I took the photograph below a couple of months ago on a walk around Midtown. The chalk words were scrawled on the brickwork outside a grocery store. I imagined when I took the picture that this sidewalk poet had experienced a really bad day. Perhaps it was like my Monday a few weeks ago. That’s the day that a close friend here cut the last string that connected him to life and another close friend was struck with serious health problems. I’ve had bad days, but I never any chalk in my pocket to express my feelings. That Monday was a really bad day, I could have used a piece of chalk.
Suicide is perhaps the cruelest of deaths because it results from such maddeningly untouchable inner pain. And also because of the tremendous pain it causes for others, pain of guilt, pain of anger, pain of loss.
A friend of mine is a retired Pastor and I asked him once about suicide and whether it is as some Christians believe to be an “unforgivable sin”. He said that in his opinion anyone who would take their own life must have lost their sanity and that the Bible describes God’s accommodation for people with special needs.
I believe my friend has this right. I can’t imagine the pain a person must feel to lose that last sliver of sanity and to cut the string connecting them to life. I’ve been in the depths of despair but I still a sliver of sanity, just enough to grasp at hope a loved one offered.
Another friend who has personal experience with suicide told me that ultimately what she learned about it is that nobody has control of anyone else’s life. Even the closest friends and family do not always know the struggles inside a person. Ultimately we are individually responsible for what we choose to do with those struggles.
A trusted mentor told me that ultimately everyone around the person must release their feelings of guilt and responsibility for his death. He said these feelings are misplaced because it was my friend’s decisions that caused his death, not the decisions of people around him.
Trust of intentions, trust of grace, trust of kindness, trust of caring, trust of commitment, trust of friendship, trust of empathy, trust of understanding, trust of love these are some of the strings of attachment that bind us to life in times of trouble. It is tragic when someone becomes so isolated in their troubles that they cut away the strings until their world collapses.
I pray that we all hold tight to the strings binding us to life. I pray that we can all accept love in the very worst of our days. I pray that we never allow pain to sever the strings of attachment that bind us to life.