Thursday, November 16, 2006

Behind The Looking Glass

Sunset Over California's Central Valley

On Friday evening, Oct. 27th, I went to see the film I talked about in my last blog entry, "The Bridge". The next morning, I ventured across the Golden Gate for the first time. The bridge was filled with bicyclist, joggers, walkers, and tourist. I wondered how many of these people are contemplating suicide? It's hard to tell what a person is going through sometimes. Their face to the world isn't always the face in the mirror. I know there are signs of depression, but can we always see them?

Mid span, I came across a man peering over the railing into the water below. He looked distressed and I began to wonder if he might be contemplating suicide, so I made a friend and we started to talk. Nothing serious, just shooting the breeze. I told him that I had just watched a movie about the Golden Gate Bridge and I was paranoid of people jumping off. I asked if he ever thought about jumping off and he said, "No, it's too high!" He said he was o.k. and I continued on my journey to the other side.

On my way back, I could see that he hadn't moved. I kept my distance and just watched him for a while to try and get an idea of his emotional state. He was still glaring over the edge. I got up the courage and asked him point blank if he was thinking about jumping off. He said he was just depressed, but he didn't want to talk about it. I did my best to encourage him and gave him a few dollars to get a hot meal. He told me he wanted to be alone and I made my way back to my car.

That night, I had dinner with some friends and we talked about the movie and my experience on the bridge. Afterwards, I came home and checked my email, only to discover that a friend of mine of over twenty years from Yosemite National Park had committed suicide the weekend before. I worked in Yosemite from 1985 to 1989. My friend and I went to church together. We also spent time together going on trips and hiked. I found out from his friends in Yosemite, that he had been caught up in depression and despair for the past two years. I drove up the next day for the memorial service. I took advantage of the opportunity to speak and spoke about exactly what I had just written days before and I encourage everyone to make a call to a friend and/or a family member to let them know how much they loved and cared for them.

What have I learned? I've learned that I'll never know how my friend felt at the time he decided to end his life. I can't imagine it. I can't feel it. Did my friend just want to go home and be with the Lord? It's possible. But, he could have also been at a place in his life feeling hopeless and confused, not knowing where to turn, even though God had him in His arms the whole time. Reach out to others. Go deeper. They may seem fine, but that might be exactly what they want you to see.

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