On Saturday, the friends and family of Ashley Marie Simpson will gather to play games, drink some suds and raise some money in her honor. The fundraiser is meant to raise awareness for the We Canada Walk for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman Foundation, along with the Shuswap Search and Rescue team who helped in the search for Ashley after she went missing.
Here are the details.
As people who read my posts know, Ashley is my cousin. I never met her. I moved away from our home of St. Catharines four decades ago, before Ashley was born. I didn't know my cousin John, either, and have only distant memories of his brothers and sisters who were adopted by my aunts and uncles.
Thanks to Ashley Marie, I know them now. We have been brought together by her tragic disappearance on that cool day in April. Nearly every day, her family and friends hold a virtual prayer circle in her honor. Ashley's pals post selfies and messages on Facebook. This summer, they participated in a walk for missing and murdered indigenous women. They are constantly talking about her in print and on television.
Out of the ashes of this terrible story, her story is having an impact.
People are listening and taking action, in their own small ways.
I write a blog about her every week. Whenever I write about Ashley, thousands of people read and share the posts. Money is being raised. People are talking, organizing and doing -- all in her name.
Because they have to.
When someone like Ashley goes missing, the world becomes a little smaller. The clock stops while the world keeps spinning.
The people who love and know her feel helpless.
When we can no longer count on her smile or jokes or the good food she made, we have to find an outlet for our grief. So we do.
I've done a lot of thinking about God over the years, as I've watched people endure endless tragedy. Murder, mayhem, senseless violence. Entire communities wiped out by the angry wrath of storms.
My cousin John and his family must have had some choice words for a God who would give them such a tremendous gift -- the love of a child -- and then take her away from them in such a gut-wrenching fashion.
I've also asked those of faith to explain to me how such a loving God can turn on good people and hand them misery.
I guess I didn't like the answer. You see, I have never really bought the notion of "God only gives us the burden we can carry."
God didn't answer me, either. He must have lost my coordinates.
So I turned inward, to reflect on my own memories and thoughts. And here is what I came up with.
What I have learned in lo these 60 years on Earth is that, in times of tragedy, the goodness of people shines brightest. Good people are like firefighters who run into buildings when everybody else is running out. They take lemons and make lemonade. They give shelter. They give hope.
And in the case of Ashley, they wrap the family in loving arms and let them know that they matter, that the life of Ashley, in her short time on this planet, mattered.
The lesson may not be found in the Bible. Maybe we find it in Dr. Seuss after the Grinch stole everybody's presents on Christmas Eve. Instead of wallowing in their sorrow, they came together in a collective song and spirit.
Perhaps it's just as simple as a child's tale.
On Saturday, the people of St. Catharines/Niagara will come together to raise their voices in a collective cry to stop the violence against women in this country. On another day, they will get their feet moving in memory of those same women.
They will never stop because they can't.
They will stare adversity in the face, they will face their greatest fears, because the only thing that makes sense, the only way to combat evil is to do good.
Doing good will be the only way to keep Ashley's spirit here on Earth.
They are doing good in her name.
In the name of Ashley Marie Simpson who will live on through their good deeds.