There are few things sharper than a life cut short by suicide. Mothers and fathers end up burying babies full of dreams unlived. Brothers and sisters wonder whether death might try to pull them down too. Grandparents weep knowing the reality that hope could have surfaced if only life had been given more time. Friends feel the hollow ache of grief that sickens their bellies. Everyone is stunned, numbed and stricken. No doubt, there is nothing sharper than a short life; nothing sharper than a life cut short by suicide.
Yet for those who get to the place where a rope or gun or pills are in hand, they have already been stung by so much pain that the final act seems like they are stepping into bliss. There is almost an allure of peace that draws them into it. Some parents report that their teen becomes peaceful or offers a long-withheld “I love you Mom and Dad.” In effect, what seems like a healing moment is really a peace they are making within: their reaching out before checking out is just a way of saying goodbye.
Some people will watch this remembrance video of Justin Aaberg’s life and fear that suicide is being glorified. Personally, I find silence to be the more hopeless response. I would rather see the joy that really did exist in Justin’s heart. It is clear that this kid was capable of experiencing great joy. This video testifies that life is worth living and dying the old fashioned way. It reveals that beyond seasons of rejection, judgment, exclusion or bullying – there is the potential for new seasons of hope and joy.
“If I Die Young” by The Band Perry contains dreamy, romantic images of death that could be dangerous to some young people who are suicidal. At the same time, I think the song’s core truths win the day. The message is clear in the line: “What I never did is done.” How true. Suicide is permanent: there is no replay button that can be clicked. The sharp knife of a life cut short by suicide is sharp because there is no return. Once it’s done; it’s done. Forever.
The song also offers a powerful truth in the line: “Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’. To mothers and fathers who have lost teens to suicide, I am NOT directing this lesson at you. Your grief already exceeds what is bearable. Rather, I am thinking about “the rest of us.” How many of us might have heard “something” – a red flag or warning sign or some indicator that maybe all was not fine. The father of 13-year old Asher Brown puts it this way: “Push past the ‘I’m fine.'” If you know a friend who is carrying a lot of weight in their life, push past the “I’m fine.” It may just save a life.
If you are suicidal, what do you need us to hear? While you are still living, we want to listen. We want to help you find hope. The sharp knife of a short life cuts so many people; so deeply. Suicide cuts and strangles your own life; it poisons and crushes the lives of people who love you; it smothers the good plans that God has prepared for your life; and it drowns out the truth that hope lies just ahead. Reach out today to someone you trust or else call one of the national hotlines where you can speak with someone who knows exactly how you feel. You are worth it, my friend. Choose life.
I don’t know about you, but I am going to watch this video about Justin’s life a few more times. I find it hopeful…
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