Thursday, February 24, 2011

Life Stories - John, son killed himself

Yesterday, I met an old acquaintance at the entrance to a convenient store whom I hadn't seen in a few years. He had retired a couple of years ago and I hadn't seen him since.

David Markham: Hi, John, good to see you! How you doing?

John: Well, okay, ........................actually not so good.

David Markham: Oh.....what's going on?

John: My son killed himself last June. He left his wife and three kids.

David Markham: Oh my god, that's awful.

John: It's been really bad. I don't know. It doesn't get any better, you know.

David Markham: Yeah, it's something you never get over. (People are going in and out of the store around us.)

John: Well, there's nothing you can do about it. You know.

David Markham: When my kids were killed, the bumper sticker "Shit happens" was very popular and over in Pittsford one day I saw a BMW that had a bumper sticker on it that said "Mega Shit Happens", and I wanted to follow the car and when it pulled over, talk to the driver, and find out where he got the bumper sticker so I could buy a thousand of them.

John: I know what you mean.

David Markham: You never get over something like this. It will be with you til the day you die, but you do learn how to manage it better.

John: I hope so.

David Markham: Good to see you. Give me a call if you want to get together.

John: I feel better. Thanks for listening.

David Markham: Hey, I know how it is. After a few months, it's old news and people don't want to hear about it any more and you're still stuck with it. I'm glad I saw you.

John: Thanks, see you.

David Markham: Take care

I met John on the way to work and I had only stopped for coffee to drink on my 22 mile drive. I wondered about life, its fragility, its tragedy, the suffering we all endure sooner or later. How is it that life seems so overwhelming some times that we choose death over life?

I wondered about my Unitarian Universalist faith and the third principle of acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. I started to feel annoyed with the tacked on clause "in our congregations". I think we are called upon to accept one another and encourage each other's spiritual growth every where not just in our congregations. I find that my "ministry" to others takes me way beyond our UU congregations. It takes me into the world.

John is not a member of my UU congregation and yet I accept him and his pain and I am drawn to stand in solidarity with him, and encourage him if possible. I wonder why, when the UU approved this principle, they stuck in that clause "in our congregations". It seems un UU to me. It expresses an exclusivity which I don't like so I drop it which I guess I would be encouraged to do based on fourth principle of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

One thing about life is that nothing is permanent and sooner or later, one way or another, come hell or high water, all our relationships will end no matter how important they are to us or how invested we are in them. Loosing a child, or a parent, or a spouse are three of the biggest losses we can experience. How does your UU faith help as a resource as you suffer through those losses?

When life looses all meaning and a person decides to end it, I feel a special sense of grief wishing I could have been there to encourage the person, that life could have been more understanding and supportive. Faith is like sitting around a campfire in the dark on a cold and windy night. When the fire goes out we left alone in the darkness. Our UU congregations need to be the campfires of life around which we sit to comfort, share, support, and love one another. With that kind of faith life becomes more bearable, more manageable, maybe even a joy.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear that your children were killed, David.

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