Missing. It's a word that strikes terror in the heart.
Certainly there are the minor gulps in the throat – missing car keys, missing wallet, a missing library book (and when you do find it, the dog has chewed the corner of it). Then there is the muttered prayer to St. Anthony, "Tony, Tony, listen, listen, hurry, hurry. Something is missing."
But the missing that stops the heart is when a person or pet disappears.
At the time of writing this, Nigerian parents are distraught because the daughters they sent to boarding school are missing. Boko Haram, a Nigerian Islamist militant group, has kidnapped 276 girls aged 15 to 18 and says it is going to sell them. All are still missing.
The latest information at the time of writing is Canada, the United States, Britain, Israel and France are offering to help. A video of some of the girls garbed in Muslim dress, sitting and reciting the Koran is shown with Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militants, saying the schoolgirls will be held until detained Boko Haram militants are freed.
Girls who escaped tell of teachers running away, telling their vulnerable young students to stay, locking the gate so they could not leave.
In another case, Madeleine McCann has been missing for seven years. She disappeared from her parents' Portuguese vacation apartment while her parents dined at a nearby bar. Sometime, in between the adults' half-hour checks, the four-year-old disappeared. Leads were not followed, and three years ago Scotland Yard re-opened the case.
Move to Canada and, emboldened perhaps by the headline-grabbing Idle No More movement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, many are calling on the federal government to launch an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered aboriginal women.
To date, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney balks at the request.
Even James Anaya, the UN's special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is calling for "a comprehensive, nationwide inquiry" into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
How many? RCMP files count 1,186 missing and murdered aboriginal woman.
Locally, the missing haunt us on the evening news. The McCann family's public appeal for information on the location of their missing parents still cuts to the quick.
The last image of them is of a surveillance video capture of Lyle McCann July 3, 2010 filling the gas tank of their motorhome on their way in British Columbia. Their burned-out motorhome was found two days later in a campground east of Edmonton.
A missing Alberta government scientist Anina Hundsdoerfer, 32, hadn't been heard from since March 22 when she went to work in downtown Edmonton. Her car was found in a remote area near Rocky Mountain House. Fellow workers and friends said it was totally out of character for her.
Sadly, RCMP found her body May 12, a few kilometres from her car. Foul play is not suspected, the RCMP say.
Edmonton Police Service says it receives 1,500 reports of missing people every year. Some run away. Some are kidnapped. Some commit suicide.
When they are wanted – such as the Nigerian girls – even nations reach out to help. Family and friends turn to the media for help. Others put up posters and drive through the streets looking for their lost one.
My brother is lost to me. It has been 20 years now since I have heard from him. I love him. But he fears other family members and stays hidden, even from his own children.
Whatever the loss, the ache never leaves.
Remember the stories from the Bible of loss, especially this one.
"Which one of you having 100 sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices" (Luke 15.3-4).
As each disappearance is unique, there is no one solution to loss.
But one answer seems to be love, an unconditional love so constant that that person, that family, that nation knows they matter, truly matter.
It is the same with the Church. As our beloved Pope Francis told an Indian journalist, "This Church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people."
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)