I am one of eight million people living in London and there must be a few million landline telephones beginning with the city’s 020 code. What are the odds of a complete stranger mistakenly phoning my number from 500 miles away, and then revealing information that ends my search for a long lost friend?
As I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon, my home telephone was ringing. I’ve been struggling with a little anxiety over unknown numbers, so answering can often be a challenge.
To my relief, I realised the caller had the wrong number, although the woman was very friendly and explained how she is elderly and partially sighted.
I’m from Scotland and my caller had a very soft Scottish accent, so in no time we were conversing like old acquaintances. Neither of us could guess the remarkable turn our conversation was about to take.
“Where in Scotland are you from?” I asked.
“I’m from Montrose.”
“Oh that’s a real coincidence…”
It was as if a dam exploded inside my brain and all the memories came flooding back at once. Anne is a very special person and there was a time when it was hard to imagine our lives apart. But, my sexuality became the elephant in the room and our intended marriage was slowly squeezed out.
While friends shunned my sexuality and the Church stood in judgement, Anne remained by my side. Perhaps she secretly feared her selfless love would ultimately spell our demise, but she continued to help me understand that I was still the same worthy person, regardless of sexual preference.
“I used to visit Montrose with a friend back in the 1980’s… at the time, we lived in Perth.” I told the caller.
“Oh, I was born just outside Perth.”
“Wow, this is amazing. You might know the college I attended in Perth, St Paul’s?”
“Yes, of course I know St Paul’s.”
There are over 60 million people in the UK and it almost felt scary to consider if this random caller knew Anne. We had remained close friends for another 19 years, but then she married in 1995 and we both relocated to opposite ends of the country. Anne had been on my mind a lot lately, but internet searches had proven fruitless.
It was highly unlikely this random caller knew her, but it was worth a shot. “Did you ever meet the woman who took charge of St Paul’s in the early 90’s, her name’s Anne G.?” I held my breath.
“Oh my goodness, this is very strange indeed, I used to meet Anne in Perth Theatre.”
I quickly went into overdrive with a barrage of questions spilling from my mouth, but something about the caller’s hesitancy sank to the pit of my stomach.
“Um… Oh… I am so sorry, but Anne died… and it’s only within the last year.”
I felt utterly devastated. She must be mistaken. “Are you sure?”
“Oh yes, I am certain because Anne’s stepdaughter is married to our minister.”
It took me a couple of hours to come to terms with the news and the synchronicity of the call is extraordinary and quite difficult to grasp. After all this time, I finally found a direct link to Anne, albeit through her stepdaughter, Julie, who confirmed Anne passed away in February 2014.
For whatever unexplained reasons, I was destined to hear this very sad news. My mind is awash with memories of a time when life was the opposite of what it became, but that is another post entirely.
Only the names and location of this story are changed.