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
Author: Andrew Pitchford
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
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.
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
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
You abide in me, my hope my Lord
And I will not forget your name
Please keep sending me reminders of You
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