been trying to think of a way to describe how my day started.
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.
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.
the story gets worse.
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
back up. History and context. It’s needed before we get to the
really worse part.)
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.
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
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.
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.))
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.
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.
came this morning.
as I mentioned, that’s not the worst part of this story.
person that discovered the news and kicked off the run of contacts
and “have you heard” messages and more passed along the link to
you ready for the kicker?)
passed away six months ago.
pause here for a moment. We were hearing about it six months after
it happened. Come on back once that sinks in.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.