Hug them… call them… write a darn letter


I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe how my day started.

Words like explode, burst, smacked, and even unexpected seem like decent options. But I haven’t quite been able to string together the full impact and sequence in a run of a few words together in what feels like the appropriate order.

I woke up, did a really brief handful of things, and then grabbed my phone. And there were all sorts of notifications and texts and more. A friend had died, and several other friends were sending along messages to see if I had heard.

(No. I didn’t.)

And the story gets worse.

This particular friend had disappeared. Completely. I hadn’t heard from her in far too long. And I wasn’t alone. Several of us hadn’t been able to reach her, by phone or mail or in person, for several years.

(Let’s back up. History and context. It’s needed before we get to the really worse part.)

As it often does, a community of friends had developed at the place where I worked. This particular woman was—bar none—one of the kindest, most thoughtful, generous people I have ever met. Many of us cared about her, while treasuring our relationships with her, for well over a decade.

There was a bit of a shift that took place as the days and months and years went along. We worked at a place that operated around the clock. As you might imagine, over time many of us changed shifts and earned promotions and it became a bit more difficult to stay in contact with the everyday stuff. Things that could be relayed over a daily cup of coffee were suddenly events that simply got lost in the shuffle while trying to meet a handful of times each month.

And then… for a variety of reasons and in a series of actions that aren’t completely important to the story… she was no longer working with us. Separated from the company.

Many of us began making attempts to reach her. On the phone. Stopping by her house. And, like a goalie delivering a perfect game, her husband denied us time and time again. He answered the phone. (She wasn’t available.) He opened the door. (She wasn’t in. (Even though there were times that a several of us each knew she was home when we reached out, only to be told she wasn’t there.))

My phone calls became less frequent. My writing became an annual Christmas card to her and her family. I never gave up hope… for as long as the cards weren’t returned as undeliverable or such, I held out some hope. But it always seemed a wasted effort after once again being told she wasn’t there.

I missed her. Tremendously. But I had to respect what was happening, understand that I didn’t know what was going on behind those closed doors, and simply hope that eventually there might be some news. A break in the clouds and the reappearance of that smile.

News came this morning.

She had died.

But, as I mentioned, that’s not the worst part of this story.

The person that discovered the news and kicked off the run of contacts and “have you heard” messages and more passed along the link to the obituary.

(Are you ready for the kicker?)

She passed away six months ago.

Let’s pause here for a moment. We were hearing about it six months after it happened. Come on back once that sinks in.

One of the sweetest individuals I have ever met… a person with multiple friends that cared deeply for her… passed away and all of us were beyond saddened by the news. And then, all of us were crushed to learn that after having a wall built between us and her so that contact was impossible, she passed away and half of a year moved along before any of us heard the news.

No chance to attend any services and offer our sympathies to the family. No knowledge if telephone numbers or mailing addresses would connect to allow some type of contact. Time had moved on and hidden everything away.

I have no doubts there was little that could be done about contacting this dear friend. Whatever was happening… with her, her family, her health or any of a million other possible considerations… there was a divide established between her and those of us that cared for her. It was a strong wall, guarded, patrolled and without a crack. We never saw her. Never heard from her.

I can only hope she never felt abandoned by us, but I don’t know. And, in some way, perhaps that’s what haunts me about all of this. That there is some possibility, no matter how slight, that this amazingly wonderful woman might have believed we gave up on her and she was alone when it came to anyone but her immediate family.

I’m here today to mention this to you because I don’t want you to give up. Not if there’s still a chance to connect. I hope you’ll take a moment to reach out to that friend… where a few days has turned into weeks… a lack of phone calls has turned into months… life and families and moves have turned into years.

Make the effort. Never give up hope. Because there is a way “I did all that I can do” might just be twisted in unexpected ways. Unexpected such as learning someone incredible passed away… and it was six months before anyone found out.


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