I had a cousin I much respected. I never saw him much, although every year he was a regular at hunting camp. He made the screen door. He helped build the porch. He played cards, drank an occasional beer, and seemed to fit in perfect. Until one year he said, "I'm going to kill myself." And, although he did not say yet implied, "I just came here to say good bye."
Well, here we are at hunting camp where the guys say goofy things all the time, yet it was still hard to take him lightly. One of the guys was a counselor, and he spend many hours with him behind closed doors. Although, for the rest of the camp, everything seemed normal. Jimmy wore is hat, and we got many pictures of him; more so than usual, just in case, I guess.
Hunting camp ended on Sunday, and I saw Jim that morning. There was no way by looking at him that in 24 hours he would be found on his front porch. He waited until his kids went to school, and his wife was at work, and made a call so he would be cleaned up before they returned home. He was just that kind of guy, to others. When it came to himself, I guess he simply put others first.
Why did he do it? What could we have done different? We have a picture of him on the wall: the infamous wall of dead people from hunting camp past. The wall everyone will be on at some point. Jimmy is up there, and has been so for 14 years. He looks with that sly smirk under that red baseball cap. He even has a beer in front of him.
He is not mentioned much anymore at camp, except in passing. Occasionally someone makes a remark about the wall of fame, or the screen door that still slams every time someone enters. Yet I think that deep in the backs of our minds, we all think of him in our own ways, perhaps none more so than his wife, step son, and three grandchildren. I did not know any of them.
Through the years I think of him in my prayers. I still wonder if maybe we should have put away our silly frowns and farts, and payed him more attention. Yet I have, and so have my brothers and friends, decided that there was nothing we could have said or done to help him: he had already decided. Perhaps it was for this reason my social worker friend had no impact on him. A part of me, however, wonders that this though might be merely to satisfy our own minds.
So what is the consensus on suicide. Until this past week I believed, as I was taught, that suicide was a mortal sin. However, Father Simon this past week gave a presentation to a group I like to hang out with, that "I had to do something horrible today: give the eulogy to a great friend who committed suicide." He continued:
It used to be the thought that suicide was a mortal sin, that it was a complete utter disrespect for the life that God has gifted to you. Although this is true, the Church has lightened up a bit. To be a mortal sin it has to be three things: One, it must be a grave matter; Two; it must be intentional; and Three, it must rational, or done with deliberate or complete consent of the person. It is not up to us to decide that the person who is in such a dark whole, and decides to commit such an act, has made a rational choice. It is no longer understood by the Church that a person who commits suicide cannot get to Heaven, as by Gods loving mercy there is hope for us all
What we must learn from such an act is we must all, at all time, be vigilant to the lives around us. We must be attentive, and we must be caring, not just to our own needs and wants, but to the needs and wants of those around us. Anyone of us in this room could be having trouble, and we must be mindful of the signs of trouble. When one falls into such a dark place, they often show signs, ones we often miss, as I apparently did. Tom was a good and dear friend of mine, and I can honestly say that giving the homely at his funeral was the second most difficult thing I have ever done after my own mothers funeral.I give that quote there from memory. There are some things you do not need a tape recorder to remember. As secretary, I even put down my pen as he spoke, thus recording nor writing none of it. I do this out of respect to the individual speaking, and so that I can make sure to truly hear the spoken words. There are certain times when you must listen with a full mind, and you cannot do this with a pen in hand.
Suicide rates have spiked significantly in the past several years, with OD attempts skyrocketing. I have seen my share make it to the emergency room and critical care units. I have seen a fair share not make it out of the emergency room alive. I have seen many get better, go home, and come back. I wonder what kind of trend in our nation would result in such a final act to a temporary problem. I wonder what I, or we, can do to turn it around.