There are certain things that are not supposed to happen while on vacation. It is not supposed to rain (which it did.) When visiting a quaint beach town, one is not supposed to encounter protesters at the local post office who want to impeach the president and make their point by drawing a Hitler mustache on the leader of the free world (which also happened.) And young adults whom you once knew as teenagers aren’t supposed to kill themselves.
As much as we might pretend to vacate the world or our own little realities from time to time, life presses on. Good things happen while we’re away, and tragic things too. I shouldn’t be surprised. I am not Queen of the Universe; the world doesn’t stop because I have set aside a little sabbath time. But some things are hard no matter when they happen, like the death of a person you still remember as a bright, crazy-talented, slightly pimply teenager in your church’s youth group.
I served that church ten years ago, and have since lost touch with so many of the folks there. I was a bit of a tertiary staff person to the youth program, but when the youth went on a retreat and they needed a pastor to celebrate communion, I was on deck, so I got to know these kids. “These kids” – they are now adults, holding down jobs, finishing grad school, getting married and starting families and starting careers. When I hear about them through the ecclesiastical grapevine, or one of them friends me on Facebook, I am so glad and so proud. I have no reason to be proud, but I am. They are on their way, and doing great, or at least doing as well as any of us might hope to, given our flaws and foibles and the general human condition.
But this kid. This kid. My heart aches for his parents and his sister. For his friends, too, because I know that particular class from the youth group was tight. Maybe they knew what I did not, that mental illness was a burden he carried, along with his talent and friendship and handsome gawkiness. I picture his parents – devout, faithful, loving, possessing a patience and concern I never realized. I picture his friends – the one who worked at Starbucks and made me a latte at 7:00 on a Sunday morning as I made my way to church. The woman who was smarter and more beautiful than she ever realized. The guy with the crazy hair who got ordained and now wears tabs on Sunday mornings. The one who went into the Peace Corps. The one who’s a doctor. All of them, tonight, grieving. Grieving the death of a peer, a friend, maybe someone they would even call beloved.
This is about all I know tonight: that he left the world a little more beautiful because of the talent he shared. That he left the world a little more fragile because of that cusp of anxiety and depression that he teetered on. That he woke us all up to the present, to the gift of right now, the gift of old friendships, and the gift of community.
My prayers are with that community tonight. Rest in peace, all.
11 thoughts on “Too Soon”
Beth–I am so sorry. My prayers will be with that family and community, too. And with you.
Peace and Light.
Grace and grief often accompany each other and may it be so with those you have mentioned.
Beth, thank you for sharing this. Absolutely beautiful. This is really, really hard. Matt and his family have been in my thoughts constantly since his mom called me on Tuesday. I haven’t yet been able to put pen to paper, but you have captured my predominant thought with your usual eloquence. I know that Matt is at peace with his God, and praying for the same peace for his family and friends. Bless you.
Oh, Fos, how wonderful to hear from you; I wish I could give you a great big hug. I’m glad you’re there for everyone. Love to you and yours.
Beth, this is so beautifully written and captures so many of the emotions I have been feeling over the past week. Thank you for sharon this! Miss you!
Ouch. And a beautiful post that speaks to everyone who has lost a beloved to suicide.
Beth, I am processing two suicides in the last two weeks. Your post covered the life and death of the young man named Matt from my congregation. A coworker shot himself late last week. I did not know Matt at all. I did know him through others who respected his talents, generosity, and the strength of his relationships. The world needs more original and creative people like him. At the same time we know people like Matt can be vulnerable and sensitive to our sometimes harsh world. My coworker was recently divorced and was dealing with aging parents. We will never know why he or others made the suicide choice. All we can do is appreciate and remember the gifts, insights and joys they brought to our lives. I have found Kay Redfield Jamison’s books on bipolar disorder and suicide to help with my understanding of the “why.” In her book ‘Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide’ she writes, “Each way to suicide is its own: intensely private, unknowable, and terrible. Suicide will have seemed to its perpetrator the last and best of bad possibilites, and any attempt by the living to chart this final terrain of life can be only a sketch, maddeningly incomplete.” In the end, as always, we say a benediction–May God be with them, and with you.
Beth, thank you for your words. I’m still processing this whole loss. Although I didn’t know Matt well at all, I still remember his piano playing in church and his great talent. Later we heard that he was playing gigs with a young musician we knew fairly well. I never knew the pain that was underneath. And Fred, I appreciate your perspective also–and yours, Fos. One of the things I will try to remember is to be gentle with people because I don’t really know what their lives are like on the inside.
Betty Ann, I think every day I need the reminder to be kind. That alone would keep me busy and faithful, I think.
Thank you Beth! I knew Matt mostly as a musician and I know the kids loved him. Carol Wallace just gave me you blog info. so glad to have it…I have missed you! Love to you and you family! Blake and Sarah are graduating this year…a long way from LOGOS huh!
It’s good to hear from you, Lisa! I can’t believe the twins are seniors!! It’s a good place there – hugs all around.