Aging and Suicide

Today a release in the Albuquerque Journal Staff Wire headlined “Brother, Sister Die in Likely Murder-Suicide.” Police identified the victims as Kenneth and Shirley Robson, both of whom were in their 60’s. The brother was a caretaker for his sister and they lived in a mobile home. Police detectives speculate that either health or financial problems prompted the murder-suicide.

Perhaps their problems might have been spiritual. I wonder if loneliness and fear were the motivating factors. Our society is one that promises a “safety net”. But what is the safety net for despair? Did the brother in seeking help for his sister get handed a lot of forms with stern admonitions about qualifying for help. Was he met with hard faces at the agencies where he went for help? Did he belong to a church? Did the church look beneath the surface to see the despair? Or were they just overlooked by all these organizations of help as a an unnecessary impediment to their mission.

People over 80 have the highest rates of suicide in the country. Why? They are too often left alone to cope on insufficient incomes and illness without people who befriend them.

While there are many people genuinely trying to help people like the Robsons, I don’t think that government agencies or even churches are the best way for them to get help. Neighbor’s who look out for warning signs, who visit even though they have busy lives, who try to understand the neglected and desperate are the foundation of help. It is so easy to turn a blind eye to the desperate.

How often when I have tried to help someone who seemed needy have I been rebuffed or perhaps my help was abused; the need was feigned. As a consequence I have found myself looking away from problems and letting myself grow cynical. When I do this I miss the chance to help someone genuinely in need that God is calling me to help. I am sure that what I have done is a terrible thing in th<a
Let's look around us and notice those in need. Those who aren't visited, who remain alone day after day and remember what our Lord said about helping our neighbor and the widow and the orphan. Let's not wait for the agency to step in but get them the help they need.

Please let me know what you think about the Robson's. It may be that nothing could have been done. Yet again something might have been done and wasn't. God forgive us if that is true.

Waiting at the Closed Door

Finally the door is opening. The Whisperer hasn’t been heard from in four days. Maybe because I’ve faced the closed-door in my life and made some difficult decisions.

On Friday I decided to move from Albuquerque to Santa Fé. This was unthinkable before because by moving I am leaving my husband behind, or at least our last years together before his suicide.

It’s strange but this town has never felt right. It isn’t a fit for me and I don’t know why. I suspect it has to do with all I suffered here.

I feel friendless although I do have what I would call practical friends. Those who share a meal with me at a restaurant, those I see at church or even those I exchange birthday cards with. But I haven’t met anyone in Albuquerque who shares their life with me. Perhaps the best way to characterize Albuquerque is that it is an antiseptic that may have been good for my wounds.

This morning, Sunday, I went to Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Santa Fé. I used to tell my therapist when I lost my faith that I missed God and I missed liturgy. When I received my faith back, I got God back. Today I got liturgy back. With it, I prayed with all my senses as well as with my mind and my soul. It was glorious and exhausting. I guess it was a return to the very thing that brought me to Christ.

The Orthodox church this Sunday commemorates the women who came to the tomb carrying myrrh to anoint Jesus’ body. The priest said the women were the first apostles. I like that. He pointed out that timing was everything. Had they come to the tomb sooner the stone would have still been in place. Instead they waited and when they came the stone was rolled back and they were the first to know that Christ was no longer in the tomb. The priest said that to wait for a closed-door to open or in the women’s case, a huge rock to be rolled back is not a vacant activity devoid of meaning. It is a time of active waiting and often yes, a time of suffering. But if we don’t wait for God’s time then we may miss the resurrection.

All of this makes me think of the trial of Job. Fr. Pat Reardon says that Job didn’t know that God was trying him. His friends said that because God was just then Job’s punishment was for sin he wouldn’t admit. Job knew he had not sinned. However, God knew, Satan knew and the Bible reader knows that Job’s suffering was a trial that gave God glory in light of Satan’s taunts. That Job suffered because God allowed it. The odd thing is that God never told Job why he suffered. But it was enough for Job to understand how great God is. He understood that his questions needed no answer in light of who God is.

Now that is an example I would like to follow.

Why Would Jesus Need to Die for Me?

This post is a bit off topic but not really.

Yesterday evening, Ryan, a young man I met about a year ago stopped by my place to help me with a computer problem. Both of us being tired just sat there after he fixed the problem and talked. We talked about my belief in Christ. Ryan told me that he had heard a young man on the radio say just what he was thinking. “Why would Jesus need to die for me. Why isn’t my saying I’m sorry enough?” As I groped for an answer. I thought of Ryan’s two-year old son whom we had just been discussing.

I then hypothesized, “Suppose your son was grown and he looked you in the eye and told you he was going to betray his country and nothing you could say would stop him. Then suppose the result of the betrayal was that a million people including everyone you love died an agonizing death.

How could your son ever get right with you again? The size of what he had done would be insurmountable. You would want to forgive him but could you when things weren’t set right. Yet how could your son ever set it right? No matter how repentant he was. No matter how much you loved him. The enormity of the betrayal would still be there. All those people would still be dead.”

We then talked about the meaning of going against the infinite God and how we choose to do it every day. I explained that even a small offence against God is infinite not because of our nature but because of the nature of the one we are offending. While in my example the son’s offence was not infinite the consequences of the sin were so large that no human could deal with it. I then said that because God is infinitely good the smallest offence against his will is infinite. We simply are not able on our own to cross the breach between us and God.

That is why our gracious God gave us his Son to breach that gap. The whole Old Testament is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the One who finally made mankind right with his creator. Only the death of God himself could pay the price of our sin.

Ryan said that for the first time he understood why Jesus was crucified. He said he wanted to talk about the resurrection next. God help me! After he left I sat there and wondered about the inadequacy of my explanation.

I would love your comments and suggestions. I would like to do better next time.

All I Did Was Ask for a Prescription

Yesterday I once again entered the Kafkaesque medical world. After going to a nurse practitioner at my doctor’s office and to the grocery store I returned home to find two cop cars in front of my house.

I parked and went up to the police and yes they had an order to take me to the hospital for evaluation of being at risk of suicide. They allowed me to put some things in the frig and I called a neighbor to ask her to board my dogs.

The police took me to the hospital in the back seat of the cop car. My neighbors were gawking, and I, of course, was totally humiliated. Once at the hospital they told me to strip naked and put on a hospital gown with no shoes, no phone and no glasses. Next they put me in a room on the psych ward with no door and I then waited 20 hours before being evaluated.

It all started at my Monday morning appointment to see a nurse practitioner about another problem. I had decided to bring up the problem of depression after my episode on Sunday. Previously I have been reluctant to take yet another antidepressant since they have so many side effects. I explained the problem of depression to the nurse and she asked if I had thoughts of suicide.

I carefully answered that yes, I had thoughts of suicide, but I had no intention of taking my life. On the contrary I told her of my dedication to not doing so. I even told her about my blog. She was not impressed.

While I was speaking the nurse was typing every word I said verbatim into her online computer. She continued asking questions that were almost accusatory.

I was becoming extremely uneasy with her typing. It wasn’t a normal health care visit, it was more like she was taking my deposition. She didn’t meet my eye, she just asked questions and typed. Finally I asked her why; she said that’s the way she did it. I asked her to stop and she said no.

I told her that I thought my visit with her was a mistake and that I was leaving because I did not want every word I said available to the entire health system and any other person who gained access to it. My very own Nurse Ratchat asked if I was coming back and I said no, not to her.

The good part of my incarceration was that I prayed for most of the 20 hours I was there and regained my composure. Finally the counselor interviewed me and agreed that I wasn’t suicidal and had not needed an evaluation. After about an hour and a half they released me and I gladly walked the three miles home in the hot Albuquerque sun.

The first thing I did when I got home was call my health care provider and tell them to give me a new primary care physician. They asked me who I wanted and told them I didn’t care just so I got rid of the one I had.

The Whisperer is Back

Today I was going to talk about aging and suicide but the Whisperer is back and I need to talk about that. He’s got my number. He’s telling me that because no one has the answer of how to help me they don’t care.

While I have a couple of Job’s friend types in my life, most of the people I talk to don’t even know what I am going through. The ones who do, they care. I could call a couple of people now and they would try to help. But they just can’t. Frankly I don’t want to ruin their day by saying what I have already said repeatedly. They pray for me and that is really the only thing that can help.

The gut churning confusion prevents me from praying eloquently. Mostly my prayer is to ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me. God reads my blog long before I write it so he knows what’s going on. I guess today my blog is my prayer. Dear God, I am not asking you why, I know this is a trial. I know that you intend to carry out something with me, though I don’t know what that is. I know that if you made it easier for me, you wouldn’t achieve your goal. It just has to feel this way because that is what changes me.

You who follow my blog strengthen me with your words and with your prayers and I know you will do that when you read this. Many of you have a Whisperer as well and you are fighting the same fight. I pray that my trial will strengthen you and make yours easier. God bless you my friends.

Give me strength Lord to bear it.

The Kindness of Strangers

Often I am aware of how alone I am. I have no family and my friends are the practical kind, we sometimes do things together.

I made arrangements for my own funeral and body disposal since there is no one to do it when the time comes. I carry a device which allows me to call for help if an emergency arises no matter where I am. I depend on the kindness of strangers in an emergency.

My worst fears are living in a public nursing home, left in my mess to lie for hours while unfeeling staffers ignore me knowing I can’t cry out. That I have no one to help me. So many have passed the end of their lives this way. A final suffering of indignity. To be utterly unwanted and unnoticed. Their passing just a blip on the surface of time.

Yet I know a couple who have a son who cannot see or walk or talk but he can and does smile. He is in his thirties and knows he is loved. The mother’s life revolves around her son. I have never discussed it with the couple but I’ll bet they have made every arrangement to have him looked after when they no longer can. But I am sure they must fear for him.

One person in a loving couple can probably depend on the care of the surviving spouse. But that spouse may have indifferent children or none at all and face the same fears I do.

Suicide is a solution. Surely Job thought about it as he sat on the ash heap with only uncaring friends and a wife who wished him to die. Why didn’t he do it? God wasn’t there for him as he had been in the past. He wasn’t answering Job’s questions about why this was happening. His friends were telling him it was his fault because he sinned. They told him God would never had done this if Job hadn’t sinned. Yet Job knew himself to be innocent.

People speak of the patience of Job yet what choice did he have? The one thing he knew was that God had loved him in the past. I think he was sure that contrary to what he was experiencing God’s nature had not changed. That there was something in the situation he didn’t understand. And he sure did ask. But God remained silent.

We know what Job didn’t know. That God was allowing the Devil to tempt him to prove that Job was a truly good man who loved God. But God never did explain this to Job. He asked him “Where were you when I created the earth?’ Job 38:4. He then asked him the same question about God’s creation of the heavens and all the creatures of the earth. God pointed to his creation and his power. Finally Job understood just how small he was in comparison to God and he said:

“You said, ‘Listen now and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me’
My ears had heard of you,
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:4-6

Did he repent for a sin he just remembered. No. He repented for not recognizing God’s absolute power over his creation.

So it seems that my only recourse in my fear is to remember Job and endure just as he did because I know that God is good. Also I pray for kindness of strangers.

Friends, write to me and I will pray for you and ask your prayers for me.

Finding God in Solitude

As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” Luke 5:16.

The best and most effective way to handle depression and suicidal thought for me is to go hiking alone in the mountains. The very act of hiking is prayer without words. I am released from myself and the steps I take, the fatigue, the sweat all become part of my prayer.

Contemplation is meditation on God. What St. John of the Cross called the silent music. The joy of the presense of God, of silent companionship and unknown communion with the One.

To hike is to delight in the Creator and his creation; to be cleansed. Today I go hiking in the Sandia mountains and like Job I think I will have little to say to the magnicence of the Creator other than, I am unworthy.

I will bring my silent prayers for each of you with me. May you be blessed as well as me.