Do we have Empathy with Suicide?

A while back I mentioned “The Box”, a cardboard filing box full of old writings, poetry and creative work I had worked on particularly when I was involved in youth work at our local church. During that time I had a job working as car salesman at a local Toyota car yard and from a tragic situation I wrote the poem on this page called “My Friend of Eight Months”. Attached to the car sales was a mechanical workshop, a parts division and a Shell petrol station. While everyone worked different hours and the business embodied a wide range of personalities including mine, the focal point was a social room where people would gather for drinks and a game of pool after work.

It was here that I met a young man who started work at the petrol station. He was a great guy, always encouraging and seemed to constantly have a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Sadly it was this same young man who didn’t seem to have a care in the world who didn’t turn up for work one Saturday morning. He had committed suicide the night before after his shift. I don’t know what was the tipping point. I have no idea whether his burden was one he had carried for so long that he had found a way to make it look like he had it sorted out. Maybe something hit him that night or week that he felt unprepared to deal with.

Suicide is the hardest level of empathy. I know he deserves my understanding. He had my respect as a friend and a colleague. Sadly now there is no way to empart the empathy or listening ear that might have heard a clue or connected two dots to help him avoid this fate. We wish that there had been a way to connect him to counselling that may have seen him through the mire he was in. It may have come to pass, but for him counsel was either unavailable or in a place he could connect. I’ve tried now to listen better and be a better friend to others. I know I still get busy but I grew in a small way to think that a smile doesn’t always reveal a heart. As I dealt with his death I wrote this poem a little while after his funeral.

If you have known or have walked alongside someone who has committed suicide I’d love your thoughts in the comments below the post. Many thanks for being willing to share.

My Friend of Eight Months

Thinking back is to late and worthless
Except to remember the good
His pleasure of friendship
The wide smile of greeting
His zeal to assist me
The dry sense of humour

I wonder what life was like for him
All that can be done is learn
Urgency meant rush, rush, rush
His music turned to peak
Drive and get around alot
His style was loud to impress

Wish we could turn the clock back one week
But how would we know?
His manner was jovial then
Was he different to you and I?
His personal life quite unknown
Remorse and sorrow mix bitter sweet

Written: 16/3/1991
Author: Andrew Pitchford

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time is measured by the once
but pleasure by the pound
We forsake the hour's warning tide
Sit back with men feeling warm inside

Did Christ enjoy social expense
Or sit in critique at a neighbour's fence 
His time was ours he spent it well
Used healing hands to salvation tell

Why do you slumber instead of march
Is this gratitude, limbs stiff as starch
Accept what yours, forgiveness free of charge
Heaven's transport flown, not a deathly barge

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Written for the One I Love

The One I Love

Written for the One I Love

When darkness fades
And glory shines you open your eyes and hope to find

A starling on your pillow
A valentine in your arms who nestles cheek to breast

You alight from bed to floor
Going to prepare a succulent feast as you tiptoe out the door

Content, refreshed and showered
From the house you leave with love you cleave to crack the open sky

Find a spot, a secluded one
Walk hand in hand alond silk golden sands and learn to dream

Cleanse your soles together
On salty shores reveal your souls to heavens soouthing balm

Talk becomes priceless time
When sipped between friends as a sweet chilled wine

Trust and open "Pandora's Box"
This woven basket of picnic pieces satisfies the prevalent appetite

Singing waters beckon bathers
to soak embracing all of natures reviving good cheer

Stroke the passioned stallion's mane
You fire his heart a firebox of embers, nostrils race with steam

Should one be one alone
No let them come intertwined as love's evergrowing vine

All money spent is lost
when trying to win your love my motives must be clear

The precious memories held
Will note be bought to corrode in life and bring us fear

Today we built a friendship
Intimate in detail, purest of materials, loved in conception and still real!

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Written for Cheryl for Valentines Day 1991. We won a bottle of wine when this was submitted to the local paper, the Te Awamutu Courier when they ran a Valentine Day's competition.

 

Reminders of You

Back in 1983-1987 I was profoundly blessed to be in a youth group run by Gavin and Liz Hockly. It was through this Te Awamutu Bible Chapel youth group called “Word of Life” that I learned lots, was challenged to ‘grow-up’ and also had the blessing of being able to try the gifts God has given me. Big apology to everyone I used as guinea pigs back then.

Recently I mentioned ‘The Box’, a records box of memories that had been missing for 10 years. A lot of the items were notes, poetry and newsletters I had kept from my youth group days. It was a habit that I would carry into the 90s as I ventured out into the world. I wouldn’t quite call it journaling because it didn’t have the consistency that I see in those who ‘know how to journal’. But it is a record of things I’m happy to remember.

Today I started at the top and opened up this box of memories. One of the first things I found were the hand written notes from a bible study evening I was leading. I loved using audio visual. It wasn’t unusual for me to want to ‘play a song’ or show a video (VHS people!) to get a point across.

On this night I had hand written the lyrics to a song ‘Reminders of You’ by Geoff Moore and the Distance from the 1992 CD “A Friend Like U”. Part way through I had made a note to pause the song and ask people to think on what reminds them of the Lord.

You know every day I drive home from work I have the privilege of taking an off-ramp that turns back on itself towards the west. I see the most dramatic sunsets and they always bring me back to God the creator who spoke the world into existence. I look on every beautiful burnt orange or red sunset blasting through the unique branches of our Australian gum trees and am reminded that the sunset I saw yesterday was taken down last night and God painted a new one today. I am grateful for His love and care, His creativity and the freshness I see that remind me that like it says in Lamentations 3, His ‘mercy’ is also new every morning.

The song is written by Jeff Silvey and Billy Simon.

Reminders of You

(Verse 1)
A cross on a chain
Or a thunder cloud rolling
A Bible in a hotel room
Or lights on an evergreen

Tombstones on the hillside
Or a little child laughing
Just to name a few
Reminders of you

(Chorus)
You abide in me, my hope my Lord
And I will not forget your name
Please keep sending me reminders of You

(Verse 2)
A table set for twelve
Or a northern star shining
A lazy Sunday afternoon
Or a cool mountain stream

A piece of bread with a red wine
A December snow falling
Just to name a few reminders of You

Wedding Vows Forever

photo_004 It’s often overlooked but Marriage isn’t a contract, its a covenant. If you are considering “tying the knot” with the ‘hunk’ or the ‘babe’ then take a moment to ask yourself is this for ‘convenience’ or ‘covenant’? Many enter into marriage particularly based on ‘young love’ for ‘the benefits’.

The longer I’m married I realise the benefits are on the end of giving not taking. That's where the difference is from a contract to a covenant. In a contract the parties keep taking until there is nothing left to take and then they walk away. Think on any commercial contract, any business deal and the objective is for a ‘win-win’ where both parties take as much as they can as fast as they can for as long as they can. Once there is nothing left to take the contract is dissolved and each party goes out looking for new fields to conquer.

photo_003 In covenant the parties give so that the agreement can last forever. In giving there is sustenance. In giving there is ebb and flow of strength and weakness. In giving there is hope beyond today. I am so grateful for a giving wife who has given in times of my weakness and loved when there was no love in return. Equally I am grateful for the love and appreciation I have for her where I can hold her, nurture her, encourage her and provide for her just because of who she is. Last night I lay in bed praying for her, thinking of 18years of marriage and how beautiful she is today.

photo_002 Today we did some picture hanging that included some wedding photos. One framed piece is of our hands with our wedding rings and either side are printed our wedding vows from 1991. Cheryl had the photos and the vows made up for a surprise Wedding anniversary present for me a couple of years ago. I share them with you today because of their increased significance to me. Cheryl and I wrote our own vows and they continue to show our love, our faith and our commitment.

My Vows;

Cheryl, I love you for your beauty and wisdom. I want all our friends and relations to listen to these vows I make today. Before our loving God, family and friends I pledge: To love you in body, person and spirit,
To provide for a home that we build together
as a haven of love,
To hold you tight when you cry,
To hold you soft as together we lie,
And to hold you high as you try to be all you desire.
I pray that I will lead our home as Christ led the church. Not for power but to secure you each hour. So together we can grow and learn to love each other more.

Cheryl, encouraging and forgiving one another in love, help me see this marriage last forever. I give you this ring as a token of my love. Let it symbolise the circle of family and friends who supported us today.

 

Cheryl’s Vows;

Andrew, I love you more than words can ever express. On this very special day which will always be with us, I pledge in the presence of our loving Father in heaven, family & friends:
That I will always love you no matter what highs & lows we may go through.
I promise always to care for you & meet your needs as our Father in heaven does without fail.
I will always be your companion as well as your friend who you can always depend on in your times of distress & happiness.
I pray that the trust that has been accomplished between us will continue to grow as we travel down life’s narrow road, that our love will grow as we learn to give and take so we will overcome any difficulties.
I know with Christ in our hearts & standing with us at our side our marriage will last forever.
Therefore this ring I give you is a symbol of my love as it signifies love which is unconditional & eternal just as our Father’s love is for us.

 

Please forgive the hastily taken photos off my iPhone. They were a little out of focus from the photos in our Wedding Album. I wanted to put something up here in this blog that reminded me of the significance of the 23rd March 1991. I will get some better resolution photos up in the coming days.

Update: After posting this I thought of the scripture in Ephesians chapter 5.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The people at www.covenantmarriage.com have put together a few challenging and helpful descriptions of the identifiers of a covenant marriage relationship.

Elements of a Covenant Relationship

Covenants are the fruit of a loving, faithful relationship. The vows we exchange at our wedding reflect a relationship already bound by steadfast love and faithfulness. The degree in which these words have meaning comes in direct proportion to the unconditional love that dwells within our heart for the one to whom we are repeating them.

Covenant partners take responsibility for their actions. As partners in a covenant marriage relationship, we are responsible for our actions. An example would be to remain “sexually pure” in our thoughts and actions towards our spouse.

Covenants are based on freedom of choice. Covenant marriages are not built on coercion, deceit, and manipulation. Wives, submission is freely given and grows from respect, not fear and manipulation. In like manner, husband, choose daily to love your wife “as Christ loved the church.” You must freely choose to love and honor her in spite of the fact that you may not “feel” like loving and honoring her.

Covenants are rooted in actions based on choices, not feelings. Our feelings are forever fluctuating. Therefore to build a covenant marriage on feelings is to build it on shifting sand, which cannot support the foundation of marriage.

Covenant partners nurture their relation-ship. Our marriage will grow as we build up one another in love. This takes place when we value our spouse more than ourselves. As we experience the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, we are able to love our spouse as He loves us. Covenant partners administer unconditional love, forgiveness, and reconciliation while providing comfort and hope to their partner.

Covenants are based on commitments freely offered A covenant is built on selfless love, freely given and freely received. As strange as it may sound, a covenant marriage is one in which the “tie that binds” the couple together is a commitment freely offered with no strings attached. Paul said it well: “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).