Filtered, morning sun from a single window softly lit the small, rectangular room where upholstered and folding chairs lined three walls. The members of two extended families, ranging from a toddler to those in their eighties, filled the seats. All sounds were muffled: sobs and sniffling, the rip of tissues torn from their cardboard box, subdued conversations in an adjoining room, and the chime of a grandfather clock down the carpeted hallway.
An open casket was centered against the fourth wall. We had come to see him one last time, to “pay our respects,” to say good-bye. As the time for the small, family-only burial service neared, everyone left the viewing room and gathered in the main entry area, discussing directions to the cemetery. I stepped back in and looked at my nephew’s still face a final time. Oh, Nathan, Nathan, what have you done?
Our hearts are broken: every mother, father, brother, and sister heart, each grandparent, every aunt and uncle, each cousin and friend. We have all fallen with the weight of this loss, and we are scraped and bruised, bleeding raw emotions.
To lose a young man we loved–who was only twenty years old and had such potential and such a gentle soul–is difficult enough, but in this way . . .
We are left with nagging questions and regrets: the should haves and could haves and would anything have? I can’t imagine the pain and despair and hopelessness that led you to this choice. I can’t imagine how your mind was painted with the wide, black strokes of depression.
I answer my own question: Nathan, what have you done? You became ill.
At the cemetery family members carried the casket from the hearse to the graveside, walking across the green grass sprinkled with sweet clover. Some sat in chairs, and some stood in the shade of a small, blue awning under the vault of a bright, blue sky.
We commended Nathan to God’s care and final healing. We listened to the reminder that Nathan’s name meant “gift of God.” He was. He is. We read his favorite scripture and sang his favorite hymn. Those who wished to share spoke of his life, his character, what he was like as a child, and how we remembered him best. After a season of dark illness, Nathan now rests in the Light of Jesus.
If I could have choked out the words at the graveside service, I would have shared this verse.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
If faith falters, and hope slips away, love remains. Nathan may not have had a life “full of years,” but his life was full of love–his love for his family and friends and their great love for him.
And over all, covering all, forgiving all, healing all is the boundless love of God.
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If you are depressed and feeling hopeless, please, please, talk to someone. I am not a counselor or mental health professional, but I know you need to get help. Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor. Find a doctor or a counselor. You may need to call your local mental health center and schedule an emergency appointment.
If you know someone who is despairing, reach out. You may need to direct them to professional help. Offer to go with them to an appointment. If you have serious concerns, you may call the police who can go to the person’s residence to do a welfare check.
If someone you love has taken their own life, you may experience a range of emotions: from anger to sorrow. You may benefit from support groups and counseling.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NIV
. . . weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 RSV
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When suicide strikes in the body of Christ — Please continue reading to the end of this article for links to suicide hotlines, prevention and awareness sites, and grief support for survivors.
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