I heard the song on the radio today. “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. I hate that song. Every time it comes on, I change it. I usually don’t run from such pain, but I can’t . . . not that song. We played it at the funeral. “In a cold dark hotel room . . .” How did Sarah know? But I listened to more than usual; more than I should have.
My children are 10, 8, 6, and 2. I wish so much that they had a chance to know Angie better. Katelynn, my oldest, knew her pretty well. Kylee a little. Their memories, I’m sure, are quickly fading. Will was just two months old when she died. Zach was not born.
I often talk to them about Angie. I recount how much she loved them. I tell about how much I loved her. If I keep her memorialized with my children, she seems to be still a part of my life.
“Daddy, how did Angie die?”
This is the dreaded question that I get ever so often. I don’t really know what to say. What a horrible thing for children to hear were I to tell them the truth. Therefore, for now, it is sufficient to say, “She died of sadness.” My kids are usually satisfied, but not lately. Will will not let me off the hook. He is five and very persistent. “How does someone die of sadness?” He asks. “I don’t know,” I respond, “they just get really, really sick.” “But how do they die?” “I don’t know, it just causes them to die.”
I don’t think I am lying to my kids. In fact, I think that it is the most accurate way to put it. She did die of sadness. She just got so, so sad that she did not feel as if she had another choice. The gun she shot was not pointed toward herself, it was pointed toward the sadness that was in her head. She just wanted it to stop and all the pills and positive thinking were not as powerful as the bullet. She killed the sadness and her body was a casualty of friendly fire.
Here I am four years later and feel no more equipped to deal with this than I did then. I mean dealing with this kind of sadness. None of us are—my sisters, father, or myself. I have a better understanding and empathy for Angie. As wrong as this may sound, I don’t blame her.
Dying of sadness. What could be worse?
But the sadness did not leave. Its lease was up in Angie’s head, but it stayed in the family. It immediately attacked my mother’s head and her brain could not take it. Her brain just shut itself down. Call it an aneurysm, call it a stroke, but these were only the means of her brain to protect itself. Even still, it did not die. It went to my father with more fury than ever. He neutralizes it alone at the bar.
My sister killed the sadness in her head, but it did not die.
To those who are sad, I have no advice, but to continue to trust him who will one day kill sadness forever.
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
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 Seminary (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]