The early morning phone call set into motion a week that will change the life of a family forever. A husband had taken his life and left his wife and 4 kids behind. The event left everyone in shock, frustration, and sadness. Questions immediately arose followed by speculations, but the overwhelming reality is that the void is compounded by the unknown. In almost every other scenario the passing of a loved one can be buffered by some cause related explanation. It is not that accidents, disease, or violence are any less painful or manageable, but the cause is usually external and to some degree rationalized. Society has been fighting these enemies since Adam and Eve broke the Garden of Eden’s one condition. Taking one’s life however is in a category all to itself. It is an act that contradicts one of humanity’s strongest forces of existence – namely self-preservation. The gift of life is precious and even when the messiness of a broken world challenges the desire to continue the force to persevere usually prevails. Choosing to end one’s life is a monumental difficult decision with the obvious consequence of finality. And the decision is internal and therefore leaves behind so many unanswered questions and pain.
The outpouring of love and support was impressive. Hundred’s of family and friends attended the service not only to offer condolences but display their own grief and sadness. It begs the question, would this man have taken his life had he known his life impacted this many people? The family displayed numerous picture boards that documented his involvement in their lives. The eulogy from friends was a testimony to the relationships he had established. And his family huddled together in support as they shared the deep loss his passing will create. A thoughtful person whispered: “maybe if we celebrated someone’s life this well while they are still living we wouldn’t need to be here today.”
The realization that he is with God in glory and that his pain is gone offered some comfort. The familiar songs with their message of God’s greatness, faithfulness, and peace helped unify this gathering of people into a choir. The message and prayers also played their part.
When it was all done everyone was invited to the fellowship hall for some food. It is almost surprising how quickly the solemnness of the service is changed to the socialness of a banquet. This transition could be interpreted as cold and uncaring but it could also be a Biblical image of real life. The old will be replaced by the new with an invitation to the final banquet. His daughter offered her version of Psalm 23 when she envisioned her father in the phrase: “he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”