The Darkness Before The End

     I have wanted to write this for a while but not able to find the right words. I have had some time to mull things over and come to terms with my thoughts. At the beginning of November 2010, the beloved pastor of our family’s church died by his own hand. He had decided to give up shepherding and take up a different sort of sheep – the critters in his own pet store. A particular dream of his, he said. I sang at his last service on October 31st; a song called “In Your Hands”. It’s about going through sadness and coming out the other side. It reminds us of the light at the end of the tunnel. That eventually we will find happiness again and that even in our darkest hour, God is there with us, holding us in His hands.

     At church a week later, the priest from the base broke the news that he had killed himself the day before. This kind, generous, happy family man had such deep pain within him, he saw no way of getting past it. He fell into that desperate blackness that consumes everything, the hopeless despair that seems unending. On a beautiful, sparklingly clear Saturday morning, he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. His wife came home and found him. I can only hope his four children didn’t see it.

     I understand that desperate misery. I’ve been there and back more than once. I have stood at the edge of the freezing lake, looking deeply into its waters, desiring to wade out into it and let the dark water close over my head forever. But as I stared unseeing, wrapped in my haze of pain, my little boys’ faces came to my mind. The devastation I would cause to their lives if I ended my own. And now I know first hand how cruel life is for those left behind.

     And the questions come: Why? Why did he do it? How could he leave his children? How could he not tell anyone, ask anyone for help? Was there something I could have done? Was it something I did or said? Was it something someone else said or did? Was this his plan all along, when he chose to step down from his postition? Did he think he somehow failed God? Was he made to feel so terrible by leaving the ministry that he couldn’t endure it? What was so awful in his life that it broke him?

     Yet I cannot judge. Walking that razor’s edge, sometimes the cuts run so deep, it feels like we’re bleeding out our souls onto hard ground. He never spoke of it to anyone. He never showed any signs of sadness or depression. Always he was quick to laugh. Always his face wore a sincere smile. Always he was there to offer a helping hand. It never ceases to amaze me the depth of pain a beautiful smile can hide. I cannot blame myself for his death any more than anyone else can. I don’t, but I sometimes wonder if I had only known him better perhaps I could have leant an ear or something. But what of his bereaved wife? What of fatherless children? How much false guilt do they shoulder? It weighs heavily on my mind sometimes. There were times in my happiness over the holidays that I thought of his shattered family facing their first Christmas alone.

     I cannot fix what has been done. But I know one thing I will not chose to do. I will not put my family through what I have seen his family go through. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. The blackness obscuring our vision at times will eventually fade and there it will be.

     Wait for it.

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