On Friday evening, I found out through Facebook that the wife of a friend had gone missing. I didn’t know “M” well – I’d only met her a few times – but I knew her husband first through mutual friends and, later, through conversations and shared posts on Facebook. (I am choosing not to identfy her or her husband here as I wish to protect their privacy.)
A group was set up on Facebook to share information, get the word out about “M”‘s disappearance and to coordinate postering and searching. Within a few hours it had grown to over 1,000 people. Some were close friends and family of “M” and her husband, some were complete strangers. When I was on the computer over the weekend, and even yesterday at work, I found myself checking Facebook almost obsessively, hoping to see those three words – “she’s home safe”.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. On Sunday a body was found, but we kept hoping that against all odds it wouldn’t be “M”. After more than 24 hours on tenterhooks, though, we got the news we had been dreading Monday evening.
I am numb.
I am still trying to wrap my head around this, around the senseless of it all. Around the media coverage – as soon as the body was found, it seemed like the media had already decided it was “M” even though nothing had been released and, in fact, the police had gone out of their way to state that they weren’t linking it to “M”s disappearance. And the details that were released by the media about the state the body was found in – that is a visual that will stay with me for much too long. I can’t imagine what “M”s husband and family felt like after reading them. I have always been a proponent of freedom of speech and a free press. Being on this side of it though, even on the periphery, has made me take a hard look at some of what was drilled into me in university. “The public has a right to know” suddenly seems to be less important than “her husband shouldn’t have to read about this before he even knows if it’s her”.
I am numb.
I’m trying to wrap my head around some of the comments that were made on Facebook and elsewhere about “M” and her disappearance because of the hobbies she was involved in – the SCA and role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. Comments made by people who assumed they knew her because of the hobbies she enjoyed, what her license plate said, the fact that she had a couple of tattoos. Comments posted on discussions that I know her husband saw. Speculations over every little tidbit released by the media or police or just someone who had an opinion on “M”, her actions or her lifestyle. When did tact and commonsense take a back seat to “hey, look at what I’ve got to say and I don’t care who it affects”?
I am numb.
There are other things that will stay with me as well, bright spots in an otherwise dark and dismal time. The love, support and hope shown by the members of the Facebook group. The way they came together and supported each other. The way they tried so hard to get that happy ending for “M” and her family by searching for her, supporting those who searched, posting and reposting flyers online and in the area she disappeared in and thinking good thoughts or offering prayers to whomever and whatever they believed in. One person in particular, the creator of the Facebook group, was our rock. “S” kept us informed, kept organised, lifted us up when we needed a good word, and reminded us not to speculate when there were no facts. And she did this all with a grace and dignity that I am envious of, especially given the emotional burden that must have been (and still be) on her shoulders, as she was a mother-figure to “M”.
Another thing that will stay with me is the support I have received from my friends in trying to come to terms with this. Friends who didn’t even know “M” or her husband, but who reposted the flyers about her disappearance with the simple comment “Friend of a friend – please help bring her home”. Friends who sent me hugs, good thoughts and condolences when it was revealed that there would be no happy ending. Friends who let me cry, both figuratively and literally, on their shoulders.
And finally, it heartens me to see that the Facebook group is still active with people posting condolences and messages of support, not only to “M”s husband and family, but to those who were brought together because of “M”, in life and in death. Hopefully this will continue in the coming days and we can support each other as we try to make sense of the senseless.
I am numb – but I will heal.