It is such a funny word, missing. We use it all the time, “I miss you,” “I wouldn’t want to miss that,” “My keys are missing.” But there is nothing that prepares you, no matter how familiar the word, for hearing, “Your loved one is missing.” Nothing.
This is the 30-year anniversary of my brother and his wife missing. They disappeared at sea while sailing from Australia to New Zealand.
The obviously challenging aspect of missing people is that it is impossible to know what actually happened. It is then that we get to discover the extremely creative ability of the mind to make up stories and scenarios—one after the other, each one worse than the last. Then you move from sad to mad, as you imagine the possibility that someone created your broken heart, rather than just an accident.
The other horrible aspect is the all-consuming belief that there must be something more that we could be doing, or should be doing. Missing leaves you with the mindset that someone needs to be found. They need rescuing. This is a baffling proposition when you don’t know who, where, what, how or why. And when is “enough,” enough? When do you stop searching?
Even now, all these years later, I will see an old homeless man and search his face wondering, “Could you be my brother?” Or a boat will sail into the bay and I will scan it for signs of them. I think ten years of Christmas’s went by when no one wanted to leave the house just in case he chose that day to come home.
Why now? Why am I writing about this now? Because all the emotions of the word missing have been stirred up, and are echoing loudly, posted on all the trees and lamp posts all over town. Two women in the community where I live in have independently gone missing. At the same time, an entire airplane of 239 people has gone missing; the message is all over the news.
So something that felt privately like my own painful experience is in reality shared with so many others. But, unfortunately, two missing women in a small community, while major in our hearts, is frighteningly minor in the statistical scheme of things.
According to crimelibrary.com, 2,300 people are reported missing in America alone every day. Every. Day. While some of these are self-generated disappearances, an astounding number are not. And, this does not count Americans that go missing in other countries.
What is happening to all these people? That is almost 900,000 people a year. That is a lot of people. That is a lot of grief.
And, if it’s that hard to find an airplane, how hard would it be to find a boat, or an individual?
So what is the empowering message here?
I deeply believe that the universe is out to do us good and that we can, eventually, find the “good” reason or result of every experience. When my mom died, I was devastated. But that she died before my dad allowed me to have a much deeper relationship with my father. My brother missing at sea is probably what caused me to move to Maui and marry a boat captain. Spirit works in mysterious ways and if we allow our hearts to be broken open, these tragedies are often the very things that put us most firmly on our spiritual quest and cause the most growth. And remember, show your love and gratitude to everyone you care about. Things happen and you may never have another chance.