtrak to find out if he used the ticket, but they wouldn’t tell (privacy issues once again). Even when he had the police call, they said it would take months for them to find out if he took the train. Another dead end.

But then, on September 13th, I was lying in bed and suddenly had a thought: I need to look up unidentified bodies in South Carolina. I had searched for this before, and so had other family members, so I was skeptical about doing it again, especially right then. I tried to dismiss the thought because it was 11:30 and I wanted to sleep. I figured I’d do it in the morning, but the urge to do it right then was strong. I finally gave in and climbed back out of bed.

One google search. One clicked link. Although I had been to this website before, I found what I was looking for this time: White Male. Lexington County, SC. October 10, 2010. And then I found myself saying, “No, no, no” when I saw the thumbnail image of the 3D face rendering. I couldn’t click fast enough.

The 3D model wasn’t a perfect representation. The hairline was too low, the hair too long, the nose too big, the chin too far forward, the earlobes too detached, etc. But there was a resemblance. The identifying information had flaws too. The height was off by six inches and the hair color was listed as blonde. Despite all this, I was becoming more and more sure that this was Daniel. I read that the body was found in a badly decomposed condition and figured that could explain the discrepancies. I decided to compare the location of the hotel Daniel checked out of around that time to where the body was found, the Dreher Shoals Dam spillway. They were only 10 miles apart, and along the same river. Too close to be a coincidence.

And then there were the clothes. I didn’t immediately recognize them, but I could imagine Daniel wearing them. He didn’t usually wear shorts, but these obviously used to be pants and were torn. The backpack and shoes seemed familiar.

Then I went to the Find Daniel page on Facebook and found this picture:

When I saw the belt, I knew. There was no question in my mind that this was Daniel. I called the number on the website right at that moment, even though it was 12:00 a.m. by then, even later in South Carolina, and I didn’t expect anyone to answer. I barely finished leaving my message before I started sobbing. I had found Daniel. I couldn’t believe that I had actually found Daniel—and that he had been dead for almost three years. At that time, I was too worked up to notice the fact that the very same red backpack was in the picture.

After searching for every news article and shred of information I could find, it was about 1:30 a.m. I wished I could call my family right then, but I knew it would keep them up all night. I went in and woke up Jared, but I could barely speak because the tears wouldn’t let me. “It’s about Daniel,” was all I managed to get out for a minute. I grabbed my iPad and showed him. We didn’t end up sleeping much that night. The flow from my eyes wouldn’t stop. My mind was racing. My heart hurt. I knew I’d have to tell everyone, and that my family would all have to feel what I was feeling. The evidence, the articles, the pictures, and my imagination haunted me all night.

By 7:30, I was completely unable to stay in bed any longer, even though I’d only slept a couple hours. I wanted to call everyone, but with all my family to tell, I decided to send an email with everything I had discovered. I called my dad, who told me he had seen that same unidentified male profile on the SLED website a few days earlier, but had dismissed it because of the inaccuracies. My siblings and I had searched for this same information and been to the right websites, but Daniel’s case wasn’t yet posted back when we had looked. I called several different phone numbers to desperately try to get in contact with an investigator or coroner in Lexington County. Since it was Saturday, the only answer was at the sheriff’s office, but he didn’t know anything about the case. He tried all day to get in touch with someone for me to talk to, but no one called back. The day was unbearably long.

My family sent over 200 messages back and forth to each other on Saturday. We got together later in the evening to review the evidence, share memories of Daniel, and, of course, to cry. Even without solid forensic proof, all of us knew that we had found Daniel.

A helicopter retrieving the body (source)

After a long weekend of waiting with no progress, I finally talked to the crime scene investigator and coroner who had dealt with the case back in 2010. They told me a few extra details about the body and what he was carrying, but they had no conclusive evidence about what had happened to him. We have made some assumptions based on what we know. Daniel’s body was found in a wilderness area near a lake and river. There were no signs of foul play or obvious injury. By viewing his bank records, we know that his last purchase was on October 4, and according to his transaction history, he had been eating and had not run out of money. He had been staying in a hotel, and we don’t know for sure because the hotel has no record of the information, but we suspect he might have left his belongings and wallet there. It appears likely that he was simply out hiking and enjoying nature, which was a great source of peace to him. He was in a rugged area with large boulders, and was partially submerged in water, so accidental injury or drowning is the most likely scenario.

We were left to our speculations and suspicions for several more days until the dental records could be sent from the dentist in Utah and reviewed by the forensic pathologist. While waiting, we had agreed not to spread the news until we knew 100% that the dental records were a match. Just today, the coroner called and confirmed that the body they found was indeed Daniel Swindler. For those of you who cared for Daniel and didn’t find out sooner or in a more personal way, I’m sorry. Please understand that we’ve been trying to handle this the best way we know how.
Daniel had a hard life, with struggles most of us can hardly imagine. He was loved, but he valued both freedom and privacy, so he distanced himself from his family and friends when he was going through his hardest times. He didn’t like being on medication because it stifled his energy and natural joy. When he was taking it, he was able to appear normal and be more consistent in his everyday life, but the side effects were usually too much for him. He loved deeply and with all his heart, despite his paranoias and fears of the world around him. We will always value these lines from a letter he sent to my sister several years ago during a time of exceptional clarity:

“I love you Steph. I always have. A mountainous illness hit me when you were seven. You probably don’t remember the Daniel who helped teach you to walk, and who played with you for hours. You may not remember the Daniel who had awesome relationships (nothing very serious :)) with girls who I almost considered girlfriends. You probably don’t remember the Daniel with perfect mental and physical health, or even Daniel, plain Daniel!”

As much as we are hurting for his loss, we know that Daniel has been freed from his suffering. We know that one day we will get to know Daniel, plain Daniel, without his heavy burden of mental illness. Just as I was certain I had found Daniel before I had solid proof, I am certain his spirit lives on. I realize not everyone reading this shares this beliefand that’s okaybut I am sure. The evidence I’ve seen is too strong to deny.

Thank you for your love and support during this difficult time. I realize there will be questions, but we do not have all the answers. It wasn’t easy to acquire the information to find him, and it may not be easy, or even possible, to find out what exactly happened to him. We wish we could have kept him more closely supervised, but he was strong-willed and determined to be independent; he was going to travel the world whether or not we supported it. In hindsight, I wish we had done some things differently, but ultimately, I do not believe we could have changed the outcome.

We’re incredibly grateful for the police and investigators who put in so much time and effort to discover the identity of his body. It feels like a miracle that two fishermen discovered the body before it was washed away by the river, or destroyed, and all evidence lost. We’re simultaneously broken-hearted and grateful that things turned out this way. If we had never discovered what happened to Daniel, we would have gone our whole lives wondering and never being able to properly grieve for him. Now we can rest knowing he is free, but we will miss him always.

If we find out any additional significant information, or news of a funeral service, I will post it on this blog. Thank you again for your love and concern.

September 12, 2013

Jute Rope Wrapped Ikea Lamps DIY

Almost every idea I have for my home is opposed by my husband when I first mention it. It's not that he isn't a nice guy; it's just in his blood. Jared (along with his dad, and probably his brothers) just doesn't care for change. In fact, Ivy has started to repeat things he says, like "Mommy, how come you always want to change everything?" 

However, once I actually go ahead and bring the idea to life, he almost always loves it too. Except . . .

 . . . these yellow lamps. He hated them to begin with and I realized he always will. And even I had to agree that they were probably a bit too "modern industrial" for our house (although I love that look in other people's spaces). Also, they kind of disappeared against the wall, drawing too much attention the shades themselves. I looked around for other lamps and couldn't bring myself to spend the money, so I decided I'd try to work with them.

I'd seen several DIY rope lamps around and thought that could be a good option. Most of them are a solid frame with jute rope or twine glued around them, but I saw a few from retailers that clearly started out with a wire frame similar to my lamps.

Bimini pendant from Anthropologie
Mini jute pendant from Horchow

Rope wrapped lamp base from Target

I got two packages of jute rope from Hobby Lobby for about $3 each.

I snuck a wooden block from my kids and used that to wrap the rope around in segments. Every time I started or ended a piece of rope, I just tied it so the knot was facing the inside of the lamp.

I'm not gonna lie. This was teeeedious. It took a lot longer than I expected, but luckily, it was easy and pretty mindless. Just make sure you have something to entertain you or you will suffer certain death--okay, boredom, but that might actually be worse.

I alternated whether the rope was over or under the frame in a few parts, as you can see in the pictures. I think this helped break it up a little and was more interesting than all one way.

Here's the shot of both lamps before:

And now:

Verdict: Jared doesn't hate them anymore. I'm still not sure he loves them, but he hasn't complained since I did this, so that's progress. It was nice to only spend about $6 to completely make over two lamps that were only $25 each in the first place, including the shades.

Do you prefer the before or after? (If the answer is neither, that's okay too). And I realize that most people would style the space between the lamps with accessories, but I guess that's where my desire for minimalism comes in. I'm constantly trying to balance style with practicality, and I try not to have too much of anything, especially if it isn't useful.

August 28, 2013

How to Make a La-Z-Boy Recliner Less Ugly: Part 3

(Part 1 here, Part 2 here)

The finale of any upholstery project is always the most satisfying part. Actually, I guess the end result of any project is usually the best part, so I suppose that's a really obvious statement. But still true.

So, I left off yesterday with the cushion being the last part to do. Here's what it looked like sans fabric, next to a cute little drawing on the floor. This is the one part of reupholstering this recliner that I couldn't avoid sewing. Not that I'm afraid of sewing exactly, but it just slows me down a lot when I have to stop and do it. And maybe I am a little afraid.

This is one of the few parts of the chair that I used the original fabric to copy as closely as I could. Mostly, I reinvented the look and did the chair my own way, but this part had no alternative but to do it the original way, or nearly so. But it wasn't too bad, actually.

I sewed elastic inside the seams of the piece that connects the seat to the footrest. That made it bunch right instead of being all loose on the edges. Then I put the foam and batting for that piece inside it and sewed it to the piece used to cover the seat. I'm not sure I'm explaining this all that well. I should have taken more pictures, but really, every chair is a little different anyway, so it's more important to use common sense than copy other people's tutorials exactly, right? Speaking of which, I couldn't find a single chair on the entire internet that's the same style as mine that someone has reupholstered. Is it just too ugly to be worth it? Most people would say yes. I say why not try it and see.

Seat piece (with elastic bands sewn in to connect to the footrest).
Bottom of the chair after stapling fabric on seat cushion.
Top of the seat before attaching
After stapling the fabric on around the seat frame, I reattached the seat to the chair frame (fortunately it wasn't as time consuming or painful as removing it had been). I then stapled the bottom underside of the attaching piece to the footrest part.

Now, here's where I want to say "done!" but in reality, there is one tiny part I haven't finished yet. See the bottom of the back of the chair? There was originally a piece of cardboard there with fabric over it that was attached to cover up that metal bar and the rocking mechanisms. It got pulled off a few years ago and I need a big piece of cardboard to finish it. So . . . done for now!

Missing a piece here still
But it looks finished from the front, so let's just check her out. A bit asymmetrical, but aren't we all?

You may be thinking, "What a waste of time. You can't take the lazy out of a La-Z-Boy." And yes, you'd be right. It's still no bergère chair, or Eames, or whatever. But it's a big improvement, in my opinion. The color of grey is nice and the fabric is soft. It doesn't smell anymore. Most importantly, it works for our family. It goes in the girls' room and they love reading books in the cozy rocking chair. Jared loves being woken up by Ivy and spending the night in it (sort of). AND, I daresay, it is much less ugly than before.

And if you don't think it's cute enough, how about this little face?

One final before and after:

Cost breakdown:
Chair: free
6.5 yards of upholstery grade fabric: $70
Button kit: $6
Staples, etc: $4

So, was it a big enough change to be worth it? Anyone else have a chair like this that needs some work?
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