My son Chris is believed to have gone into the Mississippi River somehow. He has been missing since Tuesday evening and it is now Saturday morning and I don’t know where he is. It’s in the newspapers, on the radio, on television news and, of course, all over my own Facebook page and on the pages of friends, family, and even those who are just touched by this tragedy.
I never thought that I would use this page to write this post. Of course I didn’t, because who ever thinks you will be that poor mother whose son is missing? I suppose in some ways our experience is a little different from most others who have experienced something like this. I’m a very public person, both because of my call as pastor and because of my activism and because that’s just how I am.
And Chris and Austin and I have a community around us that is so incredibly supportive and loving. And for this I will be eternally grateful.
And we have a God who is holding us right now.
People come to me and sit with me and they express themselves in so many different ways. They bring food. I have more food in my house now than I ever have. I don’t really like grocery shopping and I’m not too much of a cook. Some have given me money. Some have written poetry. So many have shared our story, cried with us, prayed with us, mourned and grieved with us, sung with us, opened their hearts to us.
People tell me they don’t know what to say to me. They don’t have words. And I tell them it’s okay because I don’t know what to say to me, either.
We pastors like to control things, even though we pray for God’s will to be done and those of us in a 12-step program of any kind know to let go and let God. We are usually the ones there in the midst of someone else’s tragedy. We don’t really know how to be the one with the tragedy who needs to accept help and to reach out and accept others’ offers of food, prayer, company.
But what else can I do but let go and let God and let others be by my side? There is no other.
The night this happened, there were a few police officers who did not handle this situation as they should have. They wouldn’t give me any information at first. They kept transferring me from precinct to precinct, jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It was really just a couple of people. One sergeant hung up on me. I don’t know all the police protocol, but I’m quite certain this is not in their field guide.
So I posted my anguish about the lack of communication on Facebook. I tweeted it. And friends advocated for me. They know who they are. I know who some of them are. For their intervention, I will forever be grateful. I do want to especially thank my friend Emilia. She “gets shit done” as I think she might say. Well, that’s what I say about her. When she read my story, she wrote this to some elected officials:
…yesterday, Chris, the loved son of Reverend Melissa Melnick fell in the waters of the Mississippi River and has not being found. The Minneapolis PD, the Park police are giving the run around to Chris’ mother transferring her from one place to another or hanging up on her. This is a mother trying to find her son, a young man that also cared so much about a better Minneapolis. Who showed up for other people, immigrants, Black Lives, water, poor and displaced people. A young man that was waking up to a world that he understood he had to fight for if he wanted his generations to enjoy. The community that love and care for Reverend Melnick and her family are deeply saddened and praying hard so that Chris can be found. What much more inhumane than denying a mother updates about her son? Please, #findChris
At the same time, there were some people from Water Patrol from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office that decided to intervene, even though this case is not in their control, to figure out who it was that needed to be speaking to me. And a kind person from Dispatch called me. And so many friends called. The Mayor of Minneapolis intervened and my Council Member Lisa Bender called me. And other lifelong friends made contacts with people they know. And my sister contacted the press. And then authorities started paying attention and communicating.
Chris and I both care a lot about justice and equity. I am very aware, and Chris would be, too, that many people are treated this way. And usually it’s just one or two people that are the gatekeepers or the “bad apple” as they like to say. The difference is, and here is one thing about privilege, that we were heard and seen. There are lots of families out there with a loved one who is missing and unanswered questions. And they might not have access like we do. So I stand beside those whose voices are not being heard and I ask you to hear them. The vast majority of the law enforcement working with us do their job and do it well every day. I plead with those who aren’t seeing or hearing the very real people missing their loved ones and who don’t have answers to open their hearts so they can see and hear the beloved family and friends of others who are missing, whether they’re “good kids” like mine or those who might struggle in some other ways. And thank you for advocating for Chris. Thank you for seeing him and for hearing me.
My family has seen some hateful and judgmental things about Chris. Just know that Chris is well-loved. I don’t care about the trolls. I pray for them. I pray they will have peace and compassion in their hearts. Please just keep love in your heart. Chris is a human being. Sinner and saint. Beloved.
Today I will go to the river to pray and some others will accompany me.
Tomorrow I will go to be with my Tapestry community at church. But tomorrow I go as a mother who happens to be a pastor instead of a pastor who happens to be a mother. Others will lead. Maybe tomorrow will be filled with joy because my baby has been found safe and sound. And maybe not.
I’m sure people are getting really tired of my frequent and sorrowful posts. Some probably would even prefer I return to my frequent political posts and arguments. And that’s okay. I’m tired of all of this, too. Take a rest. Refresh. Do the things you love to do. Say a prayer for us sometimes. Look at the river and enjoy its magnificent beauty and respect its power.
For my friends and family far away, in other cities and other countries, I hear your anguish, too, in your prayers, calls, posts, messages. Please know that I find so much comfort and strength in knowing you are praying for Chris around the world.
Know that God is with us and God is with you. Chris is a child of God and God is taking care of him. Austin, too. Their dad, too. Me, too. And you, too, my dear friend who is reading this. Peace.