There is something that terrifies me. It alternates between keeping me up at night or waking me with a cold sweat. It haunts me when days are good equally as much as when days are bad, and for those of you that know me, it’s not zombies, although they scare me a lot too. It’s suicide. Just when I think I have gotten over it a bit, and it’s not at the forefront of my mind, I see the news. This week it was the news of Pastor Rick Warren’s son, and then today two more suicide stories came on the radar. In Warren’s letter to his congregation he talked about his son having the best medical care and support and a great day together with the family, and yet his son still succumbed to his depression. Depression can be fatal, just like many other diseases. It can be terminal, and suicide can seemingly come out of nowhere, when the depression sufferer is doing “well”. This is what haunts me, because my husband battles depression everyday. He has been fighting for years to overcome the overwhelming sadness that plagues him, and I know what one of the possible outcomes of that battle can be. That fear plagues me and it makes me feel like a failure as a wife, and a mom, and a leader in a church. Shouldn’t I be able to relax and trust in God, I guess I should, but lately I can’t. And at the risk of sounding like a drama queen, I don’t want too. Let me explain…
A few years ago I was asked to be at the house of one of the family’s of our congregation when they broke the news to their son, that his father had committed suicide. It is a privilege and an honor to be allowed in people’s most intimate of moments, and be trusted to be a support, and I am happy to do it. This though, was traumatic in ways I never expected. I saw so much of myself and my family in theirs. The widow was so strong in that moment, just hours after a sheriff knocked on her door to inform her that the fears she carried for years were now true. The kids were devastated but they too had an idea that this day could come. Their dad had been battling severe depression for years. I grieved for them and I watched in horror this scenario that could apply to our own family, play out. He had been in such a good place recently, it seemed things were looking up, but there we all were in tears, broken and mourning. There’s this weird thing though that many terminally ill people go through, when they know the end is near. They get this sense of relief as they know they are letting go, and a euphoria sets in. They do better for a bit, better than they have been for a while, because they sense they are almost done battling. Their families though interpret it as them getting stronger. I had heard of this before, seen it in people that were fighting cancer, witnessed it in situations that were almost alien to me, but this was real and in my face and close to home.
Since that day, I have a lot of trouble setting my fears aside on bad days but also when things are good. There are the really bad days, when he is not himself, or when he talks about feeling like a burden, and I wonder if he is making plans Worst though is a paranoia in the back of my mind when my husband is doing really well, that maybe it’s because he has a plan, and a false sense of relief. I feel guilty that I feel so paranoid. Valentine works very hard to cope with his depression, and be present for our family. I hate second guessing what is going on in his head, or being suspicious of his hard work in managing his symptoms. I don’t want to watch over him like he is a child, or read into every little thing he does.
I try to “let go and let God”, to trust God that he is taking care and helping Val through. I try to trust that He is holding onto our little family and giving us strength. Then the son of the pastor of one of the largest churches in the world commits suicide. The father of two of our church kids commits suicide. Bad things happen to very good people, to people of faith, and to the completely innocent children all the time. God allows us as broken human beings to make decisions, to do things, even though they are destructive and hurtful. He doesn’t force us to be good or healthy. He heals some, but not others. He allows sickness. He doesn’t promise that those things won’t happen. He promises that he will be with us, that he will mourn with us, and that he will help us to be stronger as we endure suffering. He turns tragedies into triumphs, as they say. Our stories end up touching other people, our testimonies furthering God’s work. Yeah, I get it. I have been touched by the stories of people who have overcome tragedy. My faith has been strengthened by their example of faith. I understand that God can work through this. I understand but I can’t process through it right now, it’s not computing in my brain.
I don’t want to be stronger, I just want my husband. I don’t want to endure this so I can have stronger faith, preach better sermons, have lots of blog followers, and write a book about surviving. I just want my kids to have their dad. I want my husband to be at peace now, not in heaven. I do believe that God can heal any kind of illness, but I know that sometimes he doesn’t. I do believe that he helps us through tragedy and suffers alongside us, and those things can make us stronger. I have experienced it, but I don’t want to anymore, and not with this. I want Valentine, here now and until we are really, really old.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, my life is better everyday because Valentine is in it. He is an amazing husband and dad, and if this is what we have to deal with to get the complete package that is him, well, we got a great deal.
So I will keep working at having faith, and understanding a loving God who restores and redeems, and a broken world where people die at their own hand because they feel so miserable and alone. I will tuck my fear away as best I can, and try not to bring it up with others. I will focus on the good, the love of God and the love of my husband. I will do my best to not be drama and let this fear define my day. Jesus said don’t worry about tomorrow…