What we cannot recognize, we oftentimes will not protect.~Taylor Brorby (From Boys And Oil)
It is four a.m. I cannot stop thinking about Charlie (not his real name). The last time I saw him was in July. I cut up his food. He'd recently had dental work and had a hard time chewing, his mouth and gums sore from oral surgery. I don't remember that he seemed unhappy. He laughed and joined in the lively conversation around the table at my daughter and son-in-law's home.
Charlie took his life last week, though. What happened? Or I wonder now what didn't happen for him? My daughter and son-in-law became friends with Charlie more than a decade ago. He lived with them for several months when he became paralyzed from the waist down. They played a significant role in supporting him on multiple levels, and Charlie was often at birthday parties and other events hosted in their home. He always seemed jolly and well-adjusted regarding the disability. He had merry eyes. I remember thinking when I saw him last, when we sat out back on the deck, that his eyes were like two blue crescents that glinted in the sunlight. I don't think I ever truly recognized him. Not really. I was just polite. I never asked him what his dreams were or what his days were like being homebound in a wheelchair. I feel guilty about that now.
Charlie told me that he had a prayer ministry. I did ask about that. He said that because it was hard to get out, he listened for sirens. "Whenever I hear sirens in the distance, I pray for all the people involved. The victims, the police, the EMTs. Everyone. It is something I can do." I can remember thinking how creative that was of Charlie. To do what he could.
Yesterday in church we sang a song that had a phrase, "the rhythm of weeping" in the lyrics. I thought of Charlie. That's how I felt about the suicide. There was a rhythm of weeping in my heart about the loss, that Charlie believed taking his life was the best option he had. Then the pastor talked of how we are all broken in some ways and that God is "interested in our brokenness," doesn't overlook it. And I thought how true that Jesus understands that part of us. That welcomes the fractured pieces of who we are in His mercy and love. His kindness and goodness. But I wish, how I wish that Charlie was still here. I would want him to enjoy food again with the enhanced dental work. I would want him to be able to experience a few more neon pink sunsets. I would want him to have the mental health resources and support he deserved. And I wish I could have a "do over" in my interactions with him. Recognize him. Hear about his dreams. Listen. See those merry eyes again.
If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 988. This new, shorter number is now active across the United States, making it easier for people to remember and access mental health crisis services. The previous number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to function indefinitely.