Considering how much my last post on suicide is being read combined with how many personal emails I am getting from the P&P audience about this, I thought I would update this post and share it with you all.
There have been few times when I feared for my life—I mean really feared for my life. I remember one time more than any other. It was the day that I found Angie, my sister, with a gun in a hotel room. It was a miracle that I found her before she had a chance to use it on herself. On the way home in my car, I drove as my sister cried. It was not a sad cry of repentance but a cry of anger and despondence. Her dejection and frantic embitterment caused me to lock the doors so that she would not jump out of the car while driving. “Why did you come?” She screamed at me.” Don’t you understand? I have to die!” I tried to stay silent and concentrate on the road. It was not safe on I-35 that day. I imagined her reaching over and pulling the steering wheel sending us both into an overpass. I really thought that she would. I tried to fight back the tears as her pain created great empathy for her death. By this time in the story, I almost wished that I had not found her. I almost wished that I let her take her life.
This was the argument that she had made to me many times over. “Michael, no one will care. . . . At least everyone will soon get over it. All of your lives will return to normal soon. But my pain will be over.” We, my mother and sisters, would try to respond telling her that the pain that she has now will be multiplied to all of us if she were to die. “Is that what you really want?” we would ask. She did not believe us.
Suicide is a form of death that cannot be likened to any other. There are many tragic ways to die, but to be at a point where one is willing to take their own life—when the fear of living becomes greater than the fear of death—has no comparison. To have a loved one who commits suicide produces sadness, pain, and guilt that rivals the pain of the one who commits it. “What did I do wrong?” “Why couldn’t I save her?” “Why couldn’t it have been me?” These are all common thoughts of those who have experienced such in their lives.
My mother was the first to go. She tried to be strong during the first few months after Angie’s death, but we could all tell that consolation was far from her. The guilt of a mother, justified or not, is incredible in such situations. Her relationship with God, while present, was somewhat apathetic. “I will follow him, but I don’t like him,” she would say to me. She never slept. She laid on the couch all night long with the TV on. She would cry often, but try to be strong around us. She just wanted to be with Angie.
After two years, her health was not good. While her mother, my grandmother, has lived into her nineties, sorrow was attempting to take my mom’s life early. She would have been happy for it to have defeated her, but such was not the case. Sorrow only took half of her. She suffered from an aneurysm and an ensuing stroke in 2006. While few people survive a brain aneurysm, my mother did. The doctors said that it was the worse one he had seen in 25 years of surgery. They had to remove much of the frontal lobe. She may have been okay had not a stroke followed due to the blood around her brain. When all was done, when sorrow had run its course on my mother’s body, she had lost speech, her right eye sight, and she was completely immobile on her right side. She cannot walk, talk, and we still wonder how much she knows. All day long she sits in a chair in her living room watching the same movies over and over. While she can sing an entire song, she cannot put a sentence together and she seems pretty disconnected to what is going on around her.
My father was next. Guilt. Guilt of a father who did not really know his daughter. Guilt of a father who did not rescue her from her pain. Guilt of a father who was the last one to see her walk out the door. Guilt of a father who thought that things would just turn out positive like they always have. Shortly after Angie’s death, my dad began drinking again. He just drowned himself in his sorrow. Self-pity is an alluring friend. Within two years he had three DUIs.
Mom’s aneurysm was more than he could bear. She was everything to him. He is now the babysitter of his wife, worried only about changing her diaper and restarting the movie when it ends. He escapes by drinking. With his last DUI the threat of prison was alleviated for a time by a sympathetic judge who told him to “get home and take care of your wife.” This has not slowed him down. The thought of death or prison seem to accomodate his pain. I don’t know how I would handle the situation, so please don’t sense any judgment on my part. I have none. But as the situation stands, he is not well. As he would say “it is what it is.” But what “it is” is terribly tragic. Though he lives, he has died.Â He only needs his body to catch up with his spirit. Mom said that he had a death wish after Angie’s death. He now has two. Not fearing jail or death, my father is lost to sorrow.
My two other sisters have their own stories. They are strong some days and weak others. This has brought us closer together, but death is a stench that creates the background to all our conversations. We simply wait for the next movement of pain.
Angie said that we would all move on. She said that we would all forget about it and be fine. Angie, you were wrong. Your suicide left a legacy of pain that has played itself out in a terrible way. God’s merciful hand is the only way for it to cease, but we may not see such in this life.
Angie, you were wrong. After six years, you were wrong.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]