No Time to Say Goodbye
Recently I had the opportunity to be on a cruise ship. One morning at breakfast a woman who I knew was travelling alone, that I had seen in the dining room and spoken with before, sat down at the next table. After saying “good morning” I asked: “how are you.”
“Angry, I just want to leave this cruise.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, what happened?” I inquired.
“My grandson was in his last year of college, and his girlfriend broke up with him. He was very upset, and I suggested that he speak with a counsellor. A few days ago his father called and told me the news: he killed himself.” She started to cry, and I could feel myself tear up. As a retired psychotherapist, I knew not to give advice, just listen.
We spoke for a while, and she told me that he was a smart young man, whose ambition was to become a US navy officer. She wanted to fly home immediately from the next port, but her son said: “Please mom don’t take this wrong, but you would just be in the way; there is so much to do. Please stay on the ship.”
She said ” I’m not a religious person, I don’t believe in God, so I have no platitude to fall back on.” The word ‘platitude’ struck me as her way of describing what I call ‘faith.’ While listening I very much felt Christ’s presence telling me that this was a sacred moment where I was being asked to just be present, as one human being to another who is in pain. I told her anytime she wanted to talk, I would be there.
I remembered a book about suicide entitled “No Time to Say Goodbye.” It was written for families and loved ones who are struggling. I certainly wasn’t going to glibly suggest reading a book, when she was in extreme grief. But I also remembered the words a priest friend said years ago: “When someone we love dies, sometimes the symbols of faith are the only thing that seems meaningful.”
For the rest of that day, and the next, I thought of our conversation and prayed that she would find support and love to manage her grief in this unique situation of being alone on a cruise ship, with only the kindness of strangers to make a difference. It is in moments of extreme suffering of either myself or others, that I know in the depth of my being, there is a God and we are loved.