In the wake of despair
It arrived in a Facebook message from my husband this morning. I saw that it was a link. Clicking thru I had the surreal experience of reading about a murder-suicide—the sort of thing that happens somewhere else, to people with lives you can’t quite imagine. But this was the story of a man I knew. We had all worked together in advertising years before. I hadn’t heard from him in 20 years until my husband forwarded me a message in December of 2014. It seems he had picked up my book Elijah & the SAT and it was speaking deeply to him. I share this in the hopes that we may begin to open our eyes to the silent pain all around us.
He wrote “It’s 12:30 at night here, and in one sitting I’ve consumed about 33% of the book on Kindle. Now I can’t sleep. Two sleeping pills and a stiff one haven’t knocked me out. I gotta keep reading. I even went up to our library upstairs and pulled out a Bible.”
We exchanged a few emails after that. I suggested he try reading The Psalms. I think I might have sent him a Taize song or two to soothe his soul and help him learn to open his heart to the Living God, the God who brings the peace that passes all human understanding.
The last time I wrote him was to thank him for a lovely review on amazon. He had ended it with these words “I’m glad I’m reviewing it during the holiday season because it’s very motivating. In fact, I plan to go to church for the first time this Christmas in a long, long time.”
I don’t know if he ever showed up at a church, or if anyone would have been able to sense his pain if he did. It’s not always an easy thing to spot, or to heal.
We have finally begun to recognize the epidemic in this country of early death from drug and alcohol abuse, illness, and suicide in working class men, but his was of a strain we don’t talk much about: despair in those who have been successful in media professions and then find that the new world order somehow doesn’t include them.
And now a husband and wife are dead, leaving behind a legacy of violence and despair.
What are we to do with stories like this? With pain like this?
At the very least I hope these tragedies serve to make us more mindful of how misleading a nice house or a car or a smile can be. Of how little we actually know the neighbors we long to love.
May the God this man hungered to reconnect with pour down his mercy on the family, and all those who are crushed by the lie that says we are only as good as our job title, our degree, or our net worth.
Lord have mercy.