Wednesday, June 27, 2012

After the Suicide

Dear friends and family and others this may be helpful to,
We have recently been through a suicide in our family. It was a devastating experience especially for the parents, brothers, sisters and extended family. My heart went out to the son, since my own father died (of "natural causes") at Christmas when I was a boy. It took years for me to deal with the loss. In this case I can see the newly married son with a brand new baby similarly affected.
We were all stunned by the event.
We have also been surrounded by prayer during this time
The love of those affected and the work of "cleaning up" afterward was impressive. We've gathered together to review the facts as we knew them and we have shared how we experienced.
There were difficulties in preparing a proper funeral for the deceased since he claimed atheism.
As a priest of the church I wanted to respect that, but I also wanted to respect the family's need for closure.
I wrote this poem.
The family was deeply moved by the words.
I publish them here in hopes that they may touch the hearts of others similarly affected.
May God go with us all in these difficult times.
Fr. Paul

A Note To Bernie

There was only silence.
A moment before the silence, there was a gunshot
Before that there was desperate despair and a panicky conversation.
The air was dank and wet as the rain poured down tears from heaven
Then there was a flurry of phone calls
Across the world a loved one frantically called Bernie’s son
“Your dad is in his truck with a gun”.
“Oh my God”
There were more epithets of disbelief
And of course more phone calls.
The son in California called the aunt in Colorado
Called her brothers in New Hampshire
Called her sister in Massachusetts
And the word began to spread
“Bernie is in a truck with a gun!”

There was only silence.
As the body bled out.
And heaven relentlessly poured down its tears
And drenched the truck
Awaiting the revelation of the cold wet truth.

It was less than an hour’s drive
And when the brothers arrived it appeared
All too clear that the deed was done.
He seemed asleep in the truck
A long last sleep of course
And time stood still as they pulled up
To get out of the car
To approach the door
Of the truck
Where the brother lay slumped over.
It was so.
And there was silence.

The police responded quickly
There was a body
And a gun
There was a meticulously generated letter
With bullet points
Documenting the 17 sources of blame
His health was bad
There was no family
Nobody cared
And he could not go to jail
He apologized to his fiancé in the Philippines
But not to his son
or to Mom and Dad
or to his brothers and sisters
The police interrogation was mercifully supportive.

Mom and Dad!
Octogenarians. Already buried one son
Victim of an accident
And then there were tears and inconsolable grief.
And now there is silence awaiting the news
As they awoke to another routine day.

The brothers called the sisters
Called the spouses
“It happened.
He did it.”
And hearts stopped
The rain fell
And the silent body was examined
And taken away to the Funeral Home.

Mom and Dad!
The brothers and sisters gathered
And said what had to be said.

Shudders of grief
A paroxysm of deep despair!

Came then the Quest for understanding
Came then more silence
Maddening, infuriating silence
As the body refused to speak.

Then the night visions came to Mom.
Sleep eluded her. She saw an accusatory face
And Dad paid the bill, puffed on a cigar
A fine single malt anesthetized a tiny bit of pain
And the Silence replied to the Quest
Absolutely refusing to answer.

The family gathered and Alan booked a flight East
To figure out a way to lay his father to rest
And to bring his lovely new bride and their baby girl
Unmercifully bereft of a grandfather
And of course to claim his inheritance of a father’s
Significant debt.

The Priest in me wanted to prepare a way to Commend Bernie to God.
But there was no God.
There really was no God.
I wanted devoutly to respect both the family’s need for closure
And Bernie’s renunciation of God.
And I too then heard this very same Silence.

But the new day was lovely
The sun and the sea and the sweet salt air
Were awash with the Glory of Life
My heart was full of Gratitude
For this amazing family.

Bread and wine is all that is left for me
And this I can commend to those who
Understand the language of This Sacred Meal

Even this is possible with God.
Even this.
For the last word in the Silence is this;

Every last one cast away from the Presence of God
The poor, the halt, the blind, the lame,
The incurably sick,
The sinners, the prostitutes
The tax collectors, and the plain and simple fisherfolk
This is the very last word.

That was stupid.
Grow up and face facts.
Get some help for God’s sake.
And even if there is no God.
Get some help.
And then there is no answer
To the call from within your own heart of hearts
Until the gun spoke to the silence.

The desperate, despairing silence.

Then God spoke.
There is this word
Did you forget to Love?
You probably did.

So then, there is this last word.
We’re mad as hell at you.
We’re sad beyond words.
It is unconscionable that you would blame
Mom for calling you out to responsibility
Or Dad for the Sin he confessed and you would not.

But there is still this last word.
There is no other word for any of those
Who yet have to carry on to make the best of
A glorious, marvelous and yes; “A Wonderful Life”.

There is this.
Last word.
You cannot snow heaven.
There is only Truth there.
Time now to Listen to this
Last word.
That you will hear
In that long last Silence.


                                                               ~Paul Bresnahan, Father’s Day 2012


Nukla46 said...

Having been through the suicide of Mark's son, I can really relate to these feelings. God be with the family as they heal. And I promise, they will.

Fr. Paul said...

Thank you Nancy. I will extend your love to the family. As we extend ours to you and to Mark.

Beth Marquart said...

This captures this quite, well, quite really says it.