Sometimes, You Just Need Someone Willing to Listen - United Way of Central Alabama

Sometimes, You Just Need Someone Willing to Listen

Reader discretion: This post references both physical pain and mental health issues, including suicide.

Life can be hard at times, even for the strongest among us. But in the face of adversity, hope changes everything. With each answered call, the Crisis Center makes hope happen. Keep reading to see how, as a Crisis Center volunteer shares a moving, life-saving experience.

“The caller was a middle-aged man. His voice was flat and determined to end his life that night.

“He revealed that he was in crippling, unbearable back pain and needed three surgeries to correct the problem. He was also, however, in congestive heart failure; and the surgeons said he could not be a candidate for the back surgery – he was just speeding up the inevitable. I asked him if he was a candidate for heart surgery. He said yes, but probably wouldn’t survive it. He was feeling completely hopeless and helpless.

“That was my segue to asking if he had a family. He cleared his throat and when he spoke again, the flatness in his voice turned into tears. As he talked about his children and grandchildren, I could feel his spirit change. I asked him to tell me his most recent joyful experience with his grandchildren. His tears turned into sobs and then into laughter at the memory he was telling me.

“I knew, in that moment, his plan had turned into conflict about his suicidal decision. I took that moment to acknowledge his pain. I wanted him to know that I cared about him, what was going to happen to him and how sorry I was that he was in so much pain.

“I gently asked him what it would be like for him to consider the heart surgery: if he died on the table, at least he knew in his heart that he did everything he could to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.

“He fell silent again. He said my name, and I assured him I was still with him.

“’I’m not a religious man,’ he said. ‘But if there’s a higher power looking over me, that power brought me to you.’

“He had crawled into my heart. He stated my name again and said, much to his surprise, his physical pain had subsided enough that he was going to put his pajamas on and go to sleep.

“Sixty-seven minutes into our call, he thanked me. And I thanked him for trusting me with his pain, then let him know that we were there for him any time he needed us.

“’I’m saying goodnight to you, not goodbye,’ he said.

“The call ended. I don’t know what happened to this man and probably never will. All I can do is hope.”

Call the Crisis Line at 205-323-7777 to connect with a counselor any time, day or night. Someone is always there, 24/7.