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When there are No Second Chances

Yesterday I was shocked to learn (through social media) that a young woman I had worked with a few years ago took her own life. Apparently, to judge by the posts of her friends, it had happened just that day and the sentiments on her FB page were all of disbelief and horror. One message, written in all caps, desperately pleading,


Though I had never met the man who wrote the above post, I could hear the pain and anguish in his voice, as someone whose family has been touched by suicide, the shock and the desperation were raw, and it got me thinking.

The young woman, (for the purposes of this article, I will refer to her as “Noreen” though that is not her real name) and I had worked side by side at a rather dreadful sales job about three years ago. We had gone through this intensive and in my opinion, rather ridiculous training process that lasted six agonizing weeks and ended in a twenty page test, the results of which could get you “promoted” to a permanent position or booted out of the company all together. In this supremely stressful environment, we 30 or so trainees bonded like wartime buddies.

Noreen, for reasons unknown to me, seemed drawn to me from the first day. I was one of the oldest people going through this “hazing/training” thing and perhaps something of my comparative worldliness drew her in. I sensed she needed mother energy in her life. Whatever the source of her affection, we became friends; for my part, I saw a bit of my twenty-something self in Noreen’s endless relationship struggles and her difficulty in finding her place in our confusing, modern life.

When I left that company after a brutal year, Noreen and I continued on FB, we made sketchy plans to get together for drinks or coffee, plans that never materialized. Our communication sputtered out to the annual “happy birthday” message.

In that achingly impersonal/intimate way of social media, I watched from afar as Noreen’s posts grew rarer and more messed up, fired from job after job, loosing her housing, mugged, car wrecks, DUI’s… her posts grew ever more desperate,

“If anyone knows a sofa I can crash on for ONE night, I’d love you forever..”.

More than once, I considered offering her a short stay, but I always stopped myself, “What if she’s on drugs?”, “What if I can’t get her to leave?”, “What if, what if, what if??”.

With yesterday’s news, the “what if’s” have become poignant. What if we had managed to connect for that coffee or drink? What if I had let her sleep on my couch one night? What if I had read one of her posts and reached out privately?

My husband, himself in recovery, means what he says when he reminds me that “you can’t save everyone”.

But does that mean that we shouldn’t try?

I am not naïve enough to suggest that anything I could have said or done could have single-handedly saved Noreen from her self-chosen path, her troubles ran deep. But we are, all of us, empowered to take actions, we can see the writing on the wall with endangered species, with suffering human and animal friends, with injustice and the environment, we can take that risk and reach out.

So very much is at stake.

(Photo. D. Rutter at Wildlife SOS)

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