Friday, August 13, 2010

"not waving but drowning"

I have an issue with suicide and I also have issues with people who attempt suicide. I take it so seriously that I lost a friend years ago because I called 911 after she threatened to hurt herself, and she did not take kindly to cops showing up at her door to make certain she wasn't going to do it. I don't understand people for whom it's a joke, but more than that I don't understand people for whom it's an option, and I understand even less the people who try to make it happen.

that said, I'm also aware there are elements in other peoples' lives I don't understand, and if I lived with those situations I might also consider it. I do understand the catholic reaction against it, that killing yourself is a denial of god's goodness and maybe of god's existence. for myself, bad as things have been, I've always held onto the idea that so long as I'm alive, things can improve. I recognize not everyone believes that or that there could be an improvement to their lives. as with almost everything else, it is complicated.

all this is a roundabout way of broaching that I have spent time with friends whose eldest son attempted suicide 2 nights ago. this was not the first time and he has placed himself or been placed in psychiatric wards 4 times since may. his mother and brother found him unconscious in his apartment, lying on the remains of the coffeetable that broke his fall. he had taken an overdose of lorazepam and passed out. his mother told me after he regained consciousness enough to answer questions about what he'd taken and when that he intended to die.

I'm close with his family and was with them through the accidental death of a daughter 4 years ago, and since he's joined them here on the rim from california, I've nudged closer to him. he isn't aware I feel strongly about suicide and I don't intend to let him know that. (his family, having been present at sermons when I've talked about suicide, probably is.) how do I counsel someone who's attempted something that is the ultimate "fuck you" to everything I believe, that it is better to be alive than to be dead, and that so long as we breath there's hope? I suppose the same way I do on so many things: by keeping my mouth shut and listening, reminding him from time to time that he is not alone and not unloved.

his mother told me she had come to an epiphany in the last month, that she and her family chose to live the way they do because there are precious few others willing to live that way: taking in troubled kids, kids with addictions and mental illnesses, and providing them with the love of extended family. this is an important recognition. there are times when clergy like me have to admit, if only to ourselves, that we just can't understand the depth of how defeated some people feel and the best we can do is quietly be there.

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