Ashley Simpson: Holding it all together through the holidays
Soul connections are often formed through the high voltage of adversity.
Guest Post by Dawn Simpson*
Ashley Simpson has been missing since April of this year, and this Christmas is going to be difficult for all who knew and loved her.I know Ashley’s family because I am a Simpson, and the Simpson family is large… so large that we don’t all even know each other. But in spring of 2014, I was happy to be directly connected to John Simpson and his crew. John has four grown daughters and lots of grandchildren. His wife is Cindy, who is mother to Amanda and Ashley Simpson. My immediate family’s connection to this group was celebratory in nature in that a few adopted Simpsons had reconnected with their birth family, bringing John and his gang into my sphere. Everyone was getting to know everyone, and this reunion was a long time in coming. And that’s when I first met Ashley Simpson.
It was June, and every day for about a week-and-a-half, John and various members of his immediate family arrived at my parents’ house, where there was lots of indoor and outdoor space for chatting, snacks, and barbecues, where long-lost siblings and cousins and relatives could get to know one other. There were lots of kids, too, and they forged connections with one another, playing, swimming, jumping on the trampoline.
Meeting Ashley back then left an impression on me. Day after day, she would arrive to Reunion Week with a carload of kids. Amanda came, too, as did Cindy, John, Amy Simpson and more... there was a repeating entourage of sisters, cousins, kids, mothers, grandkids, spouses coming through our door. And it was wonderful to get to know so many new faces over the course of that reunion week. It was a lot of fun and so amazing to connect to these relatives who really did not live very far away at all.
Ashley and John
I recall at first not being able to tell which of the grown Simpson daughters were the mothers to all those children that Ashley showed up with. From the sweet and loving way she interacted with the kids, I thought the mother was Ashley, but as it turned out, Ashley was their aunt. It was clear even from that first day I met them that Ashley had a special bond with those kids, especially with Amanda’s three little girls.
And I remember finding it so endearing that these grown sisters, Ashley, Amanda, and Amy (the fourth sister, Tara, couldn’t make it) with their own lives came day after day to hang out with their “new” relatives in support of their dad reuniting with his sister. I thought, “These guys are tight.” I really liked that, and I was so glad to get to know them. John brought me some sunflowers when he saw I was growing a little garden, and Ashley went swimming in the lake with my daughter when the water was way too cold for wimpy ol’ me to go in.
After Reunion Week, I kept up with these “new” Simpsons on social media. Amanda got married the next year, and there was much buzz on Facebook about it, along with out-of-town relatives who came to stay with us so they could attend the wedding. Ashley was in the wedding party, and their huge smiles were all genuine. It was lovely.
Then, in April of this year, out of the blue, Ashley went missing from her home near Salmon Arm, BC: missing, abruptly, without a trace. Just like that, her frequent posts to social media halted, and communication with her friends and family ceased. No one knew what had happened. Despite a huge search-and-rescue effort that included family and friends, Shuswap Search and Rescue, and the local RCMP, eight months later, we still have no news as to Ashley’s whereabouts. Currently the investigation is still active with the RCMP’s Major Crimes division, but there is no news to report. We have no information and no closure. We are in limbo.
And this very tight family has been sitting in this limbo for eight months, torn between hope and grief, anger and frustration… feeling, just knowing that something bad has happened but being unable to move forward because they have no information. There’s been speculation and lots of questions but no answers, and they try to hold it together amidst everything they are feeling and deal with in their day-to-day lives. The family is sure someone out there knows something and desperately wishes that those who do know what happened will come forward.
I recently was in touch with John, Cindy, and Amanda. One of the hardest things right now is wanting to be there for each other, but that the realities of life pull them away from doing just that. For instance, Cindy works on a ship and is often away for months at a time. She wants to physically be there for her family… but she has to work out of necessity. While away, she might see that John posts something heartfelt and soul-baring on social media about missing Ashley and she just wants to be there for him... but she can’t; she might be 1500 kilometres away, stuck on a ship. Even worse, Cindy can’t be home for Christmas, the first one without Ashley there. Could you imagine you’re the mother, the glue that holds a family together, and to not be able to be home with your family for Christmas at a time like this? Simpson Christmases typically involve all the Simpson daughters and their families. This is going to be a hard one.
Ashley and Cindy
Amanda has three little girls, a husband, and works full-time. She’s got a lot on her plate, and she wants to be there for her dad, too, who is home alone a lot while Cindy is away working. She visits him nearly every day now. Amanda’s eldest daughter is 10 and has always been very close to Ashley. The daughter appears to be in a depression and has said she won’t be happy until Aunt Ashley comes home, because “there’s nothing to be happy about.” She also doesn’t want to talk about it with her mom, or with anyone. Amanda wants to help her daughter, but the little girl doesn’t want to make her mom sad by opening up. Amanda has also hit roadblocks in gaining access to counselling and in getting a Big Sister or Big Brother for her daughter; since the little girl won’t talk to anyone, Amanda wants to get another trusted adult involved, someone that her daughter might eventually open up to. But apparently a child needs to be over 16 to receive the counselling support services Amanda wants her to have, and Amanda tells me the wait list for a Big Sister/Brother in their area is six months long.Amy and Tara have families of their own as well. There is nothing about this holiday season that’s going to be easy for any of them.
John also feels government should offer more assistance for families of missing women. He’s been active in raising awareness of the magnitude of the problem of missing women in Canada. He’s been having T-shirts and hoodies and bumper stickers made— these bear Ashley’s “Missing” picture and a reference to Canada’s Missing Women— and he’s selling them at near cost to raise awareness. Additionally, a petition by Simpson family friend Ricci Smith which, in total, had nearly 700 signatures, brought attention to the need for increased social services for the families of missing women in Canada. In November, the petition was received and acknowledged by the office of Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. But these things take time to review and to effect change.
Meanwhile, the Simpsons are holding things together to try and get through the holidays. Ashley loves Christmas, and she is the one who would normally be doing a lot of the baking and decorating and preparation with the kids. Her absence will be felt on many levels, big and small.
For the holidays, my wish is that John and Cindy and their family can find some joy in the season, some hope in their grief, answers to their questions, and, most importantly, to be able to take comfort in each other, whether near or far. It’s not going to be an easy Christmas, but I wish that there can be joyous moments for them amidst their emptiness, frustration, and sadness.
And please say a prayer for Ashley.
Peace to all.
*Dawn Simpson grew up in the Hamilton/Niagara region where she lives, as a single mom, with her three children. She works remotely as Senior Caption Editor for the film post-production industry in British Columbia. Dawn is writing today as a member of the extended Simpson family and someone who has felt the impact of Ashley's story.
To view Ashley’s Missing Persons report, go here http://www.ashleysimpson.ca/
To help the Simpson family financially, visit https://www.gofundme.com/22cfgfs4
To purchase an Ashley Simpson - Missing T-shirt, hoodie, or bumper sticker, contact John Simpson at email@example.com
To see about becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, visit http://www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/en/home/default.aspx
To sign the petition to help families of Missing Women, visit https://www.change.org/p/justin-trudeau-criminal-injury-support-for-families-to-look-for-missing-canadian-women?recruiter=50260913&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive