Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Loving Those Left Behind, Is Suicide Hellbound?
I had planned on writing about discipleship today and how one of the church’s biggest missions that gets skipped over in all the other good things that is being done. But I got a phone call in the middle of pulling verses together that changed all that. The rest of my day was talking to people from 500 miles away to let them know how much I loved them and that I would come to West Virginia to say goodbye to one of my oldest, dearest friends.
To understand his friendship with me, I’ll start the story from the beginning. In the mid 1980’s, another friend encouraged me to try a new game, bowling. I was not the super athlete I always wanted to be, so I wanted to give the game a try. I was 15 and almost weighed 280 and fell in love with the game instantly. The youth coordinator happened to watch my first night and encouraged me to come out and try a league on Saturday mornings.
That first Saturday, teams were put together. I was a late joiner and got put with others that came in late to join. I knew Jason. He was Serena’s little brother and we had hung out for years at girls’ basketball games. The other three members of my team I met that day. First, there was Todd. The boy threw the ball like a rocket and smashed pins. Then, there was Mike. Mike looked like Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and threw his ball backwards. Not back at us, but he flinged the ball. Finally, there was Scott.
Scott was a big guy like me and he brought the humor to the team. I always found him making us laugh. What was funny about my team was that we couldn’t wait to bowl. We would arrive at 8:00am to bowl at 10:00am in the league. We would bowl and have Satuday brunch. Well, Scott, Jason and I would. Todd was the lady killer of our group and Mike just didn’t think we needed all that food. Doctors would tell us that we were not supposed to eat while bowling because it defeated the purpose of the exercise. We were teens and could care less.
After I turned 16, Scott and I started hanging out on weekends. I drove over to his house in Stealey and we would always go somewhere fun. That’s how it was throughout our high school years and into the early days of college. I started at Fairmont State and he started in the real world. He met Beverly and for a while, he disappeared. Isn’t that how it always is when you fall in love? You meet the woman of your dreams and you want to spend all your time with her. Some of his other friends were giving him a hard time, but I knew she made him happy and that was cool enough for me. We were still getting together once in a while, but I was getting busy with school too.
He married that girl. They were so happy. You just knew it was going to last. There are marriages made in heaven and thankfully, theirs was one of them. He was lucky. One girl all the way to marriage. I was not so lucky. When I could get a date, I was meeting losers. Maybe that is a little harsh, but they were not women that were going to make me better. Then the dates stopped. I became married to my books and hanging out with my friends. But I was lonely.
That loneliness took a toll on my life. I got depressed. Two days after Christmas in 1992, the crash diet that was supposed to change my world because I was skinny almost killed me. I was hollow. I wanted to die. After I came out of the coma, the first friend that was waiting to see me was Scott. His mom, Wanda, was a nurse and could get into ICU without the time constraints. She let me know that he was waiting patiently until I was downgraded, but that he was ready to give me the whatfor for almost killing myself. She gave me the lecture and that allowed him just to love on me when I got out into the regular rooms. The great part was that he called everyone else that he could think of to come see me. There were ten people in that room to help support me back to my feet in a few days. I remember laughing for years afterwards because he brought them during the one good meal of hospital food that I got there.
Fast forward almost sixteen years. Friends grow apart. Scott was having a great marriage and I had moved away in 2000. I was sitting in Illinois planning to go home and hook up with Scott and many other friends for my 40th birthday in May. I hadn’t been home to see him in five years. Monday afternoon, the call came. Scott had gone to his father’s grave on the sixth anniversary of his death and shot himself in the head. It was fatal and friends and family began asking me what could have been done differently.
Truthfully, I don’t have the answers. I honestly have thought a lot in the past 24 hours about how horrible I feel for not being able to return the favor and be able to show him how much he had to live for. But that’s not what he would want me to do. The toughest conversation has been with his mom, Wanda. I love her like my own mom. She didn’t say it, but I could tell in her voice her mind was asking me a question after I said it. I told her that I knew where Scott was today. He was getting the love from a father that he had been missing ever since his death and also love from the heavenly father consoling him for doing something he didn’t have to do.
Her thought was, “How can you say so definitively that he is in heaven?” I’m not some great Nostradamus, but I know the love of Jesus and so did he. I know that some of you faithful readers are going, “Frank, are you sure about that?” You know me. I tend to let scripture do the talking for me. There is a great website that is run by Dawson McCallister called Christian Answers that takes scripture to answer questions like these. I’ll give you the link and let it speak. The site says it much clearer than I could.
If you want to debate me in responses, that’s fine. But you’re missing the point. As I said a little earlier, something that happens with suicide is that people tend to blame themselves. What could I have done? What messages did I miss? Why? Surviving family hates that last question the most. Most of the time, they don’t know either. Rather, after asking those questions in your mind, the time for change is now. Instead of asking what you could have done, ask yourself what you can do to prevent this from happening to more people you love. The task is rather simple, yet so hard. It is getting involved in people’s lives. Don’t try to be nibby or pushy, but at least ask questions. Make people think more about how those living around them care about them.
Bill Hybels writes a book about taking a walk across the room. The purpose of the book is to get people into relationships and help lead them to Christ. However, the book would also be helpful as encouragement for anyone to begin talking to people they love or just see as outside the group that you are comfortable with. Does it mean that suicide will stop? No. But maybe, just maybe, because you took a moment to care, that person may be able to say that life is worth living.
I love you guys!