It Takes a Village for One Man’s Missing Mom

It is often repeated that it takes a village to raise a child. From parents and family to doctors and teachers, the responsibility for the most helpless of our society is a burden handed to many. But this is equally true at the opposite end of the age spectrum: as our loved ones get older, health starts to fail, and for many this can be a daily struggle with dementia. Josh Goldberg learned this lesson well, but the “village” so to speak was a digital one.

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We often forget that cyberspace, the Internet, is grounded in the real world. I am a living, breathing person typing this post – you are a living, breathing person reading it. And that should be very comforting to know when you hear that Reddit helped a man locate his missing mother in the bustle of New York City.

May Goldberg went missing Monday evening on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The 59-year-old has struggled with severe dementia for years. Her son Josh called the New York Police Department as soon as possible, and the NYPD was quick to tweet this to its 100,000 followers:

Silver Alert: May Goldberg, 59, last seen 19 West 69 St Manhattan #20Pct on 4/21. Call #800577TIPS w/ info. pic.twitter.com/7cJtdo3kRy
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014

Josh, however, didn’t stop there, writing a post on Reddit Tuesday morning that asked local users (whoever they may be) to keep an eye out:

Her name is May Goldberg. She is 59 years old, Chinese, 5’6″ 115 lbs. She has shoulder-length black hair and we believe she might be wearing a white, long-sleeve, zip-up fleece (NY1 article lists alternative clothing that she MIGHT be wearing). She speaks both Mandarin Chinese and English. She walks with a slight limp due to hip-replacement surgery she had several years ago. She has severe dementia.

We have contacted the NYPD as well as several missing persons/Alzheimer’s associations to assist us with the search. We are currently putting up fliers in the surrounding areas and her information should be broadcast on several local news outlets soon.

By Tuesday evening, another Redditor – the anonymous geryorama – offered hope, as May was found walking in Midtown. Said geryorama:

Hi guys. I am so glad May will be shortly reunited with her family. I was walking home from work around 9:30-10PM and I noticed May at East 47th and Lexington Avenue. As I saw Josh’s post in the afternoon she looked very familiar. I quickly pulled out my phone and visited this page to ensure it is indeed her. When I realized it’s her, I approached her, asked for her name, told her that her family is looking for her, and took her to Hyatt Hotel lobby to contact the police. The gentleman and lady at the Hyatt front desk were extremely helpful and they contacted the police. Two police officers arrived within 3 minutes. They identified May and I believe they called for an ambulance. In the meantime, I quickly sent a personal message to Josh via Reddit informing him that her mom has been found and that she is with the police.

And on Wednesday, Josh was back online to thank the Reddit community.

MY MOM HAS BEEN FOUND! She is safe, but she is being checked out at the hospital as a precaution. A million thanks to /u/geryorama for finding her on the street and alerting the authorities. The outpouring of support has been completely overwhelming. My family and I send a HUGE thank you to the entire Reddit community. You are amazing. Thank you.

Wow. It’s nice to know that the Internet is such a strong support network, even offline.

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Michael Harrell is a former staff member and current volunteer at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Federal Way, Washington. A blogger by hobby and social media manager by trade, he continues to teach the faith to ninth graders when he's not busy watching movies or theatre. He loves the Seattle Mariners, and his wife wants you to know he's married. You can follow him on Twitter.