It has been quite awhile since you passed and I have still not said, “goodbye.” I have always had a reason, “I’m too busy,” “I don’t know what to say,” “There is no point anyhow.” But, as they say there is no time like the present and it seems that I need you now more than ever. Perhaps I am hoping to invoke your spirit.
I can still recall the first time we met. I was 20 years old, frightened and traumatized. You sat down next to me on a bench. You sat next to me saying nothing, offering no sympathetic words, no comforting hug, not even a tissue. You just sat quietly next to me, just sat. I’m not sure how long we sat on that bench, 20-30 minutes, it seemed like forever, but when it was time for me to leave you stood up with me, touched me lightly on the shoulder and with a sheepish grin said, “You’re going to be okay.” You stood very still as I walked away, I remember you were still watching as the door closed.
“You’re going to be okay.”
You left a business card with a friend and instructions for me to call if I needed anything. (To this day I don’t know what she told you happened to me and why I was there. I suppose it never mattered.) I didn’t call, you did. Several weeks after our first meeting you called my apartment. How you found my number I do not know. You left a message checking to see how I was doing and if I needed anything. You told me to call if I did. I still didn’t call. I am not one to ask for help, especially from a stranger.
A few days later another call, this time from an assistant, caught me at home, “Yes, I am fine, thank you. Yes, I will call if I need anything. Goodbye.”
I cried after that phone call. Never in my life had anyone gone to such lengths to check on my welfare. No one. Ever.
I was surprised to see you a year later. You appeared out of nowhere at a meeting I was attending. How did you know I would be there? Again, I was scared and nervous. Before I went into the meeting you placed your hand on my shoulder, smiled and said, “You’re going to be okay.”
You were waiting outside when I came out of the room. “Why did you come,” I asked. “People like us need to stick together,” was your answer. You knew even then, before I did, who I was and what lay ahead for me.
I never saw you again after that, but I thought of you often whenever I got frightened or sad or wanted to quit. I would feel your hand on my shoulder, see your grin and hear you say, “You’re going to be okay” and it would give me the courage to go on.
The news of your passing came as a shock. I am amazed anyone knew to contact me. Even in death you found a way to get me the message, “You’re going to be okay.”
But, I am not okay. I haven’t been since I heard you were gone. I feel lost, alone, afraid. It seems strange, I only met you twice but they were two of the hardest moments of my adult life and there you were with your hand on my shoulder, “You’re going to be okay.”
I am not sure you ever knew how much those moments meant to me. I’ve never had anyone that really cared about me, checked in on me or took the time to be there for me but for those few moments there you were a complete stranger showing me a kindness and concern I had never known was possible. For those few moments someone cared.
Those few moments carried me through what was to come the good, the bad, the worse. Through it all was the hand, the smile and the mantra, “You’re going to be okay.”
I need you to know that I don’t blame you for giving in. I understand what it feels like to be tired of fighting and hiding and pretending. I know what it’s like when the dark clouds roll in over a sky that has been sunny for too long. I know what it’s like to be, “people like us.”
I do wish that I could have met you one more time so that I could put my hand on your shoulder, smile sheepishly, and say, “You’re going to be okay.”
The logical and rational side of me knows that it would not have made a difference but part of me wants to believe that I could somehow have given back a little bit of what you gave to me. Hope. Reassurance.
I guess there is nothing left to do now but to say, “Goodbye” and “Thank you.”