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.


Sarah Laurenson said...

Our big regret, my friend.

JaneyV said...

I feel the same way.

Bob Palin said...

A thoughtful piece Peter and full credit to you for expressing your regret in public. It's not of course possible for us to foresee every consequence of our actions or inactions, but if we can learn from our experiences and smile at a stranger now and then we will have made progress.

Also, I found this entry very readable and engrossing - you should take up writing!

PJD said...

Bob, thanks for the laugh on a day when laughs are very much appreciated!

JaneyV said...

I "met" Chris first through the Clarity of Night contest. I went back to read some of her work. This piece was difficult to read and not at all like her other more upbeat entries.


PJD said...

Wow. Chris' comment in that thread is chilling.

JaneyV said...

I know. It took the breath from me.

Merry Monteleone said...


This was lovely. So many of the tributes to Chris have been breathtaking, today. It's so frustrating because I keep thinking that she can't possibly have known what a profound impact she had on so many people... but then, maybe she did but she was to a point that it didn't register for her.

And yes, the CON piece and comment were unbelievably poignant.

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, Pete.

Your regret is shared by all of us.

Robin B. said...

In the past year I'd sent her several notes, trying to connect. I knew she was having a hard time with her husband. We'd been able to talk on the phone when I was living in Alexandria. But she stopped communicating openly when she found out that her phones and her online presence had been invaded - and this is heartbreaking, because those were her lifelines, literally. What a waste of a beautiful soul.

blogless_troll said...

Thanks, Pete. It's truly amazing how many lives she touched.

Anonymous said...

She invited me to visit with her years ago. I should have taken her up on it.

I hope you found the peace you were looking for, Chris.

--Jason Evans

PJD said...

Thank you, everyone. Not sure what else to say at this point.

Precie said...

Thank you for sharing this.

The loss weighs so heavily.

fairyhedgehog said...

My sense as an onlooker is that all Chris's friends did as much as they could to help her; the smiles were there but they weren't enough. Sometimes nothing is enough.

My deepest sympathy to you, Peter, and to everyone who lost a dear friend.