Every day, all over the world, people go missing.
I see them on the backs of envelopes in the mail, in the foyers of grocery stores or turning up in my Facebook news feed. I have to admit, I never pay much attention to them. I don't know them. I don't know their families. I don't recognize the names of the small towns, "somewhere up in Northern Ontario", where they are from. Even when it happens in Hamilton- I don't really look. I don't really pay attention. Fifteen year old girl goes missing on the mountain only to be found a day later holed up at her boyfriend's house. Another day, another runaway.
Even in this most recent case- when posters telling of Tim Bosma's disappearance first appeared in my news feed, I didn't read them. I'm ashamed to say that I scrolled on past, chuckling to myself at eCards and the status updates of my friends. Within a few hours, there was nothing funny left to read. One by one, the status updates changed, begging people to share the information posters, recalling how they went to highschool in Ancaster with Tim, how they knew his wife through church, how he was their neighbour. The city had gone to work and in no time at all- everyone knew his name, where he was from, what had taken place. Everyone memorized his face, memorized every detail of his truck and scanned the streets with hope and vigilance. I read the information on the poster and I felt the sting of tears behind my eyes. The details of the case were very familiar to me and a sickness bloomed in the pit of my stomach. Tim Bosma's wife, Sharlene, and I are about the same age. We both have a child, two years old. We both have a vehicle listed for sale on kijiji and auto trader. When folks come to the house to check out the car, it's Wes that goes out to speak to them, not me. It occurs to me that he could be taken from me easily, on the whim of a criminal. He's no bigger than Tim, no less unassuming. I think of it and the thought is terrifying. I look at this woman and I think, "That could be me, but it's not me. That could be my family, but it isn't". What stands between her and I? A make and model? A roll of the dice? I don't know and I don't know what she's going through and for that I ought to be thankful, but I'm just sick about it instead.
I watched all of the updates and press releases, waiting, wishing, hoping to hear that he'd been pushed from the moving vehicle, out in the middle of nowhere, wandering around, thirsty and beaten, but alive. The days passed and it started to seem less likely. I watched Sharlene's statement- her plea to Tim's captors on behalf of their baby, with tears rolling down my cheeks, wanting to throw my arms around her, wanting to snap my fingers and end her nightmare. Wes said to me, "Don't watch it, baby. It's too sad". But I watched til the end, out of respect, as a peer, as a witness to her grief. On Sunday evening, I read a printed version of Mary Bosma's statement- a desperate Mother's Day wish to be reunited with her son. I looked at my own son and I felt her crushing heart ache. Wes said to me, "Come on, baby. It's your day" and I said, "I know. But it's her day, too." He nodded, "It's terrible. It's a nightmare."
This morning I came downstairs and saw a link in my news feed for a Hamilton Police press conference to take place at 10 am. The link was for a Joey Coleman live feed, the same live feed broadcaster I've been following during this whole tragedy. A few minutes before the press conference, he posted an update that, due to the seriousness of the matter, all comments would be disabled. I felt that I knew right then what I was about to hear and I watched the entire feed with my head in my hands. This family that I do not know, this man that I've never met, a death that is in no way related to me, has affected me as it has affected this entire city: with startling depth. On the phone to my sister this afternoon, I said "I don't know why I'm so sad. It really has nothing to do with me." She said, "It's sad because it could have happened to you. It could have happened to anyone. Usually bad things happen to bad people, but he did nothing wrong. He wasn't involved in anything to make this happen, it just happened". She is right. I feel for Sharlene Bosma because she is so like me. I feel a sadness as if our husbands had gone away to war; mine came home and hers did not- only there was no war, no choice or opportunity to fight, just a life blown out for material gain. I think of the men who committed this crime and I am at a loss. What kind of lives have they been living where taking a man's life in order to steal his truck is an option? How could they see his wife and child in the house and still go through with it? How do you look into the eyes of an innocent stranger, who has done nothing, who has taken nothing, who has hurt no one, and kill him? Fran McKechnie asks, "What happened to their souls?" What, indeed? And what is left?
I mourn for the Bosma family. An injustice has been committed against them. More than that. I mourn for Sharlene, who has lost her husband. I mourn for Mary Bosma who will now face every mother's greatest horror- that of burying her own child. I mourn for Tim and Sharlene's daughter, who will grow up without a single persisting memory of her father. The city grieves for you.
After the press conference ended I went upstairs and climbed into bed where Wes was sleeping off his night shift.
"They found him," I said.
"And?" he asked,
"He's dead," I said, "They burned his body." I burst into tears.
"They're monsters." he said, eyes still closed. "But now she knows. And knowing is better than not knowing. Some people never know, and their nightmare never ends".
"I know, I know. But it's just so sad. I just can't stop crying about it. I don't even know them."
"Something like this..." He said, falling back asleep, "It doesn't matter if you know them. It's just... it's because... you know, every life is precious".
Every life is precious.
Every life is precious.
Rest in peace, Tim Bosma.