| Words Unspoken |

Dear Family of my Friend

You’re trying to protect your mother’s privacy — but I know what’s really going on


Dear Family of my Friend,

I realize that the last thing you guys need right now when you’re dealing with the aftermath of your wife’s/mother’s/sister’s/daughter’s breakdown is to deal with a disgruntled friend. So, if you don’t want to read my letter, I get it. By all means, tuck it away for another day when this is all history.

But when that day does arrive, and this is all mercifully behind us, I’d like to tell you the story of a friend, a friend who cared as much about your family member as you did—or at least almost as much — a friend whom your relative confided in regularly.

I was the one Mindy called at 1 a.m. crying because her mother had broken her hip for the third time and her father wanted to place her mother in a facility but she was refusing to go. I was the one she called when her husband yet again complained about her bookkeeping inabilities, when her 19-year-old looked her in the eye and told her she was the worst mother on the planet.

“I don’t know what to do,” she’d repeat over and over. “Everything I do is wrong. I feel like a failure. I’m getting depressed. I’ve tried davening. I’ve tried therapy. Nobody can help me.”

Then Mindy called me one cold winter night at midnight. She was agitatedly walking in circles in a nearby mall and told me how frightened she was to return home. “Everybody will just be on my case,” she told me, “I have to wait until they go to sleep.”

That was a disturbing call. But the event that troubled me most was the day she called me, ecstatic, because she’d  found the answer to her problems. While in the bathroom at work that morning, she noticed a small scrunched up piece of paper on the floor. Instead of simply throwing it out, she opened it and read the scrawled words in unidentified handwriting — “Smile. Everything will be okay.”

“That was a message to me from Hashem!” she told me. “Everything will be fine!” She was so euphoric about it that I felt uneasy. While I was happy for her that she’d found something that made her feel better about her difficult situation, her reaction seemed off.

But perhaps I’m just saying that because I know what happened next.

That was the last I heard from my dear friend for two weeks. I called and texted, but not until I dropped by the house during the second week did I find out what had transpired. Or, to be more accurate, did I figure out what transpired, because the family member who answered the door was extremely evasive.

“My sister went to the hospital last week. She wasn’t feeling well. They think it’s something with her heart. We’re not sure when she’ll be back.”

Her vague response confirmed my fear; I grasped what had really happened. Mindy had been taken to a psychiatric hospital. And when Mindy called me a few days later, I knew that I knew the truth. Uncharacteristically, she was screaming about something that made no sense, about something she claimed I’d done to her. I talked to her soothingly, and thankfully was able to calm her down. She apologized, told me she loved me, and we said goodbye.

As you can imagine, I was distraught by our conversation and where my dear friend had ended up. And there was also some guilt — I felt I should have seen this coming and done something to preempt it.

Another thing that disturbed me was the silence from you, her family.

I was her confidante. I knew more about what was disturbing her than most of you. I’m sorry if it hurts to hear that, but it’s true. She’d often tell me she didn’t feel it appropriate to burden her family with her problems, so instead she shared them with me.

I could have offered insight regarding how to go forward with her treatment plan. But nobody called me back even though I reached out repeatedly. Instead, I was very politely told that everything was being taken care of.

I know you all have a lot on your plate, but putting aside my pain as a friend who had no idea what happened to a friend she cares for deeply, I could have been helpful. I probably still could be helpful.

I do appreciate that I’m “just” a friend and not family, but sometimes friends can be just as valuable. And this, I believe, is such a time.

Your Relative’s Friend


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 764)

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