I have a grandniece called Cleo, a beautiful girl, with long curly hair, a magic smile and a happy disposition. When I heard that a little girl with the same name had disappeared from a camping site in Australia, during a family holiday, it registered with me and I included her in my prayers, hoping for a safe return. There wasn’t much news about her in our media in the weeks since she was last seen, until today. On the morning news, there was an interview with a big burly cop, first on the scene when officers broke into a locked house and found a little girl. He told the interviewer that he has said his name to her, once, twice, three times asking her all along what was her name. Eventually she said, “my name is Cleo!” he was choking back tears as he recalled the sheer joy of finding this lost child, alive and well and was able to reunite her with the distraught parents. I’m sure they never gave up hope, but so often these stories don’t have any ending at all.
It was 35 years ago that Philip Cairns disappeared on his way from lunch back to school. His mum, Alice has never had a call like this, she along with the families of those who have disappeared are left in a living limbo, never wanting to extinguish hope. I was teaching in Dundrum when he went missing and well remember the posters with his picture on every pole, trying to prompt someone with information to speak out. I’ve never forgotten him, often think about his family and wonder how it could happen and no one is able or willing to shed light on it, even after all this time.
No one really knows why some prayers are answered and happy outcomes are enjoyed, while others are not answered yet and suffering and loss endure. In both the good outcomes that we celebrate and the sad ones that we hold in our prayers, we are reminded of how precious each child is, how deep our love can be and how hope can never be extinguished from the human heart. When life is over and we are reunited with our departed brothers and sisters, some of these mysteries will be unravelled in the hereafter, and the Lord our God will help us understand more deeply our joys and sorrows.