My key came and naturally, I wore it a lot. This was November and I had planned to go visit a friend in North Carolina. I had started hanging my necklace from the knob of my lamp on my bedside table - for some reason, I liked having it there. I always grabbed it in the morning and put it on. When I woke up on the Friday morning of my trip, I almost left it there. But for some reason, I felt like I would need it. So, it was the last thing I reached for before leaving the house.
My train ride down to North Carolina took a little longer than normal, but there was almost no one in my train car with me. The silence was nice. I had been texting with my friend, Patrick* (name has been changed). I met Patrick during my Sophomore year of college and we became fast friends. He was the type of person that you couldn't help but feel happy around. He had an infectious smile, always gave you a hug as if you'd been separated by war (even if you had just seen him yesterday!)...he was just someone that people gravitated toward. His only flaw is that he has always been horrible with electronic communication. Seeing each other was easier in college. But I had learned that if you sent him a text, you shouldn't really be banking on getting an answer that day. If you do, you better keep texting and talk to him or ask the question you need to while he's looking at his phone. Well, it was one of those moments when I got him in a "text window."
My friends will tell you - I am big on staying in touch. Texting is good for its rapidness, but I prefer things like phone calls (it's always good to hear their voices), photos, and handwritten letters. But with Patrick, texts were important too. I just knew that it wasn't really his thing. He actually called me while I was on the train. Hearing his voice invoked a strong sense of comfort. When I speak to him, it's always like no time has passed. We gave each other our life updates (although I didn't have anything much to tell him).
When he began to update me, I could hear in his voice that something was wrong. He told me that he trusted me and that what he wanted to tell me was something that only his immediate family and his girlfriend knew. To respect his privacy, I choose not to disclose what he told me. But I will say that it was the most emotionally, spiritually, and physically taxing situation I had ever heard. I was honored that he chose to tell me what he and his family had been dealing with - I think it was a mark of the trust and respect we have for each other.
When he was done, I told him that I wanted to cry - not from what he just told me (although, that would have been a reason, too), but from knowing that he had been dealing with this by himself. I told him that everyone deserves to have a safety net and to always know that someone will be there to catch them when they feel like they're about to hit the ground. I said that I would always be part of his 'net.' I kept telling him that although it was noble (and very fitting with his personality) that he wanted to be strong for his family, that he needed to talk about this and that his feelings were just as valid as everyone else's.
In that moment, the world snapped back into place. My uneasy mood, my sadness, my anger...it was gone. Talking to Patrick reminded me of everything that I value in my life and how much I believe that people deserve to know that they are loved. I knew that as soon as I got back from my trip, I would be sending my key to him. I had had it for two weeks. But like people say, "you just know when it's time" to pass it on. I don't really believe in 'signs.' But that day, I felt like it was fate that I would decide to take the necklace with me and touch base with Patrick, too.
I wrote him a long letter, reminding him that I loved him and that it was always okay to reach out. That I would be there, always. I explained exactly why I had purchased this necklace and why I was giving it to him. With everything going on in his life, I wanted to remind him to breathe and just to make it through one day at a time - we could handle everything that way. I ended the letter with this quote that I had stumbled on a few years ago. Nothing felt more fitting for his situation:
"An eagle flies into a storm, using its powerful updrafts to take it higher than its ever gone before."
I told him that I knew he and his family would get through this storm and that he was one of the strongest people I knew. I like to imagine that my necklace is hanging from his rearview mirror or tucked away in a drawer. Wherever it is, I know that it's fulfilled its purpose.