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Are We Listening?

Earlier this week a family friend suddenly passed away. I have known her and her family since I was a child. Let me tell you, this family has suffered all along. Like Kennedy curse style. When I was in seventh grade her brother, a very good looking and popular ninth grader, committed suicide while my parents were socializing in his home with his parents. You can imagine the trauma that ensued for everyone involved, especially his younger sister who adored her big brother. This scarred her for life. I remember speaking with her years later and she shared how this huge loss affected her in the worst ways. Not so long ago, her father, my father's best friend, died of heart surgery complications. His death completely devastated her and ripped her soul apart. Her daddy was her everything. This loss sparked a love affair with prescription meds to help battle her depression, anxiety and to numb a whole menu of expected emotions when losing the two men she has loved most in life. A few years after, and simply unfathomable, her husband died of cancer. This beautiful woman, a mother of three, had no chance of recovering from a broken heart that life just wanted to shatter into unrepairable pieces. She struggled for years, pain gripping at her every move and thought. Unfortunately, she heavily relied on meds just to get through the daily tasks that life demands of all of us, but are too difficult for someone whose world has been turned upside down. Her brother, her father, her husband - all dead before she even turned forty.

Three mornings ago her daughter found her in bed unresponsive. No one knows why. Did she overdose? Did she commit suicide? Did she have a heart attack from the frequent drug usage? Everyone is speculating, but does it really matter how she died? She died of a broken heart and that is crystal clear.

I was privy to some recent texts she wrote to a mutual friend just a couple of months ago. The texts were clearly a cry for help expressing pain, difficulty pulling it together, feelings of loneliness and despair. In retrospect, my friend feels horrible that she did not read in between the lines. She dutifully responded with loving texts encouraging her to be strong and sending loving words her way. But was she really listening to the cries of despair? Are we really listening or are we always acting with good intentions while fulfilling our responsibilities with the minimal efforts required to our friends and people in our community? What good does it do to cry and regret how we handle things in retrospect? It does nothing. All around me, I too see people in my life approaching me with minimal dutiful efforts to maintain our friendship. So many texts, so few calls. So much talking about their own lives, so few asking about mine. Luckily I am of fairly sound mind and solid mental health and can survive the hypocrisy, bullshit and selfishness that exudes through the pores of so many that I personally know. I can handle it. I also know that anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I pick up the phone and call others, I truly listen with interest about the lives of others, I open up my home to strangers and friends, I show up when someone needs a friend, I celebrate my friends' milestones with love and happiness. I have no regrets about the type of friend I am or have ever been. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. I know that the Leo in me comes across too strong and that along with my zodiac sign comes a lack of tact. I am working on all my flaws. But what if I wasn't mentally sound? What if I was dealing with real deep issues? How would I survive if no one would listen? If no one would call? If no one would stop by for a cup of coffee? I often think of what would happen to me if my husband dies before me. I would be completely unable to function. I, like my childhood friend, would wither into nothingness while all my friends texted me loving thoughts and told me about their busy weekends.

Are we really listening? Let's make a pact. From now on, when we ask the mundane question of "how are you?" let's really listen for a response and to the response. It's so obvious we are full of shit when we skirt over the question or end up talking about ourselves. My heart is aching for my deceased friend's mother. She lost her son, her (ex) husband, and now her daughter. Her entire family wiped away. She will now be the primary caretaker of three children who are left with no parents. I haven't spoken to her since her (ex) husband died, about six years ago or so. I haven't texted her yet to send her my condolences. You better believe that I will pick up the phone and call her, as soon as my tears don't continuously erupt so that I can support her with strength and not be a sobbing mess, and I will absolutely let her do all the talking.


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