Eating bullets in dark closets

I came across a commercial recently. I don’t remember what the commercial was for, but I do remember the premise was along the lines of trying to portray the idea that what we do and say, and how we treat others affects those around us, including people that we don’t necessarily mean to affect.

There was a husband and wife standing in the hallway fighting. The husband was raising his voice and the wife was doing the same. The wife stated something to about the husband being worthless and that he didn’t care about the family. As the argument continued, the camera pans down the hallway, into a child’s bedroom, and into the closet of the bedroom. In that closet a little blonde-hair girl sat quietly, obviously feeling trapped, saddened, and distraught.

It made me think of a time in my life when I felt trapped, saddened, and distraught. That time in my life came to its climax on New Years’ Day of 2012. In that moment of climax I was yelling at the top of my lungs right before I placed a Glock 9mm in my mouth with a round in the chamber. As I released the trigger safety and started to feel the trigger fall back as I squeezed, a fleeting thought crossed my erratic, illogical, and frantic mind.

I didn’t pull the trigger that day not because I wanted to live, but because I didn’t want my children to be without a father and for my mother to live with both of her children gone (my only brother passed away in 1993).

I share this in full vulnerability to make a greater point. I was scared, lost, sad, and didn’t think there was a way out of the anger, hate, depression… the darkness that I felt.

When I saw the commercial of the little girl hiding in her closet, I thought of that day. That is what I felt like. A sad child hiding in a closet, but in my closet the lights were off. Just darkness and sadness.

Why do I bring this up now? Because in the past month the Springfield news cycle has been plagued with two high profile situations of somebody committing suicide. Both times, my heart weighed heavy and I was horribly saddened.

The first involved the Missouri State Auditor, Tom Schweich. In a moment of what I can only imagine was horrible angst, he took his own life. It was a surprise to many, as it’s not often that a state office holder and also gubernatorial candidate takes his own life in what seems to be a spur of the moment decision.

Just weeks later, a father of two withstood an extended stand off with police before taking his own life at a South Side Springfield apartment complex. Inside, along with his body, authorities found the bodies of his two children, both younger than five years old.

When the two stories ran I recalled that dark and lonely feeling. It hurt to know that there are people here and now – today – that are in that situation. It’s a horrible feeling and I don’t wish it on anybody.

However, along with the hurt I had for those people there are some things that make me upset – angry even.

Sure, I can tell you about how I am upset with the news for running, day after day, the story of a father taking the life of his two children before ending his own. But that would go without saying. I think most of us are disgusted with the way the media operates in today’s world – making money off the horrible experiences people go through.

But I am more upset about the Schweich situation. Immediately following the suicide of the State Auditor, a blame game started. Apparently a Republican Official was “whispering” that Schweich was Jewish. Well, I’m here to tell you that I don’t buy this being the reason Tom took his own life regardless of what anyone says. It’s too simple, to begin with, and it’s also too illogical. You can’t tell me you buy that a guy who has run for state office and several other elected positions has that thin of skin, do you? I don’t.

Second, to have the media feed in to this frenzee, and to have members of the Republican party politicize Tom’s death with speeches against bullying, holding official votes of blame, and treating this like a game is – quite frankly – sickening. Until I hear from his wife that some name calling was his only problem, until I hear that he was not on depression medication or had depression, and until I am convinced that he had the full support of his fellow party members in calling out the name caller (which there is plenty of reason to believe he didn’t), I don’t want to hear a single word about who is to blame.

Dear media and politicians: Let the dead rest. Let their families mourn. Have some sympathy.

And in all reality, Tom is the only one to blame. So is the father at the apartment. They are the only ones to blame in their situations.

But, I don’t want to leave that blame statement unqualified. There is a qualification.

Everybody has a breaking point. Everybody. You do. I do. Some of us have come to it; some of us have survived. Some of us will never even come close to it.

But here is the thing: When we are facing the people we face every day, we need to realize that we have no idea what is going on in their head. This about how you treat the people you pass every day. A simple hello or smile or other friendly gesture might make somebody see a light in life they haven’t seen in a long time.

When you are mad and wish to point it at an individual, have empathy.

When you know of somebody who is having a hard time (divorce, death, etc.), be kind and be soft.

If we have a family member who is distant, instead of waiting for them to do something then blaming what they’ve done on “this or that”, be a friend and act how a loved one should act. Say something. Offer to help. LISTEN.

Be that person. Be good and do good to your fellow man.

If you are the one who is in that dark room, the room that is lonely and sad… talk. Talk to somebody. Say something. There is nothing good that can come out of staying in that dark room. You can leave, and you can change what is going on inside and be a better person for it. A stronger person. But you have to talk.

You can leave the dark closet, and it doesn’t have to be by eating a bullet.

(I know this is not my normal political pontificating, but I’m saddened to remember where I have been knowing that people are there right now. This has been heavy on my heart and I needed to get it out. Thanks for your attention.)

Use Words Only When Necessary

It was Sunday after church when I made my way to the rehabilitation center of the local hospital. My Bishop asked me and one other church member to visit an out-of-town church member who was a patient there after having lost a limb in a lake accident and was finishing his several weeks of in-patient therapy. We were charged with administering the Sacrament (Lord’s Supper) to “Mr. M” and his wife. While we were to perform this ordinance and service to these two church members, the honor became more humbling than I expected.

The fellow church member and I arrived while Mr. M. was still in his physical therapy, so the two of us stood outside of his room while waiting for him to return. We talked and got to know one another, as we hadn’t had the opportunity to do so in the past.

As we were talking we heard – in the distance – a jubilant voice greeting what sounded like friends. That jubilant voice was Mr. M. He was in the process of telling his friends he was happy to see them, but he had to first visit with the “two gentlemen who came from church.” 

As he made his way from down the hall to his room, he invited us in and introduced himself and his wife. It is minimizing the character of these two people to say they were beautiful. 

We administered the Sacrament by both praying over and passing the bread and water representing the sacrifice Jesus the Christ made for each of us and also the renewal of the commitment we have made to him through baptism. As we did so, I had an overwhelming feeling about the man and woman I was honored to share this moment with.

Here is a man who in a sudden and violent change of events lost his leg. His life has been forever altered in ways most anybody will never understand. Yet, his soul could not be hid; it was a shining city on a hill… a candle that couldn’t be hid. 

As he thanked us for taking time out of our Sunday afternoon to visit him and his wife, I felt an overwhelming burden to share my heart with him. 

To paraphrase my words: “Sir, I know we have never met and may never meet again, but being here with you has been humbling. You have experienced this extremely unfortunate event and life-altering experience; but you remain positive, of good cheer, and a beautiful example of someone who doesn’t let something like this take his heart away from goodness. You are an inspiration to me.” 

As I turned from him I saw his wife with tears in her eyes. Placing my eyes back on him, I listened to him tell me of how his family, friends, and our Heavenly Father have allowed him to remain positive. 

As we left I thought about just hours before, in church, somebody reiterated the quote, “Preach the Gospel wherever you may go. When necessary, use words.” Today, Mr. M. preached the Gospel to me, and words weren’t necessary.