We did not think anything like this could happen in our family. We love our family too much. They love each other too much. We still don’t understand. For a while, we did not want to see or talk to anyone. Grieving takes time. Jamie’s mother sent us a copy of the funeral video, I (Grandpa Philip) just cannot watch it. I still can’t bear it. After Grandma watched it she look straight at me, pointed her finger and said, “If anything happens to Heidi, don’t tell me!”
Suicide. How repulsive! Before Jamie’s death, we thought someone who kills himself must be a coward or sick in the mind. Only a troubled person in need of attention with problem that needed to be solved—seeing no other way out or seeking escape could consider such an act. And now, we feel so sorry for a person (and his family) who ends his life… because he cannot seem to live it. Oh, those left behind— how deep the grief! Knowing we all ask the answerless questions, we wonder “What could we have done to help?” in hindsight.
We think of Job from Scripture. Oh, how he suffered! Losing his family, property and health, he cried out, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord gives; the Lord takes away. Blessed be His Name.” Yet, we continue to battle disappointment with God. Not anger. We know God does not make mistakes, but we struggle with the, almost, hopeless finality of suicide. We forget the sovereignty of God for moments; we don’t want to do that. So, we keep the Scriptures close. I (Grandpa Philip), though retired, still write sermons which keeps me thinking and praying and healing, I hope.
A natural death seems easier to accept as God’s timing. We lost one of our sons to an accident a few years before Jamie. While inspecting a roof of a commercial building, our son fell through a sky light and never regained consciousness. Oh, what pain we felt at his loss! However, he enjoyed full life with wonderful children and grandchildren. His loss was easier to accept than Jamie’s.
Knowledge and review of Scripture comforts us with peace, faithful assurance, and hope for eternal rest in heaven. This is denied to those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit and reject Jesus. All other sins are forgivable. Jamie broke one of the commandments by taking his own life, but he also had confessed Jesus as Lord. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” We believe the Lord when He says, “He who comes to me, I will not cast out.” (John 6:37)
Jamie’s life reflected that of a faithful servant. Even as a teenager, he volunteered in their church with children and the sound equipment. He was gentle, kind, and thoughtful of others. We could see his heart by the way he lived his life.
Yet, his mind was troubled. We speculate his choice to go on a retreat at Christian camp was an effort to settle some of his thinking. The torment must have been so heavy. We know we don’t understand what he faced. As time has past, picturing Jamie at peace… walking the streets of gold… free from that torment… does give us some comfort. We believe we will join him in a joyous reunion one day.
As time passes, we go from seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling our pain and misunderstandings to see how this kind of pain and loss can serve goodness as well. First, we are drawn to seek God even more in our confusion and hurt. We think harder about how we interact with others. And we are reminded to value and communicate that value to those we treasure.
I (Grandma Ruth) speak of Jamie often. Oh, how we miss that boy! Grandpa can only handle so much talk of Jamie, so I share with several people in our assisted living building. They are touched. Then they ask questions which leads into sharing Jesus in such a personal way. As Romans 8:28 says, “God is working all these things together for the good to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Pain and sorrow continue, but seeing the good restores our joy at the same time. Mysterious metamorphosis occurs during grieving. Our heart aches so much for our only remaining twin, Heidi. Her sorrow must be so severe because they were so close from birth. We wish we could take that pain away. But, we just can’t.
We try not to dwell on the manner of his death anymore as it conjures up so many unanswerable questions:
What could we have done differently?
Why was his pain so deep?
Why didn’t anyone see how much he was hurting?
Additionally, these thoughts seem to reopen the wound. I (Grandpa Philip) cry every time we speak of his death. I hate suicide! Not the person who dies, but the grief he leaves behind! I hate it! Some have said all this would get easier. As the years go by for us, the reality of Jamie’s absence is still so difficult. When Heidi got married, we thought Jamie should be standing up with Alex. Imagine what a marvelous man -husband, dad, pilot, doctor- he could have become. He had no idea his place in our family, in history, or his potential to better the world.
Oh, how we miss him! If we live to be 100 years old, we will never understand it! We just can’t. Simply, we choose to remember Jamie’s life and the joy he brought to our family.
We share our perspectives because we still love Jamie and miss him terribly. And we know we’re not the first family to face this, so we speak love and life into the silent places where the shadow of death has convinced the grieving they must sink in their deep sadness and remain silent because suicide is a shameful stain on a family. We believe it is a wrong choice with painful consequences, but we also believe God is bigger. He is Good. His Grace is Sufficient.
Philip: June 27, 1905 – January 26, 1999 Ruth: September 10, 1910 – April 6, 2003
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”
Job 1:21 ESV