DEALING WITH GRIEF
Living with Suicide: A Relevant
By Matthew Eldridge
“Your brother is dead.” My wife could barely get
the words out, “He took a shotgun and blew his head off.”
Paul’s young lifeless body lay on the cold floor of his apartment for
at least a week before anyone found him. Several questions ran through my
mind. Why? Wasn’t there anybody there to talk to him? And how come no
one even noticed he was gone until almost eight days later?
I could feel the guilt piling on. If only I would’ve gotten to know
him. If only I could’ve counseled him and assured him that his life
was worth something. But the truth is, I didn’t know him. I had pictures
of him growing up, but, in a weird turn of events, we had never met or talked.
I am the oldest of seven kids. Our birth mother couldn’t afford to
take care of me, and so I was put up for adoption before Paul was born. One
alcoholic husband and four kids later, Paul was delivered into this world.
His father’s drug and alcohol abuse led to their homelessness, leaving
my brothers and sister — David (9), Sharon (7), Mark (5) and Paul (2)
roaming the streets and scrounging for food. When a church pastor gave their
father money to buy the children dinner, the pastor followed them and discovered
that their father used the money to buy more drugs instead. He bought one
hamburger and made the four children split it.
It would seem that circumstances couldn’t get worse for the four of
them. However, after that helpful pastor notified the department of children
and families, my siblings were taken from their parents and placed in foster
care. The children were split among different homes and would go from foster
family to foster family where physical, verbal and mental abuse became the
norm. On holidays, my grandmother would receive pictures of the children with
black eyes and bruises. When the authorities raided the foster home on suspicion
of abuse, they found my brother chained in the closet with a dog collar around
Again, the family would continue the path from one abusive foster home to
another, as President Reagan’s plan to increase foster parenting by
monetary incentives backfired, drawing vipers whose sole purpose in parenting
was to increase their income. However, troubled and abused, most of the siblings
would re-unite again many years later because a couple from New Jersey promised
to adopt them.
Our birth mother was considered to be a borderline genius-nutcase. Most of
us were born with some of her intelligence and artistic abilities. Paul was
a little slower mentally, assumed primarily because of his father’s
drug use. I was 8 years older than Paul, and although I had talked to all
of our other brothers and sisters (including the two born after Paul), Paul
and I had never met or talked. He was the baby brother that David, Sharon
and Mark protected. He lived in his own world. He didn’t quite understand
a lot of things, but he knew that they loved him.
So why? Why would he kill himself? He had survived a series of abuse as a
child, and had just crossed the threshold into adulthood, graduating into
a better life. The question probed my memory of my own childhood experiments
with attempted suicide.
It was fifteen years ago and I found myself alone, very alone. I remember
playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall, as the last song “Goodbye
Cruel World” would be my anthem, before taking a knife and slicing my
wrists. This wasn’t the first time. However, it was the first attempt
that landed me in the hospital.
I remember sobbing in my room. Feelings of insecurity would cause me to cling
to anyone who would provide a little stability. My grandfather, the only positive
male role model in my life, had just passed away. My parents fought a lot,
and my dad’s job and nightly drink outings would lead to feelings of
insecurity. Often, my mother went out with friends, leaving me with a great
amount of time on my own to reflect.
I saw a world filled with fighting, hate, anger, deceit, death, and violence.
As an artist, I was often the target of high school football bullies. I was
popular at school, but somehow everything felt superficial and I felt very
alone and empty. I would read the Bible and would dream of going to the heaven
it describes — a place filled with God’s love and peace, a place
where everyone would get along. I remember begging God over and over again
to take my life and take me to heaven. Many stitches and psychological visits
later, I decided to ride the storm out and stop my attempts.
In an amazing transformation, Jesus appeared to me in a dream one night.
In the dream, I was sitting on the beach and he was walking on the water wearing
a wine colored robe with angels walking in front of him. He appeared to be
about seven stories tall. He looked directly at me and waved. His eyes pierced
me. I could feel his love penetrating into my soul and heart, flowing over
me like a wave. As our eyes connected, it was at that moment that I finally
understood the love of God. It was that instant that I realized that God had
a purpose for my life. Quickly, I bowed down to worship him, and in a split
second, the dream was gone and I found myself in bed, sobbing like a baby.
I thought my life was a mistake for many years. God doesn’t make mistakes.
He has a purpose for me. If no one else loved me, God still did. Jesus Christ
loved me so much that He even took the nails and accepted death on the cross
for me. Although He would use me in a variety of ministries to touch lives
in the many years to come (including directing a homeless ministry where Paul
was once homeless as a child), it wasn’t my talents or my work that
interested God. His interest was and is for me. He is interested in a relationship
with me. He blessed my life so much the years following my salvation. I had
no idea how wonderful things would be, and sadly, if my suicide attempts had
succeeded, I would have never known or experienced those blessings.
Jesus loves Paul too. God had a purpose for Paul’s life. Unfortunately,
Paul never found it. I wonder if anyone told Paul of God’s love, or
about salvation and grace? I came to realize that during those horrible lonely
times in my life, God was there, holding me in the dark. When my heart was
breaking, His was too. God’s heart is still breaking for Paul, and for
anyone else in His creation who thinks life isn’t worth living.
CBN Teaching Sheet: What
the Bible Says About Suicide
More perspectives on CBN.com.
More from Relevant Magazine
Matthew Eldridge is a husband, father, teacher, writer, musician, and poet.
He is also the producer of Rock-it Television.
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