What was it that made my blood run cold, my chest contract and time slam to a halt?
Good evening, Madam Contest Chair, Mr President, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.
I am going to tell you about the ripple effect of a terrible event. One that has changed some of my attitudes and behaviours, I hope it may encourage you consider some of yours.
One Monday lunchtime , last summer I was distractedly flicking between pinned tabs on my computer, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, News, Twitter again, Email, different News. YouTu.. STOP. WHAT? NO! It can’t be? It is!! Oh Please, No!
I flicked back a tab to one of the news sites to check what I had seen. In my head all I could hear was No, no, no, it can’t be, please, no. I have seen friends, family and acquaintances on the news before, no big deal.
This was different.
Ladies and Gentleman, I had seen the familiar wide smiling face of an old friend of mine looking back at me under the text ‘M.I.S.S.I.N.G’ in bold capital letters.
My friend who I had known since I was 13, my friend who had always lived up the road from me, my friend with the remarkably deep voice and the massive smile . My friend , that regardless of the best of intentions, I had not seen in far too long. My friend was missing.
Hoping against hope that it was actually his doppelgänger I was looking at and not my friend, I checked and rechecked all the details.
The Guards had not waited the usual 24 hours before they acted, as is the usual procedure in the case of a missing adult. My friends family and the Guards must have believed that he was at immediate personal danger. We were in the middle of a Pandemic Lockdown , where the hell would he have been going out too at that hour on a Monday morning anyway!
This was not like him at all.
I wanted nothing more, then to find out this was just a simple miscommunication, that someone had confused things or missed something, and that he was staying with one of his siblings.
I really didn’t want the Guards to find his body, or worse again, for his family, for the Guards not to find his body.
Eventually, the story was updated to ‘Located’, great news!
Bad news it didn’t say, as these things usually do, ‘found safe and well’. On the plus side , the update didn’t say “Gardai are treating it as a personal tragedy”, as they sometimes can.
The next few days were spent checking his social media and rip.ie. And then I saw it. His name.
Thankfully it was actually a man from Cavan and not my friend . Every day that passed made me more confident that, yes , he had had a crisis, but, he would be ok in time.
As wave after wave of happy, laughter filled memories washed through my mind, I kept thinking, why didn’t I contact him more, we used to be so close, and with so many ways of staying in contact, why did I let things drift, how arrogant of me to take for granted that he would always just be up the road. Why didn’t I take up the offer to drop around to his house after we bumped into each other in the garage?
A few weeks later, it was a delightful surprise, when his name popped up in my Facebook notifications. It was a truly wonderfully kind message thanking me for the card I had sent him, a promise to meet up when he was feeling better and some news on his ongoing treatment.
He sounded a little fragile , but, he was alive, he was getting help and he was going to be ok. That. was. all. that. mattered . I am incredibly grateful that we have stayed in touch since.
The ripple effect of my friend going missing, is that I have now become more proactive in my communication with friends, and I am attempting to reconnect with and appreciate people I unintentionally lost contact with over the years.
It is a pleasure to communicate with them, even if we can’t meet in person. It should not have taken a friend going missing for me to do that. Hopefully we will be able to meet up again sooner rather than later.
I never want to see the word M.I.S.S.I.N.G over a friends photo ever again.
Next time you think about a friend, just quickly shoot them a message, a joke, an email, maybe even call them . Anything at all. Just let them know that you are thinking of them. Don’t presume , as I used to , that they are too busy to talk, that you would be disturbing them, or that too much time has now passed.
The worst thing that might happen is that they tell you that they can’t talk at the moment and that they will get back to you.
The best thing is that your contact could brighten their day, make them laugh and it might mean everything to them.
Thank you, Madam Contest Chair, Mr President, fellow Toastmasters, and welcome guests.