I’m not going to do this story justice. But I’m going to try. Please, bear with me.
It happened in April, 2019. In Washington, the Evergreen State. State tree: the Western hemlock. State flower: the traffic cone.
It was late. There was a woman about to kill herself. The woman was young. She was standing on the ledge of a freeway overpass. Holding a stuffed animal. Hair blowing in all directions. She was going to do it. She was really going to do it.
Traffic whizzed beneath her. Roaring engines. Red tail lights. Endless rivers of Detroit engineering, Dearborn steel, and Peterbilt 379s. This was the end. Game over.
The weeping woman gazed at the long chain of speeding headlights and said a simple prayer into the din of interstate traffic.
“Jesus, I’m going to kill myself. If you’re real, you’ll stop me. I’m giving you five minutes to prove that you care about me.”
Meantime, across town, Officer Rob Kearney was involved in another call. He heard the radio call for the suicide attempt. He overheard one of the officers speaking over the airwaves, and there was a timbre to the Officer’s voice that concerned Rob.
Something made Officer Rob leave his call and divert to assist. On his way to the scene, more calls came in. “She’s standing on the railing,” the radio chatter was saying. “She’s gonna jump!”
Officer Rob flipped on his lightbar. He stamped on the gas. Hi-Lo sirens blaring.
By the time he got there, there were other officers on the scene. What they all saw surprised them. A civilian man, a stranger, had wrapped his arms around the young woman. The civilian was bear-hugging her tightly, to keep her safe.
She wanted to jump. She was trying to jump. But she couldn’t. The stranger had his arms entwined around her, he wasn’t letting her go.
In only moments, officers were involved in the struggle, dragging the woman away from the railing. She was screaming and cussing. “Let me go you [bleeping] mother [bleepers]!”
In a little bit she was sitting in Officer Rob’s cruiser. When she had calmed down, she told Officer Rob about the prayer she’d made. About how she had asked Jesus to stop her within five minutes.
“Well,” said Rob, “he sent us, didn’t he?”
“Yes, but you took SIX minutes to get here.”
“Traffic,” he said.
Officer Rob asked about the little stuffed animal she was carrying. “What’s its name?” he asked.
She looked at the animal. It was a stuffed lamb. The kind that put Little Bo Peep on the map.
“He doesn’t have a name,” she said. “I’m thinking about naming him Jesus, since he’s a lamb.”
The officer smiled. “That’s a nice name.”
Whereupon they took a brief ride in the ambulance to the hospital. The young woman was placed on a routine mental-health hold. On the way, she and Officer Rob had a long talk. They laughed. She cried. They spoke of life, and the many fissures of pain and suffering therein.
Later, when Officer Rob was briefing nurses, Rob’s partner asked the young woman about the stuffed animal.
The woman smiled. She held the stuffed animal up. “His name is Jesus,” she said.
His partner’s face turned white. His partner wore one of those looks. It’s a look that originates deep in your chest, then works its way into your eyes.
“What’s wrong?” said Officer Rob.
“Did someone tell her?” replied his partner.
“Tell her what?”
The officer removed his notepad and examined his notes, just to make sure he was reading things correctly. But there it was. In black and white ink.
His partner said, “The civilian, the man who pulled her off the railing, his name was Jesús.”