IT was a sunny evening in August. Ciaran Baxter and his family were waiting to board a train from Monaghan to Cork when Ciaran’s phone rang.
Upon hearing how his brother had walked out the door the previous afternoon and never returned, the seriousness of the situation hit Ciaran immediately.
Ronan suffered from chronic depression and was particularly vulnerable and defenceless. Despite being a 39-year-old man, he lived at home with their widowed father, the security of that assisting in him living a reasonably normal life.
By the time his train arrived in Cork, Ciaran was drained of emotion. He had imagined every possible scenario for Ronan.
Sitting at the kitchen table in his father’s house that evening, Ciaran was joined by his six siblings, their mother’s deathbed request — “always look after each other” — a powerful sentiment at the heart of their planning and determination to leave no stone unturned in their quest to bring Ronan home.
A consultation with Ronan’s medical team escalated their urgency; eight weeks without his medication would put his life at risk. There wasn’t a moment to spare.
Seeking out press and garda contacts dispelled their early efforts at retaining Ronan’s privacy. Sleepless nights became the Baxter norm.
How can a grown man disappear, Ciaran wondered?
Without a passport, his options to leave the country were limited. Ferry passenger lists revealed nothing. CCTV revealed nothing. Reports of sightings — though followed up immediately — again led to nothing but renewed disappointment.
And finally, just as the hope was disappearing in their father’s eyes, they received a call to say Ronan had been spotted in Cork Airport waiting for a London flight.
Mesmerised, Ciaran’s eyes blurred as he stared at hours and hours of CCTV until finally he spotted his brother.
Hope returned. Ronan had boarded a flight for London. Silently, Ciaran prayed they weren’t too late for Ronan. Their father’s plea that they bring him home dead or alive was an added pressure to their mother’s instructions to always look after each other.
As Ciaran and his brother forced their way through the throngs of people in the busy London streets, their attention was drawn to the large numbers sleeping rough in doorways.
Using every contact and connection possible and resorting to unimaginable measures to seek help from influential people, the Baxters refused to quit and finally found their man.
As the title suggests, Ciaran Baxter’s book, Bring Him Home: The Search For Ronan, is the story of one missing person and his family’s unrelenting determination to find him.
But their story also shines a light on the global problem of homelessness, draws the reader into the reality of life for those who find themselves without shelter or food, and forces us to acknowledge that each of these people has an identity, a past and a family somewhere that will hopefully never stop looking to bring them home.
Not a moment was wasted in the reality of the Baxters’ search for Ronan.
Not a word was wasted in the telling of this powerful story.
Bring Him Home: The Search For Ronan, by Ciaran Baxter, published by Orla Kelly Publishing, is available now