I rented a car a few weeks ago, and it happened to be one I’d never heard of before–a Kia Soul. It served my purposes, reminded me of candy and I fondly called it the “little green jelly bean.”
I intended to whisk a loved one away for a mountain retreat. Unfortunately, those plans morphed into hospital stays (for him) because illness lingers and interferes and reminds us that life is a terminal condition.
Life is terminal. Do you hate knowing that, sometimes? Or do you prefer not to think about it?
During those two weeks, I had little choice. Unrelated but equally important events brought news of three deaths–two suicides and one medically-assisted.
I’m unsure which is more difficult–anticipating death or being profoundly affected by the unexpectedness of it.
As a Left-Behind, the gut-punching moment my dad said of my nephew, “he did it to himself,” remains fresh. My heart breaks for these families because they now have such a moment too. Even though it’s better now, the simple sound of kids on skateboards can take me back there.
I doubt that will ever change. Some ink is indelible.
For weeks I’ve been comparing these situations.
When the law changed in June, 2016 to allow medically-assisted death, my friend immediately applied. Her reasoning was sound, her desire clear, her long-standing situation unchanging. She prepared her loved ones the best she could. Her family and her faith supported her decision.
How can I not as well? Even so, I miss her, and wish that I hadn’t frittered away the time I was going to go visit her. Going to, but didn’t.
On my desk is a card she painted for me this winter. It’s one of my treasures, and is even more precious now. Her grace note reminds me to offer some to myself.
The second friend was incredibly helpful when my nephew died, because he himself was a Left-Behind. He understood the catastrophic grief we suffer. He’s experienced the unique agony inflicted on those who are left to make sense of it, to wonder at missed signs, to wrestle unanswerable questions. I know he had an intimate understanding of how the world would change for those who loved him.
It is therefore easy to fault him for what seems a selfish and cowardly decision, but I know–I KNOW–that’s too simplistic. Experiencing what he’d experienced, what hell must he have been in himself?
Today I’m looking at a photo calendar, an unexpected gift he’d made for many of us. I’d rather have him, to be honest. It’s taking effort to leave the calendar in place.
I lean the grace note against it. My hypocrisy mocks even as their art soothes, and it’s going to take some time to find the balance point again. Two painful illnesses, two intensely different types of pain, two people saying goodbye in the best ways they knew.
Is it the same? I struggle with this. Do you?
Both gifts get moved to the drawer, out of sight. Out of mind? Not a chance.
One of my wisest friends said, “I wonder if this new acceptance of how fragile people are mentally and emotionally means people feel somehow more empowered to make hard decisions. I wonder if openly acknowledging pain makes it too much to bear.
I wonder if the open acknowledgement means they can set down their burden, or perhaps like when we bought our car, we hadn’t seen them at all, but once we owned one, we saw them everywhere.
Clearly I don’t know. I just know that either suicide is becoming a more frequent choice, or I’m able to see and hear about it now in a different, more frequent way.”
Her comment about the car has me thinking about the little green jelly bean. I’d never paid attention to them before, but after renting one I’m noticing that Kia Souls are everywhere.
Human souls are too.
They need both nourishment and nurturing and we cannot lose sight of that, no matter what else is going on in the world.
Somehow we forget to hope more, and get caught in the mire of the hopeless. More than ever, we need to make the choices our souls can live with.
Live with–that’s the tricky part, for everyone’s sake.
“What you’re after is truth from the inside out…
Create a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”
from Psalm 51 (MSG)