July 1, 2013

I now have a new regret. RIP Chris.

The clever and dashing Richard Levangie recently invited me to answer 25 questions (no, it's not yet posted because I haven't finished yet). One of those questions was, "What is your greatest regret?"

Don't worry, no spoilers here; you'll have to wait for the surprise and delight when the 25 questions piece is eventually posted.

But today I learned some news that gave me a new answer to that question.

We've all heard the story (legend?) of the young man who, one evening in San Francisco, was so depressed that he decided to end his life. Before walking the few miles from his hotel to the Golden Gate Bridge, he made a pact with himself that if one person--just one person--smiled at him, he would not jump. Long story short, he jumped. Different tellings of this story result in the young man surviving the fall or not, but that's never the point. The point is that we all have a hidden superpower: the ability to save or change someone's life with simple kindness. In this case, a smile that dozens of people failed to give.

A little less than a decade ago I began making new friends all over the world through blogging, then facebook, then twitter. I credit four online writing blogs for most of these ongoing and surprisingly close friendships: Miss Snark, Nathan Bransford, Clarity of Night, and Evil Editor. A few of these friends I've met in person, but many remain, like Mante Te'o's girlfriend, elusively ethereal.

Some of these friends and I see each other online every day. With others, I cross paths somewhat like the Earth crosses paths with certain comets, tangentially but very close during those brief times. About four years ago I had one of those brief encounters with an online writer friend. I was in Alexandria, Virginia for work, and she lived in Maryland, so we were hoping to meet in DC for coffee one morning. At the last minute her schedule changed, and we couldn't make it work. But we talked on the phone for a half hour that morning, the one and only time we communicated by voice. During that call, she shared some personal issues she was facing, and she asked if I knew anyone who could help. Unfortunately, I didn't, at least not directly. We agreed to follow up in the ensuing weeks, and now I can't remember if that ever happened.

And that's my new regret.

Because after today's news, I feel that somehow, in some way, I should have paid more attention. I should have been more aggressive in looking for ways I could have helped her. She needed so much more than just a smile to save her, and maybe I could have done nothing to prevent her eventual suicide. But maybe I could have. Even though today's news is nearly a year old, it's new to me and it crushes my heart to know she was hurting so deeply for so long.

I am so sorry, Chris.