You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Psalm 139:14-15 The Message
Last week, I wrote about our vacation to San Diego and Coronado. But there’s just one more post to be made, and that’s regarding the San Diego-Coronado bridge.
We first saw it from the cab window after a long flight across the country. We were tired from our journey and frustrated that the only suitcase the airline managed to deliver was one containing winter parkas and heavy boots. Our first impression then was nothing more than how long the Coronado bridge is. It sweeps in a graceful curve almost 90 degrees from one end to the other. It takes more than two miles to accomplish it.
The second viewing was from the Old Town Trolly Tour streetcar, and truthfully I was very glad we weren’t driving that day. The bridge peeked out from heavy fog, fog that was clearly a familiar obstacle to our driver, who didn’t seem to slow down one little bit. We merged into the traffic blindly, I thought. Just when I started to truly fear we would crash, the bridge’s rise took us above the fog. I realized the driver knew that would happen. It was a flashback to the journey from the day before, when we flew through the clouds and rose above them. As the fog swirled around us, it was part ethereal, part frightening, part dreamy and romantic. All memorable.
That evening we were treated to a breath-taking view and I’ve chastised myself because it didn’t even occur to me to have my camera ready. We’d had a brilliant day, but it had been long and hot, and we had timed our return trip to Coronado beach for sunset. The last two had been outstanding. I was half asleep, I think. But the magic hour lighting painted the bridge beautifully, especially because of that 90 degree curve. The photo-in-my-mind has the light reflecting in watercolour swirls as we reached towards Coronado. Oranges and pinks bathed the bridge in exquisite fashion.
And in my mind it will have to stay, much to my chagrin. Even though I was ready for the photo the next two days when we rented a car for our zoo trips, we never timed it exactly right. I know the moment was there–but I haven’t the proof to show anyone.
I loved that bridge. Loved it. Notice the past tense? I loved it then. By the time we left, I was confused.
So what changed?
On our last day in Coronado, we went exploring and ended up on a bicycle trail that goes underneath the bridge. We walked along it, and just before we passed underneath, I looked up to admire the architecture of the curves and the supporting pillars.
But what caught my eye was a sign at the entrance–a large sign that we had no doubt passed every day and yet it hadn’t registered in my brain.
The words on the sign were “Suicide Counselling Service,” followed by a phone number.
I felt slapped.
I actually stopped, and pointed it out to my confused husband. “People died here, and people were left behind here,” I said.
What we’d seen in the expanse of concrete and steel was the engineer’s creativity, awash in the gentle colours of sunset. We saw hope, and dreams and promises and adventure on the other side.
But others have looked at exactly the same thing. What they saw was an incredible blackness, the absence of hope.
That’s what suicidal thinking is. It’s looking at the bridge in the fog, not being able to see the supporting structure, unable to wait for the sunlight that burns the fog away. It’s not being able to trust the driver. It’s feeling the fear of not being able to see where you stand. It’s the inability to wait for the time when it all makes sense again. It’s feeling alone and in pain, so much pain, that desperate moves to escape it start to make sense.
I hate that we need signs like that. But I wish they could say it’s not hopeless, in a language that everyone would understand.
If you’re in crisis, please reach out for help. Like the trolley car driver–there are people who can help you get through it.