Saturday, June 02, 2007
There were forty or fifty people at the vigil for Doug Henry last night; to my distress, only three of us from church were there, probably because the vigil had been organized at the last minute and announcements had gone out late (and one of our priests is out of town).
Beth knows about my hospital work, and when I got there, she asked me to say a prayer to open the vigil. "I need you to speak for me, because I can't." But after my brief prayer -- a modified version of the one I always use at the hospital, in ecumenical language because I figured not everyone there was Christian -- she spoke clearly and passionately, for a long time.
She told us that although the past eleven days have been the worst of her life, they've also shown her the best of humanity, because she's been so surrounded by love and prayer and support, both from people she knows and from people she doesn't. She said that she never could have imagined that something like this would also be a blessing, but that it has been.
One of the most moving stories was about the police. She called 911 when Doug had been missing for 24 hours, and received a visit from an uninterested, not-very-pleasant officer who said, "Husbands leave all the time. There's nothing for us to report here. There's no crime." At the suggestion of a friend, Beth then went to one of the area's larger police stations, where people listened to her and were very kind, but explained that they couldn't do anything. She wasn't in their jurisdiction. They made some phone calls and sent her to another station in Reno, where yet another officer, the most sympathetic yet, listened to Beth (and believed her when she said that Doug wouldn't just up and disappear), but then explained sadly that she couldn't do anything, either. To get on the Federal missing-persons list, the missing person has to meet certain criteria: has to be a child, an elderly person, on medication, or a danger to self and others. Doug doesn't fit any of those categories.
"If this were your father," Beth said, pleading, "what would you do? Tell me what to do!"
"I don't know," the officer said. "I'd be as angry and grieving as you are now. I just don't know."
She cried with Beth, and Beth left. But the next day, that officer called back, and said, "I took this to some of my supervisors, and we found a loophole. He's on the Federal missing-persons list now."
Someone else at the vigil knows that officer, and told us that he'd had a conversation with her after that. "Beth, she wanted me to tell you that she only did what she'd do for anyone in that situation, and what she hopes anyone would do for her in that situation. And she wants you to know that she's praying for you."
There were a lot of tears around the circle, of course. People talked about their memories of Doug, talked about seeing him and Beth light up when they were with each other, or when they talked about each other. Someone said, "I want to see that again," and Beth said, "So do I."
Many people were very carefully using present and future tense when they talked about Doug, but some used past tense. My stomach knotted whenever I heard that.
Today, Beth and some friends are going to search in the mountains around Truckee. Earlier this week, Beth spent seven hours in a rented plane, doing an aerial search; the next day, she hiked in the desert for seven hours, searching. She said that until she knows what's happened to Doug, whenever anyone suggests anywhere he might be, she's going to go look there. The needle-in-a-haystack aspect of this is terrifying, but it gives her something to do except sitting by the phone.
Her phone rang several times last night; whenever it did, I jumped, wondering if it was a call with news, but it never was.
Please keep praying for everyone involved.