To My Dear Friend Brent Chamberlain #1: You’ve Gone Missing


Brent Chamberlain

(UPDATE: Readers can help by sharing this post with others, as we’d like to cast as wide a net as possible, as well as leaving positive messages for Brent on this post. I’m not confident that, if alive, he would see Facebook comments. Thank you.)

My wife and I have been grieving privately since March. Brent Chamberlain, dear college friend who had become very close over the years, had been missing for a month. After initially thinking he was just blowing off some steam on a trip through Europe, a suicide note emerged. It was postmarked Feb. 28th, Florence, Italy, and is the last known evidence of life. It described his intention to kill himself and brief instructions to dispose of his belongings. We would later discover an intended suicide method.

Brent had been in a rough patch personally, professionally, and financially. Yet he had spent Christmas with us and seemed upbeat, excited about future projects such as going back to school. We were shocked.

But, despite being listed as a missing person in all relevant databases, a body has not been found. This is unusual, and, in combination with a few other weak indicators, suggests maybe Brent did not commit suicide, but feigned death to escape problems. Brent’s brother has diligently poured himself into investigating what happened, contacting embassies, local police, etc., with help from Brent’s ex-husband and myself. After months of searching and grief, we are now announcing that Brent is missing and possibly dead for three reasons.

First, we did not want to prematurely alarm the many people who care about Brent, but it is no longer premature. We thought maybe he would show up any day, but once-promising leads have now come to nothing. His job, apartment, and possessions are gone—two weeks ago we salvaged some things before eviction—and significant time has passed. So, while a funeral is premature, it’s time for everyone else who cares about Brent to know. I hope you understand why we did not announce sooner.

Second, we want to make a public plea:

If you have any knowledge of Brent’s whereabouts or way to contact him, write me immediately at jer(dot)clifton(at)gmail(dot)com.

I can pass along leads as appropriate.  Also, please be on the lookout for him. One theory is that he may have changed his identity and started a bed and breakfast in a hilltop town in Italy, but he could be anywhere at this point.

Third, it’s time for a private plea as well that, dramatic as it is, has to be public. Brent has not checked his email in months. We have no way of contacting him except one. If he is alive, we suspect he would from time to time check this blog. So, what follows is a shameless personal plea addressed to Brent, the same one I emailed him the day we learned of his suicide note, which we now know he never opened. Forgive the sentimentality. I love this man very much.

March 28th, 2019

Dear Brent,

I just saw your suicide note. Alicia and I are in shock. We took off work and have been crying and processing all day. One of the things we did is re-read all the books you gave Tilly at Christmas and the kind notes you wrote in them, trying to discern deeper meaning (Runaway Bunny?). We talked about your visits with us over the last few months. We talked about how wonderful you are and how much we care about you. We talked about how we could have missed this, how you seemed so upbeat at Christmas, about your plans for researching inequality, how maybe we need to study it in your stead (because it’s such a damn good idea that the world needs), how supportive you’ve been to us over the years, how encouraging you were about my research, how you would be Uncle Brent to Tilly. We can’t eat. We just talk and cry and hold our baby. You won’t ever meet Tilly. We talked about what else we could have done. We wish we would have done more. You must have been so unhappy. I’m so sorry.

So here I am, writing to a dead man, on the off chance that something is amiss. We don’t have your body. We don’t actually know if your dead. Your brother is talking to the state department and Italian government. On the off chance that you didn’t do it, or you did it but it didn’t go right and you’re still alive, or you never intended to do it and were trying to escape your former life, or something else, I am writing to you to say that I love you. Alicia and I love you. We’ll tell Tilly about you, too, and we are confident that she will love you, too. There is basically nothing you could do to change that. You are forever a part of our lives Brent, whether you ever read this or not.

But, if you are reading this, you must come back to us. Everything else is nonsense. Divorce happens. Major career setbacks happen. Debt happens. What’s the worst that can happen? I have no doubt that you can find beauty wherever you go. And in those rare instances when you lose sight of it, Alicia and I will remind you. And in those rare instances when you feel overwhelmed, you will turn to us because you trust us, and we will tell you what to do.

Trust me now. The only thing you need to do now is to come back. Email me. Send a postcard. Tell me where you are. And no matter what, I will come get you. This is an iron-clad offer ‘til I die.

And when you do return, I will buy a big house, grow a garden, and you must live with us and teach at the local school. And when you tire of us, you will come spend every Christmas with us, and when you tire of that, which you never will, we will make you come anyway. Life will be beautiful, Brent. Please come live it with us. You make our lives richer. We miss you.

I have attached pictures to shamelessly guilt you into coming back to us. You belong with us, with me and my girls. We are family. We need you. We miss you. Please come home. You will always be welcome.

With all the love in our hearts,

Jer and Alicia and Tilly


You making Alicia’s 2019 Christmas by bringing her gluten-free pastry from New York.


We still have one “Lasagna by Brent” in our freezer that we can’t eat until you come home and make us more.


We want her to know her Uncle Brent!


She loves music, especially from this instrument. We want you to sing, play, and read to her.


So please come be with us. You belong here. You will always be welcome. Until the end.



About Jer Clifton

Look up, friend. The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone. View all posts by Jer Clifton

24 responses to “To My Dear Friend Brent Chamberlain #1: You’ve Gone Missing

  • Alistair Hamilton

    Hey Brent,

    Happy birthday, Brent. A year ago, on the night before your birthday, we enjoyed laughter, rain, and whisky to celebrate your birthday. We had a great time. The next day, I left for a Shanghai trip. You left the half bottle of whisky at mine when you went home that evening a year ago.

    I encourage you to be courageous and reach out. My number is: (347) 520-2523.

  • Bonnie Jean

    Dear Brent There hasnt been a day I havent had you on my mind. Please reach out. You have so many gifts and talents. You did have to become a parent at too young of an age. Life is unfair nut we push tthrough like daffodills in the snoe
    I saw you push through so many times when you should have been able to be a kid not a parent. Life happens. This was a day that the best valentine came a day early and. A strong healthy boy. / strong mountain / Brent meaning was named He called you by name. I am wishing you joy and happiness on your special day. Happy Birthday Brent. Lovingly, mom

  • Anonymous


    Happy birthday. Miss you.


  • Alistair Hamilton

    Dear Brent,

    Thanksgiving this year brought back beautiful memories of us last year…where you hosted Thanksgiving together with Andrea, my sister from Northern Ireland. Happy memories. Lots of cheese.

    Today, New York Chamber Choirs had their concert – it was this time last year that you sang in my ‘Choral Music of Love’ concert. By this time, we were busy planning the youth choir retreat, you were helping organize carols on the block, and we had a NYCC Christmas party at your place. And, we had a weekend trip to Apple Hill coming up.

    People love you, and are here for you, whenever you want to reach out. People will open their arms and hearts of you do.

    Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.

    We miss you always :0)

  • Nan Hussey

    Lieber Brent- Teaching you was such joy because you actually wanted to learn (which is much less common than you might think). The last time we saw each other was in NYC when i came for a day visit and Jon Hnatiuk arranged for an HC reunion lunch. Until Laurie D alerted me to these posts, i had no idea that life had taken a turn that made it feel unbearable to you. I hope you are still here, reinventing your life as did one of my High School classmates, who resurfaced after 10 years missing. You have people to come back to. Jer loves you like fire. People like that are your family, because family is a much larger concept than birth. There are so many of us who will rejoice to have you with us again, whenever that may come.

  • Bonnie Jean

    I listened to your voice on a CD which you sent Psalms 63 labelled to mom Your voice was such a blessing to hear. My boxes unpacked quickly with your fantastic talented voice resonating in my new place. My muscles feel like they will be 100 yrs old tomorrow but your voice such a blessing . You are sealed with his promise. You are loved with an Everlasting love. Keep singing keep writing music. If you are reading this know that I love you yes we love by actions so call. kindness is a gift you have_ one of many gifts. The world cannot lose your light. Do what you love. If it is traveling and being off the grid know I think of you each sunrise and sunset and want to visit wherever you are. I love you or you stop and share the real voice yours love mom

  • Bonnie Crawford

    I have waited and believe suicide is an eternal solution to a temporary problem whether financial or spiritual. I too know life happens and he shared the rejection from family, last we spoke,which he and I shared , your words moved me to tears. I have been praying hoping he will reach back out to me, Jer, please call 480 619 8338. Brent my door is open, and many love you. My door is always open to you no questions just come and stay Love mom underneath are his Everlasting arms of love. Call me wherever you are.

  • Ryan Musser

    Brent, I never really knew you well, but I always appreciated what you offered to the student body at Houghton. You were so talented and seemed like such a good friend. I know that some of my dear friends – like Jer, Alicia, and Shannon – absolutely love you to death, which makes me feel like I missed out not knowing you that well and I wish I could have had the opportunity to know you better. I confidently know that you are deeply loved and I hope you are still around and realize how much better this world is because you are in it.

  • janieb58

    Brent, I recently saw your brother’s post and now Jer’s. You are deeply loved by many and we pray you are okay. We had a lot of fun working together in the Campus Store. Please let Jer or Brian know how you are and where you are. They love you and are very worried about you. You have a lot to give to so many people. Please come back.
    – Jane Buteyn

  • John Brittain

    Brent: As you can see there are many people, including me, who care deeply about you and are distressed that you have not been in touch. I pray that you are well and that you will let someone know how you are doing. No one needs or is entitled to an explanation, but we would like an affirmation that you are doing alright.

    • Jen Neroni-Trupo

      Dearest Brenton,

      I have been thinking of you and praying for you constantly. Wow, time has gotten away from us and for that I am so sorry. You are one of the most beautiful, creative, wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Brent, you are loved and you are wanted. From the moment we met (you were wearing a light blue tshirt and you told me you were from Canton!), it was kismet and we were instant friends. The closest. Inseparable for a long time. Thank you for being a wonderful person. A wonderful friend. For sharing so many amazing moments-the beautiful, the crazy fun, the heartbreaking sorrow-filled, the just being present ones. From cooking and baking and eating delicious food, to shopping, to traveling, to singing, to watching movies, to talking for hours, to praying and worshipping, all of the memories are so precious and so meaningful. And moving forward, seeing your passion for your students, for education and free thinking, for justice…I miss that. I miss reading your beautiful words and being so proud that you are my friend. I miss seeing your amazing travel photos and being jealous of all of your adventures. I miss you. I hope you’re okay. I hope you’re secretly checking these things while you’re on a secret adventure, reinventing your life. Boy, are you loved and missed an awful lot.

      Love you always & forever. Our hearts are broken without you.
      ~Jen ❤

  • Bekah

    Dear Brent,

    It’s hard to distill what I want to say to a message that I can leave here. I am so, so heartbroken. But like many others, I am holding hope. I hold hope for you – knowing that you may feel it is too distant and fragile a thing to recall- and I hold hope for the world- knowing that while its brokenness leads to the darkest of times, there is a surpassing and enduring beauty and light and life.

    Do you remember how you once told me you were extending a bridge to me? I’m extending it back to you so that you may know you can always come home and find connection, friendship, family. Beth said she’ll find Howard’s End for you. It will be a beautiful and safe place, covered with roses and ivy.

    Only connect…

    Love from,

  • Sharon Johnson

    Dear Brent,
    I just saw Jer’s Blog about you—I’m in shock and deeply concerned about you. So many beautiful memories from your time at Houghton during my first years there as a faculty member: you are one of my bright spots. Even at this moment, I can clearly see us riding together as you drove the group to a concert; they’re all chatting away and laughing, and you and I are in the front and discovering all sorts of connections that we never knew we had until that moment. Brent—you are one of the most amazing people I know, so gifted in more ways than I can express in writing. Please come back to us all—it’s just a little less bright at the moment not knowing where you are or being able to connect with you (even if only virtually). I agree with Jer: you must come back; and when you do, I want to see you face to face—not just through social media or an email. I want to experience again the joy, love, uniqueness and blessing that is Brent Chamberlain in the flesh.

    Love you,


  • Tammah Sanders

    Hi Brent,
    You most likely don’t remember me, but you were a senior at Houghton when I transferred in as a sophomore. I don’t remember exactly how we met, whether it was because you guided one of the tours or worked the info desk or something, but what I do remember is how our brief daily chats helped me settle into campus life. I struggled, being a foreigner and a mature student, and you were always kind & funny and I always looked forward to seeing your friendly face. You helped me to feel wanted and seen and important.

    I, too, have struggled and lived in those dark places, when it feels like you’re drowning and will never be able to see the light … but it’s not true, there is always hope. You are a wonderful person who is admired, worthy, missed, and very loved. I hope and pray that you see these messages and that they bring you comfort and courage. And just like you helped me, know that you are wanted and important, so please come and be seen.

  • Jo

    Dear Brent,

    We didn’t really know each other well at Houghton, but I gratefully experienced your generosity and compassion. I’d often go to the chapel basement at night while you and others sang and played music, and journal for awhile. More than a decade has passed, with so many changes in between, and yet I can vividly recall how much I looked up to you.

    Brent, I’ve been in really dark places that felt unbearably heavy; I know each of us has our own constellation of sorrows and traumas that bring us to these places. I can’t speak to the specificity of what’s weighing your heart and causing you so much pain. But what I can speak to? Oh, Brent, I can speak to how much you’re loved. And how much your friends are holding your hope for you, and casting that hope outward, to find you, first, and then to make a home with you.

    I see that here, in these words tendered with love by Jer and so many others. You’re deeply loved. And what’s heavy and dark can be held, and shared, by the people who love you.

    And even though we didn’t know each other well in college, I care very much about you and am holding you in my heart constantly. Your community is your cradle; we promise to always be here, to always have you in our hearts and to show that in very tangible ways, in whatever ways you need. Please come back to us.

    With love,

  • Ruthie B.

    We met for the first time in a college basement more than 15 years ago. Your passion was real. The kindness & care that you showed to your friends was genuine. Your laughter & love was an infectious light in the dark.
    And, later, you gave a voice to help create a positive impact in an education system that has such a wide gap. It offered courage & hope to speak truth as an educator to all people. Please, please continue to shine your bright light…
    ~ Ruthie

  • Laura

    Jer, sending so much love and hope for peace in this heartbreaking situation with your loved one, Brent. 💕

    Brent, if you are out there, I don’t know you, and I feel sure you have reasons. Please hear that there is no shame or judgment in this situation. Only love and hope. I imagine returning may feel difficult, so my wish for you is the strength to lean into the love and belonging you have cultivated. 💕

  • Kelly Spencer

    I don’t know if you remember me, but about 10 years ago, you housed a group of us from Mercyseat, when we made the trip to Kansas city.
    You were so kind, made some of the most delicious food, and provided a large mirror for us girls to take back to where we stayed because we didnt have one. (We were so grateful!!)
    Know you are loved and cared for and that no circumstance is too big or too hard to get through–especially with the awesome support system you have in these friends who have written this blog.
    Praying for you.

  • topher274

    Brent, we’ve been through a lot of years together, and a lot of ups and downs. You have been an integral part of my life and it’s hard to imagine a world with you gone. I love you so much. I’m with you. I will always be on your side. I want to see you again. I want you to meet my daughter who will be born in October. Please Brent. Please.

  • Jeff Babajtis

    Hey man,

    Richard texted me on Friday about this and ever since then, I’ve been heartbroken. I love you. You’ve been one of the most influential and inspirational people I’ve ever known. I haven’t seen you since the MoMA like ten years ago, but since then I’ve said “Brent Chamberlain” almost ever week during liturgy when we pray for people because you’re an impossible dude to forget. I want you to be safe and healthy and know how deeply cared for you are. If you’re out there, please reach the hell out dude. Until then, I’m going to join with hundreds of people yelling into the darkness that we love you, Brent.


  • Brandon santana

    Brent i know you probably somewhere out there in the world but i want you too know that i love you and you was my favorite teacher and always will be i miss you today my birthday and im gonna use my birthday wish too wish that you come back safe and sound 💯💔😢
    Love Brandon.

  • Danny H.

    Brent, I don’t know if you even remember me. Just someone you met several years ago who instantly admired you and looked up to you. I hope with all that I have that you’re doing okay, and that you’re safe. You’re a wonderful man, and one of the most thoughtful, kind, and decent people I know. Much love, your English friend.

  • matthiashess

    Hi Jer, thank you for sharing this. I’m so shocked and sad. The last time I saw Brent was when I ran into him on the street the day after the 2016 election. We commiserated for a moment, then were off to our respective engagements. I’m so sad to hear that things got worse for him. I will be holding onto hope.


  • alipnicki

    Thanks, Jer. Brent, you are a beautiful person to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: