An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
As many of you by now know, my ex-brother-in-law took his own life last week. I had not seen him for at least a couple of years but a few times I had tried to contact him by email and received no response. We had been quite close, and in fact he had been my best man at my wedding and for many years afterward we would often be found spending weekends together at one or the others homes working on some project. We shared an almost identical sense of humor and that added a great deal to my many fond memories.
However, the reality of what happened last Thursday is haunting me a bit. How does someone with whom we had so much joyful fun, end up in such despair that they can only see one very awful way out? Friends and family are left to wonder - perhaps forever - if there could have been something they could do differently. Or knowing details we ponder seemingly absurd ways in which his plans could have even been accidentally thwarted and thus afforded some more time for something or someone to see that it would never happen. Really, for those who were in direct contact with him at the time, I cannot imagine the emotional scars this leaves. They have my prayers.
As for me I am trying to focus my emotions and fashion them into something positive and right now that amounts to an absolute disdain of death and the enemy of God. I curse him who (and it that) restrained my friend and lured him into the pit of despair. I curse whatever physical/mental issues that contributed and are no less ultimately authored by death, sin and the devil. And I will make use of that disdain in two ways: 1) I will rededicate my life all the more to Christ and His Church wherein LIFE and LIGHT and JOY and LOVE are to be found. 2) I will seek to ever share that LIFE, LIGHT, JOY, and LOVE to those with whom I have contact.
As I ponder all of this, I realized that suicide is exceptionally common and undiagnosed. In fact, in one way or another we are all killing ourselves. Some of us kill ourselves slowly by what we eat, drink, or by what emotions we harbor that gnaw away at us. Some of us kill ourselves by the illnesses we secretly harbor in our hearts and minds that drive us perhaps not to despair by to less overt ways of murdering ourselves and others. But in the end we all kill ourselves by seperating ourselves from LIFE through sin. Really, those who commit suicide are not perhaps all that different from you and I and we might pause to consider this and perhaps we can take something awful and manifest something positive from it?
Sigh. There is HOPE in this world. And every person consumed (literally) by despair is a very real testimony to the perils we face in this life and the very great need for Him who is Hope.
While I've missed my friend since he left Washington, I now find I miss him in an altogether different and more profound way. I believe Christ's love is being presently showered upon him and how he ended his earthly life is no definitive indication of how he will respond to that love. Of all who need to feel God's embrace, none moreso, I think, than those sucked into the darkest pit of despair. I am reminded of St. John Chrysostom's Paschal homily and in that context I like to remember that even the tardy and those who have failed to keep the fast are welcomed in to feast, remembering that "He showeth mercy upon the last..."
And so I shout out (along with inappropriate expletives I will not repeat here): DIE DEATH! DIE HELL!
If any man be devout and loveth God, Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast! If any man be a wise servant, Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting, Let him how receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, Let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, Let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, Let him have no misgivings; Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, Let him draw near, fearing nothing. And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, Will accept the last even as the first. He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour. And He showeth mercy upon the last, And careth for the first; And to the one He giveth, And upon the other He bestoweth gifts. And He both accepteth the deeds, And welcometh the intention, And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord; Receive your reward, Both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival! You sober and you heedless, honour the day! Rejoice today, both you who have fasted And you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.
Let no one bewail his poverty, For the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, For pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, For the Saviour's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.
It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion Unto ages of ages.
Memory Eternal! My Friend, find peace in Christ, I pray.
Your prayers sought for Kevin and his family and friends.
I've had several friends and family who have killed themselves slowly or quickly. I've wrestled with suicide on and off through my life. There is some convoluted "logic" to suicide that we can only pray God can unravel and have mercy upon. Even that death I pray, is overcome. Lord have mercy.
May His Memory be eternal!! I am grieving with you all in this tragic loss...prayers and hugs, dear friends! I relate when at 16 my sweet-sweet cousin, whom we too were close and shared many fun-times, took her own life as well. Ahh...your words are encouraging, to say the least, and I thank you!