Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

1995. I sat at my mother’s bedside. She was nervous, and constantly batted at the IVs going into her body. Her hazel green eyes were foggy with morphine. A tube was inserted into her throat so she could breathe. She was dying of emphysema.

Mom battled the disease for years. there were countless hospital stays that I was kept unaware of. This last time, my brother called me from Reno and asked me to come down. It was the end, he was certain. My father had asked me to stay home, but I took my brother’s advice and flew down. My dad was happy to see me.

Mom would have smiled, if she could have. She clenched my hand. She tried to pull the tubes out. The morphine pulled her away from us.

Individually, we went to the nurse’s station. “Mom doesn’t want the tubes. Please remove the tubes.”

“You know she will die?”

“She knows she will die. She wants the tubes removed.”

Three of us. Three of us who had to consent. I have to admit, it felt a little like murder. I wanted my mom to stay here. I wanted to hear her ring on the telephone when she called. I wanted to spend an hour on a Sunday evening talking to her. I wanted her advice on love, children, marriage. I needed her political opinion. I wanted her to see my children grow and to know them.

Instead, my 10 year old daughter sang at my mother’s funeral.

I remember the last words I spoke to my mother. I leaned in and told her that we were allowing staff to remove the tubes. Mom’s drugged eyes looked relieved.  “I love you,” I said. “I want to say ‘good-bye’. I know you are going to do what you want to do. It’s OK.”

My mom’s spirit smiled at this admission: she was Scots-stubborn. You couldn’t talk her out of a decision. I knew – and she knew – that she willed the tubes out of her body so she could just leave Hell. Mom believed life on earth was the only Hell a Christian would know, and life on earth is Hell. She left us within the hour.

2011. My brother and I were cleaning out the house. Dad was gone. There was so much we had to come to terms with. like the oxygen tank in the corner.

Terry pulled out the medications Dad had been prescribed to help his COPD and his heart. The last one used was in March of 2011. It was May of 2011. Dad quit taking his meds two months earlier.

I have known a lot of suicides. The first one was when I was 16. There were many between my 16th birthday and my 18th. They slowed down for awhile. Then my husband and I attended funerals for two suicides back-to-back. We literally walked out of one funeral and drove to the next. Men we knew & loved & respected.

The pastors who spoke at those two funerals preached not of hell and condemnation, but of hope and life and healing. No longer was the suicide condemned to hell by the church, but the church wondered if there was not a grace to cover suicide.

My parents committed suicide. It wasn’t an overt act like jumping off a bridge or putting a gun to their head. They pulled tubes out of their arms or quit taking medications. They understood the consequence: they would die. They chose death over life.

I hurt for my loss. I hurt for the loss of Robin Williams’ family. But more than I hurt, I understand. I have hope.

There is a place – a much better place than the ‘heaven’ portrayed in “What Dreams May Come” where the suicide was caught in a web of repeating her painful decisions. I believe – I hope – my parents and Robin Williams – are in a better place. I hope all the suicides I have known found that place.

Let us be short to judge and long to forgive. We don’t know what is in the heart of a person and we don’t know the pain.

For me: I only know the pain of the survivor. I choose to forgive.

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It has been a rough weekend emotionally. Well, a rough week: three memorial services between the 24th of February and the first of March. That’s three too many – one of the sorrows of living is having to go to memorials and funerals. I boycotted such services for a while after my little sister died – too hard on my emotionally. But I thought I could handle this.


The first memorial service was for an expected death: the man had a brain tumor and lived much longer than expected. His death was a mercy. But the memorial service was really strange. There was no eulogy. His brother got up and thanked everyone for coming, but the only activities were a luncheon and a slide show of photos from the man’s life, and a guitarist who played some non-descript music for a background. That was it. You could put together a scrap book page of him for the parents. But that was it. It was almost as if he never lived, but he did. I felt very sad about the service: there was no hope.

Saturday, we had back to back memorial services for men who committed suicide. The first was an 85 year old man, Lutheran by denomination, who took his life the Sunday we were at the first service. It was a small memorial, but he was well loved by his family, the old truck drivers he used to work with and the mechanics he used to work with. Don bought his tools from this man, way back when. The eulogy was well spoken, memories were shared, and the music was beautiful. They had a male soloist who sang “How Great Thou Art”, “Amazing Grace”, and “The Lord’s Prayer.”

We went from that service to the last. This one was the hardest on me, personally: it was held at the church my husband left about six years ago. I followed him about two years later, mostly because it was darn hard to go to the church where we had served as a team and have people ask about him constantly. I just started going back after this suicide – the man was a very dear friend and member of the church. He sat in an aisle seat on the aisle I ushered on, or my husband ushered on. When my husband left the church, he was an incredible support to me (as a man: his wife really embraced me and loved me through that difficult time). Same age as my husband: fifty.

I don’t know why he felt he had to take his life. He was married to the love of his life, his high school sweetheart, and they have three beautiful adult children, one in-law, and a grandson. To all appearances, life was beautiful for him. But somewhere in his soul, the voice of depression was talking, and it’s a very strong voice. I’ve heard that voice and I’ve wanted to listen to it — oh, to die would be so simple

It was a very beautiful service. The eulogy was long. The eldest daughter gave her own eulogy, which was touching and pointed. His siblings, including his twin brother, gave a eulogy. His siblings-in-law brought humor to the occasion (laughter is a form of grieving and is very healing: what wise siblings-in-law to know that and utilize that). The music: “It Is Well With My Soul” and “This House is a House of Restoration”. Actually, I’m not sure of the title of that song, only the lyrics: This house shall be called/a house of restoration…

The service concluded when a kilt-clad Scotsman (the deceased was a Campbell), played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes while marching through the sanctuary and out into the foyer, where the music faded as we prayed.

I would like to say that was all it was about: the memorial services and our fragile existence. Neither one of the services for the suicides brought up despair: they were only about hope and eternity and the love of God. All my life, I have been told suicides go to hell, and I questioned that because I can’t find in the Bible where Judas went to hell – only that Jesus loved him and gave him a job to do (betray him). Peter betrayed Jesus, too. Now, I have two influences in my life die as a result of suicide and their pastors, separately and independently, spoke about the loving arms of Jesus and the hope we have in Him, and how these men are now in Heaven, rejoicing with the saints.

That still isn’t my point. After everything, as we broke up the party and started toward the doors, I stopped to say goodbye to my beloved friend who is now the senior pastor’s wife. She and her husband have been faithful to that ministry since we met, almost 20 years ago. We have been best friends throughout that time and even during the time that I disappeared and joined the church-less. This suicide prompted me to rethink my reasons for not attending this church, and I have decided to return there. But someone said something and we found ourselves looking at each other and bawling – not about our friend who died, but about the past four years when my friend took the helm of the church and I wasn’t there to support her. Well, I was: I prayed for her and she knows that.

I am not certain I can put into words what I felt – what I know we both felt. I have come full circle. This woman remains my best friend. We have been through some seasons and then some, and our friendship has remained. It’s the sort of friendship that survives the refiner’s fire.

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I really do not have a good title for today. Don went up into the mountains to work on trails with his trail buddies while I stayed home to clean the house, shop for groceries, and prepare a meal for the family of our friend who leaped from The Bridge of the Gods last Sunday. I really wanted to be at my daughter’s house, holding Z, but second best would have been a trip into the mountains with Don (sans his trail buddies). After all, it was going to be in the low 50’s (Farenheit) here – and SUNNY.

I thought briefly about gardening, but a quick walk through the yard convinced me that I needed to pretend I do not have flower beds for awhile… Murphy has holes in every single one of them, and most of those holes are suspiciously close to where I planted those rather expensive ariceum bulbs and I don’t want to think about trying to garden with Murphy in the Spring. I’m trying very hard to like Murphy.

I returned to the house and did those disgusting but necessary cleaning jobs (bird cage, toilet), but I left the fine film of dust on everything and I did not bother to mop. After all, Murphy will be running through the house with muddy paws soon enough. I looked at my sad sofa and sighed, then pretended I had not looked at it: why did my husband allow the dog on the sofa in the first place? I thought we had agreed on that: no dog on sofa. I feel like I am at my mother-in-law’s house, a home which is otherwise immaculate, but where the dogs (there are usually two of them: currently a German Shepherd and a Jack Russell Terrier rule the roost) are allowed on the furniture. They also are allowed to beg from the table.

Since most of my life is pretending it isn’t my life, I decided I should go get some groceries. Just a few, we don’t need much. $130 late (I “saved” $40 or it would have been $170), I limped home. Darn gas prices driving up grocery prices! Oh well, I also stopped at BiMart (pity those of you who do not live in Oregon and do not have a BiMart!!) where I picked up 3 pairs of slacks for $5/each. I love a score like that, even if I have to rehem them (here’s a trick: but the iron-on hem tape). BiMArt had seeds out and bulbs and I sadly wondered if any of the bulbs I planted last fall will manage to survive Murphy?? A couple weeks ago, we purchased a nice portable greenhouse from BiMart for $89 – it is still in the box, but I know where it will go in the yard. I hope to plant any surviving ariceums in pots and keep them in there in the future.

Home again. When I was asked to provide a meal for the family it was with a condition: we had to eat with the family and “act normal.” I suppose picking one’s nose in public is out of the question, then. Got a call that the family was still not ready to sit down and visit and would I mind just dropping off the food? I had decided on Shepherd’s Pie and a gallon of Tillamook Mountain Huckleberry ice cream. A few years ago, when my friend’s mom died, we picked huckleberries and gave her a gallon of our harvest – she was thrilled to pieces (being a good Montana girl) and we promised to take her out sometime. Unfortunately, we haven’t been picking since – last year, I had knee surgery and wasn’t interested in picking huckleberries. Besides, I still had some left over from the year before. But now I am out, and Tillamook ice cream is the closest I can come to repeating that gesture. Since Don was out in the mountains, I decided to make dinner and deliver it early, sans him.

I thought it would be a disaster. If anything can go wrong in the kitchen, it will – when I am trying to make something special. The worst moment came when I was pouring the hamburger gravy over the mashed potatoes and my arm gave out. Ack! Gravy poured down the front of the stove! Fortunately, my left arm intervened and grabbed to cast iron pan from my right hand and saved the day. Good left hand! But now I am left wondering if I have some carpal tunnel issues to deal with…??? (Just so you know, Shepherd’s Pie is really simple: mashed potato base, hamburger gravy on top – you can use sausage, but I think my friend doesn’t eat pork, and biscuit topping. Just plain cholesterol-strong comfort food.)

Delivering the food was more emotional than I can describe. I can remember the two girls’ names, but the son in the middle eludes me. Of course, he was the one who came out to help me carry in the food, and he was very talkative – I think he needed to talk. He’s 25, if I remember correctly, and loves the outdoors. The widow wandered in to give me a hug – she was clearly on drugs, walking very dreamlike and very spacey. She was coherent and thinking clearly, but walking in that fog of loss. They were high school sweethearts, married longer than Don & I, parents of three beautiful children and grandparents a year before us. (The grandbaby crawled out to meet me).

Her son walked me back to the car and I did ask him his name. I was honest: I could remember the sister on either side of him, but his name just escaped me. He was so sweet. So talkative. So vulnerable. I cried half the way home. And I decided I was not ready to sit down and break bread with my friend, either. The wound is too fresh.

At home, it was all about Murphy. What a pill! If you turn, he’s tearing up the sofa (he has yet to actually tear it, but he digs the cushions and buries his chews – and his leash – inside it. He barked at the ceiling fan. He jumped on me. He ran outside and tore up the yard, then returned and left big, muddy prints on the sofa and carpet and my hardwoods (am I glad I didn’t mop???) He’s been binging off walls. barking at the German Shepherd next door (they’re playing – at least there’s that: they like each other!), and generally disrupting my evening.

Tomorrow, I plan to go to church (more on that later), then to see my daughter. My husband groaned when I told him what my plans were. Church is 20-some-odd miles one way and Arwen is 20-some-odd mile the other direction. But I did a map on the computer, and the entire trip is 62 miles. That’s from her to church to Tigard and back home. It’s nothing. Why is it, when we move to the urban area, 62 miles is suddenly an insurmountable distance – but when we lived in eastern Oregon or Nevada, 62 miles was a one-way trip to a destination we’d make any old day. And we’d drive it back the same day, ice, snow, or whatever.

I deserve to take some Grandma time. Life is short. 3-generations.jpg

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Bad News & Good News

It has been an exhausting three days and I cannot begin to put it all into one post. First off, there’s the spiritual quest I have been on, trying to find my niche in the church after a five year sabbatical (and not even certain I want to be back in the church). Then there was the bad news. Which was followed very quickly by the good news. And somehow, they all intertwine with each other.

I’ve been reading Donald Miller: I finished “Blue Like Jazz” last week and opened “Searching for God Knows What” Friday. I was very convicted that I need to return to the church, but so unsure of what church and how. Without going into the politics of the thing, it was the politics that pushed me out. The church I attended has undergone some changes in the past five years (notably a change in pastors) and I have kept strong ties with some of the people from that church, separate from the politics and doctrinal issues. We were friends and we have remained friends.

For several Sundays now, I have almost – not quite – gone to church. That church. the one I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to but where my friends still are (for the most part: there remains a number of us who left and who won’t return).

Enter Bad News. One of those friends who remained at the church committed suicide on Sunday. A really nice, decent, honest, caring – you know the sort of man: there isn’t a bad adjective you can put in a description of him, except perhaps “depressed.” I don’t know the circumstances, only what was in the newspaper and the little I gleaned from the friend who called and told me on Sunday night. He jumped from The Bridge of the Gods into the Columbia River, some 145 feet below. There’s no body: the Columbia keeps her secrets for awhile. There were searches, perhaps still are some, but there were witnesses and there is no doubt that he jumped and died. I haven’t spoken to his widow (my friend) only because I have been asked to wait a few days by my ex-pastor’s wife, who remains one of my closest friends. Which is how the whole church thing ties in: I think God wants me to return to that church because I have such good friends there and unfinished business to attend to that involves those friends. If you had asked me a week ago if friendship was a reason to choose a church, I probably would have said it matters, but I was going for a more spiritual (holy holy) reason.

Perhaps friendship is spiritual enough, and perhaps it is more than enough to override our doctrinal differences. And I haven’t been there since the changing of the guard – I may just love it now that my good friend’s husband really is the senior pastor. Whatever the case is: I promised her I would be there on Sunday and I have volunteered to help the church members take meals to the widow and her children, just as if I had never walked out of those doors to take a sabbatical from church and politics.

But that’s only the church and bad news part of the past few days.

The good news came around 2:30 in the morning, Monday, when I was still reeling from the bad news and was trying not to dream of bad things. My oldest daughter called to say her water broke. She called back at 6AM to tell me she was at the hospital and would we  (her father & I) would come to be with her. Fortunately, we both have jobs where we can take that kind of time off on such short notice, and we went.

I’ll post a birth story from Grandma’s perspective tomorrow, but here’s the gist of it: Zephaniah Phillip came into the world slightly less than 48 hours after a very good man left the world. He weighed 8#12oz and was 20 3/4″ long.

Long before our mutual friend died, I knew I had to call my ex-pastor’s wife as soon as I became a grandma. 19 years of friendship. Our kids grew up together. A grandbaby is a big deal.

When we hung up the phone this late afternoon, we both asked the same question: why have we allowed life to get in the way? We need to celebrate life and embrace it – and nurture those friendships.

Tomorrow: Grandma’s Observations on Zephan’s Arrival

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