Published: 12:18, 22 January 2020
| Updated: 13:13, 22 January 2020
When Georgina Laurie became a Samaritan after a volunteer helped save her life, she never imagined she would be reunited with the man who brought her back from the brink.
At her lowest, the 60-year-old grandmother from Rainham contemplated suicide but a remarkable twist of fate led her to call for a chat.
The conversation she had that day was enough for her to put one foot in front of another and carry on with her life.
She later signed up with the organisation to help others like her, and will take over a leading role next month.
But while many who call the Samaritans will never know the stranger who listens, Georgina found herself sat next to him.
Georgina, of Maidstone Road, Rainham, has now been volunteering at the Medway, Gravesham and Swale Samaritans in Priory Road, Strood, for four and a half years.
She has come a long way since the day she decided she wanted to end her life following the sudden death of her husband Dennis seven years ago.
She said: “A year prior to that, I’d had a stroke so my whole life completely changed and I couldn’t cope with that.
“I got really depressed, really down and I really couldn’t see there was a way forward in life for me.
“I had no intention of ringing Samaritans and no intention of ringing and telling anybody.
“I was in bed, I was coughing and I dribbled water and I went into my bedside cabinet to get a tissue and believe it or not, a Samaritans card flicked out.
“I hadn’t really considered them at all and I thought ‘I will give them a call’ and it wasn’t to be talked out of what I was doing; I wanted the universe to know what I was doing. I didn’t leave a note or anything.
"I decided I had chatted enough and I said ‘I’m going to go now’..."
“So I phoned up and this gentleman answered and for an hour listened to me wittering on, and I know I was talking about the difficulties in the family since my husband died, and it was really difficult.
“I told him what I was going to do. He didn’t judge me; there was no judgment, there was no trying to change my mind.
“I felt completely that I could trust him and open up. For an hour I was wittering away, but still determined to go through with what I had planned.
“I decided I had chatted enough and I said ‘I’m going to go now’ and at that point the Samaritan said to me on the phone, ‘I would just like to say one thing; this all sounds totally exhausting.’
“And I hadn’t thought about that and I thought, ‘Yeah, you’re right I am exhausted; I am emotionally and physically exhausted’ and then I put the phone down.
“I started to think, ‘if I am exhausted, if I really am that mentally and emotionally exhausted, am I making the right decision?’ and it was enough just to get me thinking.”
About two-and-a-half years later, Georgina decided to join the Samaritans in Strood, which has around 60 volunteers.
She rose her way through the ranks to the point where she was mentoring others to get involved.
It was an evening shift, while working alongside the branch’s director Des McCarthy, when an amazing moment of fate happened.
She continued: “It was about five months ago. I was training one of my mentees and my mentee was on the phone so I had more time to listen to what Des was saying, albeit subconsciously, and I suddenly heard Des say, ‘it must have been exhausting for you’ and it was like being transferred back all those years, I couldn’t believe it.
“I felt completely that I could trust him and open up..."
“It was really one of those serendipitous moments and I realised that it was Des I had spoken to.”
The call Georgina made could have been diverted to any of the Samaritans’ call centres in the UK. The fact that Des was the call handler was completely random.
“Des actually trained me, he was one of the training team so for 10 weeks I had listened to him talking,” Georgina continued.
“I couldn’t bring myself to say anything that night. We were actually at another volunteer’s birthday party and I had confided in another volunteer and he said ‘here’s an ideal opportunity to tell him’, and it just organically came out.”
Des, a former police officer from Istead Rise, Gravesend, doesn’t remember the incident – volunteers are trained to forget calls to rid themselves of the emotional burden of dealing with calls.
He said: “I don’t have a stock of phrases. Some people will have a comfort in using a stock of phrases when they begin but I don’t think I ever had.
“It’s not something I say very often at all.”
Des is stepping down in his role as director after three years and passing on the baton to Georgina who will take over next month after she got the backing of volunteers.
She said: “It just seems like a natural little process. It was so humbling to be asked and I think it’s a nice all-round story about someone who’s been in despair who did call Samaritans.
“Des didn’t try and talk me out of doing anything. All he did was do what we say on the tin; we listen, and listening is just enough sometimes.”
Samaritans’ volunteers are trained to provide a non-judgmental listening ear to anyone who may need it.
They do not give advice but can signpost people to direct them to other charities which may be able to remedy their situation, such as a debt crisis line.
Georgina said: “Life has changed. When I was a child, my mother would put the world to rights with one of the nextdoor neighbours who we all called ‘aunty’ and whenever she was in a state, she’d go and have a coffee and a cake with my Aunt Dot and they’d have two hours chatting away and they’d be fine.
“But our lives have changed now. We hardly know our neighbours well enough to divulge personal things like that and it’s so important because if you keep these thoughts and feelings in, they grow, and they grow to a point where you can’t see the wood for the trees.
“But when you do start to talk about them, you can break them down into bite-sized chunks.”
The Samaritans are always looking for new volunteers and the Strood branch is open between 9am and 10pm seven days a week. Call 01634 730981.
For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time.
You can also email, text or write them a letter. Click here to find out more.
More by this authorKatie May Nelson