Tonight I was browsing through Facebook when I saw a friend from university had commented on a post about how Rick Warren’s son had died. He was 27, and had succumbed to mental illness. He had taken his own life.
I read the article. It was sad. It was familiar (dealing with mental illness myself, I’m drawn to the stories, and they seem to be drawn to me). It felt familiar. But it was in a new context. It was in Christendom, Evangelical Christendom. The mainstream. America.
I am sad for Kay and Rick. Parents of three adult children. This child of theirs, twenty-seven, had been sensitive. Had benefitted (they mention) from medication, doctors, counselors, prayers. But…had nevertheless chosen to take his own life.
It’ll sound like words I shouldn’t say. Another language. Foreign. misplaced. But I say them anyway: “I get it.”
I get why.
I get that pain of mental illness. I get the suicidal thoughts that seem to set up camp in the brain and come back, time and again. Sometimes I feel like I look at my life and think, “Will I become a statistic?” Nothing keeps my friends and family – my husband – from experiencing tragedy. And I see this son, who just so happened to have the mental illness, and the stars aligned in a sad array and his end was tragic. “Suicide.” The stories of such an end stand out in memory. I know of a friend of a friend. Someone’s cousin. The brother of a T.A. I’ve read articles, books, blogs. Maybe you haven’t read stories like this but I read them. My eye and heart are drawn to them and I read.
Battlestar Galactica Do you remember the character who killed herself? She had a night of fun…and then there was the quick, unexpected pulling of a trigger. And as much as you didn’t like the character (as a selfish consumer audience member), you realized… she was loved in her world. She was missed. It didn’t make sense to those she left behind and they didn’t want life to be without her. You felt the void she created by dying. Credit goes to their performance. I felt it. It was awful.
Suicide marks the lives of all those who know the self-killed.
There is a part of me glad…
That the statistics worked out that someone famous would have a son who died. Not because I have anything against Rick, or the rich and famous. Not because I want anyone to reach that point of despair where they’re pushed beyond the brink. But because I know that because it’s Rick’s son, more people will feel less alone when it happens to their son, father, brother, sister, wife, child. Perhaps the conversation will happen, about mental illness, about suicide, before it’s too late. Maybe lives will be made better due to better understanding, familiarity. Because it happened to the son of a famous, influential pastor, perhaps guilt will have less of a foothold on those left behind.
This young man, although life became too much for him, through his death can bring others awareness of suicide and the dangers of mental illness. How amazing that even in our greatest weakness, God can shine light in darkness, heal, restore, redeem. But we shouldn’t be too surprised, after all, God’s greatest victory involved bringing salvation out of death.
Come, Lord Jesus.
& Thanks. For being here with us.