• Joel Elliott Mooneyhan

Reflections On the Death of a Friend


Suicide is messy. When an older loved one who is near the end dies, or when it is someone who has long been battling a disease—or even when someone dies suddenly of health related problems or tragic circumstances, death is hard. But as hard as those things are, our minds can, for better or worse, put the pieces together in our mind in order to heal. It may take some time, and it certainly is not easy, but it can happen.

There is a dark logic to that kind of suffering; when there is an external force at work, our minds seem to process it better. Almost like a chain that we can follow from the event, backwards, where we can put things in their right order or their right places in our minds. And there is a strange peace that sets in when the healing begins, though it admittedly does very little to help answer the question “Why?”

However, when the hand that takes the life is one’s own, then we are met with an existential problem. Our soul revolts and our minds cannot get themselves around it. Maybe because it is too hard to empathize with that depth of hopelessness. Maybe because there is no one left to answer for the final act. Maybe it’s because we are left behind wondering why we weren’t enough to live for. Maybe it’s because the act of another it is so far beyond our control, and yet we still wonder if we could have stopped it.

It’s probably all of these things. Maybe more. And the fact is, there never, ever any satisfying answers to the questions these thoughts raise.

But I do know a few other things. . .

Most importantly, I know that the final act in one’s life is never enough to condemn them, especially not from a God who lived among us and gave himself up to die for his creation. And there is no end to the justice and love of God. Choosing to die is not an act of faithlessness or defiance. It is the ultimate act of despair, and God came to save the broken-hearted.

I also know that the battle inside of another is not my own. To try and understand it after the fact is not wrong, but it is ultimately unhelpful. Since I am here, I already know that I have no access to the hurt that makes taking one’s own life the best solution. This is not to say that people should “let go” of their grief or “get over it” when something is impossible to process. But it is to remind me that in humility and respect, there are things that I must not dwell on understanding. Even if I could understand it, it would not make it any easier to deal with the departure.

And finally, whatever battle is inside you, or me, or the ones we love, I know that the victory is Christ’s, and the victory is Christ. On Easter Sunday, all the finality and power of death and sin was laid waste. The pain and sadness and evil and injustice of this world is nothing but a death rattle, an angry hornet lashing out at it is struck down, a hurricane breaking as it makes landfall and hits the mountains inland. It can do its worse here and now, but here and now will pass, and with them, the screams of the evil in the world will fade into whimpers.

This is world is not the place where we are doomed to stay, but the place where we are made ready to join the Savior in His victory. At some point, we will all cross to the other shore and be made more who we are than we have ever been, and it is because Almighty God has defeated all that tries to strip us of who we are meant to be.

There is pain, yes, and trouble. But we can defy it every day by living in the knowledge and hope that the eternal love of Christ has broken its power as He folded his shroud, rolled back the stone, and walked into the early morning light on that Sunday so long ago.

“Take heart,” Jesus once said, “for I have overcome the world.”

And I believe it.

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