I am numb, through and through, and it is tortuous. A piece of my heart has been torn away, so I ought to be reeling in pain, but the shock runs too deep. I sense a hole in my chest, but incredulity overwhelms any other feeling.
Roughly 24 hours ago, on Monday afternoon, I received word that my 19-year old nephew committed suicide. Technically he isn’t my nephew – he’s my wife’s cousin’s son, but he used to call me Uncle Larry. Our families are close that way – holidays, birthdays, get togethers. He and his twin sister were born three days after my younger son. Our kids grew up with their kids. I played D&D with him.
Details are scant, and frankly speaking, I don’t think more information would make things better. The simple truth is, he was alive on Sunday, and he took his life on Monday.
This is uncharted territory for me. And I am just numb. Tinged with grief, infused with unfelt pain, but numb nonetheless. It is torment.
Long-time readers of AoftheA know that I rarely, if ever, write of personal matters. I may write just one post about this, I have no idea. I am too numb to effectively write. I know what I want to say, but words aren’t forming. I’m aware of my surroundings, but can barely perceive. It feels as if I’ve been shoved off a cliff, but I’m not falling. Instead, I’m slowly descending through some viscous, gelatinous, invisible matter that darkens light and deadens sound.
And I know that what his family is experiencing is exponentially worse and more horrifying. I claim no comparison. I dare not attempt to imagine – I don’t believe I can imagine, this numbness notwithstanding. The pain his parents and sister are enduring…there are no words.
The Church teaches that no one can be certain suicides are condemned to Hell. Those left behind, though, are condemned to a lifelong limbo of never completely understanding, of having unanswered questions, of overshadowing doubts, and of unlived memories. It’s a cruel fate. It’s a universal condition due to being residents of this vale of tears. It’s one thing if a person dies in a bizarre accident, or after battling a disease. But suicide is unnatural, leaving in its wake an unnatural numbness. Suicide doesn’t just end one life – it ends the possibility of what’s hoped for. It abruptly changes the trajectory of everyone involved, sending family and friends into unknown spaces and unfamiliar country.
A friend of mine and I speak frequently about how we’re living in The Land of Suck. Every once in awhile, it seems that we’re on the verge of emigrating, of getting out. But it’s just an illusion. Just when you think you’re about to cross the border, you blink and find yourself back at the intersection of State and Main, smack dab in the center of town, in the capital of the Land of Suck. And then you realize – Christ hasn’t returned yet to liberate us. And the suck is different for everyone.
I’ll feel differently in a few days, perhaps fewer. It’s in my nature to fight, talk, cry, and process through circumstances that Life slams into my face. I don’t cram emotions into a ball, bury them deep into my gut, and ignore them. That’s not who I am. So don’t worry about me – I’ll be fine, God willing. I’m too numb at the moment to affirm “God is here, in this moment!”, but my faith is preserving me nonetheless. It’s my faith that’s keeping me from falling like a boulder off that cliff. It’s my faith that will lead me to my parish’s Adoration chapel tonight to pray and be comforted.
Please, though, in your kindness, pray for the repose of the soul of my nephew. His suicide may have happened at a particular and specific moment in time, but I believe that God, who exists outside of time, takes the prayers of His people, and applies them according to His desire. And please pray for his family, and for all those who loved him and will forever miss him. Whatever good God ultimately brings out of this tragedy, it starts with the earnest prayers of those who believe and hope in the life to come, of those who stand with others in their moments of numbness and pain.
Photo credit: x1klima via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-ND