Friday, September 14, 2007
Rest in the Arms of Jesus, Lovie.
Tonight I went to a funeral of one of the brightest, kindest, most extraordinary young men I've ever known. He came from a family who loved and doted on him, had a lovely, intelligent, fiercely gifted girlfriend and at the age of twenty-one, a bright future ahead of him. I spent the day with him at his family's place a few months ago, just after his birthday. Usually, I can spot the broken ones. I missed it this time.
The news of his death came in bursts. We found out he was gone, and Ken and I cried together, devastated, and broken hearted for what his family had to endure. We puzzled over why they said they had no details, and we waited--not particularly patiently--for news. You want to blame someone, something when a young person dies. You want a place to place your bewilderment and rage. We speculated about hidden heart disease, foul play, and for just a moment, the thought that maybe he took his own life.
Nah. Not him. He was full of life! Overflowing with it. This young man said everyday, "This is the best day EVER! And he made you believe it. His smile made it all so real.
But to our horror, we learned he did take his life, and the news magnified our grief. We asked ourselves the questions one asks in this situation. Why didn't I see how much he hurt? Why didn't I tell him my story? Maybe I could have help him. Turns out he was bipolar, and on a medication that apparently made him worse. My near fatal run with Cymbalta had me bottomed out in a matter of weeks and reduced to a crying, suicidal mess, but I'd been in the dark before. Spent a long time there. I'd trained myself over the years not to do myself any harm. I can remember nights when I'd hold my arms and rock in bed, knowing if I let my hands free I'd hurt myself. And I stayed that way until it passed and blessed sleep or a new morning came and I could face the day again. But I remember that the night seemed endless, and death a welcome friend.
I guess he welcomed death. He chose to end his suffering, and for the first time in my life, I have mixed feelings about his final act. I feel compassion for him. Maybe he thinks what he did was the bravest thing. I don't think he knew how deeply it would cut into the souls of those he left behind. I know when I was there, in that thick, weighty darkness, I couldn't see past the pain RIGHT NOW. I learned to get past that in time, with grace, work, and a lot of people who loved me rooting for me and telling me they'd kill me if I killed myself. Who am I to judge him because he simply couldn't go on anymore? Oh, but I wish he had gone on, because whatever he felt would have passed. I'm certain of it.
Lord, have mercy.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to join the assisted suicide bandwagon. I'm simply saying I feel compassion for him. But having survived three suicide attempts myself, I wish at least I could have had a conversation with him about these matters. My last attempt was in 1996. It was me who became my hero, and I called an ambulance after I took an overdose of pills, maybe in the nick of time. What I didn't know on that terribly sad day when I turned my bipolar rage on myself was that if I only held on, I'd get past that day. Sure, I'd have more bad days, but I'd also have good days. Sometimes I'd have great days, and a few would be so filled with grace and utter fabulousness that I'll bet the angels got a little jealous. I realized how fortunate I was for hanging on until my change came one day when I was holding Nia Grace when she was a baby. I would have never had the joy of being with her had I taken my life. And I just cried, right then and there at the thought of such astounding mercy, so grateful to God who was more persistent in saving me, than I was in trying to off myself.
And there were other joys. I lived in relative isolation in those days. Now I have friends--true friends, all over the world. My dream of being a writer has come true in a big way, even though at times it was a rough road, and I was bitterly, painfully disappointed. I don't think I'll ever forget holding that book in my hands. I cried and prayed and cried. I made it to that day of triumph because I lived.
If I had killed myself, I would not have met so many men and women who mean the world to me. Their friendships alone make me a wealthy woman. And that's just the few I'm thinking of at the moment, but there are so many of you that I have to say, surely I am blessed among women. Surely. Truly. Magnificently deeply.
Everyday I have to give over some suffering to Jesus. There isn't a pain medicine I've found that has really given more than it's taken from me. I know what it is to live with crippling emotional pain, and devastating physical pain, and both of these I give as an offering. It ain't easy, but I'm learning that you can live through suffering. I've spent the last three days in bed, sleeping, waiting, hurting, but I got up again. Gave the suffering to God, took a little rest. Got up again.
And that is just plain grace. Amazing grace.
Not much more to say tonight. We've cried till we were spent. I just want to end with saying I truly believe he found his rest. I believe in the mercy of God. I believe God knows bipolar people are literally out of their minds sometimes, and bad decisions get made. I believe he is with God and now knows there would have been wondrous days ahead had he held on. And finally, I believe that despite the pain of this past week's events, He is in Jesus' embrace, and that this is truly his best day EVER. And that is a mercy.
I believe it. I believe God's love is greater than our pain. His mercy endures forever.
Rest well, sweet prince.