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Love Gone Missing

“Why did you come to Seattle?”
“I came to Seattle for the love.”
“The love? But Seattle is a desert.”
“I was misinformed.”

Back at the beginning of this century, absent being in a coma, being a hermit monk somewhere on a high mountain, or being sunk to your neck in the middle of a cypress swamp, you could not escape the story of “The Runaway Bride:”

“The runaway bride case was the case of Jennifer Carol Wilbanks (born March 1, 1973), an American woman who ran away from home on April 26, 2005, in order to avoid her wedding with John Mason, her fiancé, on April 30. Her disappearance from Duluth, Georgia, sparked a nationwide search and intensive media coverage, including some media speculation that Mason had killed her. On April 29, Wilbanks called Mason from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and falsely claimed that she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a Hispanic male and a white woman. Jennifer Wilbanks gained notoriety in the United States and internationally, and her story persisted as a major topic of national news coverage for some time after she was found and her safety was assured. “

At the time Wilbanks was the plat du jour of selfishness and fear in our blighted age and was the “Story of the Decade” for as long as her story lasted. When she finally showed up and confessed she was parsed and probed, drawn and quartered, and generally eviscerated by the rapacious media until she was little more than a damp spot on some discarded surgical sponge.

I despised The Runaway Bride from the first moment it was revealed she had simply freaked out and taken the geographic cure by getting gone to Las Vegas. It was a match made in hell. Along with Wilbanks sane people have to hate Las Vegas too — a place that promotes itself by proclaiming the whacked-out psycho’s vacation destination of choice. Being a psychopath’s institutional refuge is a pathetic reason for a town to exist, but cheap and low places need to work with what they have. After all, nobody would mistake Vegas for Vatican City until, of course, they build a 1/3rd scale model of Saint Peters and slam six thousand slots into the basilica — something I am sure is in the planning stage.

“No matter how many in the media beat up their peers

for paying too much attention to this tawdry tale,

it reveals a deeper truth about ourselves and our lives.”


Still, Vegas was the perfect place for The Runaway Bride to select as the terminus of her bus ticket. Once you go psycho in America it seems you have to pass through at least a Las Vegas of the mind and soul even if your final destination is someplace much more mundane like… Albuquerque.

Let her go. Let her go. God bless her,
Wherever she may be.
She can search, search this whole worldwide over…

— St. James Infirmary

In sum, Wilbanks freaked out, flipped out, bugged out, came back, fessed up, and was forgotten in a wave of lawsuits…. ”then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”

That’s the story. That’s the surface. Let’s strap on our Sea of Love scuba gear and dive.

Let’s look instead at what lies far below the personalities of this pathetic drama and into the deeper principles which illuminate why this tawdry little tale had such a large impact.

Father forgive the media, they know not what they do. But sometimes they do things right in spite of themselves. “The Runaway Bride” was one of those stories. And no matter how many in the media beat up their peers for paying too much attention to this tawdry tale, in the end it reveals a deeper truth about ourselves and our lives.

“It seems to me that if we knew the secrets of all our hearts,

we’d know that love goes missing in our country thousands of times an hour. “


What we are really seeing here is something that has an abiding interest to humans because it is something that happens — in their secret hearts and deeper souls — to millions of human beings every single day. This particular iteration is a modern passion play in which people act out on the stage of the nation our daily common tragedy entitled: Love Gone Missing.

It seems to me that if we knew the secrets of all our hearts, we’d know that love goes missing in our country thousands of times an hour. True it doesn’t usually go for a run, take a taxi, and grab a bus for destinations thousands of miles away, but that can often be the end of it.

Love goes missing in a moment of fear, of spite, of words spoken or left unspoken, in the blink or wink of an eye or in a spoken sentence only half-heard or remembered wrongly.

Love untempered by fire or by ice is a skittish thing in our lives. We think we know what love is, but we really only know what we’ve been told love is — at least at the beginning.

We’ve been told Love is the white-hot passion that comes at the beginning of romance and is supposed to sustain itself at that level of heat across the decades. When that expectation burns through the weak vessels that we are, love goes missing — off on a quest to find the next pile of fuel on which to burn. Go to a Family Courthouse in any county in this country on any day of the week and you’ll see, scattered about the corridors and waiting their turn before the judges, the scorched waste, sodden ash, and family rubble left by this fools’ fire.

We’ve been told that Love is seen in the increasingly lavish weddings whose example is the 14 bridesmaids, 600 guests bash that our current poster child for Love Gone Missing fled from. With such a monstrous beginning, what love could not go missing either before or soon after. No real love can measure up to such grandiose beginnings. After all, Princess Diana had only 5 bridesmaids at her wedding and we all know about the bloody tunnel in which that love gone missing ended in a Paris night.

In my life I’ve seen love go missing in a single, secret,

brief and enraged glance on Christmas Day.

I’ve heard love go missing months before the front door slammed.

Wise people and scriptures all tell us that Love, if it is not to go missing, should be built carefully and slowly until what lies inside Love is seen and grasped. The contemporary Love we are told should not be centered on the soul but on things. We are told that Love needs to be seen in the world through things — the place setting from Tiffany’s, the endless objects from the multiple registries, the proof positive of the house becoming the ever larger house as we flip our homes every three years to get our nice appreciation rise. And so we seek to buttress and shore up Love by meeting the expectations of others in the material realm. God forbid you fail those expectations, for then, in an instant of selfish decision — that always opts for better and not for worse — Love Goes Missing.

In my life I’ve seen love go missing in a single, secret, brief and enraged glance on Christmas Day. I’ve heard love go missing months before the front door slammed. I’ve seen it go missing in me in a hundred silent moments where I did not speak my heart and in a hundred other moments when I spoke my heart falsely and far too quick. And the only thing I think I’ve learned about love gone missing is to let it go — and I’m not even sure about that no matter how often it is repeated to me.

For most of us, when Love Goes Missing it is not easily found again. When it goes missing it goes — near or far in space — a long, long way away and we don’t have the town turn out to walk search grids for our family, or issue nationwide alerts, or offer $100,000 rewards. Love just goes and once it goes we may struggle to find it for a time, but by that time it is far out of reach and beyond our puny power to locate.

But even if one could locate it, what good would that do?

Love gone missing can’t be compelled to return like some runaway bride taken through the airports with a cloak over its head — an apprehended perpetrator of the non-crime of going missing. Love’s a wild force in our too domesticated and ordered lives. Once gone missing, for whatever reason, Love can’t be just taken back as it was even if it is found. For if love gone missing is found and returns, it always remains a shattered vessel.

Love gone missing takes with it the hostages of trust and truth

but they don’t come back with it if it returns.

Yes, I know that in the endless bromides of our modern Therapeutic State Religion one is supposed to find the heart, the mercy, the compassion, and the patience to pick up every little shard of what has been shattered and, with our ample supplies of therapeutic superglue, painfully and tediously put it all back together as it was.

Except, of course, Love can never be what it was before it went missing.

Love gone missing takes with it the hostages of trust and truth but they don’t come back with it if it returns. They’ve been buried somewhere en route in graves long forgotten, far off the map. Even if you could accept it without them, you’d still see the fine hairline cracks in the vase you put back together together. You’d both handle the love like a rare museum object, always looking for the next soft place to store it so that it could not break or escape again. Love under constant guard will never be entirely free from the craving to go missing once again. At any time and for any reason. Sometimes for no reason at all.

So, like so many other things that ring deep in the changes of our hearts, we look for what to do; for how we can fix what cannot be fixed by us. If we find love gone missing and if it seems to have been returned to us we look to repair the rare and delicate thing. But it is, we find, like trying to repair a Swiss Watch with sledgehammer. Nobody human has that delicate a touch.

Perhaps it is better, in the end, to learn to let Love be. Nobody says you can have only one love with one person. If there can be, and there is, room for more than one love in one life, perhaps there can be more than one love in one love. Maybe the answer, if answer there be, is not the easy answer of repair, but the harder answer of starting all over from the gross and shapeless clay of love.

Maybe you worked too fast at the first pass of love and threw on the wheel of your days a lopsided and thin pot, something that had, deep inside it, some emptiness, some pockets of thin air that you could not see from outside, but that caused it to crack inside under the long heat of our lives of days and hands.

Not everything that’s pretty is strong.

Perhaps the best thing to do with love gone missing is, as said before, to just let it go and get it gone. It seems cold to say that no search will find Love again as it was at its inception, but that’s probably the truth. At the same time, and in the always inscrutable nature of love, to know that love has gone missing is not the same as knowing that love itself is gone. That’s the thing that we always seem to miss; the thing we most need to remember.

Maybe, if you take the time to improve your skills on the wheel of life, you will be able at some point to take up the clay of that love and, kneading more patiently, centering more carefully, and shaping with caring and constant hands a better, stronger vessel.

True, it might not be as fine and pretty as the first more delicate one, but it could be good and serviceable and steady. Not at all as likely to shatter on a glance or a word or a silence or a shadow… and just go missing.

Maybe, just maybe, like all things here on the great wheel, such a remade love could — in time — be coming around again.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rob De Witt July 19, 2017, 11:38 AM

    Some say the heart is just like a wheel,
    When you bend it you can’t mend it…

  • Old Codger July 19, 2017, 4:41 PM

    Creation of false and too high expectations. Seeking perfection where there is none and a soulmate when the true object is prolongation of the species; not the ego.

    Love is not a “Eureka” moment, but a long hard slog through the minefield of existence…moments of shared joy and moments of absolute lonely terror.

    Not a potters’ wheel; more like a 3-D printer: an object hammered together from a myriad of daily gains and losses, no two alike. As Stoics might say, “Deal with it and keep on truckin’! Or put yourself out of our misery.”

  • Mike G. July 19, 2017, 5:17 PM

    In my first marriage, love was lost and then temporarily regained. But as you alluded to, it’s companions, trust and truth, didn’t return with it.

    It took me over ten years to find love again, but experience helped me to forge a better bond in my second marriage. It will last this time.

  • Howard Nelson July 19, 2017, 7:10 PM

    It seems to me that what we commonly call love is simply an exchange of affection. No exchange, no affection. If the affection is not unconditional, it is not love. Love does not discard, nor can it be discarded. Love marinates us. Love waits to ambush us when we believe we’ve been abandoned or have abandoned it.
    Some say God is love. Some say Love is God.
    Who does not love the sleeping or rambunctious two-year old.
    Love is a great mystery that needs no answer and needs no questioning. Gratitude nods to it and is fulfilled by it.
    Get It?

  • ghostsniper July 19, 2017, 7:13 PM

    34 years and counting, after 6 previous false efforts.
    A lover will burn out soon but a friend can endure the test of time.
    And then there’s this:
    A friend got married when he was 18 and 2 years ago they got divorced, after 42 years together.
    ~peepz iz phuni~

  • Howard Nelson July 19, 2017, 7:34 PM

    Seattle is a desert; no love?
    But I was so hungry for love I fed on the sand-whiches there.
    Better than we make love, Love makes us.

  • Greg July 19, 2017, 9:09 PM

    Thanks for re-posting. You obviously pay attention to your site searches, as I looked to reread this just last night, but found nothing in the search results. Love gone missing yet again.
    Just letting it get gone this time ’round.
    I kinda miss the comments of the original post. I found your work just after 9-11.

    Thanks again.

  • Dink Newcomb July 20, 2017, 7:25 AM

    ** “nobody would mistake Vegas for Vatican City” **
    Well, in our hopes/minds perhaps but what about all the pedophiles they are protecting there and the delightful little “diverse lifestyle gathering” that the Vatican’s morality police were having a short while ago in the house designated as headquarters for the effort. A tear in the fabric of the universe to an alternate reality providing a glimpse of Las Vatican? How cynical are those who do that– wretched revolutionaries: sycophants to the King, intrinsic to the power of the King, ubiquitous peers serenely comfortable in the court. I guess I am trying to say that love (or faith, as with all emotions) can be every bit as ersatz as ham made from soy beans — those wishing for their own emptiness to become real or just simply faking it requires quantum leaps of attitude change to “restore” to a never before untarnished state.
    I do not remember if the Wilbanks woman married her fiancé after her return but I think he was a self deluding specimen if so.

  • Callmelennie July 20, 2017, 8:22 AM

    A personal lamentation to a love gone missing


  • Bunny July 20, 2017, 8:31 AM

    “On March 15, 2008, Wilbanks’s ex-fiancé, John Mason, married another woman, Shelley Martin, in a quiet ceremony at his parents’ home in Duluth, Georgia.”
    One could argue (I believe correctly) that love and faith are not emotions, but acts of will.

  • Dink Newcomb July 20, 2017, 1:01 PM

    ** “One could argue (I believe correctly) that love and faith are not emotions, but acts of will.” **
    I can’t disagree with you because in the lovelorn times we all experience, I have debated that with myself till there was no oxygen left to maintain brain function for thinking about it any more. My conclusion– the best (love or faith) is prompted by an emotion, scrutinized for value and with a rational decision, a commitment to it or a rejection of it. BUT, its a hell of a lot more fun (until the end) to burn out in a red hot blaze of glory.
    It occurs to me that mine here is bold talk for a quick draw artist who too often squeezes the trigger in mid path and shoots himself in the foot.
    I will let Gerard look at this deeper than I am capable of, he is adept at leading me to places I have never seen before.

  • A.Brown July 27, 2017, 6:59 PM

    Sometimes Love Gone Missing leaves a gift which influences what remains for years after it’s gone.

    Love might be seen peeking out from a bookshelf, savored in a meal carefully prepared, or part of a continuous search for the right French butter keeper — the one that reminds you of Love.

    Love shared has the power to shape what we desire most in future love — what we want and what we want to share with another — even if it’s not fully realized at the time. This awareness, and the warmth of Love that lingers, is an enduring gift of Love Gone Missing.

  • H (science denier) May 21, 2021, 10:34 AM

    “I was misinformed.”

    Heh. The encapsulation of my first marriage. On the way out the door, she said “I have GOT to get my shit together.” No, actually, you don’t. Oh, well. 29-years in, the second one seems to have worked out. We’ll see.

  • pbird May 21, 2021, 1:00 PM

    I find that as time goes on, my love grows to such an extent that I am tender about this lovely world and in tears with love for my friends, many of which I only know as words on a screen.
    This worries me a little. Perhaps time is short.

  • Jean May 21, 2021, 11:14 PM

    Who tried (and succeeded mostly) to fool us into believing that that romantic love is needed at all?

  • Mary Ann May 22, 2021, 5:15 AM

    “April is over, April is over. There are all kinds of love in the world but never the same love twice.”
    F. Scott Fitzgerald
    The Sensible Thing

  • Annie Rose May 22, 2021, 5:16 AM

    Perhaps we would do better to approach love the same way the Japanese have made broken ceramics into an art form. Kintsugi is the practice of mending broken ceramics with golden lacquer and it is considered very beautiful. The broken vessel is not simply thrown away, but repaired carefully and cherished for its imperfections. We become broken and imperfect through the process of living life. Yet we can be mended and transformed through our pain, laughter, and love into something even more wonderful. Marriage can be the same if both are willing to work together to mend the broken pieces. And there will be broken pieces. Through patience, caring, respect, compassion, forgiveness, and friendship, love can be repaired and be even deeper and stronger. The problem is that in our disposable society, we often think it is easier to simply dispose of the unwanted or broken, and get a new, shiny object. Some simply do not want to do the real work that it takes to sustain a deep and abiding, true love that will weather all of Life’s storms. It takes two people who are willing and brave enough, and yes, stubborn enough, to rise to the challenge. One person cannot do it alone. How do we know that we have chosen wisely? We don’t, until we do.

  • Horatio May 22, 2021, 6:40 AM

    The Casablanca reference was well done

  • jwm May 22, 2021, 7:18 AM

    I had no reason to expect it. I was forty eight, with one ridiculously bad attempt at marriage long behind me. I had consistently crappy luck at the whole business of dating and romance, and I was quite content with the notion that the whole love n’ marriage thing was not going to happen for me. But I asked Mary if she wanted to go bike riding, and she said, “yes.” Our first dates were strangely quiet. You know how it is when you’re on a first date, and suddenly you’re faced with a long squirmingly awkward stretch where neither of you seems to have anything to say to the other. Usually it’s a sure sign that this is going nowhere. But the silence was never awkward. And I never had that flush of teen-age infatuation with her. But one evening found us talking in my car in the parking lot of Mimo’s cafe, and I heard myself say, “I want to marry you.”
    She answered, “I want to marry you.”
    It’s been just over twenty one years, and we’ve scarcely had a cross word between us. This has been the great joy of my life. It is a treasure unearned, and undeserved, a gift of grace that keeps me humble, and grateful.


  • Anne May 22, 2021, 9:09 AM

    I have watched for several years now–ever since Al Gore and wife had their “silver divorce”. At that moment “silver divorce” became the new goal in the list of ideals of the feminist criminalists–those thugs who believe they are redesigning the world to be a better place. Ever since then the drum beats have grown louder. The women “leaders’ have been trained to encourage older women to leave long term marriages for the ideal of ‘freedom’. Some of these “leaders” have been trained –a one day training in ways to encourage others to break it off for the sake of one last chance at independence! The British Broadcasting Company runs an article in one category or another just about every other week. You can find it in ideal non profit foundations where two husbands are suddenly abandoned by two wives of the nearly the same age and length of marriage. “Silver Divorce” is the new goal ! Be ever so watchful

  • Dirk May 23, 2021, 6:44 PM

    According to the state, marriage is a legal contract between you, your spouse and them!. Who on gods green earth decided the State should have leverage in peoples relationships. Bad idea then, terrible idea today.

    We have several friends who have married without the silly ass license and blessings of the state.

    Village Idiot

  • Anne May 26, 2021, 11:08 AM

    As I stated previously–the liberal left media, which includes PBS Masterpiece are coalescing around the idea of “silver divorce”. Here is the link to one more affirmation being presented as a Masterpiece Theater drama. Read it and weep. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/clips/us-official-preview/