Friday, April 11, 2014

Suicide and the Things that Matter

I wrote this to a particular group of people and sent it off to them.  However, it's appropriate not just for them, but for pretty much anybody who lives.

Today I’m feeling like I want to encourage you as home school mothers.  We’ve home schooled our four for 23 years now.  I came to your first meeting, but opted out because I’ve been down every road you are now walking and don’t need the same encouragement that you need.  As you travel the homeschooling road, your friends and life will change over time.  At this point, I’m hanging around with a lot of teenagers and twenty-somethings, and spending my time in art and theater.  These are the places I find my friends and encouragement.  I’m the flutist in our orchestra with hair that has a mind of its own (especially the grey part – that’s why my hair is, uh, unnaturally streaked.)

This will be a sad story, so if you’re not in the mood for sad, stop here.

I know there have been many times in my life when I thought things like: ‘not my kids,’ or ‘my kids wouldn’t do that,’ or perhaps ‘because we are Believers or home schoolers  my kids won’t do this or that.’  I’m old enough now to know that’s a lie.

Our daughter, Melody, 22, had a boyfriend, Evan, whom we grew to love.  Evan was vivacious, fun, full of jokes and plans and life.  He was determined and did everything with gusto.  He didn’t give up.  He was kind and would actually sit down and talk with my 89 year old mother because he LIKED her, not out of duty. He would find the lonely stranger and befriend him. He cared about people. He was a well-loved, well-rounded home schooler. Not that this matters, but he was extremely handsome., with gorgeous baby blues. He was the first young person any of my kids brought home that when looking at him, I actually thought, “Those are my grand baby eyes.’  Evan was a dedicated Christian. We all loved him.  At one point in their relationship, Melody said, “I hope Evan is the one I marry.”  She’d never said anything like that before.  Oh, how I thrilled to hear that, because we thought he was the one.
Melody broke up with him in early February.  My husband, Gary, had back surgery on Valentine’s Day.  Our joke was he was getting a new back and I was getting a new man for the day.  That night, I got a text from Melody telling me that Evan was suicidal.  While she kept talking to him, I called his parents and best friend.  A rocky road ensued with lots of ups and downs.  Evan was depressed and had been for a long time.  Nobody knew it.  I was shocked to find that someone so outwardly happy (think of the happiest, most fun person you know – that was him.) could be so inwardly sad.  I asked Melody who knew he was depressed, because he had an unusual amount of really good friends.  She said “Evan’s parents, Evan’s best friend, and me.”  That’s it.  

He went on.  We messaged each other on Facebook and we both wished he could come over, but of course knew that wouldn’t work out.  I would ask him how he was and he would say ‘not very good.’
Melody is a choreographer, and we just did Shrek.  March 7, a Friday night, was the first show.  We had three more to do – two on Saturday and one on Sunday.  If you’ve never been in theater, you live and breathe nothing but theater when a show is going on; it’s a lot of work.  Melody went in before the show Saturday and found that Evan had committed suicide very early that morning.  No one had wanted to tell her, so her director had to call her and tell her on the phone. It was devastating to her and the entire cast.  I came in an hour later and she told me.  If any of you saw Shrek, you had no idea that everyone put on those three shows, and while backstage, everyone was crying, comforting each other and praying. Evan was in theater, so was friends with just about everyone.  Evan’s sister did all three shows, as did Melody. It was one of the toughest weekends of my life.  

Sometimes you learn things you don’t want to know.  I’ve been learning a lot about suicide.  One of the things I’ve found is that it draws a big dark line through your life.  Before suicide and after suicide.  It’s been equated to concentration camp experiences.  It’s not like a car accident or death for medical reasons.  It means that this person whom you loved chose to die.  He chose to leave you.  It leaves you feeling lacking, disoriented, angry, questioning, and full of ‘what ifs.’  What if I had messaged him to meet me and we’d talked about it?  What if I had noticed he was depressed and done something?  What if, what if, what if?  What if all the problems were wiped away and he just became Melody’s husband, my son in law?  What if, what if, what if?  Guilty, guilty, GUILTY!

I don’t know how many young friends of his I spoke with that felt the same 'what if' guilt.  Many.  It’s a natural reaction to suicide.  The fact that they chose to leave you is huge.  You are left with a very personal bereavement. 

Something else I’ve learned is that there’s a kind of stigma attached to those close to suicide – kind of an avoidance.  I’m calling you to please pray for Melody.  She’s gotten lots of love but needs prayer for healing.  Add me in there, too.  Even I am feeling it to a degree.  We had a gathering to celebrate his life, pray and cry before the memorial service, and Evan’s family wasn’t there.  One of my friends came in and told me and Melody they were coming.  We were ready to bolt.  She gave us the specific message that they wanted us to stay.  We did.  And it was good.

We are just trying to walk.  We have Hope.  But everything is now different.  Clouds skittle through the breezy blue sky and people in restaurants sit laughing.  I want to stand up and shout ‘How can you laugh?  How can you go on?  Don’t you know what’s happened?  Don’t you know Evan’s gone?”  I chat and laugh with friends and inside am thinking about Evan.

In the mornings I choose my news topics on my i-Pad.  One blurb said “Man throws himself in front of train!” I clicked on it thinking, ‘I wonder why he wanted to commit suicide?”  The story said that a woman had fallen down onto the tracks and couldn’t move.  This man jumped down on the tracks and ran toward the train to stop it so it wouldn’t hit her.  So, I burst into tears.  People trying so hard to live when Evan took his life on purpose.  Guilty.  Guilty.

Enough. We are not guilty.  We are covered by Christ’s work.  It was his decision, not ours, and we can’t blame ourselves.  I believe that these guilty feelings are from Satan, as were the emotions that drove Evan to that point.  I know that Evan is in heaven now because of his belief in Christ’s work on the cross, and that someday I will see him.

That black line that divides our life.  It’s still there.  And it always will be.  Tears stream down my face as I write this.

Well, ladies, I said this was meant to encourage you.  And it is, in a round about way.  I know, because I’ve been there many times, how tiring it can be with little ones all around you.  You are tired. All you want to do is just brush your teeth and have a date with your husband.  Or a date ALONE… with yourself!  I know that you’re concerned that your kids learn to spell and read and do math, eat their vegetables and learn history and be good at sports and have friends…  It’s a valid concern.
But let me put this forth to you.  If you can train them to grow in the Lord, to lean on Him, and trust Him, that’s just about all there is.  If you have a bad day of school – it’s okay.  If they can’t read well yet, it’s okay.  I pray that you never face a situation that draws a big black line to divide your life.  But if it does come, math and geography aren’t going to matter.  Teach your kids the things that matter.  You know what those things are.

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