Serendipity, or How I Learned to Love Facebook
March 5, 2014
After Rahul had been home with me for several months I settled into a new job that allowed me to be closer to home and have a shorter workday. I had already become accustomed to spending my every waking moment caring for his especially intense needs as he adjusted to life with me and began to heal from past trauma. One night, my friend Tamika come to our apartment. I knew life wasn’t going so well for her right then, but I was so engrossed in Rahul’s very exigent needs, that I hardly noticed what was going on with any of my friends. I was thrilled that Tamika had come by, but we ended up spending our entire evening helping Rahul through a particularly harrowing crisis. As Tamika left that night I thanked her from the bottom of my heart for caring for my child so lovingly and spending a night giving help when I knew she needed it just as much. I watched her walk down the hall and felt a sinking feeling that I should be doing more to help her, but I didn’t know how.
A few days later I had a very unique and cherished opportunity to spend 2 hours by myself. Rahul was asked to join an after school ESL program and I knew he would try it out at least once. For even one session it would be worthwhile to get him some extra help and I’d get have a few hours to breathe.
I came home from work that day and sat down at my desk, staring at the huge pile of bills and papers I had been barely tending to. My goal during these next 2 hours was going to be to get through to the bottom of the stack! I opened my computer and before beginning my serious tasks I went to Facebook. I really hated Facebook, because each time I scrolled through friends’ happy status updates about how their lives were so much easier and less oppressive than mine I wanted to throw the computer across the room! Facebook just made me feel bitter. I spent several months ignoring it completely, but I had a friend I’d been trying to track down for years who had just found me on Facebook and I was thrilled to reconnect with her. We were writing messages back and forth to one another, so I was in the habit at the time of checking into Facebook every day.
This particular day I looked for a message from my friend and finding none, scrolled down through my news feed. A few messages down I saw Tamika’s status, which read, Goodbye. My heart stopped. What time had she written it? Hours ago! Frantically, I scrolled down to the comments her other friends had written. Did they know what she meant? No. There were several comments like, I didn’t know you were heading out of town! Where are you going?
I knew what she meant. Goodbye. Forever.
Several years earlier I had been the first person Tamika had called when she woke up after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. She was such a dear friend to me and I was terrified and heartbroken that she was so sad and lost. She went into treatment and worked very hard at healing. And she had been doing really well, until her mom passed away.
I had learned of her mom’s passing one summer night when I called Tamika to tell her about a show I had just seen. After talking for a while, I asked her where she was. On a plane, she said. My mom died. I was stunned. After talking for a while I decided to try to get a flight down to Louisiana the next day, so I could support her. But as soon as I woke up the next morning I got the life-changing news that my son had been found and I was going to be Rahul’s mom! That news started me on a race to get a thesis paper’s worth of paperwork triple-notarized and sent to India so I wouldn’t lose him. I sent flowers to Tamika instead.
As I stared at the word Goodbye on Facebook that fateful day I felt I might be the only person who knew what was happening. I immediately called her and got her voice mail. “Call me”, I said. “I just read your Facebook message.” I clicked on Tamika’s homepage and learned I wasn’t the only one who knew. A friend of hers from Louisiana had written this message: HELP!!!!!!!!!!! TAMIKA HAS TAKEN PILLS AND IS TRYING TO KILL HERSELF AND I DON’T KNOW HER ADDRESS!!!!!!!!!!
I know her address! A few weeks earlier I had ordered a few Christmas cards to send out and after addressing them to various family members I had one left. I asked Rahul whom we should send it to and we decided on Tamika. It would be her first Christmas without her mom and I thought it would cheer her up. She had just moved, so I called her and got her new address.
As I started to write back to her Facebook friend, my phone rang. It was Tamika. Thank God she is alive. I answered and although she was alive, she was not well. She was slurring her words and not making any sense. While I listened I picked up my other phone and dialed 911. I was grateful to have a second phone — I had only bought it one day earlier. I was able to keep her talking while I gave the 911 operator her address. When she heard that I was sending help, she hung up on me.
My hands were shaking as I finished writing back to her Louisiana friend to say that I had Tamika’s address and had called the police.
My phone rang again and this time it was the police. They were at Tamika’s door and she wasn’t answering so they were going to leave. “NO!” I shouted! I dialed Tamika again and she picked up. Go open your door! I said to her. “She’s there!” I said to the police on my other ear. “I’m talking to her right now.” A moment later I heard Tamika’s roommate (who had been sleeping and was awakened by the banging on the door) answer the door. I heard the police questioning her and they rushed her into an ambulance. I hung up both phones and took a deep breath.
I thought for a second and realized there was one more thing I could do. I knew Tamika’s therapist, Tina. That’s because she had been my therapist first and I had recommended her to Tamika. In all the years I had known Tina she never once picked up the phone when I called her office. That day when I dialed her number, she picked up the phone. “Renee! So great to hear from you! How are things going with your son!” “Tina, Tamika is on her way to the hospital. She took a bunch of pills this morning. Do you know her psychiatrist? Could you find out what medication she is on?” “Oh my God.” She said. “Yes, I do know him and I will call him right now. Thanks for letting me know.”
Ask I hung up with Tina my phone rang again and this time it was Tamika’s friend from Louisiana. She was so relieved to get my message and she explained how she had called the NYPD earlier in the day, but because she didn’t know where Tamika lived they couldn’t do anything. And then she had to pick up her son from kindergarten and had just had to leave that desperate message on Tamika’s Facebook page praying someone would see it. I realized it was time for me to go pick up my son from school also. But before I left I got one more call. Tina called back to say she had gotten in touch with Tamika’s psychiatrist, they had tracked down which hospital she was admitted to and talked to the ER doctors at the hospital. They had caught her in time and she would recover. Hallelujah! There was now nothing else I could do, so I went to pick up Rahul.
To make a long story short, Tamika received wonderful care and worked very hard to heal. She is a new person today, solid and happy. I’m going to her wedding in May!
When I think back to all the stars that aligned that day. The timing of that one afterschool class Rahul took—literally the only 2 hours I had to myself for months. The online reunion with the friend who gave me a reason to check my Facebook page. The extra phone I had just bought. The address I had just procured from Tamika. The therapist I knew personally who answered the phone. God put me in the right place at the right time, with the right tools and the right knowledge, to help to save my friend.
Serendipity. Provident serendipity.
(And I don’t hate Facebook anymore.)
*By the way, in case you are wondering, Tamika gave me her blessing to tell our story.