How does it happen? One moment someone means the world to you, and the next moment they are gone. Maybe they left in anger, slamming the door behind them, or maybe they intentionally stepped away hurting you with their silence. It seems everyone has a story about losing touch with a friend or family member. Sometimes it’s just a slow drift apart where you can’t even recall why you stopped talking. Other times it’s a spat between relatives, siblings rivalry, or lovers who have had a falling out. We don’t have to look to far to find a broken connection.
Pride gets in the way when relationships break down and it’s hard to be the one to reach out and say I’m sorry. Three little words that mean so much (I love you) become increasingly hard when layers of hurt exist. For some, it’s easier to save mending fences for another day. There will always be tomorrow. Or at least, we hope there will be.
Meet Clayton Kuefler. He never expected to lose touch with his mom. But here he is, living a lonely life on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He teared up while he used his shopping cart to write a card. He asked me to step behind him so others on the street would not see him crying. For men especially, vulnerability is hard. It had been a long time since Clayton had felt the raw emotion of his broken connection. In his words “This is why I don’t sober up – I just can’t handle the pain. My biggest fear is dying alone. Sometimes I wonder – would it be weeks or months before my family realized I was gone?”
So far we have not found his mom, Margo Kuefler, who lived in Langley, BC in 2014. They haven’t spoken for five years. We have found her on Facebook but to date our message remains unread.
Gabor Mate says the opposite of fear is not safety. The opposite of fear is connection. Just knowing you have someone in your corner, cheering for you and ready to answer your phone call can mean the world. That void that divides can leave a whole in the heart – one that many choose to mask with addiction. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, work or an addiction to just being ‘too busy’ to reach out.
This Christmas Project HELLO connected 53 people living on the streets with friends or family they had lost touch with. We now wait and hope some of the recipients will reach out to our students and thank them for their connection. Here is the first message we have received from a father of a man named Justin.
“I thank you so much for doing this. Please tell the kids that helped with this project that this is very important. We are trying so hard to help Justin find his way home. Small things like this make a huge impact on people like my son. Believe it or not, sometimes things like this can change the path of travel an individual takes. Maybe not immediately, but as time does it helps them. They felt human again and had a chance to tell family they love them regardless of where they are at in their lives. Merry Christmas to you and all of your students.”
The Downtown Eastside seems a world apart to most of us – but is it really? Who have you lost touch with? Who have you been meaning to call? Who do you wish you could spend one more day with? Take time to phone, text, message or call. Sometimes something as simple as hello can remind someone that they matter.
15 thoughts on “Broken Connections”
Kristi thank you for this article . I was a youth worker at Nicomekl elementary school in Langley when Clayton was young. He promised me when he was in grade 7 that he would graduate from high school and I promised him that if he did that I would come to watch him walk across that stage. We both followed through on our promise to each other. I’ve never forgotten Clayton. He was probably the sweetest boy I have ever met. His brother Joey was too. Clayton, it’s Ms. Burns. You matter to me. You have always mattered to me. Don’t ever doubt that someone believes in you because I always did.
Clayton was my best friend growing up , his brother and I have been trying to find him and track him down , he has a lot of people who love him and want to see him succeed . Please email me at the email I’ve provided , we want to be re united with Clayton .
Clayton was a significant part of my life as a teenager and young adult. He wasn’t just my boyfriend, he became a part of my family. There were so many factors in his life that contributed to the path that he is travelling. Although we have a complicated history and ultimately broke contact, I can say with confidence that this man loves harder and stronger than almost anyone I know. A person with his capability and desire for connection, deserves to know that he has people who love him and yearn to see him live a fulfilling life. I want Clayton to know that we think of him often and that he has family and friends who are ready to connect when he is ready.
Love to you Clay. ❤
I am going to try and find Clayton and share the many messages of support we have for him. Thanks for reaching out!
Clayton was a huge part of my life through his teen years. I cared for him like he was one of my kids. Feelings don’t change just because you don’t see a person. I hope it wouldn’t surprise Clayton to know how often I think of him and hope for his future health and happiness. Love always, Barb
I am One of Clayton’s sisters. I haven’t heard from him in many years. I leave messages on Facebook for him in hopes that he reads them and knows that I love him. My heart is broken.
So sorry. I will keep an eye out for him. I haven’t seen him this year.
Thank you for keeping an eye out for him. I think about him everyday.
Clayton helped me out 4 years ago without knowing me. I was stranded in down town Vancouver with no purse no phone and no way to get home and he used the last bit of money he had to help me. I would like to get in touch with him
Thanks for sharing Lesly. He seems like a great guy. Unfortunately, I do not know how to contact him but I will share your message if I see him again.
Clayton has been a friend of mine for over 23 years. When I initially saw this post in 2019, aside from being heartbroken to learn he was living on the street, I reached out to our other friends who have known him just as long that are still in the area, but had no luck locating him. Please let me know if you do run into him again and let him know his friend Braydon is worried sick about him, and I will help him out in any way I can.. get him sober, with a roof over his head.. whatever he needs. I moved to Alberta many years ago but would jump on a flight to wherever he is to help him out.
I would’ve posted sooner if I knew it was an option, apologies for my oversight on that. I miss my brother.
If I see him again I will be sure to pass this on. Thank you.
Has any one heard from Clayton or know how he is doing? I’m constantly worried about my brother 😦
I’m sorry – I haven’t seen him lately. I will be sure to keep an eye out.
I am his aunt, Margo’s sister…Liz Legge, if you want to contact me I am on FB.