Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I was working with a friend of mine, installing a toilet grab bar for an ailing neighbor on Monday night when my buddy's phone rang. I watched as his face went pale and a look of sickness came over him. "My dad just shot himself," he said. A minute later, we were on our way to the hospital. I spent much of the night there with him as he and his siblings gathered to make life and death decisions with other family members. We were informed by doctors that if they tried to save him, he would never be the same, would likely be paralyzed and blind and have a really crappy life, requiring 24 hour care. If they wanted to go that route, they would have to decide within the next hour because emergency surgery would be required to save whatever life was left to save.
I watched as my friend and his family struggled with the issues they'd been presented with. It was an emotional time and emotions ran high and deep as they discussed their decisions. Several prayers were said, that they might know the will of God and be able to understand and accept that will. My friends father was a good guy who had his issues and challenges, but this had come as a complete shock to everyone present. He had talked about ending it before, a few times over the last thirty years, but showed no signs of depression and took no action towards that. He was just married on Saturday. Things were mostly good. But he started drinking Monday afternoon and after Jack Daniels started speaking for him, things went bad quick.
The decision to take him off life support was made nearly an hour before we were allowed to see him, and I'm grateful the decision had already been made. If anyone had any hesitation or struggle with the decision, I think all of that was gone as soon as we saw him. I don't think any of us recognized him. What a terrible way to go. What a selfish way to die. I have been around death many times in my life. There is often a sweet spirit of peace associated with death. There was no sweet spirit there that night--just unanswered questions, sorrow, pain and turmoil.
I didn't sleep that night. I don't know anyone in the family who did.
Today, in the land of Niederbipp, there was finally some hint of hope. My friend has three younger brothers, all of whom took pottery in high school. They came over this morning to work on some urns for their father's ashes. Today, though they each wore the signs of pain on their faces, these brothers worked for several hours to create. They were all rusty. Apparently making pottery on the wheel is not like riding a bike, but there was laughter and chiding and encouraging words and in the end, seven beautiful jars that will store the remains of their father. I know my friend well. I know his family. I know of their faith in God. Their father did not share that faith, at least not anymore. I have found myself thinking about faith a lot lately. It is hope in things that are real and true. It is a journey, one filled with probably at least as many valleys as peaks, but if it is true, a journey that propels one forward. There is a great quote from Winston Churchill that says, "If you're going through hell, keep going." I think sometimes we spend too much time in hell. We need to keep moving. We need to get back to the top of the hill where the sun can shine, where we can see by the light of truth. I am grateful I am not a judge. There before the grace of God go I. It seems the answer to most of life's problems and challenges lies in perspective. We must somehow rise above, or seek the counsel of one whose perspective is broader than ours. Many of us are kept from the truth because we know not were to find it. Keep going. Keep your head up. I have learned that above the clouds, there is always sun.
I have found it interesting how doors open. I'm not sure sure if I mentioned already what my next book is about, but I have been working on it now for several months, working on research and just began really writing last week. It is a story about a young man, who after a botched suicide attempt, learns to discover what life is all about by attending funerals. There is a great Quaker proverb that says, "Proceed as the way opens." It seems that the universe wants me to write this book. I pray I can do it justice.