So here is a topic that is not usual for this blog and may seem off topic...but it is not as what this whole journey is about is about our health and our health is three fold: Mind, Body and Spirit. But today, I have suicide heavily on my mind.
A dear member of my family by marriage took her own life a few days ago. It was a shock to me, but apparently was not a shock to those closest to her. This family member could not have had a better husband or support mechanism in her life. Someone, who throughout the years has been a personal hero to me. She, from what I understand got all the care, treatment and love that anyone with a disease could need, but in the end it was too much and it consumed her. She was manic depressive.
While I listen to the anger in the voices of those who grieve and those who are concerned for their dear, sweet daughter left behind and for my dear cousin who was such an amazing husband, I pray that the anger goes towards the disease and not towards her. She was a woman with a disease and to come to a moment of this action, well..I have learned over the years, it cannot be something we can ever truly understand.
In my experience I have been witness to a lot of chronic illness in alcoholism, depression, manic depression and the like. I know it to be a physiological disorder, and while yes, there are treatments and we do have responsibility..it is none the less a chronic disease. If someone is overcome by it, I can no more be unsympathetic with them as I would be a heart patient or a cancer patient.
21 years ago, I went through a major change in my own life. At the end of the first year, I began helping others (as it was a new practice I discovered that giving back was a great way of life..your given blessings..and to give them back is a reward in and of itself!) and I met Pete. Pete was 16 and his older brother who was 19 had been in and out of rehab and could not get it together. Pete's brother was chronically addicted and one night took a shot gun and with his toe, shot himself in the face. It was devastating. I walked through that with Pete and through my first Catholic Mass. The priest did something unpresedented in that village in the area, he actually held a mass for someone who had committed suicide, which for this parish and this family was not normally done (as this act was considered "unforgiveable"), and then he did the entire mass in white and with over 400 young people present in that parish that day, he talked about Pete's brother as a power of example in a positive way, of one who had stuggled with a disease, about how Pete's brother's life had a purpose and he had lived out his life and tried to do right. Here, Pete's brother's life..having passed was changing a church that typically would not have honored a service for a "suicide"..giving a message about drugs and disease to over 400 in such a small place and helping to heal a brother who was struggling with the disease himself. Pete's brother left this world and passed from the disease..but his life had purpose and meaning and while I cannot know for sure if his death had an impact on all those folks..he has, for the last 20 years been in my heart, my mind, and at times, my need to get through some very tough times and has in effect helped to "save" me!
It was at that time that I really came to believe that we are not capable of taking our own lives. I know..you don't have to agree with me here...but this is my belief based on my experience now. I am sorry, I just don't believe in the notion of folks being "selfish" or "wanton" in "quitting". For me, seeing what I have seen, until we are meant to leave, we ain't going no where. I have seen and experienced already so many who had tried...and I mean HARD to take their own lives and lived..some who ended up in wheel chairs or had to suffer some damage..but it was not their time. They had something else to do. For others..theirs was to go on..and it was for us to understand, to give compassion, to learn..to find some meaning. I truly believe that we are sought to find the best in each other in disease, in hurt, in what can appear to be the worst of circumstances. We are called on in tragedy to heal each other..to facilitate love and to make the best and see the best in us. I have seen it happend in hurricanes, in house fires, in times or tragedy...well, it is right that in times of chronic illness, we find that compassion too. The problem is that often with mental illness and drug and alcoholism we see a "sin" or a problem that is in behavior and we think that it should be fixed with meds or just "getting straight". Somehow, when someone does not get better or goes off the wagon, or commits suicide, they are selfish, wanton, or just lack the resolve. They are "sinners". We forget the very physicality of this disease. The issues that underpin the realities that lie in the body of a person who lives out their days..and while they indeed have respobsilibity..there are still realities the live with. Why then do we not have compassion for thier illness? Love? That has been my experiences.
I have not been close to my cousin's wife over the years..but the last two nights I see her face as though she is sitting next to me. I pray for her the peace of our Lord that surpasses all understandning. But for my cousin, my cousin's daughter, I am so proud of both of them for loving her..for being there for her during her illness, and her times of wellness. I know it cannot have been easy for them. They both have done so much. But out of so much love came a life lived well for over 20 years that would not have happened otherwise and, perhaps, after grieving, what is learned can help in the future as Pete's brother did for me. For being loving members of a family that struggles like all families to understand and be understood and I pray that her life helps others to understand and be understood.
We are all imperfect, fragile, but magnifcent creations of God. But not simple. I hope that anyone reading this that struggles with addictions and or depression gets the help they need. I serve on the board of one of the greatest organizations in our region that aids ALL who need help, Coastal Horizons. http://coastalhorizons.org/ Don't let it become unsolvable..don't let it get to the end. Our health is Three fold..mind, body, and spirtual!
I thank God today for her Life.....