I never lose my cell phone. Never. Since I work from a home office and travel frequently, my phone connects me to the office and clients. I need it for my livelihood. While travelling, I keep it close by and check it obsessively for time, flight updates, and messages from home or the office. I keep multiple chargers, one in my travel bag, one in my car, and several at home to keep the juice flowing. I never want to be out of touch when on the road. I never lose my phone until I lost my phone.
I was on my way to a family ski trip. As usual, I checked my phone multiple times while waiting to board. As the plane landed, I reached to turn my phone on to check messages. It wasn’t in the usual places, my pocket, purse, or my laptop case outer pocket. After deplaning, I searched every inch of my laptop bag without success. Since this trip was only for a long weekend, I wanted to spend every moment enjoying the family and the beautiful Rocky Mountains, not trying to locate or disabling a phone. I spent much of the evening contacting the airline lost and found department and the phone company. At bedtime, I shopped online for a new phone and made arrangements to pick it up the following morning at the phone store.
The following morning, the family took the car to the mountain to ski and I called a cab for a ride to pick up my phone, so I could enjoy the rest of the vacation. My cab driver, I’ll call him Luis to protect his privacy, slumped low in the cab, hiding his face behind his dark hoodie. I gave him the destination address for the 15-minute trip and started the usual small talk.
Me: “This is a beautiful city. How do you like living here?”
Luis: “I don’t feel like talking.”
Me: “That’s fine. I understand.”
I remained quiet. Before we reached the end of the block he said, “I thought this would be a good place to live, but I was wrong. It hasn’t been good to me.” He began pouring out his distress about his health. He had gastrointestinal problems. He had been to multiple doctors, had a colonoscopy, and still no answers. He was sick, miserable, and discouraged.
I told him I had GI issues as well, so much so that I had surgery to remove a portion of my colon. I explained that traditional doctors saved my life, but I had to use functional medicine specialists to find the right help with my diet to get well. Luis said that he was out of money for doctors he spent it all on the tests. He used to be a happy and fun person to be around. Now, he is sick and he is a drag to everyone around him. He said his friends and family would be better off without him.
His words concerned me greatly and I knew I had only a few minutes to talk with him before arriving at our destination. Besides the time constraints, I knew Luis could not hear much chatter, as he was in depression’s pit. Why I lost my phone became clear to me. I knew I could not hold back telling him about my son’s suicide and there was no time to gently ease into Jay’s story.
I don’t talk to strangers about something as sacred as Jay’s passing. I learned better from watching the horror on peoples faces and experiencing the uncomfortable silence that follows. When an acquaintance makes small talk about my family, I say we have four children. Most people don’t want to know details about our large blended-family brood. They don’t ask questions and move the conversation to something else. I’m relieved.
I told Luis I knew something about depression, as I had been depressed myself and that my son took his own life when he was 16. I further explained, Jay was a school shooter, holding his classmates hostage with a gun, before taking his own life. Luis sat up a little straighter in his seat and lowered his hoodie to hear. He asked questions about my son’s death. I tried to express in a few words the magnitude of grief and guilt a suicide leaves behind for the family, especially the mother.
I told him there was help for his GI issues. There is evidence that the gut creates much of the serotonin, the chemical responsible for depression or feeling good. When the gut is out of balance, some people become depressed. I learned this through my recovery to better health through functional medicine specialists.
Luis asked more questions. He said he was trying to eat right and explained in explicit detail his GI distress. He spoke without embarrassment as someone would to a physician or with another human who understood his distress and the intimate intricacies of a very personal body function. Luis was discouraged because he didn’t have any money left for seeking other types of help.
I asked him if he told the doctors about his depression. He said no. I suggested he go to the emergency room and to explain how he was feeling. They could help. That was the immediate need. He wondered how they could help with depression when the issue was his gut.
Luis: “They (the doctors) told me there was nothing wrong with me.”
Me: “You are not crazy. Depression and GI issues are related. The traditional doctors you saw might not know this. The immediate need is to deal with depression and you didn’t tell them about this.”
Louis’ tone turned angry.
Luis: “I went to bed last night and asked for a miracle. Jesus could do a miracle. He could heal me. I asked for a miracle and expected one when I woke up this morning. Jesus could do a miracle and heal me, but he won’t.”
I felt the short ride’s time ticking away.
Me: “You wanted a miracle. Here’s your miracle. I never lose my phone. Never. But I lost my phone yesterday on the way to this city. I did not want to catch a cab this morning and spend my vacation at the phone store. I wanted to enjoy the city and the mountains. Because I lost my phone I am riding in your cab. Who else in this city would understand GI issues like I do, someone who has been there?”
Luis: “No one”
Me: “Who else would ride in your cab that understands GI problems and depression?”
Luis: “No one”
Me: “So there’s your miracle. It doesn’t look like you thought it would. It’s not an immediate healing, but losing my phone and me being in this cab with you is a miracle. Now pray for the next miracle. Look for the next small miracle. Go to the ER. Tell them you are depressed. Ask them to help you. Ask God to send the next right person to you. Sometimes miracles are one small step at a time or the right person at the right time. I know you can get well. I did.”
The cab pulled into the parking lot. I touched Luis’s shoulder and the next miracle was he didn’t recoil. I gave him a card with my contact information. I told him I would have a new phone within an hour and he could call me anytime he needed me. I would listen. I said, “I will pray for you and pray for your next miracle. Please go to the ER today.”
God used my lost phone to connect me with Luis and influence him to seek treatment. But God also used Luis to speak to me. I am hesitant to speak about Jay’s passing with those outside my very small circle of friends and family. There is shame associated with mental illness and suicide. As the parent of a school shooter, I experienced this in a exaggerated way. The media frenzy, the comments from well-meaning yet ignorant people, and the verbal attacks from just plain mean people left scars.
Most parents of school shooters go into hiding. However, I was a self-supporting single parent when Jay died. I couldn’t hide physically. I had to keep my remaining family afloat financially and emotionally. I continued to work the following years as a teacher, administrator, and instructional specialists. My fear of public shame and ridicule were compounded by concern of losing my livelihood. So in a way, my silence was a hiding place. Meeting Luis was my divine cue to speak up. I’m leaving my shame behind along with my lost cell phone. The new model is better anyway.