Moments etched into my heart forever.
Everybody has at some time received a phone call that they would call memorable. Is it just me though that can only really recall those memorable phone calls when there was something horrifying on the other end?
There had been three specific moments in my life when I received a phone call that when I recall it now still gives me goosebumps and is painful to remember, but I received another one today.
The first moment had been when my mum called me in January of 2006. My brother and I were at an exhibition together in Birmingham, and my mom called and very gently said, “Can you and Michael come to the house on your way back, your dad and I need to talk to you about something?” We left immediately for an eternal hour and a half drive to our parents' house, where we discussed every single worst-case scenario that could possibly be waiting for us at the other end. It turned out to be a bad cancer prognosis for my dad. He died ten months later.
The second incident wasn’t as personal but still a shocking call to receive. I was reversing out of my driveway on the way to work when my phone rang, it was our Sales Director. I knew by the sound of his voice that it was the news we had all known was inevitable but nevertheless had been dreading. His wife had died after a long battle with cancer. His trembling voice and the very specifics of the way he worded what he had to tell me, haunt me even now.
The third incident was a family situation again. My father-in-law had been in the hospital for a week or so with a heart condition and had a pacemaker fitted just days ago. My wife had been staying at a hotel nearer the hospital, while I stayed home and looked after the kids. I was sat at the kitchen table trying but failing to work when she called. “Dad’s had a cardiac arrest, they are trying to revive him now,” she said and then broke down. Everything in our lives changed from that minute onwards, leading to a three-week bedside vigil before his eventual passing. Those twelve words, spoken with such torment and pain have been etched into my brain and burnt across my heart ever since.
Today I received a call that I know I will never forget. It was from a friend who has lost someone very dear to him, and unexpectedly. Out of respect, I won’t go into further details, but it was heartbreaking and tragic to hear someone I care about so much feel so lost, so broken, and so desperate.
I think that receiving news by phone call is so harrowing because of the distance and the inability to be able to reach out and touch someone and to help them in some way by either hugging them to make them feel better, or just holding their hand, or even offering a warm, empathetic, reassuring smile.
There is the awkwardness of the painful silences on the telephone, and the need to fill them with useless, pointless, and, at that point in time, almost callous advice. When you are physically with someone it’s much easier to console them, to sit in silence and allow them to just breathe and know that you are there for them, physically and emotionally.
Putting the phone down after the call is hard too because then there’s the unknown. The helplessness. The wondering. The shock sinks in.