She called a couple of weeks ago - I didn't call her back. The latest message indicated she understood that I was a busy guy and that she wanted to try me again. She asked that I please return her call.
Her name was not familiar to me, but I jotted it down and listened to her phone number- twice- before deleting her pleasant sounding voicemail. She went to the bottom of a list of five names. I would call her back after the morning meeting.
It irked me that I had not written it down the first time she called. I didn't recall the name, and there was the chance that I haphazardly smacked the button I refer to as “Old number 7” which is a magical device that deletes voicemails - sometimes unintentionally - before I listen to them.
I searched around in the crevices of my mind to determine if I was supposed to know her name. I came up blank, like a black slab of slate with nary a stick of chalk in sight; I could only picture the faded lines of other messages left and erased before. I had never heard of her - maybe she was selling something or maybe she had been given my name from someone else - my suspicion was validated when she picked up.
It was remarkable that she was upbeat when she answered- she told me that she had intermittently followed the Facebook page, mentioned a few specific posts I had written, and told me that folks all over the country followed the page. She was complimentary and told me that several folks in a supportive chat-room had urged her to call “TC, the Facebook guy at the Bangor Police Department.”
I was flattered, but that was just before I was floored. It is rare that I am lost for words - ask around.
Much time had passed since she initially called; today was day #19 since her son had despondently called a friend, secured his belt tightly around his own neck, and intentionally slumped to the floor and hanged himself until he was dead.
My mouth waited for my voice to catch up. I only said, “I’m so sorry.”
I can recall and deliver hundreds of jokes, I can share a story for about any specific lesson I want to relay, but the words I delivered felt like a trickle from a kinked green garden hose while trying to single-handedly extinguish the inferno of Hell itself.
She continued an upbeat delivery, but I could hear the tears of a mother being held back by a woman who wanted answers from the guy she was told might be able to help in some small way.
No pressure. None at all.
I believe we are placed in specific places, at specific times, for specific purposes. I also believe that no matter how big of a failure we think we are, it matters not, it has no bearing on our ability to be used for one of those specific purposes. It’s cool if you don’t believe in things like that - but you’ll never prove me wrong.
Her son, a successful individual, was addicted to opiates, extremely depressed, and she told me she had no idea about any of it. None.
She lives five hours away from where he made his home, she shared that the person who was on the phone line with her son when he died failed to call help for him, even after hearing the belt snap and stop his descent to the floor. The person later went to another individual’s home, picked them up, and then they drove together to discover her son’s body. Only then did they notify emergency services.
This, rightfully, was perplexing to a law-abiding mother of several. I gave her my opinion, shared my experiences with suicidal individuals, and schooled her slightly on my personal opinion about the self-centeredness of many in our society. I gave her several plausible reasons why someone might not make the call at the time when it was needed the most.
She intently listened, questioned, commented, and sounded more and more relieved as our conversation dragged on.
I explained toxicology tests and the length of time it takes to get the results back. I told her what I expected her son’s toxicology test to look like when she got the paperwork in about nine months - and incidentally - that it would seem like years for the next 9 months to pass.
I cautioned for her to expect the results to look like a cocktail of drugs which made no sense to anyone but the person who might have been taking those drugs. I was confident that she would never feel like she knew enough. I commended her on trying to be as informed as possible.
In other words, I did nothing to fix it, but it was possible that I could mitigate a few of the unanswered questions she had. These would be, incidentally, questions she would have forever.
We determined, together, that we would meet in the future, put our heads together, and try to do something for someone who is just like her son. I know she feels the need to do something else, I should help if I can.
She said while she had spoken to the officer who investigated her son’s death, he had been far too busy to explain the things we had talked about. I shared with her that there have been times when I was, more than likely, exactly like that officer. I refused pass judgement, but I could determine to do better today. She understood exactly what I was saying.
She said she was a little sad that she had to be told to reach out to me by people who followed our Facebook page in other states and countries when she lived less than ten miles from Bangor at that very moment.
I think that is possibly the most positive thing I learned; people from far away had told a woman, so very close, just to reach out and ask some questions. I almost completely screwed that up. But, referring back to what I wholeheartedly believe, the time came pass for me to be at a specific place for a specific purpose.
I told you so.
About an hour after our chat, I called her back to tell her that we should speak in early September, she agreed. I asked if I could write about our conversation, maybe just to make someone else who might be in her son’s position aware that there are other options, she was so happy for me to share her story.
She had just picked fresh blueberries, made a pie, and was delivering it to a homeless shelter. She said she did it because she could. She related to me that the conversation had made her feel so much better.
I told her I was going to call the article “19 Days.” I apologized for taking so long to call her back, but that I was glad it was today.
She stopped and fell silent for a moment and remarked that in 19 more days another son would be getting married, so we were able to speak exactly in the middle of a very tough time. She said that her oldest was to have been the best man in that wedding.
I fell silent.
She said after she hung up from our talk, she had a long cry and set to work on her pie, now she was driving to deliver it.
I confided that she was not alone in her post phone call activities. Well, except I don’t bake, I just tell stories.
It took 19 days to be in a specific place, at a specific time, because no matter how big a failure a person might think they are - it has no bearing on their ability to be used for a specific purpose. I appreciated her help.
- TC (cottonblend at blauer dot com)