The Day Lizeth Died
Lizeth was a medical assistant who worked for Maple City Health Care Center in the early 00’s. Lizeth arrived in the morning for work on a day that was unusually busy, even for Maple City Health Care Center, because of a Medicaid audit that was demanding the attention of James and Jennifer.
About ten in the morning, Jennifer had a question for Lizeth and set out to find her. Maple City Health Care Center is located in an old fire station, but every square inch is divided into spaces designed for efficiency, so the place can look and feel like a device designed to test the intelligence of rodents. It can often take several minutes to find someone, but after searching for ten minutes, Jennifer became concerned and began asking other staffers if they knew where Lizeth was.
Several people had seen Lizeth that morning. Indeed, Lizeth’s car was still parked in the parking space in the alley behind Maple City Health Care Center. Someone checked the yellow house next door – a house owned by Maple City Health Care Center and used for groups.
No Lizeth anywhere – not even in the dreaded, spooky basement.
Arely call Eliseo, Lizeth’s husband at his office. The last Eliseo knew, Lizeth was headed for work, but maybe their child was sick. Arely then called the day care center, but the child was there and well.
With the worry in Eliseo’s voice and a recent story in the paper about a woman who had been abducted, members of the staff became concerned. How could Lizeth disappear and yet her car was still in the lot?
Several people remembered seeing Lizeth that morning, but no one knew where she might be. James decided to call the Medicaid official in a desperate attempt to see if the official had noticed something that others didn’t.
The official had a clue. While sitting in her car that morning, waiting for the Center to open, the official had seen a person matching Lizeth’s description get into a tan car with a man. The man had black hair, going on gray.
No one could imagine why Lizeth, so careful and trustworthy, would voluntarily get in a car with a stranger. They only motive that anyone could imagine was that the stranger had asked for help and the empathetic Lizeth had agreed.
Maple City Health Care Center staff considered waiting patiently, but every minute waited could be a minute wasted if Lizeth were, indeed, in danger.
When the Goshen police first arrived at Maple City Health Care Center, they dismissed the case as a domestic dispute. But then Eliseo, Lizeth's husband arrived at the Center. Now the police were concerned. Headquarters radioed every officer in the city with a description of Lizeth, the car, and her assailant.
Maple City Health Care Center soon took on the pall of an emergency room. Some people gathered in the lunch room to pray. Others cried. A nurse called her church and started the church’s prayer chain.
Police detectives arrived and began interviewing staff. Armed officers searched the neighborhood, including the construction site of the school being renovated across the street from Maple City Health Care Center.
Becky, one of the administrative staff, remembers huddling in the lunch room where staff had shared so many lunches, laughs, and stories together. Suddenly, Becky looked up and there was Lizeth – standing in the midst of all the fear and sadness.
Lizeth’s face was as gaunt as everyone else’s. Seeing the police cars, she was certain that something terrible had happened to someone she cared about – until she discovered that the object of concern was her.
Lizeth had been at a meeting in nearby Elkhart. Wanting to save gas, Lizeth arranged to ride with a colleague. The colleague had a red car and short grayish hair, but was a woman, not a man.
No one regretted the painful hours lost to confusion. Knowing that Lizeth was safe and sound was worth all the discomfort.