When God throws you a life ring

I sucked in my breath as I read a suicide note.

Having seen plenty of movies, I was expecting drama or at least a nice piece of paper. But this was just a torn scrap with a few words jotted down. He was matter-of-fact in his note to my friend, saying that his girls needed money, as did his ex-wife; that he couldn’t take it anymore; that his neighbor had a key. Desperation and depression, fueled by a chemical imbalance after years of drug abuse, resulted in his final act of an overdose.

Life ring on the dunes in Alnmouth, Northumberland. Credit: Dan Brady, flickr

Life ring on the dunes in Alnmouth, Northumberland. Credit: Dan Brady, flickr

Except that my friend received his letter in the afternoon, not the evening, as she was unexpectedly off from work. She grabbed a friend and went to his flat, broke down the door, and found him drugged but living. She wondered if he’d be angry to be found alive. He wasn’t; in fact, he later thanked her for caring. He said he had written to her because he didn’t want his body to be found after a week, covered in flies.

This was the same friend who a couple of months earlier had been told by an acquaintance, a doctor, to “get that mark on your face checked out.” He was the second medical friend who noticed it, which propelled her into actually making an appointment with her GP instead of delaying or brushing off the advice. She found out that she had pre-cancerous cells and underwent treatment. A few weeks later she heard that this young doctor had died on a hiking adventure after falling into a ravine. His potentially life-saving advice to her turned out to be one of his final acts of service on this earth.

Two men I’ve never met, and yet they made a profound impact on me. Why? Because I can easily get caught up in projects or tasks, and thus startling stories such as these remind me to value what really is important. For instance, just this morning I woke up early. Finally admitting I wasn’t going to fall back to sleep, I gave in and went into my study to write. But PyelotBoy also woke early and joined me, eager just to sit and spend some time together. I battled internally but stayed with him on the couch, reminding myself to enjoy these sweet moments together.

I wish I could say it was a grand success of communion with one whom I love, but throughout our half-hour together I kept thinking of the tasks I could and should be accomplishing. But although I didn’t succeed in shutting down the distracting thoughts, at least I stayed rooted to the couch, sitting with my son and chatting together. I didn’t shoo him away or give him some early iPad time to compensate for me wanting to get on with my next thing. Small victories, yes, but worth celebrating.

Life. It’s worth living. Who is sitting on your couch today whom you can be present to and enjoy?

1 Response

  1. Pam Burke

    Paperwork to file, laundry to fold, dog to walk – but instead sat on my couch this morning and talked to my mom on the phone while sipping my coffee. Good choice.

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