I’m so glad I got Billy’s photograph when our church carried the cross through the neighborhood this past Good Friday. Because on the morning of June 2, we lost Billy, by his own hand.
Billy had a challenging backstory. He made it out of childhood and adolescence and was trying to build his adult future. The church was directly supporting him and loving him, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe he was crushed by the weight of his past. Maybe the road ahead looked to be too steep. I don’t know.
But I do know about suicide. I’ve written about it here obliquely before, but let me be plain about it now: I lived with and fought through periods of severe depression from the time I was 16 to the time I was about 40. I’ve walked right up to the edge of suicide several times.
During the worst of my depressions I didn’t kill myself because I was afraid of surviving it and being left permanently, horribly damaged. Then after my children were born I never ended it because I couldn’t leave them behind. But during those times, the pain was too great, the recovery road too hard. I wanted no part of life.
Because I stuck it out, sooner or later things got better. Never all better. But things always stopped being screamingly, intolerably bad. Whatever I was feeling, whatever thoughts were looping through my head, they changed all on their own. Mind states are never permanent. And whatever difficulties I was facing, the circumstances changed all on their own. The world keeps going while you are stuck, delivering change into your world. Sometimes circumstances got better and sometimes they got worse, but when they changed I could usually see a path forward when I couldn’t before.
If you ever think about ending your life, wait. Just wait. Your feelings, thoughts, and circumstances will change, if you just hang on.
We gathered at church on Saturday to celebrate his life and mourn our loss. We will miss Billy terribly.
Billy was 19.