You and I never met. Our paths never crossed. It was more– I knew someone who knew you. But, for those five days after you posted your note on Facebook, turned off your phone and disappeared you never left my mind. I poured over your page looking for clues as to where you might be. Looking for hints as to your mental state. Looking for you.
What I found was me.
Your social media looked like mine. You had a grandson you adored. I do too. You were excited about selling your house and hitting the road in an RV for some adventures. Me too. We had a lot in common. Had we met, I think we would have liked each other. I think if things had been different we might have ended up at the same RV park and ran into each other on a walk. I would have loved your sunny smile and kind eyes. I’m sure we would have stopped and visited for a minute and I would have gone back and told my husband, “I met the nicest lady on my walk today. She seemed so happy! I love this new life and meeting folks like that.”
Then, I would have pulled out a sack of potatoes and hummed while I peeled them. Conscious of needing to get dinner started. Needing to keep my life moving. And, just like with you, nobody would have ever known that sometimes I’m really sad and overwhelmed and just unable.
Or at least they wouldn’t if I didn’t tell them. If I didn’t go sometimes and put my head on my husband’s shoulder and say, “Babe, I just need to be close to you for a minute. Can we sit here and be still?” If I didn’t call my sister from whatever place is breaking my heart with memories of my mom and say, “I’m crying in public again. I’m such a dork.” If I didn’t sit on that white, rustling paper at my doc’s office and say, “This year has been a lot. The pandemic and selling our house and losing a grand baby I never got to meet. I think I need a little help for a minute. Is there something you would suggest?”
It’s a hard thing to ask for help. Almost impossible. We are women. We soldier on. We peel potatoes and meet needs and do it all with a smile on our faces. Our social media looks just like yours did. People hate-like our posts wondering why they can’t get it together like us. They don’t know that some days are like that, but a lot aren’t. A lot of days are spent in a bed in the cool dusk crying into a flowered pillowcase and thankful for the fan blowing on us as we try to get our bearings. They are days full of bugs in the trash can and flat tires and slammed doors. They are days full of pain and regrets and things that haunt us. Our days look just like yours did.
I wish I could have told you that. That I understood. I so wish I had happened upon your car in that parking lot. I would have gotten in the car with you. I would have given you something to wash your face. I would have told you I had the whole day to sit there with you. I would have told you I am a great keeper of secrets. That you could deposit anything into my heart and I would hold it for you until you could take it back. I would have cried with you until I thought you needed to laugh and then I would have cracked a joke hoping to see a smile break across your face as the first sign that maybe you were going to be ok. When you were ready, we would have gotten something to eat and a hot cup of coffee. We would have made it through that night. And the next day. And the next. Most of all, I think I’m not the only one to wish this. The women who loved you are wishing the same thing. The women who only knew you from work, or church or the neighborhood are wishing it too. Every woman who reads this blog will wish it. All of us. Wishing to be in that parking lot with our hand on that door handle. Before. Before you took that last step. Before you finally asked for help in the only way that wouldn’t help anyone.
I’ll be honest, from the first moment I got the text message about your story, I settled in my mind that you were going to be ok. That that scene I described above was going to happen. That someone would find you in time. I imagined you in a cheap hotel watching bad tv and eating multiple cans of Pringles. I imagined you picking up the phone numerous times, but being too embarrassed to hit send. I imagined you stepping outside the door for just a few minutes every morning to let the sun hit you, before you ducked back into your gold and green room to continue working your way through it all. I always believed someone would find you in time to help. I was wrong.
Now, I’m left wondering what I’m supposed to do with the knowledge of you. With this heaviness I’m carrying.
It’s such a hard thing to be too late. To know, but not in time to help. I hate that feeling.
You with your sunshine smile and broken heart have made me understand how dangerous it is to not be known. To feel alone. To not ask for help.
So, today, on this Tuesday while your family is planning your funeral, I am going to reach out. To my girls. My crew. They’ve been with me for years. They know that life is never a Facebook page. They know that because they also have hurt and trauma and a messy house. Everybody has stuff. Big and bad and sad stuff. We just never talk about it. Today, we will.
I’ll tell them if they ever need me I’m here. That my own life isn’t perfect. Maybe, I’ll tell them that I am dreading this holiday season. It should have been a lot different than it’s going to be and that makes me cry every time I let myself settle there. I’ll tell them that I love life, and my husband with the gentle eyes, and the way dust floats in the air on a quiet afternoon at home. But, that sometimes life is a heavy load. I’ll tell them I’m sad and they can be sad too. I’ll tell them they can deposit anything into my heart and I will hold it until they are ready to take it back. I’ll tell them I will always be in that parking lot with my hand on the car door just in time. They just have to tell me where they are so I can find them.
May none of us ever be too late.
Rest in peace pretty lady, we cared.