It's been eight horrendous months since Ashley Simpson disappeared just as spring began to kiss the left coast. There is no news, little evidence, no charges laid. Let's face it, it's hard to keep on believing that she will, one day, show up in her mother's kitchen.
Yet, we continue to hold on to hope...hope that she is somehow still alive...hope that there is some sort of closure for John, Cindy, and the extended and loving Simpson family and their friends.
When trying to make sense of this kind of tragedy, we always look for something positive. It's not easy, but as humans, we cannot go on thinking that the whole world is this way. We have to hold on to something.
I keep remembering the corny last scenes of movies. Like the ending of Titanic where Jack asks Rose to promise not to give up. Or the ending of the Perfect Storm with Mark Walberg drifting in the open sea transmitting this thoughts to Diane Lane.
"There are no goodbyes. Only love."
These pop culture sound bites ring hollow as the cold light of day reminds those who love Ashley that the world is not safe, people are not always good, and the RCMP doesn't always get its perp.
If there is one bright spot for this year, for me, it's that the entire Simpson family has gotten to know one another. I didn't know cousin John growing up. He was one of many children from the same family who were adopted by my generous band of aunts and uncles. We are a huge family -- my father had six brothers and sisters -- and they in turn raised many kids, including the adopted ones.
Here are a few of them
Because my dad died when I was a baby, I pretty much lost touch with the Simpsons, as my mother had nearly no connection to them. It is only through social media that I've gotten to know this wonderful bunch, and it is only because of Ashley that I've realized what a weird and wonderful family we have.
The spirit of my aunts and uncles continue to live on through these people. They might not have a pot to piss in, but they all hold onto the stellar family values that were passed on to them. Ashley continues to be a blithe spirit in my mind who was family-obsessed, so much so that everybody knew something was up within days of her disappearance -- because they hadn't heard from her over Facebook.
I want to thank this family for allowing me to share their thoughts, their fears, and their pain over these past few months. They have been more than generous, allowing me write about their journey; not every family has that kind of courage.
Thank you to John, Cindy, Amanda, Amy and Tara, and the little kids who continue to cook, and build bonfires, and play really, really bad games of cards together.
By the way, John, you look fabulous in those heels. Are they Manolos?
As a child who lost her father tragically, who was raised by a mother who never really recovered from the loss, I understand what it's like to grow up with a hole in the family. I didn't know my father, so you are lucky to have had 31 years of Ashley and can look at pictures and watch videos, and revisit her in her Facebook postings.
Regardless of her fate, Ashley continues to live on in the cyberspace with Debbie and Carrie, and Bowie and Bing. Cold comfort, I know. But it's something to hang your hat on.
As for me, I will continue to write about Ashley until she is found, and I will continue to advocate on her behalf.
Just today, I noticed Gerald Butts, the Prime Minister's Senior Political Adviser, on Twitter. He was recommending a CBC documentary on the cold case of Alberta Williams, an aboriginal woman who went missing 27 years ago. I tweeted him back with my blog about Ashley. Hopefully, he'll take the time to read it.
It's About Power
People need to be reminded that the problem of missing and murdered women goes far beyond the plight of indigenous women.
Violence against women knows no color, no race, no geography. It is happening everywhere, and people often turn a blind eye, or make assumptions. Just as the many who went missing on the Highway of Tears matter, Ashley matters, too.
What is needed is a big picture focus on violence against women, period.
It's not just about trying to build social policy models and risk assessments. And it's not about poverty or the social safety net. Let's put it in my own blue collar way. It's hard to prevent someone from bashing you over the head with a beer bottle when he's drunk, or dragging you into a car somewhere.
Violence against women is not just about the social determinants of health.
It is about power, pure and simple.
It's my soap box, and that's what I have to say.
My only wish for 2017, aside for the good health of my family and friends, and a case of duct tape for the mouth of Donald Trump, is that John and Cindy find closure and justice for Ashley, and that the world never forgets her in the midst of all its bustle.
I also wanted to share some of the comments I've received on this blog, to let the family know that the people of Salmon Arm, Niagara and all parts of this world are thinking about Ashley.
God bless, and Happy New Year!
From the Virtual Mailbag:
Such a beautiful face...kindest heart...and gentlest soul. Hopefully some answers surface soon. I don't know you (her family), but I've known Ashley for many years (16 to be exact). She was Auntie Ashley to my two oldest. I remember her smile often...laughing in the water at Rice Lake...chasing the kids around. Truly an amazing person. I pray for her safe return and I pray for you all. Sending love and hugs to all of you ...especially at this tough time of year. Until we see her gorgeous smile again she will live in our hearts. Xo ~Meg~
I hope you get your Christmas miracle. I hope closure comes soon for you to stop the questions in your hearts and pain of the unknown. I admire your strength and character for fighting on with your pain, to help others. You deserve peace this holiday season, and I hope you find it in family and friends. Dee Handley
I've been thinking alot about it in the last few days and you're right, absolutely no media coverage. Something has to be done. Mike JohnsonWe are crossing our fingers, and holding her in our hearts. Pauline and Kelly
Thinking of Ashley and your family and praying everyday something surfaces as to her whereabouts, I know Ashley from school and she is a wonderful girl! So full of life and love! Thinking of you all and not losing hope! Anonymous
You wrote in your article - Since Ashley's disappearance, four women have gone missing -- four -- including a lady who lived across the street. I heard about the other older women in that area missing and the young lady from Enderby Area if your including her. Who are the four your writing about as this is scary I have never heard of a fourth - they do need to do more media. Thoughts and prayers go out to all the family's of the missing. Chrissy (There are now three; one has been found)
Oh dear. I have been absent from communications on FB, so this is the first I've read about this heart wrenching Mystery. I'm so sorry and I want you to know I will be doing Meditations for peace in the hearts of those effected by her disappearance, and for a speedy resolution. I will focus on a pink hard suitcase...I can picture it in my mind. Blessings. Sue Yost.
I live in Armstrong, near the area where these women went missing, and despite the lack of media coverage, neither Ashley nor the others have been forgotten by the local community. We still mention them at dinner, over coffee, and when we drive the back roads. We still hope for their safe return, or for justice, and peace for the families. FYI, the 4th young woman, Suzie Clark, was eventually located by RCMP. Anonymous
A lot of people go missing from smaller communities. It's heart breaking. Watch the Highway of Tears on Netflix. My community has recieved lots of heartache. Anonymous
I am from Salmon Arm and my mom lives in the community that Ashley disappeared from and I have known Deanna wertz (the missing lady) for over ten years. I am so sorry for your family and cannot truly imagine but we have not forgotten. I have daughters her age and are horrified that this can happen here.
Just a note about the four missing. They conflict Deanna's location in the information. She lived in Yankee flats...Close to where Ashley was but they keep talking about her in Enderby... Caitlin Potts is still missing from Enderby. So yes three missing. Very frightening indeed. Wendy
You've written a beautiful, compassionate article that really hit home for me. As you said, people don't simply 'disappear'. You and your family must be going through a living nightmare. I live in Ontario, and the Paul Bernardo (and Karla) case was a terrifying ordeal - it turned out that Bernardo lived a block from my daughter's best friend. We were very lucky she and her friend weren't one of their victims.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family - and we pray for good news.
Three people missing - what anguish this is causing. Meg Simpson
Thanks for reading. And screw 2016!