I broke my own rule, and I missed my chance to call.
Does this ever happen to you: someone comes into your mind out of the blue, and it feels like there is a reason for it? It is happening to me more and more. Usually it happens when I’m physically moving – driving to work on going for a run. And there they will be. An image of a friend I haven’t heard from in while, or a congregant I haven’t connected with recently at church.
A few years ago, I started a practice of calling these people when they come to mind just to check in. Almost always, when we connect, the person says something like, “that’s so strange you called me at this moment in my life. Here’s what’s going on.” Maybe it is a new job. Or a new diagnosis. The start of a new love, or the end of one. But almost always, it is something, and it feels like them coming to mind wasn’t a coincidence.
I know, I know. Here’s the part where the amateur science geek gets all new agey, and I’m sure I should offer a disclaimer somewhere. All I know is that it happens enough, and it provides such meaningful connection with others, that I am learning to trust it.
It’s starting to be a rule for me. A few years ago, when my friend Joanna was taking on the job as a new minister at a church in Austin, she invited me to speak in the service where she was being “installed.” One of my only pieces of advice for her was to always call. When people come to mind out of the blue, always call.
I broke my own rule, and I missed my chance this week.
A couple of weeks ago, I was writing in my journal one morning, and a member of the church I serve came into my mind. Let’s call him “John.” I’m not surprised he came to mind. He was sick with something that doesn’t get better. We had already talked about his memorial service that we knew was going to come way too soon, but it could be months or years away. That morning, his image came into my mind. So, in black ink in all caps on the page, I wrote that reminder to myself. “Call John.”
Except, I didn’t. A busy week with lots of work, and nothing but my superstition to put someone on my to-do list. I didn’t call him that week, but his family did call me.
His family called from a hospital room to let me know things had become critical. They had talked with him, shared their love and said many goodbyes. They were about to remove the ventilator that was bringing air into his tired lungs.
There was no way I could make it to the hospital in time. I was alone for the night with my two young kids. They were splashing in the tub and already late for bedtime. By the time I found someone who could come over to be with them and get to the hospital, it would’ve been to late. John died soon after our conversation.
I’m sad that I didn’t call sooner. I would’ve had a chance to connect and speak with him before he died. But, I am so glad that he came to mind. I’m glad that in black ink in all caps my journal holds the reminder to always call.
I don’t know how it works. Maybe it’s that everyone always has something going on in their lives, and everyone likes to be payed attention to. Maybe whenever you call is a meaningful time. But it feels like more than that. I am learning to trust this experience. I am learning to trust that we are connected in meaningful ways I’ll never understand. The words we use to describe the connection that binds us – God, the Universe, Mystery, are all just words, not the thing themselves. They are all insufficient to fully capture what’s going on. Do you have some version of this in your life? I hope so.
I don’t understand how it works, but I trust it. This won’t be the last time someone comes to mind out of the blue. I’m certain it won’t be the last time that a hectic life gets away from me and I wait too long. But I’m keeping my rule that I will imperfectly follow, and I’m keeping the black ink in all caps written on the page as a reminder. Always call.