A message in this morning’s Inbox caught my eye. (The email is actually dated yesterday, but I hadn’t read it until today.) I didn’t immediately recognize the author’s name, but the title, Stop Sending Cheery Christmas Cards, definitely piqued my interest. I clicked the link. ￼ The post is written by Kay Warren, wife of evangelical pastor Rick Warren, author of (among others) the 2002 book The Purpose-Driven Life. In April 2013, their family was rocked by the suicide of their youngest son Matthew, age 27. The young man struggled with mental illness.
There’s a town in Arkansas called Hope, the town from which both former President Bill Clinton and former Governor Mike Huckabee hail. Like many towns in Arkansas, Hope’s a small town, intersected by Interstate 30 and within easy reach of Texarkana and the Texas/Arkansas line. It’s home to the annual Watermelon Festival.
With his characteristically folksy manner, Clinton coined (and often used) the phrase, I still believe in a place called Hope. This nostalgic tip-of-the-hat reference to his home town endeared him to many Arkansans long after he’d left the state. In that phrase, he wasn’t just honoring his roots (though he was doing that) but he also intended to evoke a heartwarming image of dreams and vision, the essence of what we understand about hope (small H). Continue reading “A Placed Called Hope”→
Let me repeat. Suicide.Is.Never.Noble. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever!
The individual may be a supposedly devout Muslim and ardent follower of the radical Al-Qaeda who is perversely motivated by the promise of 72 virgins for dying a so-called martyr’s death.
Or the individual may be a celebrated comic, actor and all-around good guy as Robin Williams appears to have been.
Whatever the person’s status, religious conviction or seemingly hopeless conditions might be, not one of these reasons (in my view) justifies self-murder. And I say it again for emphasis: No death by suicide should be considered a noble act … ever!
Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. I’ve posted about suicide before (here, here, here, among others). My thoughts on the subject should be clear to anyone who reads those posts. Most people who know me would probably agree I’m compassionate and have a deep well of empathy. But I’m also acutely pragmatic. Continue reading “Goodbye, Peter Pan”→
From the first time I heard the euphemistic term Death with Dignity, I thought it surely had to be a joke. This laughable term describes one’s desire to ease into death, much as one might slip into bed one night … and never wake again. The principle adherents of the death-with-dignity mentality are usually individuals who’ve received a terminal diagnosis. Some supporters are hoping to avoid the high costs of dying while others hope to minimize the pain associated with extended illnesses or others just prefer to pull the trigger (so to speak) at a time of their choosing.
I’ve always argued the notion of death with dignity is absurd. First and foremost, we’ve all been given a terminal diagnosis; the day each of us was born, we were born with the exact same destiny: death. Is that harsh? Regrettably, it’s true. Continue reading “Help to Live”→
It’s almost impossible for me to comprehend the insane grief a family experiences when one of their members suddenly dies. When that death comes through suicide or homicide, the agony is no doubt compounded many times over. (Thankfully, sudden deaths have been rare in my family.) Two stories from today’s news provide a glimpse into bewildering family tragedies that might have been prevented.
Most people who ordinarily pay attention to the news are aware of the decision today to move forward on a $76 million funding package to wrap the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge in a suicide prevention net. Hoping to stanch the bleeding (figuratively) − after some 1600 people have leapt to their deaths since the bridge opened more than 75 years ago − the people of San Francisco believe a wide net will dissuade further suicides. While the work won’t be completed until 2018, proponents of the barrier believe people will stop jumping.
As with almost any issue, there are opponents of the project who argue the barrier will detract from the beauty of this amazing structure. One commenter noted this is “spend[ing] money on forcing people to be alive.” Another observes “A safety net … won’t prevent someone from taking too many pills or stepping in front of a train.” Indeed, a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge-way won’t eliminate all suicides.
I mentioned two stories from today’s news. The second involves a 22-month-old toddler who died after being left buckled into his car seat for seven or eight hours while his daddy worked. (The toddler’s death actually occurred last week.) The child’s father has been charged with murder but people who know this family have expressed their incredulity that the father has been blamed for the toddler’s death. (The facts, of course, have yet to be adjudicated, and the man should be presumed innocent.) Continue reading “Bridge To Nowhere”→
It should go without saying, but I’ll emphasize the point here: poems (and stories) don’t spring out of thin air, but the poet doesn’t necessarily speak (via a poem) from personal experience. In my creative process, poems generate from somewhere deep within my psyche and they reflect my observations as well as an internal dialogue in which I engage. Often, I’m writing about situations I’ve witnessed secondhand. When my brain reacts, my heart frequently empathizes. Even when I’m just a bystander, events can have a forceful effect on me.
Such was the case when I wrote the following sonnet. The poem (written in the early 80s) practically wrote itself. It was at a time when several people close to me were going through divorce. I was stunned to realize the impact of divorce isn’t just felt by the couple and their offspring.
The poem was published in the annual publication of Poems by Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas 1984 and won third place in the annual contest sponsored for this publication. Following the book’s publication, one of my dear friends (also a poet) called on me, greatly concerned to know if “everything is okay.” She thought the poem was too real. Was this a cry for help? she wondered.
Of course, it’s great to have such good friends and I would hope anyone in desperate need has a friend, like mine, willing to ask the important, life-affirming questions. [And God forbid, please don’t construe from this sonnet that I condone suicide! As long as there is life, there’s HOPE!]
This isn’t a poem you enjoy, but neither is the death of a marriage. Your comments are always welcome.