by Chris Riley
New Jersey, USA
Two years ago my wife died. We had been married 11 years and our son Steven was almost 3 months old. Jill and I were very happy with Steve, and she was on maternity leave from her reference librarian job. One day I came home and found Jill dead on the floor. The autopsy showed that she most likely died of heart arrhythmia. There were no signs of struggle or pain; she was dead before she hit the floor.
The next weeks were very difficult. I was on medication for suicidal fantasies and depression. But the outpouring of love from hundreds of people helped me get through the days. And I always managed to give Steve a smile, even when tears were pouring behind it.
One of the best gifts I received was an e-mail message from Paul, one of my best college friends. Printed and framed, it sits on my desk and I read it often. Here’s most of it:
I haven’t been able to get up there and see you in far too long. It’s like I’m stuck in this rut between work and home, only allowed out occasionally to go and see family. So many friends, lost track of over the years — and fading away over time, maybe forever….
E-mail keeps a slim lifeline with some friends, but too few. Then things happen that make you sit down and think ‘What type of person am I really? What kind of a friend?’
Maybe it’s just fear. How many of us can truly face the things you’ve had to and still look life square in the eye? I know what you’ve had to go through is only my worst nightmare. But could I face it?
Yes, I suppose I could with the love of a small child in the balance. But where do you find the strength? I’ll tell you… Look to those friends. Even just reaching out to re-establish friendships brings back life to my soul — even after all these years.
So when life looks the bleakest, look to us, your friends, and we will be there to help you, guide you if you need us. Give you support when times grow dark, and shine with the light that only friendship can bring. Feel that light when I say: Call on me should you need me, and I will be there, as your friend.
In the two years since I got that message, I’ve taken it to heart and relied on my friends for a lot. Steve is now two and a half, and counts, calls out letters, plays and laughs. He’s generally happy. I’m doing well. Therapy, antidepressants and support from friends all help.
I wish I could say I’ve seen more of Paul, but I haven’t. However, I do hope to rekindle that friendship. I still cry whenever I read the message; but it’s a good reason to cry.