I Found Him — When Someone You Know Dies from Suicide…and You Are the One Who Finds Them (Part 1)
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. Psalm 13:2-4
This man, Jim, was 46 and decided that life had no meaning any longer, I presume. I will never really know…just a heart-felt and honest guess. He was an artist, but had a hard time making a living from his beautiful airbrushed paintings. He was a machinist by trade. He had some tough relationships over his all-too-short life. He had been sober for almost 8 years, had quit smoking for 2 years. He came from a family of drinking. His mother died of cancer. His only sibling was a brother who chose to separate himself from my friend as well as his parents because he had chosen not to drink.
As a friend, I cared about Jim like a sister would care about her only brother. We were both searching for Jesus at the time we met. We did not know that, but we were. We searched in many-a-dark corner, but continued looking. I never knew him during his drinking years so my perspective is a bit skewed from others who knew him earlier in his life. As an artist, a weaver, myself, we began doing shows together to try to make a living being artists when I moved into this same city. Neither one of us made enough to pay for doing what we loved, but we tried for a while.
I finally found full-time work for I needed a steady income. Jim continued to paint and even went to New Mexico for six months to gain a different perspective while continuing to paint. Eventually, he moved back here and then had a hard time finding a machinist job. Things were not going as he had hoped.
I came home from work one day and found an envelope in the mail slot of my door. It was from Jim. He had placed his car title, some cash, and a short note of some silly words that meant something to only me, words we had shared. My heart sank, although I could not really know by the note what I was about to face, and yet, I had an idea. I quickly got in the car and raced over to his house. I let myself in only to find the same note there on the table by the door, along with a note to emergency staff should they have found him before I did. I knew now. I tiptoed through the house until I found him. He had killed himself in a manner that did not leave blood and gore for me to find, but he still killed himself. I still found him. That was 23 years ago. As I type this, it seems like yesterday.
Earlier, I said that Jim and I were searching for Jesus. I never knew if he found Him, but he had a Bible with some verses in the New Testament underlined. He had been reading. He had been looking and, hopefully, had found the One and Only LORD and Savior. I will know him in Heaven should he be there. I pray so.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
Suicide is a terrible thing. Having never been around it up close and personal, I could not have imagined that I would have to deal with one in such a way: police interrogation of me to make sure that I had not killed him (which was such an awful experience and is a vivid memory, even today), neighbors wanting to know why all the police, ambulances, and medical examiner were at the house for over two hours, the remnants of his life in a house that I would inherit because he made a will and left his world to me. I had very few other contacts here except through work, so with friends caring about me from afar, the phone calls were long and tear-filled.
There was so much…so very much to deal with, to handle.
I returned to work and took comfort in the busy-ness of that. I sought counsel through a “suicide-survivor group.” I attended only a few times as I just did not seem to need to tell the same story each week to any newcomer. There were people there who had lost a loved one fifteen and twenty years prior. I knew they were there for their own reasons, but I needed the tender love and comfort from my mother, my sisters and friends in other states, and so it was hard being in one state when my comfort was elsewhere. Within a short time, a cousin came from Chicago and stayed for a few days. Then, my dear mother came and stayed for about three or four weeks to help me clean and ready the house so that I could move in within a few weeks. My mother was the best person for me at that time. I needed people I loved and trusted.
Surround yourself with people who understand. Who care. Who are sensitive. And who will support you. Reach out to those people. Never feel like you are a burden to them because you are not.
My boss loaned me the money for the cremation. She honored me by asking if she could help financially in any way. I had no savings and Jim left me what little he had which was not enough to bury him.
When you are the one who has lost someone to suicide, whether you had been the one to find them or not, the emotions are huge. The memories haunt. The loss is beyond what you could have imagined.
Please join me for Part 2 to read how I began to heal from this experience, how Jesus met me in my pain, and for some practical advice on how you can recover from a trauma such as this one.
Part 2 will be posted Friday, 8/14/2015.