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SOAPBOX: This ASU student lost her sister. And then she went missing, again

By KJZZ News
Published: Monday, April 1, 2024 - 11:11am

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On KJZZ's SOAPBOX, The Show turns over the the mic to listeners. In our latest series, listeners tell their own true stories on the theme of Missing. Next up is Eleri Mosier.

An essay by Mosier, an Arizona State University junior who studies English and sociology, inspired this series' topic. Mosier knows what it’s really like to miss someone.

Woman with long hair smiles in studio
Amber Victoria Singer/KJZZ
Eleri Mosier

I still remember the day I heard my little sister was missing.

Not my sister, not really. She died of cancer in 2018. She was 9. I was 14.

But she lived on in a way, in the form of a mural and art installation in an alley in my central Phoenix neighborhood. Toward the end of Harmony's life, artist Thomas Breeze Marcus made a beautiful mural in her honor. In vibrant pinks, purples, blues and greens, Breeze depicts a cactus with heart-shaped prickly pears. In the corner in yellow, he painted, "For Harmony."

After Harmony passed away, another local artist, Maggie Keane, created a life-sized wood cutout meant to represent Harmony admiring the mural. It shows her in blue polka dot pants with a plaid shirt and a bucket hat she wore after her hair fell out. She's slouching a little bit. She looks tired even from behind.

A mural featuring cactus that says "For Harmony"
Eleri Mosier
A mural honoring Eleri Mosier's sister, Harmony.

From the beginning, I didn't like the cut out. To me, it depicted someone who I could stand beside but never experience life with again. It was haunting and took me years and a lot of acceptance to appreciate the beauty it held.

Five years after Harmony died, the cutout went missing. The disappearance caused an uproar on Facebook that was almost comical to my parents and me. People were saying "Harmony is missing" and expressed their anger that someone would steal her as if my sister had been kidnapped. But it wasn't my sister. It was a piece of artwork. I felt like it should be valued as such.

When I heard the cut-out was missing, I felt more offended by the fact that someone had the energy and time to dismantle and steal a piece by a local artist, especially one that had been created out of love as a tribute to a community member. I doubted that the thief had ill intentions of disrespecting my family and causing us pain. It felt more like a jab at the artist.

I continued to hear bits and pieces on the neighborhood Facebook page until a couple months later, when I was volunteering at a music festival. A neighbor came up to me saying, "I can't believe they found Harmony." My first reaction was, what is she talking about? Until I saw the wooden cutout standing in the alley. Turns out, the cutout was found in another neighborhood on the side of a major street and returned to its original spot. I responded with excitement that felt disingenuous.

Wooden cut-out of girl
Eleri Mosier
A cut-out representing Eleri Mosier's sister, Harmony.

But as the night progressed and I continued to see the joy other people got out of the cutout, I understood why they were so upset when it went missing.

Yes, it is a piece of artwork. It isn't the living, breathing being that was my sister. But it's more important than I originally thought.

Sometimes when I'm walking through the alley, I see a piece of wood. Other times I see a girl. I stand next to her little self, and I remember how much I've grown since she was this small and how if she was alive, she probably would be towering above me. I am now 20. She would be 15. Sometimes this makes me want to cry, but that's what art does. It evokes emotion, it heals and it hurts.

Since this piece was introduced to our community, I've realized the raw power that art holds — but I still miss my sister. And art can't replace that.

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