Jessica Cuneo/(Boulder) Daily Camera
Jessica Cuneo/(Boulder) Daily Camera
GREELEY (AP) – Preserving the memory of his only daughter in song brought Paul Sacco to an emotional crossroads that he wasn’t prepared to face.
Every time the Greeley attorney thought he was done recording his tribute album to daughter Aubrey Sacco, the University of Colorado graduate who vanished in Nepal more than two years ago, he found a sudden need to tinker with it some more.
“I guess I felt if it ended, I wasn’t going to see her again,” he said, choking up last week as he remembered the young woman who sang a few tracks into his computer before heading out the door in the fall of 2009 for a trip to Asia.
But Sacco soon realized that the music he had been creating for more than a year was helping him, in a strangely powerful way, to cope with his daughter’s disappearance and all the emotions it had triggered.
“It was a really good outlet for me to express my pain,” he said. “It was a controlled way to grieve. I began to find a lot of refuge in the songs – they made me happy. This was a way to celebrate her, too.”
The result of all that tinkering, recording and mixing is “Finding Aubrey,” a 16-song collection largely written, played and sung by Paul Sacco. Three rough tracks preserve his daughter’s 23-year-old voice and guitar work.
“They were recorded by her just before she left,” he said.
The album is for sale on iTunes for $11.99, or tracks can be purchased individually for $1.29 each. It can also be bought as a physical CD at createspace.com. The money raised from sales of “Finding Aubrey” go toward the search fund her family established after she went missing in April 2010 while trekking through Nepal’s Langtang National Park.
Paul Sacco’s attitude toward his daughter’s status is complicated these days, swinging between a father’s everlasting hope of a future reunion with the girl he watched grow up and the belief that Aubrey wouldn’t suddenly cut herself off from everyone she knew and go into hiding.
He doubts she is being held somewhere against her will. She could have fallen into the powerful Langtang River, but he said in the shape she was in, he has his doubts about that. A wild animal attack? Murder? Sacco simply doesn’t know.
Clues – containing shreds of hope – have come in over the last 2½ years, but nothing that leads to Aubrey.
“We’d get a call from the embassy at 3 a.m. saying they’d found a body or some clothing,” Sacco said. “But none of these things belonged to Aubrey. We’re still hopeful, but we’re tired.”
As recently as last month, 85 Nepalese army soldiers spent two weeks searching for Aubrey in an area between the Lama Hotel and Ghora Tabela, known for its popular trekking route along the Langtang River. It was also the site where the CU art and psychology major was last seen in the spring of 2010.
The search yielded no signs of her.
“When they left to do their search, we were on pins and needles,” Paul Sacco said. “We really want them to find evidence of her, but you don’t want them to find a body.”
The Sacco family – including Paul’s wife Connie, and sons Crofton and Morgan – have made multiple trips to Langtang National Park to look for Aubrey. They hired a private investigator and have forged important relationships with military and police personnel in Nepal to keep the case open and active.
The family combed through photographs they found on Aubrey’s laptop, trying to see if anyone in the pictures had information about her or played a role in her disappearance.
“We basically ran down all of the people and they ended up being innocent,” Sacco said. “They were not persons of interest.”
Police in Nepal have told him they are finally ready to share information from their investigation – perhaps even a theory of what they believe happened to his daughter – soon. Maybe this month.
Until then, Paul Sacco said, the family has reached a bit of a dead end.
“We don’t have any new ideas on where to search,” he said.
Many of the songs on “Finding Aubrey” reflect the bleakness of the last couple of years and the sadness of the situation. On “Wounded,” Sacco sings: “I live in the moment/this life does not seem real/the emptiness is all I feel. I am the wounded one.”
They are lyrics Amanda Sacco, Aubrey’s sister-in-law, can relate to. She considers herself Aubrey’s best friend, having met her in the fourth grade.
“Sometimes I find myself at a standstill because there is no news,” said Amanda Sacco, who is married to Aubrey’s oldest brother. “Then I’ll have a dream about her and it kind of renews me and refreshes me in a way.”
She gets special comfort from the three songs Aubrey herself wrote and sang. They remind her of the deep thinker and complex artist her best friend was and remains.
“Her words are so emotional,” Amanda Sacco said.
It’s those happy memories and positive impressions that Paul Sacco made sure were a part of the album, as much as the sad ones. On “Crayons in the Sun,” Sacco starts the song with a reference to a painting Aubrey made as a young child – a tree adorned with luscious apples, bursting red.
He hangs the painting in his upstairs bathroom, where he can see it every day.
“And your pictures were all there, one by one on all the walls/they were glowing/your smile was showing/you’re loved by everyone,” Sacco sings.
Aubrey’s work is all over the Sacco home in Greeley – abstract paintings, mixed media creations, impressionistic pieces. They are what Paul Sacco and his wife hang on to, while their daughter remains missing.
Sacco said his daughter’s art reminds him of just what a free spirit Aubrey was and how she was able to capture the beauty of life in intricate brush strokes and with her active imagination. He’s convinced his daughter was bent on “changing the world,” not just living in it.
“She was waiting to happen,” he said.