You never realize when you’ll be summoned to the stage to be the candle when that call comes. It came quite suddenly, as such things do. One moment, I was haggling over an audit in my workplace; the next, I was trying to talk my friend out of taking a leap of faithlessness.
I had just spoken to him a few days before. We were laughing it up about the latest with our families. His son was following our steps into the military while my youngest daughter was choosing colleges. We joked about the possibility of winding up as in-laws if the two of them got together.
He called back three days later, sounding like something broke in his chest. He was sitting on the fifth floor of his fire escape, contemplating a headfirst jump.
This is unraveling. I was attempting to make a story out of a real situation. I could, with little effort, fictionalize the account, but it might take some of the bite out of the truth.
I received a call last night from an old friend I had not seen or talked to in two decades. He was on the line with another friend, who was like a brother to both of us. Our brother had a broken sound in his voice I had never heard him emit.
But the sound was something I’d heard before, rendered in a different key, from others.
Our friend was suffering from PTSD. He had seen too much and was relying on skills we’d learned in the military. Some of those attributes, which were programmed in us to keep us alive and be able to operate while bullets were flying, had turned against him.
The conversation lasted several hours and I lost sleep, but it was worth saving a brother.
Be aware. Check on the people who mean the most to you. Realize that you may not always know the depths of their struggles. Understand that, beneath the tough exteriors and armor of figurative chain mail, we are all fragile inside.
Be prepared to be that single beacon of light that could lead your brother or sister out of darkness. Somewhere down the road, you may need the same light to guide you in.