photo by Wendy K-O
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)
This is the verse that my friend E’s sister put on her e-mails to announce death of my friend E who took her own life. I found out on 12/18/14 but she was found dead on 12/17/14. Many of my friends from church were born on that date. E died on the birthday of many of her friends…
Is there ever a good time to take your own life? I don’t think so. But perhaps before the holidays when you have to go home may be a good time as any.
Today, in a couple of hours, church service near me will start. I want to say that I am looking forward to going, to be comforted by God. But truth is, I am so brokenhearted. I am crushed in spirit. I look fine on the outside as my friend E did more than ever especially during the last few months of her life. I barely cry now, maybe only a tear or two filling up my eyes every now and then. But my heart, my heart aches. why? is it because I loved E so much? But if I loved her so much, I should have been there. I should have driven up the few hours to be with her. If I love her so much, would I not have felt her pain? Would I not have heard the pain in her texts and in her voice on the phone?
Love can be blinding. It wants you to think that those you love are safe and sound. That they are not in so much pain after all. that they want to live. Love can be so misleading. Because E was not safe and sound. She was in so much pain. And she did not want to live in so much pain. I think it’s true that no one wants to die for dying sake. It’s the pain of life that is so excruciating, so crushing to the spirit. And that’s what E didn’t want, I believe. She didn’t want the crushing pain of life. And if life could only come with crushing pain, well, then she wasn’t going to have that.
I know that crushing, excruciating pain too. E knew I knew that kind of pain. But I cleared out of the woods, and recovering without relapses. Why could E and I have talked and reminisced about this? that things could seem so bad and it seems that the pain would linger and over power every good thing on earth. But it doesn’t. The pain can subside. The pain can be replaced by joy. Pain free life is not a phantom of the imagination. It is possible. Why didn’t E believe this? Because she couldn’t. Because her life in the present was contradicting that belief.
This encounter with a close friend’s suicide is my second time with such an unfortunate event. First time when I was 17, my closest friend would run away from home and kill her self. And now in my forties, when I think I am much more aware of myself and others, it happened to a close friend again. About 6 months ago, a colleague of mine who was barely thirty years old died of cancer. She wanted to live, but couldn’t. And so soon after, in the same year, I have lost a friend to mental illness that takes your life. E wanted to live too, a pain free life, but she couldn’t.
It’s a strange feeling to be on the “receiving end” of suicide. for many years my friends and family, especially my roommate were all afraid that I would take my own life. During those times, all I could think about was how to make the pain go away. And I think that’s what E was thinking all the time too. And now that I am on the receiving end once again, I can only say surviving a suicide of a loved one is painful. Remaining in this life when your loved one takes his/her life, it throws your life upside down. Meaning is lost. What seemed urgent becomes questionable. And even though I try not to be in denial, I keep wishing E was still here. I miss you.
God, you are near to the brokenhearted. That means you are near to me. And if you save those who are crushed in spirit, God save me and others who loved E so much. We are all in need of saving from this pain of loss. This loss, this pain, this empty space occupied by E, it’s bigger than I thought and it’s more paralyzing than I thought. God, be near to us and save us. We are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.