Michael Wallace Foundation for Mental Wellness

21 years ago on this morning, Michael walked out of his home in Menlo Park, California. For 21 years, we have searched, struggled, grieved, and have done our best to support others.

Yesterday, I was reminded that today, February 3rd, is National Missing Person’s Day.  The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) estimates that over 600,000 people go missing every year in the US. On average, around 2,300 people are reported missing daily. A majority of these cases are solved within a few days or weeks; however, some remain unresolved for years or even decades.

I remember being shocked by those numbers 21 years ago.  Looking through all those names, and faces, and wondering.  And I remember thinking it was just a matter of time before we either found Michael.  Maybe struggling somewhere, maybe lost somewhere, maybe no longer living on this plane of existence.  Yet, here we are, all these years later, still asking all the same questions….and still running through all of those same emotions.

Yesterday, I was pissed off.

If you knew/know Mikey, then you know it could be just like him to leave these Tchotchkies about for us.  The fact that he disappeared on National Missing Person’s Day could very well mean something… or, it could merely be a coincidence.

Michael wasn’t shy with his emotions.  Not with us.  Did he really walk away from us? All of the people we all know he loved very much?  Did he really leave us to suffer, and to wonder?

Around 3am, I found myself once again searching for perspective.

Even if that is the case, even if he chose to walk away from us, I know it’s not something he did to hurt us.  I know that it was something he thought he needed to do to save himself.  And I am certain that, in his mind, he felt he was saving us.  I know how badly he was struggling.  It’s ultimately up to me whether I want to take that personally, or not.  Admittedly, that’s easier to do for myself than when I think of our mother.  Regardless, if Michael came back to us today, he would be received with open arms and would continue to be loved unconditionally.  This much, I do know.

Instead of focusing on the day, this morning I found myself thinking a lot about our mission, the people we’ve met along the way, and what it’s all really evolved into.

I was thinking about Kevin HInes.  Kevin is one of the 1% of people to survive the fall from the Golden Gate Bridge.  We had the pleasure of meeting Kevin several years ago.  He tells of using public transportation to get to the bridge where he knew he would jump.  He talks about how he told himself that if just one person asked if he was ok, he wouldn’t jump.  A 19 year old man, crying on the bus, on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, and not one person asked him if he was ok.  He jumped.  When we talked to Kevin about Mikey, he cried.  He gets it.  His story has stuck with me for a long time. #BeHereTomorrow

Would you have asked him if he was ok?  I am certain I would have.  And I wish someone would have been there to do that for my brother when he needed it.  We are so conditioned not to share, not to feel, not to get involved.   How do you raise compassionate people without showing compassion?

You, or I, may not suffer like Kevin, or like Michael, but not one of us will get through this life unscathed.

People will show us what they want us to see. The messages are not always clear. We can’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and to talk about what could be life, or death. Struggle does not make you weak.  Labels do not define you.  And every one of us needs a hand up now and then.  There should be no shame in that.  It’s how to do life right.

Michael taught us a lot.  Through both his struggle, and through his example.

Our events help us to raise funds that we can use to help support others.  And that’s important. But, the real work truly happens every single day.  With every person we meet, every hug we give, every plant we share, and with every conversation we have.

For us, every day is Missing Person’s Day.  And every interaction is a chance to bring light.

It’s really not just about Michael anymore.  But the work keeps us close to him.