When people go missing, the mere absence of a loved one, as well as the lack of certainty about their fate, pains us.
Deaths are cleaner than disappearances, and a missing girl or boy can spark a torment that never fizzles out. Even when people know that it is more than likely their loved one has perished, having proof of the loss sometimes soothes the soul.
Just ask Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, a woman in her 80s who had searched for her parents virtually the entirety of her life. She understood the dynamic at play.
According to The Telegraph, Udry-Dumoulin’s mother and father were Swiss parents of seven children. On Aug. 15, 1942, they walked to a nearby meadow to feed the family’s cows.
Her mother was only 37 years old, and her father was 40 years old. It was the first time Udry-Dumoulin’s mother had ever accompanied her father on such a trip.
They never returned. Various nearby villages searched for them at length, to no avail.
“One day, we had to (accept) the obvious,” Udry-Dumoulin told Le Martin. “They were not coming back.”
She added, “We spent our whole lives looking for them, without stopping. We thought that we could give them the funeral they deserved one day.”
They did eventually find them, although it took three-quarters of a century. In the summer of 2017, Swiss mountain caretaker Jan Theiler was attending to a ski tower that had shifted.
The glacier (which was named Tsanfleuron) had begun to melt, and as Theiler had used a piece of heavy machinery to shift the tower back into its proper place, he noticed something: a scattering of brownish rocks darkening.
According to GQ, though, they weren’t rocks. They were an umbrella, a bottle, four boots and a frozen face peering up from the ice.
Perhaps the most surprising thing was that Theiler and the people who he worked for weren’t surprised by the discovery. It wasn’t the first time that receding ice had revealed human remains.
“It can happen up here,” Bernhard Tschannen, who runs a resort in the area, said. “In the mountains, sometimes bad things happen.”
But for Udry-Dumoulin, the discovery wasn’t a bad thing. If anything, it was a blessing.
When reporters appeared at her doorstep with the news, she said, “Thank you, God.” Later, she would add, “It is like a wish finally coming true.”
That might seem a strange sentiment, but closure of any sort must be sweet after all these years. “I can say that after 75 years of waiting, this news gives me a deep sense of calm,” Udry-Dumoulin said.
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