It was January 3rd, 2009 when my dad put a gun to heart and pulled the trigger. And about one year later when I found the courage to begin telling my story. His story. And giving voice to a topic we seem to stay so silent about.
I’ve told arenas of thousands and small groups of just a few. I’ve written about it, spoken about it, made videos about it all.
Suicide has been a part of my vocabulary for a while and I’ve found myself studying, reading, and repeating the complexities of what triggers such a horrific response.
I guess that’s why I was caught off guard yesterday when my friends’ sweet sons asked me the simplest question, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.
It was so random. One minute we were playing with puppies in the dining room and pointing fingers at who just tooted and laughing until our bellies hurt. And the next minute I had a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old standing in front of me asking the most obscure question, in unison, and waiting for a response.
“Well, I think he is in Heaven. I hope.”
I was hoping they would leave that right there. I was hoping maybe they’d get distracted and take that for what it was worth. Because what if they asked more questions? You can’t tell a 4-year-old your father gave up on life and left his family and was found in a pool of blood on an Alabama hotel bed. You can’t tell a 5-year-old he took the guns from the closet and left a suicide note and thought pumping a bullet into his chest was a better alternative that facing what life had in store. But there it came…
“He DIED?! Why?”
I sat there in silence for what felt like forever. Talking to arenas of young adults hadn’t prepared me for the wide eyes of a curious, innocent child. I couldn’t tell them about the paralysis that comes with depression. About the spiritual warfare that rips and tears and ravishes the heart. I couldn’t tell them a long story about a man who found himself in financial ruin and couldn’t escape his sins. I couldn’t tell them any of those things.
Those long-winded answers we give to justify and to try to cope and to explain ourselves around the brokenness. The paragraphs of information we pump down everyone’s throat. AFTER the fact, always. Because we never see it coming.
No, they wouldn’t understand. I had to simplify it–and in doing so, I learned a little bit more than I’d already known…
“He died of a broken heart, boys. He was very, very sad.”
“Sometimes when people’s hearts hurt very much, they can’t take it anymore. They are so sad they don’t see much hope.”
“But how? He was hit by a car?” (*Insert an adorable speech impediment here.* I’m gonna be honest, a part of me giggled a little at that. 4-year-olds need ANSWERS, people!)
“No, he wasn’t hit by a car. But there are people around us who are very sad. Their hearts really hurt. And when you just look at them, you can’t always see it. So maybe sometimes we don’t know who is hurting.”
“Nope. So that’s why it’s important to love everybody. And to be very kind. And to help people. Because maybe their heart hurts, too. And you could really help it feel better. Does that make sense?”
In unison the boys nodded. The 5-year-old with a very big “yes.” The 4-year-old with a huge “no” and a continued mumble to himself about his certainty there was a car involved. (Haha, one out of two ‘aint bad.)
I sat back and started to replay our conversation through my mind. Thinking if I had said anything that might have scared them. If maybe I taught them enough. Realizing one day I hope to tell my own kids the very same thing when they are young and they ask about the wonderful grandaddy they will never get to meet.
And in that moment I realized that was the most precise response I had ever given. The simplest and the most true. And if that explanation was sufficient for a 5-year-old, maybe it’s what adults needed to hear, too.
Because it’s not the gun that kills someone, but the hopelessness that pulls the trigger.
It’s not the pills that stop their heart, but the desperation that swallows each one.
It’s not the noose around their neck, but the fear that tied it there.
And it’s not the razor blade that found its way, but the sorrow and bondage in the trembling wrist.
It is the hopelessness and the desperation and the fear and the sorrow that carry out suicide. And the fact of the matter is that we usually don’t see it coming, because a hardened heart is an expert at keeping those things inside. Maybe it’s not up to us to wonder and research and rationalize after the fact–but rather, to love well…and fiercely…and faithfully while hope is still in sight.
We live in a world full of broken hearts. And people who are very, very sad. I dare you to see life through the eyes of a child and love others simply and well. Let’s be a generation who takes our eyes off of ourselves and sees the world around us. Who meets the needs of the hurting. Who extends grace and forgiveness that one extra time. Who KNOWS that hearts are hurting without having to see proof. Who asks questions that matter and extend a breath when someone is gasping for air around you.
Let us be a generation who stops complaining about the guns and the pills and the rope, and who wholeheartedly, sacrificially starts FIRST sharing HOPE.
“Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike wonder on My account, it’s the same as receiving Me.” –Matthew 18:3-5
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