One Saturday afternoon, she called me. Her voice was the same as usual, brightly toned, but void of emotion. She opened our conversation with her usual directness, informing me that her call was in connection to my professional expertise. I offered my standard reply, “Sure, what can I help you with?” I thought she was going to ask me about something she had read on the internet concerning some crazy funeral tradition; but she did not. She shocked me, right there through the phone. Her next statement hit me from left field and I stood there dumb struck. In an instant, I knew I had been a horrible friend. Actually, I had not been a friend at all. I should have listened to the promptings of my heart and reached out to a young woman in a horrible situation, but I did not want to do it. Deep down in my soul, I knew she had problems, but I didn’t want to acknowledge them. I did not want to sacrifice my time, nor my efforts, to reach out to someone who was desperately in need of protection and support. To this day, I am ashamed of myself. I put my own concerns, my own time, and the management of my funeral practice, before the needs of someone who truly needed just a little bit of help. I think the slightest effort on my part would have meant the world to her.
As I waited for her question, she bluntly announced that her husband had just shot himself in the brain, and was dead on their apartment floor. I nearly dropped the phone. After a moment of shock, I asked her, “Have you called the Police?” “They are on their way.” she replied. “Where are your children?” “In the next room.” She said nonchalantly. “Have you called anyone else?” “Pastor is on his way.” I could hear the sirens in the background. I told her to let the police and paramedics enter her home. She did. They quickly assessed the situation and whisked her husband off to the hospital. I told her I would meet her there.
Her husband was pronounced DOA. As I entered the emergency room foyer, I could see her walking toward me. She reached out, and latched onto me, as though she were a small child at a horror flick. She gripped me so tightly, breathing frantically, burying her face at the nape of my neck. Everything seemed to slow down to a snail’s pace. I brushed away the hair that had fallen into her face. I kissed the crown of her head, and patted her on the back. I coddled her as I would a child, and told her I would help her through this. She was terrified, and the person there to give her comfort, was the woman that had never offered to help her before tragedy struck. She held onto me as though I were her mother. It broke my heart to see her suffer so severely. I was horrified at myself, and I knew that I had been a self-absorbed workaholic; too busy and stressed to assist a friend. How’s that for knowing you’ve messed up in life? She was shaking, yet to those who did not know her, she seemed calm. To me, she was a little girl acting all grown up and brave; but I knew she was terrified. I could see it in her eyes, I could hear it in her voice, and it cut me to the core. She asked me about funeral services, the least expensive possible, and I took him away.
A few days later, we held his service at my funeral home. I was surprised at the number and notable people who attended. This man, who had been horrid to his wife and bothersome in most social situations, had extreme political influence. His unique ability to blog and bend public opinion was very evident by those in attendance.
Thankfully, my friend has found a new life. She seems much happier. She is engaged to be married, has started a computer game business, and has moved to a different state. We keep in touch, mainly through social media. I am thankful her life has found new direction.
In my nightly reflections, my prayers are for the both of us. That her life will be better, that her newly found euphoria will sustain her, and that she will find a better friend to her than I ever was. For me, I pray that I will never allow myself to become so absorbed in my work that I value my time and efforts more than I do the needs of one of God’s precious children. Also, that I will be a better friend from this day forward.
Lesson to self: People are in your life for a purpose. Follow the promptings of your heart. No matter how busy you are, take a moment, and offer a helping hand of support. Goodness knows; you may need it yourself someday. Wouldn’t it be a pity if the person there to help you, turned out to be just like you? Hum, food for thought.
I am thankful for my friend. She taught me so much about where my life was going. She helped me prioritize life and people, over work and bills. She redirected me back to a better me.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author, and freelance writer. I write books, weekly articles, and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.