Last Saturday, while in Oklahoma City for a wedding, we visited the Oklahoma CityNational Memorial. It is a moving experience to visit such a beautiful, peaceful memorial for such a tragic event in our nation’s history, and in our nation’s psyche. I was even more moved by the heartbreaking elegy that has grown from a chain-link fence along the edge of one end of the official memorial. This chain-link fence has become a depository for mementoes: American flags, stuffed animals, necklaces, keychains, photos and messages. Walking past a small sock monkey, I couldn’t help but run my thumb across its rain-soaked belly and wonder how long it would survive in its present state, being exposed to the elements as it is.
Three years ago, on April 27, 2009, my friend Craig Arnold went missing while doing research on a volcanic island off the coast of Japan. Exactly two years later, on April 27, 2011, Reba J. Jones (a woman whom I did not know but would become acquainted with because of her mailing label finding its way into my rose bush) perished in the devastating tornadoes that tore across Alabama that day. Two months ago, on February 16, my cousin Mark A. Smith left his home in Kentucky, and has not been heard from since.
In the case of Craig, after a great deal of searching by individuals familiar with the island, as well as an international special response group, it was determined that he suffered an injury that led to a fatal fall. His body was never recovered. You may read my original blog posts about Craig here and here.
When I found Mrs. Jones’ mailing label in my rose bush the day after the tornadoes, I blogged about it in the hopes of finding out who Reba J. Jones was and what had happened to her. Mrs. Jones’ friends and family happened upon my blog and generously responded by sharing many details of her story. To read the blog post and responses about Reba J. Jones, please go here.
And Mark…well, we have nothing to go on for Mark. He just seems to have disappeared without a trace. All that I know about him at this point is what I blogged last month, which may be viewed here and here.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about closure lately: what is closure, and do we need it in order to move on after a loss and/or trauma? Personally speaking, closure is the denouement: the resolution or outcome of a situation. Or, more easily though of, closure is an ending to a story. I (and I’m sure the majority of other people out there) prefer to have closure, but sometimes, closure is just not there to be had. When I don’t have closure, it makes it more difficult, but not impossible, to move on. I learn to deal with the memories and feelings over time, and they eventually cause me less sadness and anxiety (usually). But even then, there is always the possibility that something will trigger my memory of that person…be it a rose bush, a dish of spicy curry, or the beginning strums of Waylon Jenning’s guitar as he plays the theme song from The Dukes of Hazzard…and darn, if I don’t feel a lump in my throat. And no matter how hard I swallow, that lump just won’t go away anytime soon.
In the initial days following Craig’s disappearance, I had a seemingly irrational, yet very realistic fear that he was being rained on, and that he couldn’t find shelter. I felt the same way about Reba. And now, as much as I don’t want to, I have the same feeling about Mark. Again, it seems irrational, this worry of mine. But I was, and am, bothered by the possibility of Craig, Reba, and Mark being exposed to the elements. I can’t verbalize it any better than that, and I try not to dwell on it. But there it is.