We sang Celine Dion at the top of our lungs with the windows rolled down on hot summer days. We swam in lakes and rivers. She was a year older than I and when she went away to college, I would visit her on campus. We would drink too much, laugh too much and stay up all night talking.
I went to school in Oregon, while she stayed in Seattle. There were phone calls and letters exchanged. Years passed and we lost touch. Six years later I heard that she had been fired from her job for allegedly drinking while on the clock. I thought of her and wondered what was going on in her life, but I never reached out to her. Within a year she had taken her life.
At her memorial service, her parents recounted her trials with addiction. They played a slideshow of her bright and beautiful smiling face on the church wall.
How could someone so vibrant take her own life?
How could this girl I had grown up with suddenly be gone?
How could I have not messaged her and asked, how are you? I knew she was in trouble, but I thought she probably didn’t need me. That is partly true – she had a wealth of family and friends who loved her.
The problem is that I am left with a shadow over me, that even if my phone call wouldn’t have made a difference, it should have been made all the same.
She didn’t ask me for help as people often don’t, but perhaps that’s because I never reached out to her. There is no guarantee your words will affect the trajectory of another’s life, that is until someone is gone forever, then you can guarantee you can no longer help them. Love those around you while you can, and never be afraid to reach out and say I am here to listen, not to judge; I am here to support you; if I can help you, show me how. Say I am here before that person is gone.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Read more about suicide prevention in this article.