Essential communications

When we made our move to Washington, we decided to keep the same cell phone numbers that we had in South Dakota. There were many factors in our choice. Since we have decided to rent for a year, we decided to also experiment with not having a land line for that year. We know many others who have gone to using only their cell phones for communication, and it seemed like a good time for us to test to see if we needed the expense of having a land line. So far that test has gone well. We have not felt out of communication and have not felt the need to have a land line.

With nearly everything else changing and with the change in our email addresses, we decided that it would be good to have some means of communication that didn’t change with the move. Keeping in touch with friends and family is very important to us and we decided that since people don’t use phone books and keep phone numbers in the memory of their phones, it would make sense to have this channel open to communication just as it was before.

Area codes don’t designate location in the same way that once was the case. In our church directory, there are several members and friends of the church whose cell phone area codes don’t match the geography of their present address. Out here, where there is denser population most people have the 360 area code of this region, but there are plenty of folks with 206, 425, or 253 codes from the greater Seattle area. With no additional charge for long distance calls in wireless networks, area codes don’t affect the cost of making a call.

So we have the same cell phone numbers that we had during our time in South Dakota.

For the most part this has worked well for us. Businesses don’t mind the 605 area code. Our friends and family still can contact us the way that they used to and we have the added bonus of knowing that a call from an unknown part of South Dakota is probably a telemarketer. The spam phone callers have no way of knowing we’ve changed our geographical location. I discovered this when a follow-up call for our new Internet service came from Sioux Falls, South Dakota instead of from a local number.

There has been one glitch in our transition communication that I haven’t yet been able to solve. Until June 30, I was the LOSS team response coordinator for our community. This meant that every time a law enforcement agency in our area called for a suicide response, I received a text message and an email informing me of the call, the message, and who received it. This allowed me to follow up to make sure that we were getting a response team to survivors whenever a suicide occurred in our community. After a couple of years in this position, I discovered that there is a pretty high emotional cost to knowing right away even time a suicide occurs. I began to sense the rise and fall of the suicide rate with the seasons. I couldn’t avoid a silver of pain because I have been with so many who have experienced this tragedy. I found that I was really looking forward to taking a break from being a suicide first responder.

However, the answering service that manages the calls for the LOSS team can’t seem to get my phone number removed from the list. I no longer get the emails because I have changed my email address, but the text messages still appear on my phone every time there is a call for a suicide response in Pennington, Meade, Lawrence or Custer counties of South Dakota. I don’t have to do anything to respond, but I can’t help but be informed. Repeated requests by me and by the staff of the Front Porch Coalition have failed to get my phone number off of the automated reply system. I’m sure that if we could get to the right person, someone knows how to correct the problem, but so far we have only spoken to those who either say that my name and phone number are not on the list or those who say they will refer the problem to a supervisor because that person can’t correct the issue. There are many things in life that have taught me patience. I guess this is another one. I’m sure we’ll get the problem solved soon, but I thought that nearly six months ago, too.

The result is that I continue to think about suicide more than I want to. And I’m a bit anxious, as I have been for many years, about the holidays. I know that the next two weeks will bring a spike in the number of suicides. It always does. And I know that there will be people whose feelings about the holiday will be permanently changed by the depth of their loss and grief. The joy of the season will forever be tinged with sadness and sorrow.

The conjunction of joy and sorrow is a fixture of life. The birth narrative is followed by a story of infanticide in the Bible. The holy family moves from the joy of birth to fear for the life of their child in just a few verses.

My response, as was the case when I was actively responding to suicide loss in our community, is to increase my time for prayer and contemplation. I know first hand the feeling of falling on your knees to pray, reduced to a state of no words, when it feels like you are merely talking to your hands. It is at those moments, when you have no words for your prayers, when you need to know that you aren’t the only one praying. For those who are being crushed under the weight of unfathomable grief, I can at least add my prayers for healing and hope. It is a small thing, but a far better use of my energy and time than yelling at a customer service representative who can’t get my phone number out of their auto texting program.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!