I was walking by myself in a small seaside town in California this past November. It was my first trip outside of Canada in 20 months and while I was there for work, I was really there on a very important mission. In a few days I would fulfill a promise that I made just a few months before, to my Mom, on her deathbed.
It’s not unlike me to say hello to everyone, so when I passed by a man standing alone, I said just that. He smiled and said hello too, and then he asked me a question that made me stop in my tracks.
“What is your mission here?”
Wasn’t that a strange question to ask? How did he know I was on a mission? Was it an odd coincidence? Did I have a look on my face that said I was on a mission? Hmm, maybe he was going to try to convert me to some religious sect? I looked to see if he had a stack of ‘Watchtowers’ to give out.
Nonetheless, I told him I was indeed on a mission; I was here to meet a 95-year-old man who had loved my mother for 90 years.
Of course, I asked him what his mission was. Then everything changed.
“Do you really want to know?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, unsure.
He said, “I’m here to end my life.”
My mind was racing. What to do, what to say, is he playing me? But what do you do when someone says this? I was not prepared! I didn’t read the manual. I need more time, I want to call a friend, a counselor, a hotline – I’m not equipped to handle this – my mind is still racing – I don’t know what to do. Guilt for thinking that maybe he is playing me.
So I just sat down on the curb. I told him my name and asked him his.
Simon. I’ll never, ever forget his name.
And we talked. He wanted to know my Mom’s love story and more about my mission to meet her special man. I wanted to talk about him but he really seemed to want to hear this love story. So I told him.
And then I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk down the beach with me and talk some more.
Before we did, he gave me his full name and told me to look him up online so that I would not be afraid to walk with him. The search quickly revealed Simon had come to the country as a refugee and was now a very highly educated, award-winning, multi-lingual academic. Online, it looked like he was on the top of his game.
Except he wasn’t.
He didn’t feel loved or accepted. He didn’t feel like he had anything to offer the world or to live for. He didn’t feel like anyone would care if he was gone.
I cared. I actually really cared. Unless he was playing me? Was he playing me? A woman wonders, a woman is careful. We have to be.
But my gut, my gut really cares about Simon.
We spent a long time together on that beach that day, talking and sharing. When it was time to part, he told me that I didn’t have to worry about him, he told me that I saved his life.
Did I? I don’t know?
Did he get help, is he ok?
I guess I’ll never know.
I did my best, I did what I could. I did all that I knew to do. I just have to hope it was enough. Maybe he just needed to know that there was love and care and compassion in the world. I don’t know.
What I do know is that he is a part of me now.
I wondered and I worried. I second-guessed every word I said (and didn’t say). I literally had to get some therapy afterward because our conversation was weighing on my mind so heavily.
I share this story with you prior to Valentine’s Day because I think that the essence of the story is love. We are often so hung up on romantic love this time of year – feeling the pressure, expectations, disappointments et al. We may let the simple acts of showing care, concern (which really are love, aren’t they?) slip away.
Who in your world isn’t asking for what they need?
Who would appreciate knowing that they are special to you & that they matter?
Who is in the margin or falling under the radar that may benefit from your voice or presence?
Or is it you?
If you don’t feel like you have someone to reach out to – you are wrong. At the very least you can have my ear – 184.108.40.2065. More importantly, trained professionals who are waiting to serve. Program your locate help number in your phone (the non-emergency is 811 here in BC).
I thought my mission in California was to meet my Mom’s love but maybe my mission was to just be with Simon or maybe my mission was to share this story with you so you can be of service to someone else or show love and compassion to yourself.
In this zany, mixed-up world, I’m sending you love – even if it’s not ‘businessy-correct’.
And Simon, thank you for sharing your story with me and I truly hope you can begin again; you are loved.
I don’t think I was being played, I think I was being with a human.
Share love, Steph