If you’re new to this blog, I lost my brother-in-law to suicide several years ago and occasionally post about it. The grief we experienced was profound…but God did not mean us to stay in the pit of despair forever.
I read a touching article, The Broken Bowl, written by Karen Athay Packer about this subject. Her father was an artist. For her wedding, he gave her a beautiful, handmade, ceramic bowl. Years later, he committed suicide and left his family reeling with shock and bitterness.
She went through several moves before she finally pulled her treasured bowl from its box to find it shattered. Her first impulse was to try to fix it—to glue all the pieces together and make it whole again—but there were too many slivered fragments. Even if she could have joined the large pieces together, there would have been glaring gaps and fissures remaining. Broken-hearted, knowing the bowl was beyond repair, she threw it away.
That night, she found her 12 year old daughter weeping. When asked what was wrong, the daughter wiped her eyes and told her that she had found the remains of the broken bowl. She cried:
“It’s just like what happened to him. I looked down and saw his life lying there in the bottom of the garbage, like something thrown out because no one knew what to do with it. Tomorrow they’ll come and take it all away, and I can’t bear for that to happen. I want you to save the pieces, Mom. Even if they’re broken, they are still beautiful.”
She goes on to say that each case of suicide affects people differently. Sometimes it crushes faith, sometimes it leaves you with gnawing, unanswerable questions, and many times it leaves bitterness and anger in its wake. At times it’s hard not to judge your loved one and yourself for years after the tragedy.
But to me, this article shows that there is strength in hanging onto the pieces as you move forward in life, believing that God is just and merciful and will bring joy eventually. Instead of focusing on the pain and grief of that last tragic act in a troubled loved one’s life, I believe it is better to focus on ALL the other beautiful pieces of their life.
Remember the lifetime you spent with your son or daughter…brother or sister…friend. Remember their childish grins and the funny things they said or did. Remember your love for them…their love for you. All of those pieces are still there—and can still bring joy. We don’t have to throw them away just because of one glaring glitch at the end.
When I think of Jason, I think of tinfoil and goofy grins. At Christmas, he was the master at creating cool costumes from tinfoil for the nativity pageant. I will always remember how silly he was when I met him when I was dating my husband. He was a show-off clown who made me laugh. I remember a few heartfelt moments as a troubled adult when he voiced his dreams and goals. Those are the pieces I CHOOSE to hold onto now.
Someday, all the fragments of a beautiful broken life will be made whole again…but not by us! It takes deep magic (like C.S. Lewis wrote of in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). God, only, knows where each tiny sliver fits among the shattered remains of a human soul. If He knows when a sparrow falls or when we lose a hair on our head, then don’t you think our Heavenly Father knows each person’s heart, strengths, weaknesses, sicknesses, and intent?
“In our Father’s healing hands, the pieces can come back together again. In eternal justice and mercy, He gives each wounded soul every chance to be nourished by the healing power of his wisdom and His love.” –Karen Athay Packer
Those we love who have taken their own lives should not be judged harshly by those of us left living. We don’t know what was going on inside their minds when they committed that last desperate act. Nor should we dwell on that last act of insanity…for I do not believe that small sliver shows their true soul.
Hold onto all the beautiful pieces…and trust that your loved one is in a better place being counseled and nurtured by angels who care and can help them overcome the obstacles they could not overcome here on earth.
There will be a day of joy in the future when we will be reunited with those who have passed on before us. Lives will be healed…pieces will be brought together into wholes…and we will know our loved ones for who they truly are. That is what I believe…and it brings me joy in the here and now.