I just finished reading this post and had to share it. The phrase “If only I had met you yesterday” is a grim reminder that every day we all need to be loved and to give love. Sometimes, it is simply too late.
I cling to the last words she said before the line went dead. They scroll through my mind at random moments throughout the day. I may be taking a Spanish test or working out or lying in bed just inches away from sleep, and the words just come to distract me from my daily life. The sadness, the pain, the complete and total desperation I heard in her voice is the reason I do what I do. It is the reason I am willing to volunteer to answer calls all night long. It is the reason I dedicate so much time and energy to be here. It is the reason for my existence.
It is early morning when the phone rings. I allow one of the other girls working the overnight shift to answer it. There are three of us working the overnight shift tonight and the third girl is in training. “Go ahead and listen in on her call,” I say to her, “It is good to hear how other callers handle calls.” I watch as she hits the buttons to listen in on her console. I jump as I hear a woman in loud high-pitched hysterics come over the console before the trainee can adjust the volume. I am startled by the loud noise but I am not surprised by the cries. Hysterical callers are pretty frequent during the wee hours of the morning.
I do not pay much attention at first as I have been a volunteer here for just over a year and the initial excitement is starting to die down. This is not to say that I do not love answering calls and helping the people who need it the most, but I no longer race to answer the phone before anyone else can or jump at the chance to listen in on other volunteers’ calls. This makes me sad in a way, I miss the amount of undying passion I had when I first began volunteering. Although I am not surprised by the woman’s hysterical cries, something about the way in which she is speaking through them strikes me as odd. Her voice is soft and gentle and sounds almost childish. As the volunteer gets her to calm down and talk about what is going on, it is very clear that the woman is highly suicidal. I look over at the other volunteer and I can see she is unsure of what to do next so I quickly write down, “Try to get her to give you her location”, as my undying passion suddenly begins to surge again within me.
I listen to the volunteer plead with the woman to give her a location, even just a county, so that she can hook her up with the proper crisis team to talk to, but the woman refuses to give any identifying information or location. This goes on for about an hour before the woman admits that she is already in the process of committing suicide as she has already downed a large amount of pills. All of a sudden everything makes sense to me. Her voice probably sounds odd to me because she is drugged. Now this is new to me. I have never had a case of an in-progress suicide before, but I have been trained well. I immediately jump into action as I hear her say this and begin paging police, crisis teams, anyone who can help me to save this woman’s life.
Sadly, time and time again, I am told the same thing, “Sorry, but we cannot do anything without a name or a location”, and it is clear to me that this is information the woman is not willing to give. However, I refuse to give up. I try my best to listen for any identifying information and I try tracing her the best I can, but after an hour and a half of being on the phone I hear the woman say, “I am so sorry for putting you through this. You are so sweet. If only I had met you yesterday,” and with that the line goes dead and she is gone.
That last sentence, “If only I had met you yesterday.” That one sentence implies that we have the ability to make a difference. It implies that even though I am only a volunteer, what I do is important and does have value.
I do not know whether the woman lived or died. I suppose it is possible that I may never know. All I do know is that we did everything we could for her. It is clear that she did not call because she wanted someone to save her. She called because she wanted to hear that someone cared. She wanted to feel loved in what she had hoped would be the last moments of her life. It has been 2 years since I heard this caller’s voice and to this day I am deeply saddened that despite my efforts, I was not able to send help her way. However, I am reminded of all the people I have been able to help over the years and I am happy to know that if indeed those were her last moments, at least she knew that there was someone out there who cared.