Family released doves, cried, said "thanks" to community for outpouring of support

BRANDON, Fla. - It started with a  simple gesture of letting go.

Outside a brick church in Brandon, a few family members stood beside one another, grasping white doves.


They let go seconds later, as one woman's voice rang out, "We love you, Jeff."


"This is going to be a celebration of life," said Bush's aunt, Janell Wheeler. "This is going to be celebrating a great life that was taken from us too soon."


Jeff Bush, 37, died when a massive sinkhole opened up under his bedroom on February 28. Recovery crews tried to find him, but gave up after a day of searching, determining the efforts had become too risky to continue.


They demolished the house and buried Bush underneath as family cried across the street.


Tuesday, the same family members gathered at Bell Shoals Baptist Church to welcome community members  to join them in their final goodbye.


A small table stood at the front of the sanctuary. A shirt and two baseball caps laid atop it, the only artifacts family could recover from Bush's room.


"I tried everything I could to get you," Jeremy Bush sighed. "I'm sorry, bro."


Jeremy tried to rescue his brother that evening, but couldn't find him. He drives by the property daily, as does Wheeler.


"I don't ask, 'Why?' anymore," she said. "I just say a prayer."


Family plans to turn the sinkhole grave site into a memorial, with a bench for visitors to sit, reflect, and feel close to Bush.


They admit, closure continues to evade them, staring at an empty lot where their house once stood and their loved one's body now lies, deep beneath the ground.

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