A few years ago, I was at a social gathering when a woman I had never met arrived. Many of my friends knew her, and I finally met her. The conversation quickly turned to her intractable pain. None of her doctors’ treatments seemed to work. She found no relief and was rather distressed, telling us all how much she hurt, how hopeless it was, and there was no relief. One after another, her friends turned to talk to other people or changed the subject. They valued healthy boundaries and personal responsibility, after all. This lady seemed pretty upset, though; I listened to her and referred her to someone willing to provide free energy work. She graciously took the information and returned to talking with her friends. I felt I’d done my part, so I let her friends tend to her.
A few days later, I learned that she had killed herself. It was the only way she knew out of the pain. I vowed to take action if I ever heard such desperation again. So this year, as I spoke with an old friend, he confided that he was in continual pain. A talented, self-employed professional, he was practically a shut-in now, due to his condition. It made it difficult to work, which made it even harder to pay for medical care. He was in a vicious downward spiral with no hope for improvement. Although I’m sure he has closer friends than me, I don’t know if they were aware of his condition. Had he been honest with them about how far things had slipped? I made a few suggestions for treatment of his pain, and the more we talked, the stronger I sensed the feeling of no way out. I took it seriously and did not to turn away.
I asked if he was suicidal, and there was a pause before he answered. As it turned out, he had given it some thought, as he saw it as the only thing to stop the torment. He had not yet made a plan (decided when and how to kill himself), so I didn’t need to call for immediate mental health intervention, but the situation was grave. He felt out of options and had been treading water for so long that he was bone-tired. Over the next few days, we brainstormed a workable plan to address the pain. In the end, he said that for the first time in years, he had hope that things could change.
This will take effort and sacrifice from all involved, but it feels very right. My friend’s life has too much potential to watch it slip away under unremitting pain. Our plan respects healthy boundaries – but also values life. I could turn away and talk about his need for personal responsibility and accountability, but his life is precious, and I know how that can end. One person’s concept of self-determination meant suicide; I didn’t want my friend to think the same. Our plan gave him the hope he needs and concrete steps to wellness. It may be a long haul, but the path is so much easier when hope is a companion.
I firmly believe that sometimes we are the answer to another person’s prayer. The universe has placed us in the right situation at the right time to fix what is broken and help those in need. To turn our backs is to deny our own part in the web of life. When you hear the call, take action.
 I’m changing a few identifying characteristics here to protect my friend’s identity.