In 8 days I walk in honor of mom for suicide prevention. In 9 days, we mark the one year anniversary of mom’s remains being recovered. And for those days, I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around how I’m even at this point.
But it has got me thinking. And while thinking and me don’t always mix, and most times results in my dancing around, sometimes with a gobbling turkey hat on my head… I was thinking none the less.
This time I was thinking about Detective Belcher, and his amazing work and help he gave me from June 2010 until April 17th, 2012, the last time we spoke. April 17th would have been momma’s 60th birthday, one I was looking forward to marking with her. In 2012, instead of toasting mom surrounded by her friends, laughing and joking, my husband and I instead drove to Ohio to offically close mom’s missing person case, and see the scene where she was found for the first time. Since then I haven’t been back to Wooster. I don’t know if and when I will be there again. But I wanted to tell our Detective how much I appreciated him. I have thought about this for a long time, even when the case was still in progress. I am so very thankful for him, more then I could say.
Three months into our case I gave him a photo of momma and I together, with a frame that said “Thank you” on it. I gave him that photo because I wanted him to always have a reminder that this case mattered, that my mom mattered, that I needed him to care. This was before I knew him well enough, before we really worked together. I gave him that picture before I realized he was going to make me feel like the luckiest girl in the worst situation in the world. Before I knew how much he would help, and work, and keep at it til the (now bitter) end. Before I knew that LEOs like him existed somewhere other then a police drama on TV.
The day I gave him that picture I said that having mom missing made me feel like I was on one of those dramas, except everything wasn’t wrapped up in a pretty little bow after an hour, including nonsensical commercial breaks. I said that I didnt know how this would turn out, but better or worse, I needed to know what happened to my momma, and I wasn’t going to stop until I knew. When we went to Wooster on April 17th, there we were standing on the spot my momma’s remains were found, he walked us through how she was found, what the scene looked like (no I haven’t seen the pictures yet. Don’t think I will.), as he walked me through it all. I wanted to scream. Instead, as he went to leave so Matt and I could have a moment alone on the spot my mom chose to leave us on, I hugged him as hard as I could. I mumbled some kind of thank you, explaining that he will never know how much all his work meant to me. I don’t think I really gave him the true idea of what I thought of him.
So here it is. A letter I will send to him, my thank you. It won’t be perfect, it won’t be always pretty. It probablly won’t even convey everything I want it too, and I will forever be thinking of things I should have said, or added, or whatever. But it needs said.
This is one of those things I’ve meant to write for a while. But it’s one of those things that you never are quite sure how to say, or write. This is one of those situations that is faced by a lot of families, but one no one expects. There is no how to on this, so I’m just gonna wing this because I don’t know if I will be able to convey what I really want to say, or even everything that needs said.
So here I sit, the one year anniversary of mom’s recovery looming on me. To mark this day, instead of an event, we will be walking in honor of mom in the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness walk – raising donations to help another family in hopes that someone else will never go through what we did. We want to pay forward the empathy and compassion we were given at our lowest times. We are doing this because we need too. And I am writing this because I need to finally say something…
Thank you for everything you did from the time you entered into our case, to the day we went to the scene she was recovered at. Thank you for being you, and caring, and for really being an amazing investigator.
Throughout the time mom went missing, to today, I have met a lot of families who were faced with situations similar to mine. And, sadly, the majority of those amazing people have dealt with nothing but road blocks and lack of empathy and want to help with a missing person case. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it made me even more thankful for the assistance I had from you and the Wooster police. Especially with a case like ours. Not many people care when a poor older woman with a history of depression walks away from their life, and technically it’s not illegal either. Unless your a child, or an attractive young white woman, these cases don’t ever seem to get a lot of attention, or the hard work they deserve. But those people, regardless of age, gender, race… They deserve someone else to care, because the families cannot go it alone, even though most I’ve met have had too.
As I travelled to all those states, contacted all those organizations, met all those families, I seemed to be an odd duck in the room. Not just because I personally am an odd person, but because we had a department, and more so a detective, who cared.
When you first entered our case you told me you would do everything you could to try to find her. At the time, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I had heard the stories about cold cases and how these things don’t always have a resolution. But you blew me, and many others away, with your diligence and dedication. I am very grateful for that. For you following all the leads, tracking down all the records and the forensics people. For checking in constantly. For even when you were in training making those calls about the unidentified remains in the salt mine. For letting me know of all changes and progress no matter. I am very grateful that you didn’t think me crazy, or obsessed, or for ever seeming to pass harsh judgement at all the things I did seperatley. For helping when family became overbearing and toxic. For just realizing I was a girl who needed answers about her mom, for better or worse. For guiding me along on a path I honestly still to this day can’t believe I had to go down.
When you first entered our case, and we had that first event in the park, I handed you a picture of mom and I – because I was scared it would be a case that would get left at the bottom of the stack and I would be alone to do it all. I didn’t expect anything, and I don’t mean that to be taken offensively. You completely changed my perception of law enforcement, and of small towns in Ohio. I know for a fact that if she had gone missing in Erie we would have been totally alone. Even in Elyria, the assitance you gave us would not have been at the level it was.
I write this because I worry that you don’t always understand how good at your job you are. How the world needs more people like you, in the position you were in, to do what you did for us. I know you, and others in the department had said, that this was a something ya’ll hadn’t dealt with really – most missing were runaways and the like. But you did it. You kept it going. When all this started I was so scared I would be very alone in this case, with Matthew deployed, and my life being 3 hours away from Wooster. And your constant updates and touching base put me at ease. I honestly do not think I would have come out on the other side of it with my mental faculties intact.
When mom’s remains were found, I had no idea what would come next. I wasn’t sure I could just stop. I was scared of a lot of it. I was, and am, very appreciative of the fact you called me that night. That you let me know as soon as you could. For all the craziness that came from it, from waiting on the remains when they were at Mercyhurst, and checking in with Matt and I durng all of that. We both felt more stable and ok with the results because of the care you took.
On April 17th, the day we came to close the case, collect her affects, and see the scene, I was honestly very nervous about asking you to go with us to show us. I didn’t want to come off as needy (or something) by asking you to take that last step with us. But again you proved any conceptions I had about law enforcement wrong but taking the time to walk us through it all. It gave me a amazing sense of finality I was lacking in it all. Seemed to end the whole circle for me in a calming way.
I’m not sure if this seemed silly, or unnecassary… But I want you to understand what you meant to our family. What you will always mean to our family. You helped us get our mom back, Mr. Belcher. While it may not have been the ending we hoped for, it was the one we were prepared for. And straight through til the end, you were a rock for us. I have said it before, but I have to say it again, there aren’t enough like you in the world, especially for us families of the missing. Your continuing efforts on our case, kept me going, kept me wanting to push forward. Matt has said that he was always very thankful that you helped, and how you were with us, while he was serving overseas. You let him focus on his job there and not have to worry so much about me here.
Your example taught me to not let go, to help others in the same way that you helped me. Your work made me want to tell this story, of everything it entailed, pretty or not, so that families who are still searching can see what we had and know that there is help out there, there are those who care, and will help – even when it seems there is nothing to be done.
In March we gave a speech, mom being honored in loving memory at the National Roundtable Conference hosted by CUE. In our speech about our journey, and our end to the case, we told that whole room how grateful we were to you. We talked about how much you had helped us. We let all those people that are still searching for thier families to hold on, because there are investigators out there who do give a damn, even when it seems there aren’t.
So again, Mr. Belcher, thank you. Thank you for everything. You truly are one of the best people I have ever met. You are an excellent, more amazing then words could say, Detective. I hope that department knows how lucky they are to have you, and how much of an asset you are to them. You made a horrible situation not seem so daunting and hopeless. Thank you for giving us strength, and renewing our faith in people. If you ever wondered if what you do makes a difference, one that really changed peoples’ lives for the better, if it is all worth it in the end, know that you have. Know that you really are a hero to us. Know that you made a difference to our family that will never be forgotten.
So here I sit, the one year anniversary of mom’s recovery looming on me. To mark this day, instead of an event, we will be walking in honor of mom in the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness walk – raising donations to help another family in hopes that someone else will never go through what we did. We want to pay forward the empathy and compassion we were given at our lowest times.
Thank you for giving me my mom back.
Thank you for helping us bring her home, and us some peace.