A few months ago, I read this quote on the backs of t-shirts worn by cheerleaders from Middleville. It struck me that we are all unforgettable, even if we don’t believe it. Yesterday one of my friends was mourning a friend of hers who took her own life. Last year I lost a nephew to suicide and years back a sister-in-law. I wish these were isolated cases, but they aren’t. There have been others from my past who ended their life because they felt like they didn’t matter.
This isn’t ever a topic I want to write about or talk about or hear about. But that phrase ‘Start unknown. Finish Unforgettable’ is stuck on replay and I can’t get it out of my mind. Of all forms of death, suicide is the most wretched and heartbreaking. Grieving can’t even begin for people who loved them because we are caught in limbo between reality and unbelief. It’s not possible, we say. There’s some mistake. Why? They were the strong one. What were they thinking? And we can’t get the right answers because the right person isn’t here.
I’m not writing this to bring you down, ruin your day, make you sad, or give you a solution. Here’s the thing. Statistics for suicide rates are depressing, so I’m not going to relay them all here, but I feel like I need to be honest about two of them. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages and for every life that ends in death, 25 suicide attempts are made. Someone you know is having a hard time. Their coping mechanism is off-balance. The most visibly depressed person may never try to end their own life. The one who’s known as the life of the party might end up dead tomorrow. We can’t see beyond the facade that is someone’s life. Only God has that power. “God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us. Psalm 138:6”
Yesterday as I was becoming more immersed in thought about how to show compassion and caring to people when we don’t even know they need it, I remembered a poem I read back in high school. That was a lot of years ago and I wasn’t sure I could find it, but I did. And it’s one solution to knowing when to do good, be kind, and act toward others like they matter.
This is by Stephen Grellet (1773-1855) but it seems to be based on these, and other scriptures Hebrews 13:16 and Galatians 6:9-10;
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
I don’t know how to detect struggles and sadness in anyone who hides behind their “I’m OK and all is right with the world” mask. I’m not good at detecting struggles and sadness when it’s visible, so this is a reminder to myself more than anyone else. Be attentive and in the moment when you are with people you care about. Don’t say, “You matter” then ignore their presence. “When we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people – Galatians 6:10”
The best we can do is the best we can do. Dr. Seuss had the right idea when he said;
“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.”
Start unknown. Finish unforgettable. If you don’t think you matter, be brave and tell someone you need affirmation that you do. i promise you, they will tell you that you do.