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third time lucky

July 19, 2009

I visited a young woman in the hospital the other day who had just tried, for the third time, to kill herself. Luckily, the third time was not the charm.

 

“I’m tired of being a disappointment,” she told me. “I hate my life.” She showed me her room, the walls of which were plastered with her negative thoughts “turned positive,” the result of a therapeutic attempt to reverse the manner in which her emotions and mind interacted with each other. “I’m not fat,” read one message. “I am beautiful. Guys do find me attractive. People do love me.”

 

Words cannot convey how heartbreaking this visit was for me, how utterly stricken I was as I read the writing on her wall. How do you get to the point where you long to feel nothing, experience nothing—rather than the highs and lows of existence? Even if it was just the sun on my face, or conversely, raindrops cold and stinging on my flesh—I’m not sure I could ever fully get past the very human longing for all things Life. The betcha-can’t-have-just-one crunch of that chip as it crumbles in your mouth, the fizz of a cold drink when you’re thirsting for one, the giving softness of your bed after a long day, the shade of a tree hundreds of years old, the infectious giggle of a child—any child—the knowledge that there’s always something else to see and do and learn…and never enough time…how do you give all those and more up before your time?

 

As a high school teacher, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever dealt with is the suicide of two amazing students, each within a year or two of each other. They were both super-smart, handsome, well-liked young men. The most recent had just graduated, and had been awarded a scholarship to a prestigious college. I learned of his death in Wal-Mart, and remember clearly standing in the aisle of potting soils and gardening implements with the cell phone hanging useless by my side, crying noiseless, gulping tears like a lunatic.

 

I told my girl this story, told her I was sorry, but I simply couldn’t handle her being a third. She was just going to have to disabuse herself of this notion she had of ending things, Right Now, and think about all the people who did love her, and care deeply about her, and would be hurt so deeply if she were no longer there. Perhaps I should have danced around the reason she was there in the hospital, but I’ve always had two left feet.

 

I could see in her face as I talked with her a certain reserve. A you-don’t-understand-you’ve-never-sat-where-I’m-sitting kind of reserve. To an extent she was right. I’ve never been that low. I’ve never contemplated suicide, unless the one time I couldn’t find a student’s paper and fleetingly wondered where the gun was counts. I wouldn’t go so far as to say life is charmed right now, but life is blessed. I am blessed. I have more than I need, more than I deserve, more than I am worthy of. I am the recipient of both God’s mercy and God’s grace, and that’s plenty.

 

But it hasn’t always been like that. Empathy is a curious thing…I believe sometimes we, and our families and friends, are put into situations just so we can have empathy in situations such as this. We are brought to our knees so we know the hardness of the floor. Our eyes are blinded so we know what darkness looks like. We’re taken into storms so we know how to weather them—holding firmly onto the only hand capable of holding on to us: God’s, and trusting Him to weather those storms for us.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2009 6:16 pm

    I have, at different times in my life, have felt depressed and very lonely but have never tried to kill myself. I am glad that I am in touch enough with all the postive and amazing things in life that are constant reminders of why life is worth living.

    I am glad she did not succeed and hope that she never tries to kill herself again. In my prayers

  2. July 19, 2009 7:46 pm

    I agree, empathy IS a curious thing… I loved your entire last paragraph and agree wholeheartedly. Without going into much detail, I don’t know what else to say. But your closing words hit home and were beautifully written.

    Thanks.

  3. July 21, 2009 2:11 pm

    In a word.

    Wow.

    I love this post.

    Not the actions of the individuals, but the message you gave.

    I am, speechless; and like Gerb said, these words hit home and were written in a way which leaves one thinking.

    Thanks.

  4. hintonrae permalink*
    July 22, 2009 6:41 pm

    thanks, guys. Obviously, tough situation, tough times ahead for this family. All of your prayers are very much appreciated.

    L

  5. July 29, 2009 5:00 pm

    As a victim of suicide (several family members and friends have died at their own hands) and one who has seriously thot about it in the past, before spiritual healings, I pray that your message to her resounds. Most of the time, people who are this low have lost all hope and have believed the lies of the devil that they are not worthy to live. I know… I was one…. But all they need is a reason to live. Hopefully she will take your plea for not being the third to die at their own hands, and cling to that. I pray for the Lord to whisper His beautiful words of love into her heart and Jesus to become her true reason to live. You are so awesome, Lori. HUGS I love you!!

  6. hintonrae permalink*
    July 30, 2009 9:33 pm

    Cee–thank you for your words of encouragment and your prayers for her. I appreciate it so much.

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