A few weeks ago, my wife called me on my cell while I was at work. What she told me wasn’t expected. It wasn’t in the realm of reality. A young friend of ours had passed away.
That didn’t seem possible.
He killed himself.
Another moment in my life that my brain couldn’t immediately process.
He and I weren’t what you’d call close friends. He was the husband of one of my wife's better friends. We had hung out a few times. I tried to be friendly. We even made a few plans that never materialized. It happens.
I think that he felt we didn’t have enough concrete things in common.
Still, I cared. I spent the next few days wrapping my head around the idea. Suicide was a big subject that week. Our pastor had shared the story of his daughter’s recent suicide attempt earlier that week. So suicide had been on my mind.
I have a suicidal past. I don’t care to go into too much detail, but I understand the mindset. I’ve been there. I’m not there now, and don’t believe I could ever get there again. I’ve finally lived too much life.
I just keep thinking that it’s a mistake. What my friend did, it's a mistake. And it sounds cliché to say, “It’s a permanent solution to temporary problems.” But that’s the truth. Life changes if you’re living it. If you don’t like what’s going on, if life is painful, you have to engage it in new ways until it changes.
I remember those times in my own life, the belief that the pain of today would surely greet me tomorrow and the day after. I’m guessing in those moments, he couldn’t see the beauty of life, feel the joy of some past event, or at the very least hold a bit of hope.
My perspective now is that life is chock full of change whether you want it or not. If you’re not changing, if your life is static, you’re not living it enough. There are just all these opportunities out there waiting for you. If what you’re doing now isn’t working, do something, anything different.
As we walked into the funeral home for the viewing, I just kept thinking that we shouldn’t be there. He shouldn’t be there. He shouldn’t be dead. His wife shouldn’t be going through this. We shouldn’t be going through this. It’s a mistake.
They had all these photos of him, so much life pinned to those boards. There was even a photo taken just over a week before, a smile on his face, life apparent, alive.
His family has chosen to keep the truth of his death a secret. They have a cover story. I understand why this choice was made, but it still doesn’t sit right.
As family members came in that day and broke down, their grief was thickly sitting in the room with us. Then the cover story was shared. And they seemed to feel some relief.
I felt like a liar just being in the room with the truth of their emotions hanging so thickly in the air, and then the untruth being spoken to make them feel better. I surely would never say anything. But I felt complicit.
I don’t think God punishes those that commit suicide any more than He punishes any sin. I’m betting God understands just fine why they’ve made the choice they’ve made. God understands better than those of us left ever will. God knows every pain we’ve ever suffered.
I do wonder if God ever shares what would have been with those that go this route. It seems like that would be cruel doesn’t it? That would be like hell, seeing what was waiting if they’d only held on a bit longer.
I don’t know.
I bet there's grieving and comforting going on.
I pray my friend is being comforted and enjoying the love and grace that I know God to offer. I’m sorry that he couldn’t feel more hope.
I’m a little angry at him and a lot perplexed. I also believe that I’ll get to talk to him about it someday. And maybe we won’t even bother having the discussion because hopefully in those moments, it won’t matter.