We found out yesterday that my 41-year-old nephew, Matt Halley, who had been missing and feared dead since last summer, was finally located near the spot in rural central Texas where he was last seen.

I’m still a little bit in a state of shock, I think. It really hasn’t sunk in yet.

That was Matt and me two years ago, I think it was, when I went and picked him up to go visit my ailing father in Spring, Texas. There was too long a stretch of time when we did not see each other for various reasons, but we had started re-connecting in recent years. I was really happy about that and I think he was, too.

Back in the day, Matt’s dad, Mark, was my best friend. Like his son, Mark was a fun-loving and little bit wild guy who also left us too young.

When I think about Matt now, lots of images come to mind. One of those is his big ol’ smiling face. He was a good-looking kid. Then there was the time long ago when my ex-wife, oldest daughter, and I drove up to Wisconsin to visit Mark, my sister, Brenda, and baby Matt.

This was back in 1980, I guess, and both kids were babies, crawling around in diapers. Well, Stacy was crawling around. I remember Matt sitting in one of those round walkers with wheels on the bottom. There’s a little seat and you put the kid in there and they can push themselves around with their feet. Well, Matt would start out on the living room carpet, pushing himself faster and faster until the wheels hit linoleum in the kitchen, where he’d lift his feet up and zoom across the floor until he banged into the cabinets, laughing and having a good ol’ time.

Here’s Stacy and Matt a few years later.

Like I said, I feel kinda numb about the whole thing right now.

Matt loved his family more than anything and everyone knew he would not have disappeared on purpose. He wouldn’t have run off and left them. There was just no way. Something bad happened.

Sure enough.

We don’t know yet exactly what happened and may never have all the details. All we can do is be thankful he was found, and pray for his wife and three kids. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling today.

As I went through my new routine this morning, I was journaling and listening to some spiritual and positive-thinking messages. One of the messages talked about the importance of living a life of gratitude. Part of what I do each day now is to write down three things I AM grateful for each morning. It can be little things or big things. This message I was listening to was from Oprah, who has some really great stuff on YouTube and that’s what she was talking about.

She was speaking somewhere and she asked the audience to do a quick test. Close your eyes, she said, breathe in deeply and then breathe out. As you breathe out, say “Thank you.” Do it again. Breathe in; breathe out and say, “Thank you.” One more time.

Today, I AM grateful for:

Re-connecting with my nephew. Having a more positive mindset. Another day of life.

What are you grateful for today?