Left Behind

On July 9, 2012, for no apparent reason, my father chose to end this life and enter the next.  These are some thoughts about how I’m dealing with the suicide of my dad while they are fresh on my heart.

A short bio: My father was a Christian – an exceptional one.  He was saved by grace over 32 years ago.  He was ordained as a Deacon to serve in 3 churches and boldly & sacrificially invested his money and time to God and His church.  He loved teaching the Word of God (as a Sunday School teacher for 20+ years).  But he especially loved witnessing to the lost about the power of the gospel to change a life! [This was his life’s mission.] His love for fishing and hunting created a unique bond with many men.  He was a great friend and the best father a boy could ask for.

Suicide & the Christian

Since suicide is indeed a sinful act, and that is how his life ended, how do we reconcile that with his eternal state?  Can a person who commits suicide go to Heaven?  The answer is simple: if a person is truly saved, then ‘Yes’ they will go to Heaven.  Our eternity is not up to what sins you do or don’t commit.  God knew how my dad’s life would end – and He still chose to save him and use him – in spite of it.  God’s grace is so overwhelmingly good like that!  God saves us when He knows that we will never be perfect (just look at the Apostle Peter).  My salvation doesn’t depend on which note my life ends on… it depends on who wrote the song.  Read More about Eternal Security

How did Dad enter Heaven?  Did he regret his decision? Was God surprised or displeased?  The answers here aren’t easy – but I find them in the parable of the prodigal son.  The son came home to his father because sin had left it’s mark and caused many scars.  The father didn’t care.  The son came home dirty… filthy and stinky.  The father didn’t care.  The son’s return was mistimed, but the father didn’t care!  In the moment when our life (so-called) is swallowed up by the reality of eternal, abundant life – all else falls short.  Nothing else matters.  God’s grace has overcome and won – in spite of our sin and failures.  He wore the royal robe and the ring.  They ate and sang and danced together at the celebration. And best of all: he melted into the Father’s warm embrace.  ‘Welcome home, son.  I love you!’

For the Christian, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Absolutely nothing. Grace wins.  God is so good.

Looking for Answers…

Answers slip through my fingers faster than sand.  We don’t understand.  We know he suffered physically.  We know he was on a lot of medications – most of which still left him in a lot of pain.  Was it that he was tired of the pain?  Did the medicine cause him to ‘snap’? Was there something else?  Was he worried about his life insurance running out too soon?  Did retirement get to him? Was he disappointed in his relationships?  Did he know something we didn’t?

It’s hard because there’s no place to put the blame.  I’ve got a set of crosshairs ready to aim at the reason – but it’s so elusive that I can’t find the cause to place the blame.  That makes it doubly-worse because now everyone close to him asks if the crosshairs belong on them.  Was it ‘my’ fault?  Could I have done something?  Why didn’t I see this coming?

I believe it was the medicine.  I truly do. I believe Satan saw an advantage of the crossed wires of too much of the wrong meds and presented him with the craziest escape plan ever.  He didn’t plan it.  He hadn’t really wanted to die; he was busy living.  He was in the middle of 4-5 projects.  He didn’t leave a note.  He wasn’t rational about it… I truly believe it was a moment of drug-induced ‘insanity.’  He was not himself.  (I’m not trying to make excuses for him – but this is the only thing that seems to make sense to me.)

Comfort in Grief

Grief is a funny thing.  It randomly rolls in like waves over my soul.  Sometimes it comes alone – sadness only – but sometimes it brings a partner… Regret. Blame. Anger. Without warning and for no apparent reason, the sadness creeps in and opens the flood-gate of tears.  I have many great memories.  He was a top-shelf kind of man.  He had great character and a hard work ethic.  He was a faithful man; a servant of God.  He loved his family and took good care of us.  He left us a legacy of faith.  I owe him a debt of gratitude and I know that even though I wear size 15, I’ll never fill his shoes.  I just miss him and wish for more time.  I’m thankful that my last memory with him is a happy one of him smiling and laughing with all of us.  Read More about How I Find Joy in Pain

Sometimes, I feel pity for dad’s pain.  Many times, a song will carry me through it.  Most times, I find an inexplicable peace in God’s sovereign control. (I know that nobody can enter eternity without His permission – in Him alone is the power of life and death.)  Sometimes I feel orphaned and abandoned. Many times, I sense a greater Presence – one of comfort and peace.  Most times, God buoys me up with His Word.  Every time (so far), my heart has somehow found refuge in the hope and expectation of the resurrection.

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty,
When grace is ushered in for good
And all the scars are understood,
When mercy takes its rightful place
And all these questions fade away,
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now.”

I’m alive!
Even though a part of me has died,
You take my heart and breathe it back to life.
I’ve fallen into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the Healer collide.

-Bart Millard

14 thoughts on “Left Behind

  1. What a great article about the grief you feel, Patrick! I’m sure this will be a comforting help to others that have lost someone. Circumstances may differ but grief about losing someone you love is universal. Thank you for speaking so openly & candidly about your Dad. He was a great man and left you & your family a great legacy. We will continue to pray for your family!

  2. Patrick, this article was a great way to express the grief you’re going through. Thanks for being so transparent about how you’re processing it. I also like how you touched on whether you think your dad is heaven? It’s comforting to know that he’s there.

    My dad (who committed suicide 2 1/2 years ago) really was a prodigal son! He became saved as a teen as a result of seeing the dramatic change in his father when he became saved. My dad started going to Sunday School and met a girl there that he fell in love with. He joined the Navy, they got married, he went out to sea for a year and when he got back, his wife met him at the dock with divorce papers. I’m sure it devastated him and he no longer held to Christianity after that happened.
    He met my mom some years later and they married and then I happened. So 40 + years went by and he developed many health problems too. Diabetes (of which he was insulin dependent), obesity, Hepatitis, more than one hyneria(s) in his stomach (which are painful). Not only was he dealing with all of that, but I had moved across the country about 15 years prior and came to visit when I could afford to – about every 2 to 3 years. I was his only child, though he also had a step-daughter and step-son, for about 20 years.
    I have learned that when someone wants to take their life, they will not leave any hints that they are planning to do it. My dad killed himself in the garage of his home. He left a message on the voice mail of his cell phone, but a lot of it was indistinguishable because he was so upset. But part of it that we could make out was that he asked us to pray for him. I think even all the years he didn’t want to hear about “religion”, he still believed that it was true. He couldn’t deny the change that it made in my grandpa. I guess he thought it just didn’t “work” for him. So I hold on to the hope and belief that he is in heaven.
    Though I’m reminded of some verses in 1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
    16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
    I like to think that verse 15 applies to my dad, but then again, it could be verse 17.

    But, Patrick, I definitely think that verse 15 applies to your dad! He lived a godly life and left a godly legacy! Be very proud and take a lot of comfort in that!

  3. Although I have never met your dad, I had a tear in my eye by the time I was done reading your thoughts you so elequently put on paper. I do believe your dad is at the right hand of our Savior. I know you will probably never figure out why he did what he did. Just know that his eternity was sealed the moment he accepted God in his heart.

  4. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I will be praying for you and your family.

  5. Patrick, I hope I don’t say something here that will increase your pain. But I don’t think that most people who commit suicide are in their right minds at the time they do it. Depression, illness, etc, can cause a person to not think clearly. I believe that God knows this, and judges accordingly, with love.

  6. Patrick, I am so glad that I clicked on this link to read your article, it was inspiring and I could feel the love you have for your dad throughout the whole piece. There are so many questions that we all have and we may never find out the answers to. We all go through situations that takes us on different journeys in our lives. I have found that the most important thing is to never give up on God, He has a plan and a reason for everything. I don’t know what you are going through during this time, but I know that God never puts on us more than we can bear. I am continuing to pray for you, Tera, and you Mom as well as your entire familiy.

  7. Patrick, I agree with the others, this has touched my heart. As I was reading this —-Ron hamilton’s song “rejoice in the Lord”, came to mind
    God never moves without purpose or plan. When trying His servant and molding a man. Give thanks to the LORD, though your testing seems long. In darkness, He giveth a song. O rejoice in the LORD He makes no mistakes. He knows the end of each path that I take! For when I am tried and purified, I shall come forth as gold.
    Will continue to pray for you and your family.

  8. I had no idea that this is how you lost your dad. We have had suicide deaths in our extended families but never our immediate family. My heart hurts for you, but I’m comforted in knowing that you have God in your life to help you through. Love and prayers always

  9. So proud of you Patrick. We continue to pray for you. “Where God guides, He will supply.”

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