It was late in the afternoon when I felt that strange sickening sensation invade my senses. I didn’t pay much attention to it as I hung up the phone. My mother had sounded peculiar as we spoke, but I didn’t push her for any explanations. Mum was always going through something in her life. I was used to it after 19 years of strange behavior. There was however, one glaring different about this conversation that I COULD put my finger on. She asked me if I loved her. I laughed at the ridiculous nature of her question and replied, “OF COURSE I LOVE YOU”. Then she said to me, “You know I love you don’t you?” Again I giggled at the silliness of the conversation and said “Of course! Where’s all this coming from?”. Her voice sounded a little odd but she managed to steer me off course with some excuse about being tired and for me not to worry. So we finished our conversation and I carried on with my day, but I couldn’t get rid of this persistent niggling feeling that something wasn’t right and so I dialled her number determined to find out what was wrong. I got the answering machine. At 3am the next morning my family came to deliver the bad news. My instincts had been right. There was something wrong. Something terribly wrong. But nothing would prepare me for what I was about to be told. “Rebecca, Kathy’s dead. I’m so sorry darling. She’s gone.” My grandmother broke down as I stared dumbfounded at my family all standing around me with broken expressions on their face. I knew in my heart that what I was hearing was serious but I couldn’t swallow the words. I knew from the moment I woke that Mum was no longer with me. Or should I say, my spirit knew, but my mind could not even begin to conceive. “What…..What do you mean? How….?” “I’m sorry Rebecca, your Mum took her own life. She committed suicide”. At that point my legs gave way. Thankfully the couch broke my fall as I sat there shaking my head while tears erupted all around me. My face remained stone cold and dry. All I could think of was that damn answering machine.
I decided to share that small part of my story because it reveals another side to the subject of suicide: The story behind suicide. The reality that accompanies it. The truth is, behind every suicide there are real people left drowning in the aftermath. Real lives that are forever changed and often destroyed. Unfortunately this is a reality not many people can fully understand. But this encouragement is not really for the people who don't have a clue, its for the ones who know exactly what I'm talking about. So if that's you......keep reading...
Who was this woman and why did she decide death was the only answer? That woman was my mother, a wonderful, passionate, life-loving woman who had 39 years worth of problems that in the end, suffocated her will to live. In her defence, those problems weren't minor. If I were to summarise, it would look something like this; rebellious childhood, promiscuous early years, molested at a young age, solo motherhood, institutionalised in a mental hospital, physically abused, cheated on (many times), countless partners, her only son was taken and hidden from her, inability to have more children, hysterectomy at a young age, raped, raped again, then gang raped by a rugby team, married a man who sexually abused her only daughter for 7 years (that would be me - and yet again another story), run out of town by the entire town, permanently injured and unable to work, poverty stricken.....actually the list just keeps going on and on. On top of all that she suffered from undiagnosed bi-polar disorder. What tipped her over the edge? Another failed relationship on top of dozens of others. So yes, she had quite a hard life, that much is clear. And whatever she went through, to some degree I went through too. We were a team, albeit a dysfunctional one. At the end of the day she was my everything. My entire life. I didn't tell you all this to make you feel sorry for us, or to encourage any kind of internal justification for what she did. At the end of the day my mother had a choice just like the rest of us, and she made her choice.
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There is an old saying that “Time heals” - but I don't believe it's as simple as that. Enough time can go by and the pain may become less intense, but the root of your pain will always exist. Time can be a tool that if used in the right hands, can help the healing process.
Just me and the Pohutakawa Tree
Just recently I was challenged on the anniversary of my mother’s death to go and visit her resting place. I knew God was trying to get something through to me that day but my infamous mind blocking techniques were in full swing. It wasn’t exactly the greatest weather to go visiting ironically enough! Infact it was the most intense storm I had ever witnessed. I made my way up to the edge of the cliff face where she rested, gathered my hood up around my face, clutched my clothes firmly to my body, and sat stubbornly down beside her in complete defiance. I somehow got the feeling that it was personal, that the weather was so dreadful just on account of me being there. My resolve strengthened as I whispered to the ground, “Well Mum at least I’m here”. At that moment I felt the Holy Spirit prompting my thoughts. I started to feel like the unforgiving weather was a symbol. I heard the spirit say quietly “You must do this, it is time”. It was so hard to consider what needed to be done, let alone activate it. But I knew this was one choice I was going to get right! And so I sat with my head lifted to the angry clouds and I spoke just as quietly; “I forgive you mum, and I am sorry for all the hurtful angry things I have said about you over the last few years. I hope you can forgive me to.”
There is a reason why the word of God clearly tells us to honor our fathers and mothers – minus any conditions attached. It may not be easy for some, but God requires it of us. We don't have to agree with what they have done or how they may have treated us. Honour and Forgiveness are principles that bring YOU into a position of freedom. Its not a fluffy feel good exercise, although this can be a bi-product of activating truth. What it does is open the channels between you and God, so He can ultimately teach you how to become more like Him.
As I found out that day, forgiveness can produce any number of Godly encounters. At that exact moment the wind died completely and the black rain clouds seemed to disappear over the horizon in a matter of seconds. It was like something out of a movie....surreal and completely unrealistic. And yet there I was...real as I am today. I lay down under the Pohutakawa tree and felt the ugly weight of anger and resentment dissolve for the first time in many years. I didn't even realise how much I was holding on to. But the heavens did! The sky was vivid blue and there wasn't a sound to be heard. I lay there immobilised....struck by awe. Peace reigned in that place and I will never forget that gift. Thank God for forgiveness...it was the thing that saved you, and is the thing that continues to save you!
I remember the first time God planted the seed of freedom in my heart. I had gone down to the valley where Mum had taken her life, and while sitting there, I began to have the most intense debate with God about what I perceived as being; "the absolute impossibility of appreciating life”. I wouldn't classify myself as a Christian back then, simply because I was still so confused about EVERYTHING. But nevertheless, God and I had some interesting discussions during these times. I believed in Him, I loved Him enough to be obedient to His voice. But I was just a hurt little rebellious girl, whose life was in tatters. It was a time in my life where I would literally plead with Him to let me go....to let me come home, and although I knew what He was saying, I could not for the life of me, understand it. I would hear Him stating rather matter of factly, that appreciation was required in order for me to make sense of things. I left that place with a God gifted answer, painstakingly bubble wrapped with divine sticky tape.
What He did for me that day was nothing short of a miracle. The holy spirit led me by the heart strings up a hill on the other side of the valley, onto a plateau that presented life’s beauty so exquisitely it literally took my breath away. I was surrounded by lush green pasture as far as the eye could see, overlooking the sparkling crystal waters of Lake T, with magnificent cliffs rising from the waters edge high into the vivid blue sky. It was like looking upon heaven itself – a picture perfect snap shot of Gods creation in all its raw beauty. And I heard a voice;
“All this…I made for you”.
Father, forgive me for being so unappreciative of your wondrous works, and thank you for opening my blind eyes. Regardless of what we may be experiencing in our own little worlds, let’s not ever forget to just look around us and be thankful for the bigger picture. We can start by appreciating this beautiful world that God has given us!
(Thoughts from a victims perspective).
The concept of choice is not complicated. "People" make it complicated.
The truth is it’s really quite simple: My mother had a life and with it was given choice. I have a life and with it I have also been given choice. My mother chose to take her own life, and unfortunately that had some pretty massive implications for me. As a child, I was at the mercy of her decisions. But the moment I became an adult, two things happened:
1. I had to take responsibility for my own choices, and
2. She became fully free to do with her life as she wished.
What she did with her own life from that point onward was not my responsibility, and it certainly was not my choice - although it did still impact and influence me greatly.
The thing about choice is that it never just affects you. Your choices will ALWAYS impact on others, one way or another. You will never really know just how much you influence the future by the choices you make today.
Even though God gave us each the gift of choice, it was never designed to be an isolated experience. Whatever road we choose is the one we must walk - and it is never alone. This is especially true when it comes to suicide. The people left behind drown in guilt and are left with the burden of YOUR choice. They're not even around to walk it out with you, which is why some people believe suicide is a painful act of cowardice. Cowardly AND contagious. I have personally reserved judgement, as I intimately understand how someone can be brought to that point. But what I do know is that Suicide has a contagious spirit that hooks into the torn pieces of peoples lives and infects them with hopelessness. And that is why suicide is like an avalanche. The fallout grows with each life destroyed by the consequence of one person's choice.
This is where peoples perspective of choice is lost. The lines get blurred and people start functioning in victim mode.
BUT the truth remains the same regardless of how blurry those lines seem. The truth will always be: Everyone has a choice. And the choices other people make are not our burdens to bear. We may have suffered at the hand of someone else's choices, but even so - we can still choose to rise above. That is the gift. It is the gift I received when my mother chose a path that could have destroyed my life. I particularly like Floyd McClung’s insight into this train of thought;
“Your heavenly Father was there when you first walked as a child. He was there through hurts and disappointments. He is present now at this moment. You were briefly loaned to human parents who, for a few years, were supposed to have showered you with love like His love. The love and security of a good home and family were intended by God to prepare you for his love. If our parents failed us then we must recognise that fact, forgive them, and go on to open our hearts to God’s love.”
Suicide is the most destructive act of human selfishness - in my opinion anyway. That’s not just because I have been through it, and are in some way advocating for its hierarchical position in “trauma-ville”. But because of all the ways to die, it is possibly the most offensive to our Creator. Life may be hard, but it’s still a gift – one that should be treasured and honored as such. When God decides He wants you to come home, then that’s that. But when a human takes that decision into their own hands; it’s like playing God. If my Mum chose to violate the greatest gift we as humans are given, then just imagine how the gift-giver feels. God never stopped being her Father and it would have broken his heart to see his child do that to herself. I don't say these things to be uncaring or insensitive, especially to those who are struggling with this right now. My heart still twists and aches when I think of what my Mum would have been going through in those final moments. I understand the level of pain she was in, and I know intimately how difficult it is to come out of those depths. My writings on Depression may help you see this. But as the old saying goes...The truth does indeed hurt and my heart also goes out to those who are often forgotten - those who are left behind.
Do I think God understands why His children take their own lives? Of course He understands. He has a father’s heart, and knows exactly what we face on this earth. He even has a record of our tears!
But just because He understands it, doesn't mean He accepts it......
Which begs the next question: Does God forgive those who take their own life? I've thought a lot about this over the years and I honestly cannot answer that on His behalf. What I do know is that God continuously forgave our stupidity even before He sent His one and only son to die for US. He is quite simply amazing! He has the biggest, most forgiving heart - especially for US. Mother included.
“I’m sorry Rebecca, your Mum took her own life. She committed suicide”. At that point my legs gave way. Thankfully the couch broke my fall as I sat there shaking my head while tears erupted all around me. My face remained stone cold and dry. All I could think of was that damn answering machine."
"There is a reason why the word of God clearly tells us to honor our fathers and mothers – minus any conditions attached. It may not be easy but God requires it of us. We don't have to agree with what they have done or how they may have treated us. Honour and Forgiveness are principles that bring YOU into a position of freedom. Its not a fluffy feel good exercise, although this can be a bi-product of activating truth."
"I would hear Him stating rather matter of factly, that appreciation was required in order for me to make sense of things. I left that place with a God gifted answer, painstakingly bubble wrapped with divine sticky tape, so that no attack could possibly harm my new found revelation."