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To the Man Who Stayed With Me in the Airport After News of My Brother’s Suicide

Dear John,

The kindness and love you showed me yesterday will never be forgotten.

To you, I was a stranger. I was a babbling wreck.

You did not know my story, but you chose to never leave my side.

You didn’t say much.

You were just there.

See, I had just left Amelia Island, where my kids and I (and our cats) had been visiting for a few days. I was by myself, headed home. I had a meeting last night and was to fly to Baltimore the following day. I was driving on the interstate, listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast, Facing Resistance. I have felt resistance lately in a few areas of my life. I always laugh that Michael writes to me. He did it yet again.

I was about six minutes into his podcast and my phone rang. It was my brother’s girlfriend. My immediate thought was that something had happened to one of my parents. She and I have a good relationship, but it is not common for her to call me at 11:32 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. She said she couldn’t get a hold of my parents.

I told her they were at home.

I asked her what was wrong.

Instantly, I knew it was my brother.

Never in my life could I have prepared for what she had to tell me. I begged her not to call my parents back. If they called her, then decline the call. This was not news they needed to hear over the phone. I needed to get someone there with them.

At this moment, I looked up and realized I was two exits from Jacksonville International Airport. All I knew was, I had to get to my parents. I had no clothes, other than the jeans and T-shirt I was wearing, and a pair of yoga pants and two T-shirts in my bag.  I didn’t realize this until later yesterday when I was on the plane. I hung up with her and wanted to call my dad’s best friend, Bill.

This is when I met you, John.

I pulled my car into the valet at Jacksonville airport. This is not something I would normally do. If I had been in my right mind, I would have parked in long-term parking. I just knew I had to get on a plane as quickly as possible. I was distraught when you and your colleagues saw me. I believe there were about five of you.

I was crying and shaking. So much of it is a blur, but I do remember I couldn’t talk. I remember Michael’s podcast was still playing on my phone. I didn’t know how to get it to turn off.

I scrambled, grabbing anything I thought was necessary out of my trunk. My briefcase, my camera bag, my duffle bag, with only the few clothes and toiletries. I grabbed my purse and remember turning around to give one guy an avocado and two containers of Tzatziki. I had them in the car for a snack. And in that moment, I didn’t think I could take them on the plane.

You helped me carry my bags, John.

You asked me what airline I was flying.

I told you I didn’t have a ticket.

I had to find the quickest one.

You stayed with me.

You walked with me to four different ticket counters asking for a flight.

People were staring at me.

I was sobbing endlessly, and trying to make sense talking.

But John, you did not leave my side.

Standing in line, waiting on that Delta assistant, I finally called my dad’s friend, Bill. He answered the phone saying, “Hello, sweetheart! Are you looking for your dad? He is just walking out my door. Hang on. I will get him.”

Daddy had been visiting Bill.

I hurriedly explained to Bill I didn’t need Daddy. I told him what happened. I needed him to go be with Momma and Daddy. They were about to hear some of the worst news a parent can hear.

Bill too was devastated. He told me he would get his shoes on and head over there. Daddy was headed to the FedEx office to mail us a package, but would be home soon.

While I waited for Bill to call me, I told the Delta assistant I had to get to Memphis ASAP. He took my driver’s license and card. He made everything happen without asking me a question. He and another lady came around the corner and hugged me. They too had no idea what was happening. They just knew I needed support and grace.

I am sure I was making no sense through this process to the people around me. The circumstances I am facing today aren’t making sense in my head either.

Let’s just call us even.

John, I took my boarding passes, and turned to you. There you were. Still standing there holding my bags.

You are a good man, John.

You are a gracious and loving soul, even to this scattered stranger, who was facing one of the worst tragedies of her life.

Today, as I was picking out a casket for my brother, I thought of you, John. I thought of the love that I was shown yesterday when people didn’t understand me. I thought of the support that complete strangers extended to me. And the grace. Oh, the grace.

We all need grace, John.

I have spent the last 24 hours trying to figure out, “Why?” Trying to muddle through so many emotions. They all seem to be layering on top of one another. I want so bad to scream that someone else did it.

But no one else did it, John. He did it to himself.

Tomorrow, I will go see my sister in prison. I will hold her hand and cry with her. I will watch my parents hurt all over again.

Tomorrow, I will carry grace.

Tomorrow, I will carry with me the kind of love you showed to me, John. It may be the kind that just sits there beside, not saying a word, but the kind that is just there.

So, just know, John, as I walk through this valley of grief, and as I, once again, try to find a new normal, I appreciate you. I thank you for being you, for not just carrying my bags, but for helping to carry my heart through such a painful time.

You made a difference in my life yesterday.

For that, I am thankful.

This post originally appeared on i am jenn.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

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