And so it was this last week after the suicide of my cousin, David. He was my third cousin actually. Thirteen years younger than me. In fact, he lived two blocks away from us when he was a little kid and when he was six we asked him to be the ring bearer in our wedding. He said yes. Then no. Then maybe. Then I think so. Then no way. Then ok. Then no. No was the final answer. We knew him to be a melancholy little boy and there were reasons in his young life to be sad and worried. We were disappointed not because we then lacked a ring bearer. In fact, we had a stand-by because all of us realized this would be hard for him. So another wonderful family in our church were ready in case David changed his mind and our ring-bearer became Adam. We were disappointed because David was precious and important to us.
In the intervening years between our wedding and his death, I didn't see him all that much. His family moved to Southfield, we started our family on this end of town. He grew up and joined the Army. If you asked him if he knew Sara Smith, it would probably take him a few beats to figure out that Sara Trent is Sara Smith.
I went to David's funeral on Thursday and cried for him, for his wife, for his parents, for all of us. I have prayed for those whose everyday lives will hear the silence he leaves behind. My everyday life will continue as usual. Yet there are moments of tearfulness that sneak up on me. Most nights this week I have crawled into bed exhausted and then stared at the clock past midnight. At work, I have been distracted. Friday I spent two hours working on a project due ten days from now and entirely forgot a project that was due last Tuesday. And not because I am sitting at my desk grief-stricken. Not because I am continually thinking, "Oh David, David." Not because I am re-examining my relationship with him and wondering what I could have done.
My feelings just...are.
I feel sad, serious, introspective, tired, sleepless. I feel like the earth under my feet is not as solid as it was on January second. So I'm grateful that God has taught me that I don't have to have a right to feel what I do. David's suicide was like a rock thrown into a still pond. Those closest to him ride waves much more fierce than mine. Still, on the outer edges of his life, we too are tossed and unsettled.
I have not berated myself for this week for the less than stellar performance at work. I have explained what my family has experienced, apologized for the effect others might have noticed and taken responsibility to get it together. I have laid on the couch quietly. Talked less. Laughed less. I have thrown down some anchors in these choppy waters; prayer, the Word, sharing, crying, explaining to people who didn't know what we lost why I'm distracted. Eating better, drinking more water, cutting down caffeine, resting quietly when sleep won't come. We will all, in our own time, find quieter waters again.
David was one among thousands of people who kill themselves. But he was our one. He was our boy whose own waters couldn't quiet. He was our David whose storm had no horizon. He was ours; who heard a lie, then listened to a lie, then believed a lie, then acted on a lie. The lie was that there was no peace for him.
Is it true then, that feelings are what they are and there is no, "Don't feel like that?" Yes. It is true. I know this not only as the third cousin of David who committed suicide but also as the nurse who has bandaged torn wrists and cleaned the vomit from the mouth of the overdose, who has held the patient up while the ligature was removed from their neck and knelt on the floor trying to find a pulse. I know that it is true, that we must all be allowed to feel what we feel.
Some of us are that stone, thrown by the enemy into the still waters to be lost beneath the surface. The rest of us are the ones who need God to make us smart enough to see the pain and brave enough to confront it. And gentle enough to reject the lies without rejecting the ones who hear them. It is beyond us all without the Holy Spirit to save the next David.
We are not without the Holy Spirit. God; make us smarter, braver and gentler. Make us stone catchers.
Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God: And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the LORD thy God.