The Wake of Suicide
A brief note to the Editor: Having lost my sister a year and a half ago to bipolar disorder, and having experienced my own personal journey through grief and mental health battles, I would like to write in brief about my experience of my sister's death and then focus on how Christ's resurrection meets us in the particular sorrows of suicide—and especially how Jesus changes its reality both now and at the redemption of all things. This change begins at the Cross, with Jesus as prototype for the world's redemption—scars and all.
One of the first questions I asked myself when my sister passed was, "Was all the effort that went into helping her in vain?" And also, "Has not the darkness won?" Those who depart this life by suicide leave cruel questions behind. Some dare not be written. Yet in my own unspeakable pain, gently, God came alongside me. He whispered to me that everything in this present life matters. He told me this is so, and not only because to say so is to choose hope, but also because Jesus' resurrection is the paradigm for the renewal of everything—and that includes my sister's suicide.
To talk about work in general, a relevant side step, one scriptural indication that all of our work done in this life will manifest itself in the next is found in the final book of the New Testament. Revelation 21 reveals that human culture has a place in heaven. “What we have done, our ‘splendor,’ will be brought and put on display as part of the ‘glory and honor of the nations’” *. After all, the image of this new creation is a city—a product of human work and the embodiment of human work and culture *. These images of new earth have powerful implications for work done in this life.
This means that the work of my family, and that of so many others, to walk with and aid our beloved sister, daughter, and wife through her unthinkable journey—even this shall pass with us to that new city. Maybe what we did was not only right, but also a true and one day tangible beginning to my sister's healing, a healing completed at the redemption of all things. Nevertheless, we may be sure that a beautiful day is coming when all will be made right, and all the work done in hope will be shown to have outlasted our mortal bodies. The Lord, after all, taught us to pray "on earth as it is in heaven."
Not only do we have grounds for hoping that our work was not in vain, but also that even this great evil will be broken by glory. The future is indeed a mist, and we see only darkly. But in my own heart, God has suggested that, just maybe, the resurrection results in the radiant glory of those thus departed when that new creation comes—something hard to imagine, but which may be the sweeter once we reach that day.
I think of a literal dream in which I walked with my sister on a shore, knowing both the reality of her suicide and the restoration of her body. I was overcome with joy, knowing the fullness of her load and yet the greatness of her savior. Just as Christ bore scars even in his glory (which made it all the more glorious), perhaps—dare I say it—the chorus of the depressed-redeemed will take the most shameful thing they've ever done and declare the triumph of the crucified innocent. Perhaps what will be so glorious about that day is not that suicide will be forgotten, but that it will be drained of its abusing tyranny and found to be under the feet of Jesus.
And one day we'll know how great was the weight of what the redeemed outlasted.
* I have seen all of this most clearly while reading Darrell Cosden's The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work, as well as Wright's Surprised by Hope.