Ending a life.

I am overcome with sadness.  I don’t know where to begin as I try to make sense of recent events.

Twice in the past week, I have heard about the self-inflicted deaths of desperate young men.  Both were going through difficult times; socially, physically, financially.  Both were overcome with despair, and  each of them used a gun to find a way out of this life. Both of them abandoned people who loved them and needed them; both of them left people in my life awash in grief and guilt.

In each case, my feelings of sadness and sorrow are matched with feelings of disbelief and anger.

How can anyone ever decide that it would be appropriate to use such a violent and horrifying event to force an escape? How can anyone be so selfish as to believe that an act of such unmitigated horror could ever work as a solution?

Thinking about the shattered lives of those left behind, I am deeply aware of the responsibility that I have to those who love me.  I owe so much to the mother who gave me life, to the husband who has sworn to stay by my side and to the children whose sense of well being and balance depends upon my continued existence. No matter how difficult my road could ever become, I owe it to all of those who care about me to push on, to fight another day, to keep on breathing.

I know how glib and how easy this sounds: I have never been faced with the type of despair that could ever lead me to cradle a gun and to see it as a way out.  But I know that in return for the love that we are given, we are commanded to go on.  When someone loves us, we are immediately in debt.  We can’t give up while others need us.

I remember a night, when I had just become pregnant for the first time.  I had come home from grad school for a visit, and I was at my old High School, watching Senior Talent Night, where my musical genius brother was performing.  The auditorium was hot and crowded, and at one point,  a smoke alarm went off.  While I recognized the fact that the alarm was almost definitely set off by the heat and the dust, my heart began to race.  I realized immediately, and without thought, that my life was the absolute key to my child’s survival.  I looked for the exits, and I readied myself to head for safety.

The alarm that night faded quickly, and there was no real danger.  But I had learned a lesson. I had learned, in that moment, that the gift of my life was not given to me alone. It was given to every one of my parents, my children, my siblings, my friends, my students, my colleagues.   I knew then, as I know now, that I do not have the right to take risks with my life; I do not have the right to take that life lightly,  Most of all, I know that I do not have the right to end a life upon which so many others depend.

My heart is heavy for the two young men who were not able to see how many other lives were bound to theirs.  I pray for them to find peace in the next world.  I pray for everyone who loved them, for everyone who is now asking, “What could I have done?”, for everyone who is facing a future without them.

If you are reading this, please stop and think: the pain of your loss is more than anyone in your life deserves.  You live with us; you are part of us; we love you.  Your life is a gift.  You just can’t give it back.

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