When Suicide Rocks a Community

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In the last blog post I wrote on Mother Theresa’s profound spiritual suffering and its relation to the pastoral life. The sad, achingly poignant link to our community was the sadness of a 19 year-old’s suicide. Though the young man was not a member of our congregation, many families, young adults in our church and others from the wider community and two high schools were hard hit by this event.

As I said last week, his foster parents asked me to preach at the funeral; I could find no better text than Psalm 22. The church in St. Catharines was full, but not packed. The music was planned and chosen by the young man’s friends, played, led and sung by the congregation and other people with strong and long connections to him.

After the service about 100 friends drove the 50 kilometres to the cemetery. The colourful autumn beauty of the cemetery painfully contrasted with the grimness of the event. A muted—maybe doubt-ridden—recitation of the Apostles’ Creed provided the only audible participation by lots of wrecked people (including parents of many young adults); but everybody “was there,” for sure. The simple late afternoon graveside service was enough to allow mourners to stay afterwards for “as long as they needed,” as the sensitive funeral director advised. It was almost twilight before the last folks headed home, some to mull individually, others to gather with friends.

As you can imagine, many people’s hearts and souls are rubbed raw these days. In fact, this doubly hurts since the young man who took his own life followed the tragic example of his younger brother who five years and a half ago first committed suicide. What's more he had pledged himself and his friends he's never put them through the pain he experienced after his brother's death. Yet his desperation broke his earlier promise.

We have no answers to any why and what questions. But we do have the hard, progressively hopeful words of the psalm Jesus quoted on the cross. I ordinarily don’t post sermons on the Network, but some have suggested that I make an exception. So, for a week or so, I’m posting “We Are Not Forsaken” as the featured piece. All names are changed, but all the sad facts are true. I pray my interpretations and shadings are accurate and help find some “comfort in life and death” for the community here and, with God’s grace, for some others  dealing with great pain while hoping in the Lord.

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