We are all sitting around the table at our home in Hailey, Idaho playing Trivial Pursuit; teams boys vs. girls. The girls are at a serious disadvantage for three reasons:
v ~ they are just playing to be nice
v ~ my father is fiercely competitive
v ~ he has an amazing memory.
My mother pulls the next card and reads to my dad and I, “What is the name of the theme song of MASH?”
Since I’m only in 9th grade the question is way before my time, but after a long pause my dad says, “Suicide is Painless”. There is a weighted look between my mother and father, a look only they understand that will take me years to grasp, and only in a memory.
We roll the dice and move forward, or is it around in circles?
On a bridge overlooking the Willamette River outside Portland, Oregon the police pull a young man from the edge. He looked ready to jump and friends and family had been searching for him for hours. He was the president of his high school student body and was supposed to make a speech at graduation but skipped the festivities for a bottle of pills - the police also take these. I don’t know of this story until it’s too late to do anything about it. Days like that day are when I hate H. G. Wells, nothing but false hope. At least I can channel my rage onto someone dead, inanimate, without hurting anyone.
December 31st 2009.
We’ve driven miles up into the mountains, almost at 10,000 feet now and still no trace of my father. My two younger brothers are in the truck ahead of me and we’ve already been nearly stuck or gone off the road half a dozen times. My father taught us to love the wilderness and outdoors when we were very young. He used to say, “A day above 10,000 feet is better than 365 days at on the flatland.” Made me laugh. Nothing makes me laugh today. We finally spot his white truck covered in new snow and leap from our vehicles but his is empty. Up the hill there’s a ladder next to a tree and our minds break, after this everything will be broken, forever, and now I know it always has been and always will be, until the end of the world. That’s all I need to share about that day except to say that the last time a son hugs his father it should never be around his legs.
I have three beautiful daughters and one amazing son. Like all 7-year-old boys, my son loves cars and playing guns and yelling excitedly at explosions on TV. I have tried hard to train him up in God’s Word like my father did for me. He’s tucked into bed and is smiling up at me and as I lean down to give him a hug goodnight I say, “Grandpa would have loved you.” He frowns slightly and then says, “Dad, how did Grandpa die?”
I have been avoiding this for too long,
it is time.
I start to tell him but find out our middle daughter beat me to punch, “Olivia says it was ‘sewer side’ what is sewer side?”
He is so eager to know, and I am grating to acquiesce. I plunge.
“It’s called suicide, we hurt ourselves so badly that our consequence is death.” He understands consequences, he gets them whenever he is disrespectful to his parents or mean to his sisters.
“It’s death. Why is it death?”
“Well, when you hurt your sister, dad and mom take away your toys or you don’t get to play on the family tablet for a few days right?”
“To God, all sin is sin but some sin carries a heavier penalty than just toys being absconded - the penalty is death. The worse the sin you commit, the greater the payment. That’s why Jesus died, to cover the sins of the whole world so we would have eternal life with Him.” I am internally collapsing now and just want to run from the room and vomit but I know the conversation is not over and I need to be strong for my son. Quitting on him in this conversation would be everything I promised myself I wouldn’t do.
He’s just staring at me now and I take his little hands in mine and looking him right in the eye I say,
“Don’t be afraid, I am never going to do anything to hurt myself, I will always be here for you as long as God allows and whenever you feel like you are going to do the wrong thing you can pray and ask Jesus to help. He nods affirmatively, I stand up and mess his hair one last time. “I love you son.”
“I love you too, dad.”
So many parts of me died that day in the mountains. But something else was also born.
I told my wife that evening, “This is it, Satan is coming, he is going to use this to destroy us and destroy our family and with Dad gone there will be no one left to stand in the gap. I’m not going to let that happen. Jesus will guide us through this but we have to trust Him no matter how dark it gets.”
It was dark, fast, faster than I could have thought possible; in less than a year nearly everything was taken from me except my wife and children and I had to start all over in a different country, state, city.
I can never remember a time where I have been more at peace than this last year. Six years of separation from falling down in the snow and nearly going insane have proved to be an incredible adventure. Beth Moore, in a teaching she did once said, “Daniel is not in heaven regretting having been in the lions’ den, he is in heaven reaping the reward of having trusted God through the lions’ den. “
I will not be taken down by generational sin, and there are many to choose from, but as Paul said,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
Found in chapter 4 verse 7 of the book my father was named after.
All photos from here