I have been to a lot of funerals in my life. The least sad was the funeral of an elderly gentleman of 93 years of age. A piano tuner, who had been blind all his life, at the end was taken peacefully. The saddest funeral was that of a young officer cadet in the army who, for some unknown reason to us, ended his own life by suicide. Even though he was a happy person, or so it seemed to those around him, had a young child, a beautiful wife and a very promising career in the armed forces, he still believed his only option, good or bad, was to end his time on earth. The Chaplain had counselled him on many ocassions and still did not know the reason. Since then, I surely know that there is no blame in most suicide cases.
Every single one of us has a breaking point. Perhaps at the moment you and I are feeling good about ourselves, but our breaking point could be behind a door we just haven’t come to yet.
Blame has never cured anyone, but if we all do our best to help people where we can it could improve all our lives. No blame on the victim, no blame on friends or family, no blame on professionals who might have tried to help.
Some years ago, a close friend of mine called at my front door and asked if he could borrow $2.00. Knowing him well, I knew it would be a gift not a loan as I handed him the money. In the early hours of the morning I received a phone call from the local hospital. A nurse told me that Peter* had taken over 100 aspirin and had just had his stomach washed out. He had asked her to phone me. I could not work out why he said to phone me – why not his wife, mother or father. I drove straight to the hospital and found Peter lying in a bed, not looking too good but awake. I just sat and chatted with him. When he laughed at something I had said, a nurse popped her head around the curtain and said that she couldn’t believe it, “such a change in him”. I then asked him where he had got the aspirin from. “I bought them with the $2.00 you gave me” to which I replied “Yeah, gave!”. He saw the funny side and laughed. He went on to explain why he had asked for me. He said he felt the others would be ashamed of him. I remember clearly that I felt a twinge of sadness at that remark, as it is never something to be ashamed of.
Perhaps the best bit of advice to a person close to someone who may be suicidal is to find something that they like doing and give it a try. In Peter’s case it was laughing – which we all need to do but a suicidal person can’t. So, try and get a smile, and then a laugh and it should help to release the endorphins needed to fight their current frame of mind.
I would like to say that Peter is still alive and laughing. But sadly he started taking so-called recreational drugs and the power of these drugs overtook the understanding of himself. He died 20 years after the aspirin incident of an overdose. Whether this was purposely or accidentally was never discovered, but all the same it killed him.
I do believe however, that part of the reason he had life for that extra 20 years was for that one laugh.
*Not his real name.