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WLC Day #30

It's been a traumatic weekend at Parkside.

A teenager in our community decided to end his life a week ago in his own backyard. He decided that the pain of death was more welcome than the pain of depression. What had started out as a beautiful weekend day in February turned into a rainy, haunting, cold night.

I was called on to help take down the tree on Monday afternoon. A group of 5 men worked quickly without saying a word to one another as we hauled away limbs and branches from the enclosed backyard. And that is exactly what it was too--enclosed.

The moment I stepped past the chain link fence I felt the gravitas of the space come upon me. The naked trees closed in upon a tiny backyard, leaning over the fence line to make a small space feel smaller. The yard was still wrecked from the spiritual battle that had occurred just two short nights beforehand. The mixture of a budding tree with the pungent smell of chain oil and 2-cycle exhaust mingled together in the air, providing a multi-sensory experience that was sickeningly sweet.

A boarded-up window on the garage door echoed the trapped emotions that David must have felt in the months leading to his decision. A clogged drain in the driveway also was reminiscent of unattended relationships inside.

After we loaded up the wood into my truck, I drove the branches of the cursed tree to a dump site. There, they will scoop it away, mix it with manure and turn it into mulch. Mulch: a dead smelly thing that provides nutrition to the tree it surrounds.

No doubt this budding young tree was only weeks away from seeing those buds turn into beautiful flowers. But like the young man, it too, had its years cut short before the blossoming could begin.

This whole weekend has left my thoughts spinning with many emotions. The funeral on Friday evening was both gut-wrenching and life-giving. Many friends and family members shared fond memories of the humorous, intelligent young man they knew and loved. Yet the room was heavy with empathy for the grieving family and the boy's life that ended too short.

It reminded me of another funeral I attended a few years ago, not so different from this one. A high school boy had his life taken abruptly when his vehicle collided with a cement pylon at highway speeds.
"He had so much life left to live."
"His life was too short."
"How could God let this happen?"
...were all questions that echoed in the room that evening.

Yet, one of these funerals was fair, and the other...unfair.

Given the choice between which of the two accounts is worse (and in many cases, we posit worse as unfair), we would probably all agree that the suicide is more tragic. Yet, the suicide was fair. The accident was unfair.

In the case of the car accident, it was an unfair ending of life. The boy did not choose death, death chose him, and God allowed it, in some form or fashion. God allowed the unfair to occur. 

In the case of the suicide, it was a fair ending of life. The boy chose death, and death was given him, though it was not God's will or God's plan. God did not allow the fair to occur.

What does this tell us about God's ways? Even though both accounts ended tragically, we find less tragedy with the car accident than the suicide. Perhaps because we can't relate to critical depression. Perhaps because the reality of choice is a little unnerving.

Life does not always go according to plan. But when it does, sometimes it isn't all that great. Given the choice between living our lives as a democracy or living as a dictatorship in which God dictates what happens, the dictation is always a better story.

But David's story is not over, though his life on earth has ended. David lives on in memories made with friends and through original compositions of music he left behind.

The car accident struck grief into a community. David's story has brought about unity and a call to action. Students have stepped up in ways like never before to encourage one another and build each other up. To stop bullying and to be there for each other when someone needs an ear to listen. David's story has brought about hope in some people's lives where there was soon to be none. He has brought the darkness into the light. His sadness is bringing about other people's freedom.

If you need someone to share your struggles and shoulder your burden with you, just reach out. There is always someone waiting to listen.


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