“Are God and Nature then at strife? [Nature], so careless of the single life” –Alfred Lord Tennyson
A few days ago, a friend of mine from high school passed away—suicide. Her name was Stephanie, and even though I didn’t know her well, I can remember certain things about her with striking clarity. Her face—pale, with thick wavy black hair that always fell straight down her back; dark eyes; teeth with clear braces. I remember how she looked when she smiled. And how she walked, I can recall that too.
About a year ago, another girl from my high school passed away as well. Her name was Kaelyn, and we weren’t friends, but we knew each other: First from always being in the music wing because I was in orchestra and she was in choir, and second from our Creative Writing class. And what I remember about her is her voice. I can call it to mind instantly, that low, slightly raspy voice, sort of like Rachel Ray’s. When we’d go around and share “one good thing” about our day, she always had something to say.
It surprises me just how much I remember these girls, even though they were far from close friends. It is like they are burned into my mind; something about them was seared in my brain. If you had asked me to describe Kaelyn I would’ve said that she was funny, extroverted, kind, and excited. And Stephanie? She was quieter, but equally kind; very friendly, very gentle. Judging by social media and friends of friends, a lot of people had similar experiences. Many people had felt touched by these girls in some way, at some time. I barely knew them, yet I did. And what this all signifies to me is that Stephanie and Kaelyn weren’t weak adolescents who caved in to depression. They were misinformed.
They didn’t know that their lives mattered.
When you are a child growing up, you don’t yet understand what makes you different from your peers. You may know that you are quiet and others are loud, or that you misbehave while others follow the rules, but you don’t yet know why. So for me, though I knew I was Christian while other kids weren’t, I didn’t see how being raised Catholic led me to perceive myself and my surroundings differently than those who had been raised without God being a constant part of their lives.
Now, though, I am older, and I believe I do see. I see that having a firm, resilient belief in God from a young age is what kept me from ever seeking suicide as an option for ending suffering. Even at times when I barely even believed in God, and didn’t pray or have faith that He cared. Merely being exposed to religion, and the possibility that there is a greater being out there, watching over me, has kept me from ever thinking my life was meaningless.
I was in a very unhappy place last year. I never like to use the word depression, but for purposes of this discussion, I’ll call it that. I was absolutely miserable in my state of life; I was utterly directionless, friendless, and faithless. My mind was a treacherous place, and I could not stop the vicious circle of negative thinking that was constantly swirling in my brain. I cried so many tears and I have never felt more alone and worthless than I did my freshman year of college. I didn’t pray, I didn’t talk to God, and I felt that He had abandoned me and condemned me, thoughtlessly, to a life of misery.
However…I never thought of suicide. And I’ve come to realize that probably, anyone who felt as miserable as I did, but didn’t know God, would have. Because I honestly didn’t see a way out, and instead just years and years of misery ahead of me. But deep inside, deep inside the tortured, gloomy chambers of my heart, I held a tiny but strong belief that my life wasn’t worthless and wasn’t condemned to suffering. Christianity teaches you that you are special no matter who you are, and that God has a purpose for you.
Because of my belief in God, no matter how weak at that time, I was able to envision myself in the future, looking back on that period of misery as my darkest hour—dark, but conquered.
My point in describing those images and voices of Stephanie and Kaelyn was that if those two girls could matter to me, someone who barely even knew them, imagine how much they mattered to God, someone who created them. Everyone talks about how it was such a tragedy that they didn’t know how much they were loved by friends, family, teachers. And of course, it was. But if you believe in God, then His is all the love you need to know about. I didn’t feel loved by anyone last year—but my subconscious mind knew that I was loved by God, and that was enough to get me through.
I know Stephanie’s life had meaning. I know that she was a good friend to many people; that she was my gym class companion which might not seem like much, but it made me feel less alone. And Kaelyn’s stories brightened the atmosphere of Creative Writing, a class that was otherwise sleepy and lazy, our last class of the day. She kept the “one good thing” ritual from being awkward and boring; she made us smile and I know she made our teacher happy. If that’s how much meaning they gave to me, imagine how much meaning they’d have ended up giving to the world.
I wish that more people knew God. Not just of him, but that they could be imparted with the knowledge that no life is worthless. And this is far from impossible, because what I’m saying isn’t that everyone should believe in God, forever and ever. It’s just that they should know, from an age in which they won’t discredit it, that they are cared for and that they aren’t on this earth for no reason. Then, they might not be so willing to give it all up.
I can’t imagine what it’d feel like to hold a bottle of pills and want to take them because absolutely no one would care if I was gone. And I am incredibly lucky to have that inability, because it’s what’s saved my life, and probably will save me, many times over.
I wish that they’d had God in their lives. I wish they’d known their lives had meaning. It isn’t weak to commit suicide if you don’t know your worth, but the result of lacking vital, holy knowledge…and that is the tragedy that we need to focus on if we truly want to save lives.