September 1st, 1997, was a sunny holiday Monday and I did not know you had been found. We had visitors from out of town, more company during the day, and missed the evening news. The first I heard of an “unidentified body” was when my radio woke me for work the next morning. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the morning paper. This was the picture on the front page with the headline: Police investigate decomposed body found in Sherwood Park area farm field.
A young man swathing his father’s crop made the gruesome discovery in the morning when he almost ran over a “not quite skeletal” body. He called his parents who called police. The “body,” no longer recognizable as male or female, was removed from the field about 3:30 in the afternoon.
It was probably just as well that I missed news reports the day before. I can’t even imagine what I might have done if I had heard. The paper noted part of the investigation would involve sifting through missing reports from across the province. That would seem to be a reasonable assumption – although the reporter would have had no idea how difficult it was for families to even file missing person reports, and then to be told to “wait for a body.”
As it was, I went to work as usual – as I had been doing all through the month of August – as I waited for some word of what might have happened to my beautiful carefree but troubled daughter Cara. She began experimenting with drugs in high school and that eventually took her down a labyrinth of addiction, hospitalizations, exploitation, and criminal charges.
I called the RCMP to let them know of my concerns and the day passed without a further call. Later that evening, I saw a group of people gathering in front of my house and my worst fears were confirmed.
The following week was a blur of interviews, missed calls, and carrying on while trying to make arrangements. It struck me that many of the kinds of decision required for a wedding – venue, service, celebrant, readings, songs, flowers, notice, refreshments, out of town guests, even what to wear and juggling payments – had to be made within days as well as obituary, eulogy, choice of coffin, cremation or burial.
The RCMP advised against viewing. I reread “almost skeletal” and acquiesced. I declined the offer of a family limo for the funeral. I simply could not imagine arriving in style for such a tragic occasion. I chose cremation with interment one last decision left for a later time – and it took 15 years to decide on a resting place other than my night-stand.
Every anniversary, even after 24 years, there are different ramifications to remembering. August has always been my birth month, then in 1995 it was my wedding month. Two short years later, it became Cara’s missing month and now all events blur.
September was always the symbol of new beginnings, probably because much of my life seemed to center around school. So I give myself permission to express sadness during August, knowing that sorrow and joy co-exist. Life carries on and good times deserves to be celebrated just as loss needs to be acknowledged and injustice needs to be addressed.
Dear little Cara, The tragedy of your short life revealed many gaps in service and I have continued as best as I can to bring your voice to others who are missing and murdered, blamed for their own vulnerabilities, and left without advocates. May the memory of your short life be used for good so others may enjoy the peace and freedom you were denied. Next year may be different again.
Somebody somewhere knows what happened to all of the MMW across Canada. Maybe some day their cases will even be solved.