“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”
Westmont High School is mourning today. Over the weekend, Saturday, 22 March,
a 17 year-old fellow student drove to Santana Row around 5pm, parked her car atop the six-story parking structure, walked to the edge, and jumped.
She was a cheerleader, the head of the Red Cross Club at school, and my son’s classmate.
Suicide. Its victims struggled with life’s fiercest battles: chemical imbalance and mental illness with its litany of devastating symptoms, like, unendurable darkness and despair, invisible agony, and mental fatigue. What comes naturally to you and me, they grappled to experience: light, happiness, optimism, laughter, confidence, and hope. Their life’s storms saw no bright side.
Depression is a disease misunderstood by most. Many draw conclusions and ask, Why doesn’t she just snap out of it? Why can’t she pull herself up by her bootstraps? Why doesn’t she look at the bright side and stay positive?
Thing is, if the conflict were a physical one, we wouldn’t judge and spout off such questions. Had she had cancer, we wouldn’t ask, Why doesn’t she just buck up and get rid of the leukemia? Why wouldn’t we ask it? Because we know the devastating power of cancer.
Would that we all knew the devastating power of depression as well.
David Foster Wallace wrote:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror; the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’ can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt the flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
Truth is, certain levels of depression cause good people to make tough choices – sometimes wrong choices. Is suicide ever the right choice? No. Our life’s longevity is God’s to determine. He gives life and He takes it away, based upon the lessons we must learn and the mission we are to accomplish.
But, when someone does orchestrate their own death, we’d do well to be mindful of one thing: it is not our place to judge, for we do not know the terror of the flames.
Yet, we can’t help but wonder:
Is their choice a spiritually fatal one? Is there no place in Heaven for them? Are they forever doomed?
For, while suicide is a wrong choice, haven’t we all made wrong choices? And, did Christ not come for people like us?
Our job, then, is to remember them, not for their one wrong choice, but for their many right choices. Their good days. Positive moments. Admirable accomplishments.
God would never judge someone based on one decision. Neither should we.
“Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips.”
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
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