My father killed himself last Saturday.
My mother took her own life by more direct means with an injection in June this year. My father having threatened to kill himself recently, ramped up his drinking until that killed him.
I have written almost nothing of my mother's suicide here, but now that my father has taken his own life too, I feel the freedom to write more publicly, and for my own catharses. I am aware I have several brothers from my fathers first family and his second, all facing their own struggles today.
It's strange that I have been engaged in an academic and pastoral discussion over at Church & Pomo this past week. Within that discussion has been the theme of not hiding from the cross, and 'dark nights' of the soul.
One question I asked myself as I looked at my mother on life support machines, was visceral, rising up from the deepest part of who I am, 'Jesus is your cross big enough for this?'
My childhood, was filled with abuse, violence, darkness, threats of suicide by my mother, and an absent father who abandoned me. I struggle to this day to inhabit one happy memory from adolescence. The one that shines most brightly was the day I left home at 17. For I was the co-dependent son, who sought to appease and make all well with my family. I'm sure there were happy times in there, and like precious stones in the mud, I catch glimpses of them, when I try to find them.
At 17 I encountered the cross, and my first steps into faith were painful, not about less pain. Taking my pain to the cross, not hiding who I was or what had happened, to the cross with others, was like being dragged naked to an emergency doctor, for critical and life saving care.
And throughout my adult life I have had to circle around the past. The past I carry with me in my body, literally, and go back to the cross, again. As my mother continued to destroy herself and all those relationships around her, my father went on to start and destroy another family, with his alcohol fuelled violence.
So I circled back to the cross this June with my mother's suicide, and I find myself, back to the cross today, asking again 'Jesus is your cross big enough for this'? And the more I come to His cross, with the darkest and most painful things that seem to have no end, I sense in the peripheral vision of my soul, that his arms on the cross are bigger, wider and stronger than anything that has befallen me.
Below is something I shared with friends, as I navigated the suicide of my mother. Strange that I am drawing strength from that journalling of my life so soon.
So I value your prayers, that this will not overwhelm me, that I might find the cross again in this and the comfort the Lord has for me. For I catch sight of and carry with me resurrection hope, in my own marriage, my children, my brothers, and the Church community locally and globally in which I feel known, carried and loved.
Thank you for the kind words, prayers and encouragements from you all. I treasure the things you have written to me this week.
Having recently taught about the 'violence of the Christian life', that messiah has become something rather more poignant for me. As I stood with my brothers looking at my mother, there seemed to be a surfeit of violence. The violence and damage she had caused to her own body, the desire of the medics for us to hasten the end to her life with the violence in the act of withdrawing life support, and then the remembrance of all the violence my mother had laid upon me physically and mentally over so many years.
In that moment my prayer was 'Lord is your cross big enough to accommodate all this violence'. And the answer seemed then as now, to be yes. I was able to let her go, love her and know she was finally at peace. Psalm 121 was my daily reading on the morning my Mother passed away. And the prayer of St John of the cross, has aided my prayer and reflections.
So thank you again friends, I hurt, but the cross is close and your love and kindness sustain me. Her funeral will take place Tuesday 5th July, at the Church she had only just recently started attending.