This class I will be teaching has a deep meaning for me as I’m sure it does with many of the people in attendance.
Like myself many of you have been privy to suicide by friends or family. In my case it was my mother’s sister. She was deeply troubled. Two of my mom’s siblings were troubled enough to abandon their families and disappear. Both ended up in Wilmington away from the Raleigh area.
I don’t know the circumstances nor the method my aunt used to end her life. My mom’s brother went back home after he was found quite accidentally.
My dad was living in the Wilmington area back in the 70’s working one of two construction jobs at the time. He would on occasion take a trip to Carolina Beach to see the ocean and sit there to contemplate. One evening as he sat there he turned to notice a man sitting near and much to his astonishment it was his brother-in-law. He moved over and began a conversation which led to his return to his home. I know little else of his life. Suffice to say we all feel this way sometimes and sometimes we go home.
My aunt was living in Wilmington when I was married and living in that area in the 70’s. I had time to search for her during this time. I know I came close to finding her. She usually waitressed in little mom n pop restaurants. I would get a cold stare from the staff when I would inquire in some places, but they never told me she had or was there. I know she did return home, but later committed suicide. I don’t know much of the details of her demise.
Then there was my brother. He was fourth one in a line of five sons. He had married and divorced after they had a son. From that time on he lived with our mom. She was widowed by then. My mom had a stroke when they lived under the same roof. She recovered somewhat with only a limp.
In 1999, December 18 to be exact, my mom died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. My brother was there and witnessed her death. The date was an eventful day because just that morning my youngest son had graduated from UNC-W in Wilmington and it had been a full day for me. Friends and family were present with situations that tried my patience that day and I was extremely tired when I got home. My older son had taken leave from the military to be there for the graduation. When we got home I went to bed a little before nine, but was awakened by a phone call that my mom was being rushed to the ER in New Bern NC. I was not told she had died enroute till I go there. I met my brother at the entrance to the ER where he told me she had not made it. I had taken my older son with me to help me since I was so tired. I walked into the ER with him in tow only to be told my mom’s body had already been put in a reefer “out back”. I insisted on seeing her body. I probably should have let that pass, but I did. I took my son with me. When they opened the reefer where sge was lying on a gurney in a retracted state. It was like a scene from a horror movie. My son also saw this and I’m sure it affected him quite negatively to see his grandmother in such a state.
I had to share this to explain what happened to my brother. He became reclusive. One thing my family did without fail was to disconnect their phone service when financial hardship struck. This was his first move. I had no contact with him. The second brother in the line-up was Danny and he lived close by. Without knowing the situation my Danny went to see him one day and found him in a foul state. He was living in the family home without electricity, water or any amenities to live even close to something viable. He could not pay bills that he and mom had accrued. With that he could not by medicine he desperately needed to live without pain from an injury that had disabled him. He also had high blood pressure and uncontrolled cholesterol and likely diabetes. Danny relayed to me he had not cut his hair or shaved in nine months and his skin was covered with eczema. Danny got him cleaned up and got his power back on and I was told he was seemingly recovering. My church had an event during this time and Danny and his wife brought Tim to this event, but he sat alone in a crowd of a couple of hundred or so people. Danny told me he had been depressed for some time, but did not say anything to indicate he was on the edge of suicide.
Then one day along the first of October 2001 I felt a prompting to go see him, but I felt I was busy at the moment and one set a time to go, but I kept pushing that ahead. I should have known to go right then in a day and no more. My eldest had come home on leave to help me put the back half of my roof on. I had new shingles and he and I had stripped the roof and was putting felt down when I was called down from the roof for a phone call. It was my brother Danny. It was the 23rd of October. This was a devastating call to me. I’m sure to Danny it was even worse since he was the one that found our brother dead from a shotgun wound to the head. Someone called my pastor and he and an elder came to the house and we prayed. I told everyone I could not go till I had secured my roof from the weather, so my son and I went back to work. While up there my neighbor’s son and his brother went to the back corner of my yard and began firing shotguns into the open field beyond. Every time the guns went off I winced. I finally got down from the roof and walked to where they were and told them about my brother and asked could they refrain from firing. They were very understanding and went back to their home next door.
We buried my brother on the 25th of October 2001, my birthday. There was a grave side funeral only. The strangest thing that day was the sky was only lightly overcast, but during the funeral the clouds got dark and the wind picked up considerably and a brief shower came down on us and by the time the last words were spoken the rain had stopped and the clouds had gone. It felt so ominous.
So what do we say now?
Suicide is a devastating event that ends a life with such decisiveness for the individual and leaves family and friends to question why, not only for him but for ourselves as well. Why did we not do more? Why didn’t we act when we knew we should? Do we simply think to ourselves this could not happen to a family member and it could certainly not leave us wondering why for so many reasons?
I resolved myself with God over my slack nature to not answer, but I still feel the brunt of it in my heart. Could I have saved my brother had I went immediately when prompted by God?
That event has instilled in me another resolve to put myself into play. God directed me to a course to become an American Chaplaincy Association certified Chaplain. I knew that God opened that door for me to attend. That was 27 hours through Aidan University. Then I was prompted to attend a sub course on Suicide Awareness and Prevention that was another 9 hours of classes. I have to note I was ordained two years prior to my starting the ACA class. It was during this time till now that God revealed to me the fuller nature of my calling.
I wasn’t called to preach. I was called to reach the ones in need. One of the phrases that has been instilled in my heart is this ministry is one of “presence” It’s an evangelistic calling, but not a “preachy” kind of calling. Just being there is all some people need. The people who have troubled minds that see no tomorrow and have given up hope for a better day.
To further temper my calling I learned from my wife that calls come to her Appointment Center in a major military facility from people telling them they were going to kill themselves or at least harm themselves. My wife is the supervisor of this center and much to her dismay she found no one in the hospital that felt enough compassion to help or direct her to a department in the hospital that could field the call. I feel certain the Chaplain’s Office would have taken it, but was there a protocol to contact them? I don’t know. I’m screaming inside myself to know why. WHY! I’ve since found there is a lot of information for help lines and people to talk with, but I still feel there’s a disconnect. I don’t blame anyone. I’ve been in the blindness of this need myself.
God spoke to me to take action. So I’ve put together this course for those of us that feel the need to help. There are so many people with troubled minds today. Saved or not saved should not be a factor. It’s a human life in the balance and needs someone to answer the call to talk with them, cry with them and tell them even the darkness of night comes to light when the sun rises in the morning. There is always another day to face.
Our resolve should be to comfort and show our concern. It is our responsibility to open new doors to possibilities of a newer brighter future. We don’t need to present our beliefs in God initially unless prompted to do so. These troubled souls want to be rescued. Take the beginning steps on a walk that will develop in time to a new belief system for the individual. Don’t refer to them as survivors from the outset. Tell them they are overcomers to their circumstances and they have the power to destroy the obstacles that are eating them alive. Let them know they are the navigators to their destiny and it is still before them. Help them steer away from the shoals and onto a course in calmer waters where they can dock and take stock in their situation and repair their ship before moving on. Don’t let them down early on. Be there to shore them up until they are able to obtain a steady hold on their circumstances. This isn’t a once done thing. It may take a good bit of follow-up to get there.
I hope this course will help us to recognize, engage and help people hold course through their treacherous situation and see them walk steadily through the rest of their lives.
(This is my opening to the class. As I prepare more I will be posting to this blog on many things to help someone wanting to know more on how to approach this subject.)