I knew I would be walking on Holy Ground as I prepared a brief Memorial Service for my friend who has just learned that her daughter has taken her life. There is no such thing as routine circumstances for the acknowledgement of a suicide. In this case the mother is 82 years old and is at the end stage of an eleven year old battle with aggressive Parkinson’s Disease. Her daughter, who died by her own hand this week, was 55 years old.
I have always felt the tension of ambiguity when talking to a grieving family about suicide. If someone comes to me and says they want to take their own life, I boldly state that life, when it starts and when it ends, is a decision that God reserves for Himself and is, therefore, not ours to make. On the other hand, when the family struggles with the eternal state of a loved one who has committed suicide, I look for evidence of faith in the deceased ones’ story and focus on the goodness and grace of God.
For this service. I chose some verses that incorporated the concept of “always” in reference to God’s unfailing presence and love.
Psalm 73:21-24New International Version (NIV)
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Matthew 28:19-20New International Version (NIV)
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I Corinthians 13:7
(Love) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Psalm 16: 8
I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
As we read these verses, I asked the grieving mother to read the word “always”. Then I presented her with this little box and the stone that she could symbolically place in the box when she was ready. I encouraged her to keep it near her and use it to answer the inevitable question: Was God faithful to my daughter?
Our focus and our memories were precious.
Those of us in attendance prayed fervently.
AND THEN. this grieving mother prayed: “Father, I have no words, but we know each other.”
A hushed silence fell over our little gathering. Now we knew we were on Holy Ground.
How can a prayer be more powerful? A simple acknowledgement of knowing and being known with such intimacy that words are not needed.