Archive for the ‘Methodist minister’ Category

“Only recently have organized religions changed from a punitive approach toward the suicidal person to a relatively beneficent one,” write Christopher Lukas and Henry Seiden in Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide. “For centuries, people who killed themselves were buried at crossroads, their hearts often pierced with a stake. Survivors were shunned, excommunicated, robbed of the [dead person’s] possessions” (p. 19).

On the afternoon of Mary’s death, my mother phoned her Methodist minister who came to our house to be with her, my sister, my sister-in-law, my niece, nephew, and two children while my husband and I were at the hospital. Dr. Martin was leaving our house when John and I arrived but, seeing us, turned around and went back inside.

Wearing a dark suit and red tie, he eased his way into a weeping family that had just been told of Mary’s death. Too shocked to cry, I observed that everyone in the room seemed caught up in a kind of shattering, lonely sorrow–a roomful of people shedding tears separately. My twenty-seven-year old nephew had even slid off his chair onto the privacy of the floor.

Pausing a moment, Dr. Martin asked us to stand together for a prayer. His voice was warm and his manner confident as he spoke of God’s love for Mary and for us and for the great sadness we were experiencing. In that instant, he put us back together again as a family, bridged doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants (which never seemed so irrelevant) and reversed the punishment and shunning which, out of fear, have afflicted suicide victims and their families for most of Christian history.

It was a brilliant moment and a kind one. Over the next several weeks, others provided brilliant, kind moments–John’s Presbyterian colleagues, his Baptist patients, Episcopal aunts and uncles, and Catholics with whom we’d worshipped for decades. It was the willingness of all those people to enter into our pain and bewilderment without passing judgment that was most striking and which, to this day, continues to heal.

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