"It could happen to anyone." That's the phrase a friend, not even a friend, someone I didn't know, but later became a friend, said to me when I met with him. He told me he'd been to my son's memorial service even though he didn't know me and that when it was over he went home and told his wife, "you know, that could happen to anyone." The comfort that statement brought me at the time and since has been immeasurable because it was another human being confirming what I knew in my heart. On the day, I found out that my son had died by suicide I had cried out, "This doesn't happen to families like ours." Yet here we are - people of faith, with a teaching and psychology background and it did happen to our family.
I didn't notice the signs of mental illness in my own son. I didn't get him any help and he took his own life. Faith, mental illness and suicide- a very rare combination, but nevertheless it exists. One can feel so very alone when these three factors combine. I know people of faith and the issues they struggle with, how they handle life's difficulties, pain, illness, divorce- all kinds of things. I know people who deal with mental illness, either in their family or personally; maybe they aren't of faith or maybe they are. And I know people who are acquainted with suicide in their families; maybe they didn't have any real known mental illness, maybe life circumstances just became unbearable and they caved in. But all three - a person of faith dealing with mental illness and suicide; our Bible doesn't have a verse for that per se. There aren't big support groups for that in your local church or synagogue.
So I'm here, as a small, tiny insignificant voice, like the little speck of dust, in Horton Hears a Who, saying, "We are here. We are here. We are here." We must combine our little voices to provide a strength, a support, an ability to grope through the uncertainty, the unknowingness. We must support; we must share. We must hold; we must hug. We must console; we must be there for one another. There are so many pains and sufferings in this world. Yet when we bore our children, when we dedicated them to the Lord - suicide via mental illness was not a future we foresaw.
In the church so much more comfort goes to the other types of bereaved- so many more people are willing to let their stories be told and heard whose children and loved ones died from a painful illness, disease or in an unexpected tragic accident. But suicide? Well, they must not have prayed enough. They must not have read their Bible. Their parents must have raised them wrong. They must have been cowards. They must have been rebels or drug addicts, but my son was none of these. Our family, while horribly imperfect, represents none of those stereotypes and yet God allowed this tragedy in our lives. Forgive me if I say that some days I would rather Kenny had been killed in a head on car accident. At least then, I'd know that he wanted to live; at least then I'd know that the time he was living was not filled with so much darkness and pain.
That is what I grieve so much. I have to grieve his absence, like other mothers who grieve their children's death. I have to grieve missing him day after day. But I have a grief on top of that; I am twice grieved. I have to grieve that he lived in a mind that once was so caring, so kind, so loving, so intelligent, so willing and yet, tortured by mania and depression simply due to certain misfiring chemicals through no fault of his own. My son ate healthy, my son exercised until the day he died. He was in such good physical shape as if to compensate for his poor brain shape. He didn't do a drug a day in his life. He wasn't addicted to sex. He didn't play around. He just loved. Why? Why afflict someone who is so capable of bringing such light and love into the world? But of course, there is no answer. But it happens. It happened.
Now my job is to help- is to be there- is to stand and raise my voice with the others and to hear the cries of a faith person who has lost a loved one to suicide due to mental illness. I will be your Horton. I will hear your tiny "Who" voice. You are somebody and you are not alone. You are heard, even in small numbers and I will be there with you because, just like me, you know, that this could happen to anyone.