An ordinary family had gone about their daily living when suddenly, they became front page news. A young boy, Nathan O’Brien, was left at his grandparents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes’ for a sleepover. Then, somehow during the late night hours, the boy and his grandparents went missing with clear signs of violence having taken place. The following weeks resulted in a huge investigation with hundreds of officers and an entire province on the look-out for this family. After two weeks, an arrest was made and it was announced that this family had been murdered, but that the bodies were still missing.
The media is covering every angle possible and expressing frustration with the police for not giving more information. The officers seek to protect the integrity of the investigation. Hundreds of people are coming together from across the entire country to search for the bodies.
What is it about this tragedy that has people riveted to the news, their social media feeds, building memorials and following every update? As horrific and shocking as this news is, people connect with the story. This family could have been them.
I’ve reflected on this. Everything that this family did includes things that I do or have done. The little boy could have been one of my own children, the grandparents could have been my own parents. They were normal people doing normal things.
Somehow, it seems I’m more equipped to manage processing traumatic stories when they come from far away as I don’t personalize and internalize them like I do this story. I’m aware that this tragedy actually could happen to me. It actually makes it fathomable that my children or parents could be taken from their beds and murdered just because they happened to be in the path of a deranged killer.
My heart aches for Nathan’s parents, Rod and Jennifer O’Brien, and the other family members. How can they ever pick up the pieces? Their lives are forever altered. They will forever have a gaping hole in their lives and an unbearable sadness for which there will never be a cure.
I watch the news feeds. I know this could happen to me. The horrible things of life are closer than I dare want to think about. This tragedy reminds me of that. It’s this kind of connection that has blanketed the city of Calgary. Everyone relates. It’s why we want to help. It’s why closure is needed. We just can’t stand knowing that someone can come to our world in the late hours of a night and forever and ever alter the way we experience life and our loved ones.
Deep within each of our hearts, we know that our days are short. Things can happen. We brace ourselves, but no matter how much we prepare ourselves, we cannot ever be ready for the worst things. We live in the moment, but prepare for the future and somehow, in the midst of that, we give our love, hope and encouragement to those who are going through the darkest days of their life. Then, in our dark days, others come alongside us. It’s how we live.
Today, we come alongside the O’Brien and Liknes family and express our deepest condolences. We ache for them. It’s just …. too real.