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A Call from the Darkness
One more night. One more life in peril.  With God’s help the worker at the Salvation Army’s suicide crisis centre averts a tragedy.

The mother swallowed an overdose of pills. Could she be reached in time to save her life? 

“Hello? Can I help you?” Silence on the other end of the telephone line.

“Are you there?” I said again. “I’m here to help you.”

Finally, a woman’s voice responded, “Yes … I’m here.”

“It sounds like you’re really struggling with something,” I continued. “I can help.”

“I don’t think anyone can help me now.” She hesitated. Each passing second seemed like an eternity.

The voice, faint yet audible, continued. “They’re sound asleep now. They’ll be much better off without me.”

“I just can’t take the darkness”

Through her sobs, I could feel the stinging pain the woman carried for past mistakes and broken relationships.

She had bathed her two children, ages three and six, put them in their pyjamas and then tucked them in. Unlike other nights, she found herself kneeling beside their beds, praying for their protection and safety, and for forgiveness.

Moments later, she left their room, swallowed a hundred pills and called The Salvation Army’s suicide crisis line. She was scared and didn’t want to die alone. It was 3:43 a.m.

“Hang in there with me.” Her breathing was laboured, her voice faint. “Can you tell me where you are? I want to send an ambulance to help you.”

She paused, hesitant to tell me anything.

“It’s going to be over soon,” she uttered. “I just can’t take the darkness anymore.”

A light in the dark

“Oh, Lord,” I prayed. “It’s the middle of the night. I’m alone on the phone speaking with a woman who is dying. I’m not worthy of this task. Why have you asked me to meet her at this crossroad? Lord, help her.”

Time was of the essence. The woman seemed to know it and so did I. From what she told me, I knew that the pills she ingested would rob her of her life in a very short time.

“Can you hear me? Come on, stay with me!”


Then, faintly, I heard her whisper, “I’m here.”

“You’re not alone.” I pressed. “I know you’re hurting, but your children need you, they need their Mom. I’m going to help you, OK?”

In her pain, she’d convinced herself that the children would only think she was asleep. She thought the six-year-old would know enough to go to the neighbours across the hall for help.

“Is your front door open?” I asked. “How will your children get to the neighbours?” Her breathing was becoming increasingly laboured.

“Listen to me. Your children need you.”

Suddenly, she cried, “Oh, no, what have I done?”

Yes! A breakthrough! She’d seen the light amidst inescapable darkness.

“You can do this”

With cellphone in one hand and cordless phone in the other, I called 9-1-1. Although her life was slipping away, she rallied enough to give me the details I needed to direct the emergency response unit to her apartment. “They’ll be there any second,” I assured her.

Suddenly, I heard the woman fall down a flight of stairs.

Silence. Then … I could hear her breathing! “You can do this. You’re doing a great job!” I encouraged.

“Stephanie, I fell …”

“I can hear you. You’re going to be OK. I’m still here!” Sirens wailed in the distance. I heard footsteps running, voices yelling. “Hello, this is the police—we’ve got her. We’ll take it from here.”

When the paramedics found her, the woman was unconscious but still alive. Her body lay at the front door of the two-storey walk-up. The ambulance crew was amazed she had been able to reach up, unlatch the door and find enough strength to prop it open so they could get in. They said they never would have gotten to her in time if she hadn’t worked so hard to stay alive.

It was 3:56 a.m.

Hanging up the phone, I felt such relief. I thanked God for giving this stranger the will to keep living and for entrusting me with such an awesome responsibility. The silence of that night wasn’t so deafening anymore. The cries of a desperate young mother had broken through the darkness. God had heard her and responded.

Stephanie Oliver is the program director of The Salvation Army Suicide Prevention Ministries in Hamilton, Ontario.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, March 2008. Posted on the Salvationist website, March 25, 2008.




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