Everything Stops

There are certain moments in life when it seems that everything comes to a jolting stop.

Your heart quits beating. You forget how to breathe. All the chatter bouncing around in your head is silenced. There is only one phrase that exists in front of your eyes.

This post is not about me.

My husband and I are sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for him to meet us. A typical doctor’s office in Houston’s Medical Center. There is a large mahogany desk, covered in various reports, next to a window, stretching wall to wall and almost ceiling to floor, that overlooks a local university, surrounded by mature live oaks, underneath which people are jogging, cars are passing, med students are hurrying back from lunch break. Various framed portraits of dear family members are featured: the doctor on the beach surrounded by a lovely wife and three lovely kids; the children, two girls and a boy with braces, smooshing their pre-teen, giggling, faces together for the camera. A close family. A happy family. A family excitedly moving into the future.

I’m nervously shaking my leg up and down because I’ve been waiting anxiously for this appointment. We both have. We want to have some reassuring answers to why I’ve been having the symptoms I’ve been having.

The doctor is really busy this afternoon. So, I do what most of us do these days, I pull out my iPhone and start scrolling through Facebook to pass the time. My husband and I have run out of things to talk about and frankly, we are somehow too nervous to continue; we’ve fallen into that married-for-many-years silence.

I scroll past the pictures that my old college friend in the Midwest had recently posted of herself and her daughter, who is at the tail end of her teen years, who looks so much like her mother, on a vacation in the Pacific Northwest – an area of the U.S. that I love. I remembered “liking” them the day before. There was no status update with them – just that it was the two of them on vacation. I hadn’t really looked at the date, or the comments, just the photo montage. I decided to look at them again because the two of them have such great smiles and they looked like they were having so much fun and I just adore the setting they were in that I thought that I’d like to look at them again – at such happiness and beauty….

But, then, I become aware of some comments that seem odd. I switch over to her page to see what is going on. There are messages of consolation. Of prayers. Of sympathy.

One message bothers me in particular because it only mentions my friend, her husband, and their son, a young teen. “Oh, God,….” I moan. My husband looks over at me.

Our doctor pops his head into his office and reassures us that he will be with us in “just two minutes!”.

My husband asks what’s wrong and I tell him I have a bad feeling about something, I have to message my friend. He admonishes me to check on it later, let Facebook rest for now, the doctor will be in any second. I put my iPhone down. I wait about a minute. I’m too impatient. I’m worried now about my friend.

I quickly message her to find out what’s happened. I’m thinking there’s been an accident. An illness.

The doctor runs past his door going the opposite direction in the hall. My husband is telling me to let Facebook wait. “Be right there!” echoes back to us from outside the door.

My phone beeps – I have to check, just real quick, okay? I see the doc run back the other way in the background. Suddenly, I want him to take his time. I glance down and see only one sentence in reply to my long-winded question:

“My daughter killed herself yesterday”.

Full stop.



  1. Oh no! That is horrible! It amazes me how those feelings come up and I am so sorry it had to be one like this. My heart goes out to your friend.

    Did you talk to the doctor or did you leave?

    1. I was wiping away my tears when he finally walked in; trying to pull myself together. We’d waited too long for this appointment and gone through too much to get there. Something is up with me and I want to know what it is. We want to make sure my cancer has not come back. We have to. The doctor probably thought that I was crying for myself, out of anxiety. I couldn’t explain.
      My friend is thousands of miles away. Her daughter is gone. The only thing I have are words for her….and truthfully, those just aren’t going to help. Nothing helps in this scenario.
      No. We didn’t leave.
      But the only thing I could think as we left his office was “She’s gone…How can she be gone?”…
      I’m still asking the universe that.

  2. “Don’t forget that I cannot see myself — that my role is limited to being the one who looks in the mirror.” Jacques Rigaut

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