I received some devastating news this week, and it still has me reeling.
Someone I loved took his own life by hanging, and his body was discovered after several fraught days of searching.
His name was Chuck. He was my former husband, and he was also my very best friend in the world. We spoke every day, and it was a part of the day I always looked forward to.
On Wednesday, when I knew Chuck was missing but did not yet know he had died, I happen to be an event with Sheriff Roye Cole. The sheriff is someone who, like me, prefers to stand on the margin, rather than bringing attention to himself. This made it very easy to sidle up next to him and ask some questions I had about searching for missing persons.
I really just wanted some reassurance that people were out looking very diligently for Chuck. His car had been found deep in Maine wilderness, and his dog was there, too, waiting beside it. But three days had passed since his car was located, and no one could find Chuck.
I approached Sheriff Cole because I was looking for reassurance from someone who understood these matters from the inside. Not many of us really do. Inwardly, I understood that the chance of a positive outcome was growing remote. It had been many days since I had heard from Chuck, the longest stretch we had ever gone without communicating.
Rather than simply explaining procedures or offering words of concern, Sheriff Cole went much further. He offered to call the sheriff of the county where Chuck’s car was found. “Maybe if we let them know we’re paying attention, they can put a few extra men out to look,” he said.
Searchers dogs and airplanes were deployed, but it turned out Chuck was beyond finding. I learned of his fate Wednesday from Sheriff Cole himself, who had no reason but his own essential goodness to inform me that Chuck’s body had been found.
I was no longer Chuck’s family member, and the matter was not in Sheriff Cole’s jurisdiction, but nevertheless, he took it upon himself to come by my office with a deputy to give me the news. When he found that I wasn’t there, he called me. He made sure I pulled off the road, and then he gave me the information. Before we hung up, he made sure I wasn’t going to an empty home, and I confirmed that my husband, Mike, would be there for me.
This wasn’t the end of Sheriff Cole’s actions. The next night, as I made my way home from a meeting of the Marshfield Board of Aldermen, my phone rang, and it was Sheriff Cole, just wondering if I was doing OK.
Although I cover county government, I don’t have an especially close working relationship with Sheriff Cole. He is always pleasant and very funny, and he never balks at giving me the information I need. I have no particular claim on his goodness, but our sheriff seems to be someone who offers the best of himself for anyone in need — anyone who is hurting.
Sheriff Cole told me he would be praying for me and for Chuck’s loved ones, and he invited me to call him if I needed anything else.
There is very little comfort to be found when you receive the most devastating news of your life, but I can’t imagine having heard the news from anyone less caring. I was very lucky to have Sheriff Cole on my side. I believe we all are.
Do you know someone who feels hopeless? Help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.