Daily Grat: The Pull of the Lifeforce

I figured that the feeling I am having right now would happen at some point, I just didn’t figure it would happen this soon in the year of “Daily Gratitudes.”

I figured that, at some point, I’d bump up against a day where gratitude for anything would be hard to find, and I’d be wracking my brain to think of something.

Apparently, today’s the day. (At least the first of them…)

We had a member of the church commit suicide over the weekend. The word slipped out slowly, starting last night at about 5 pm. Last night and today were dominated by phone calls to church members who knew her, and her friends in the Dallas area.

It’s a big shock. As often happens in these cases, there were no real warning signs. In fact, her life actually seemed to be going better lately. And I specifically remember thinking that things were looking up for her this past month or two. (The experts will tell you that this actually happens too…that sometimes folks become *more* positive, right before an attempt…)

She was a genuinely kind person, and I am sure I’ll be writing more about her for an upcoming memorial service.

Needless to say, it’s thrown my ability to process “gratitude” a bit out of whack all day today.

For now, folks are still working their way back through their encounters with her, perhaps wondering if there was some sign they missed. (I don’t think there was, from what I can tell…)

My thoughts immediately go to other folks I know who are suffering from depression…some folks I know who have recently shared with me the tough times they’ve been having lately. I hope and pray that they are OK and reaching out, and I will certainly be checking in on them. Hope you’ll check in on friends you know.

Ultimately, when I am faced with suicide among people I know, I almost always fall back on a strange sense of gratitude for everyone who else, who somehow manages to *not* make that choice.

I know that in a sense this sounds defeatist. As if I’m saying “Well, at least most of us don’t kill ourselves!”

But, in a way, that IS what I’m saying. The truth is, when you consider it from a law of averages point of view, most of us do manage to *not* make that choice, day in and day out. And this truly is something to be grateful for.

And that doesn’t mean our lives are golden and trouble free. Some of us (including me) suffer from depression from time to time. Others of us live with deeper and long term choronic pain, emotional and physical. Some people struggle with that choice to remain living each and every day. And even though they *do* struggle, most of them still make that choice to live.

Contrary to the old religious prohibitions about suicide (which rarely ever did anything except make deeply depressed people feel more crappy about themselves for having the thought…) I have a lot of sympathy for those who would make the choice. Nobody walks in their shoes but them, and for some people the pain of their lives is often very great.

OTOH, when there are loved ones involved, I often feel angry at the person who has taken their life….feeling that it is a selfish act that, in some cases, *means* to hurt those who remain alive…those who are left to pick up the pieces and eternally wonder “Why?”

I get very angry on behalf of the loved ones of suicide victims, even as I remind myself that, by definition, a suicidal person is *not* thinking clearly.

And this gets me back to my strange gratitude. It’s gratitude for that powerful life force that keeps most of us here, most of the time.

The reality is, many people never, ever, consider suicide. And even among those for whom it’s a passing thought, the set of those who ever make an attempt is much smaller. (And experts will say, many of these attempts do not so much reflect a real desire to die, so much as they are a cry for help…) Many attempts do *not* succeed, and the people live long and fruitful lives…or at least find a way out of the hole.

All this is to say that it’s a very small set of folks who actually go through with a suicide.

All this is another way of saying that, stepping back and looking at it from afar, most people choose life. They may even *hate* their life much of the time, but they choose to wake up each day and muddle through at the very least. Even when they rarely taste happiness, they still rarely do the deed of killing themselves. I believe we can make this point and in no way diminish the suffering of those who sometimes do make this choice, or of loved ones who are left behind to suffer because of their choice.

If you are depressed and feeling low, I hope and pray that you’ll reach out to someone you know and trust. Despite how it might feel to you right now, most of us always have more options than we realize we have. We have choices that *don’t* involve the choice to die.

The lifeforce is strong, in all of us, and for this I am grateful.

(During this year, my goal is to find something new to be thankful for every single day, and to add that thanksgiving as a blog entry, under the title “My Daily Gratitude.” I started this kick back around Thanksgiving, and it’s already resulted in a favorite new song of mine. The goal of this ongoing spiritual exercise is to see if doing such a thing might inspire even more gratitude within me, and to foster general awareness of life on a deeper level.)

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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