Death, even worse, death by a self-inflicted injury, brings us Pause for Reflection. The question is why. What happened that caused, an outwardly well-liked, well-adjusted person, devoted to family, to take this all so final act?
While I mostly write about pets, specifically cats, today, I’m taking the advice of a writing coach who told me to make my blog’s tag line expansive enough to write about other issues. I said I’d never tire of writing about cats, and that’s true. But I’m glad I heeded her advise, for today, I indeed want to pause for reflection – a reflection on the value of life, and why we should make the best of out each and every moment that is given to us.
Today, I attended a memorial service for such an individual, in his mid 40’s, a husband, a father, a son, a grandson. I knew him well. He’d plowed my parent’s driveway for years. He worked harvesting the then 50 acres of land of trees many years ago. He was the trail master in the snowmobile club, spending endless hours grooming the trails.
During the service, I kept wondering, why? What could bring someone to bring life to an end? It must have been harsh, but perhaps, if he had taken the time to pause for reflection, he would have seen that no problem, no matter what it is, is worth making such an ultimate sacrifice.
This is rural New England, and over 500 people came out to pay their respects. The service, to the pastor’s credit, was mostly a celebration of this person’s life:
- How he put the Christmas tree in front of the church every year.
- How he loved the outside, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing
- How dedicated he was to family and friends
And even his pets loved him dearly with his cat snuggling in his lap, and his golden retriever being a frequent traveler in his pick-up truck.
It’s a rude awakening that if someone even hints suicide or harming themselves, it should never be taken lightly. It’s a plea for help – whether it is from uncontrolled, unbridled anger, or from some deep-seated emotion getting twisted into despair. No one that has not dealt with extreme depression (a pit of despair) can even fathom why or how this could happen.
Most people in this town had done business with him, his father, his wife, or his grandfather. Most, if not all, were in disbelief and shock. At the memorial service, I sat next to one of our state representatives. I could see he was deeply disturbed. The family was obviously devastated, still in shock.
The loss of life should make us pause, and reflect on the value of life. And what is life. Is it about money, success, education level, status, or relationships? No. They are important, but they are not the core of our lives. Relationships, acceptance and belonging are very important, they are one of the psychological building blocks of our foundation, but they are not the end and be all.
Relationships, while important, come and go as we ebb through life. Our childhood friends move on. Our college acquaintances move on. Our grandparents and parents pass on. Sometimes the relationships with our spouses or significant others just falls apart into a bitter battle or lost cause. People change and grow apart. Life’s circumstances change all of us. Some react one way, others another.
Life is a struggle, and always will be. We need to reach out, volunteer, help others, and get out of ‘ourselves’ to help us cope with these struggles. When I was a teenager my mother always said, “Life will get better.” You see, the people I befriended, moved, and upon entering junior high, I was an outsider. The people I cared about had left me.
That desertion and rejection syndrome still plagues me at times. And I’ve had many times to pause to reflect on the meaning of life, which extends well beyond us. It’s about faith, a place beyond us, and doing right by others.
There’s no doubt this person had certainly done right by others. The overwhelming number of people who came out to show their respect was testimony to that. But perhaps if he’s paused, and reflected, and paused again and again and again, he’s still be with us today.
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the negativity around us. There’s always something that’s going wrong. But there’s also a lot that going right, and we need to take pause, and give thanks for all the good things that are happening in our life, whether it be our family, friends, pets, surroundings, or just the fact that it’s a nice day and the sun is shining. Take pause – if we focus on the good, it will be a much better day.
If you know of anyone that has committed suicide, share how you, your family, and your community coped. Do you think you could have done something different? Did the community come together or split apart? How did the church react? Were they spiritually supportive? While a painful topic, and not one that many want to discuss, it is one we all should reflect upon.