Remember November

Suicide of a Forgotten Star
Suicide does not solve problems
The pill before had cured her migraines
Now she hoped it would cure all
Her worldly problems
She sat alone in the overstuffed recliner
Gazing out of the bay windows
Her eyes were empty of all emotion
Her head was spinning with regrets and defeat
Blood was running down her pale wrists
Fear blocked all reason
She saw no other way out
A distant knock at the door
She emptied the bottle down her throat
Then tipped back her head

Not looking back
And washed it down with a dry martini
The world spun around her, the room faded from view
Just before all went black
A voice called out, as if from heaven
She was not forgotten, but too late…
Death is forever
Janna Leah Holmstrom

Every year in November, I take the time to remember the loss of my friends. One of them wrote this poem. Her death was from an accident that caused the death of her father as well.

If every college campus had 100 students, 94 would feel “overwhelmed” with college, 44 would be clinically depressed, and at least 11 would consider or attempt suicide. According to a 2006 web-based survey of 15,010 undergraduates, 55% had thought of suicide; 18% seriously considered it; and 8% made an attempt. The results for graduate students are similar. In a more recent study, suicide came as the second leading cause of death of college students, following vehicular accidents with a rate of 6.18 per 100,000 students. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that 1,100 college students commit suicide each year. The prevalence of this problem cannot be overstated.

Numbers, however, cannot give you the whole story. A few months ago in September, Cote Laramie, a junior at Harvard College committed suicide at his home in New Hampshire. Early Tuesday morning on August 28, 2012, Martha Corey-Ochoa, a Columbia freshmen student threw herself off of a dorm building. Wendy Chang, a young woman who was about to graduate from Harvard hanged herself in her room in April of 2012. The obituaries all told stories of these students’ brilliance and achievements, but nothing about the pain that drove them to take their own lives.

These stories fascinate me because, during my senior year of high school, I too attempted suicide. It was Janna, my best friend and author of the above poem, who stopped me when I called to tell her goodbye. What drove me to do it? I felt unwanted, unloved and inferior. The people I loved let me down, and no one seemed to care that I even existed. I was too emotionally exhausted to see the alternatives. Everything in my world had turned black and I did not see an easy way out but suicide. This problem did not just develop over one day though, and many factors played a role in its development.

While researching for this article, I ventured into internet forums to read what others who have considered suicide have written about their suicidal feelings, and found my sentiments echoed. Many say that if just one person cared it would make them go on living, or that they have been hurt by those whom they love. For me, it was not until God found me that I realized that there is an alternative to suicide – that I do, in fact, have a reason and purpose for living.

It is incredible to know that God really does love me just as I am. As children of God (1 John 3:1 ESV) we are set free from our culture’s lies. People may tell us that we are not good or pretty enough to be loved; however, God, the creator of the universe, loves us as his children. We may feel inferior to others but God found it worthwhile to die on the cross to redeem us. It took me a long time to realize that I do not have to compare myself to others because God has already determined my worth. God gave His one and only son so that we may have eternal life if we choose to accept this priceless gift of grace (John 3:16 ESV). As Romans 5:7-8 (NIV) says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Despite the fact that I am a person who fails constantly, God still holds me as His child and Jesus still died for me. This is the foundation that I have built on a personal relationship with God. There is a God who loves and cares for me so much so that He died to give us life. When I believe all of these things I place into His hands the timing and situation of my passing into glory. I do not have control over this matter of death, but He does.

It is from the death of my friends that I realize that life is truly fragile; we are like grass and only exist in our milliseconds before we are gone. The most significant thing you can do on earth is to change someone else’s life. Tell them that you care. As Christians we are called to care for others (Matthew 25:35). More importantly, we have to convey the message that God loves and cares for us, because humans in our lives will fail us but God will not. “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV). Every Christmas, we are reminded that Jesus came down to earth for us. The spirit of Christmas is God with us. We have a God who came to suffer with us and who knows our ups and downs. Every Easter, we read how Jesus was abandoned by those He loved and the brutality He suffered in the crucifixion (Mark 14 and 15). From a worldly perspective many said He was a failure, but the truth is that He rose on the third day and conquered death. Knowing that God does not fail and He has been through the ups and downs of life that I now go on confidently living in Him.

Our God is one of hope as well as love (1 John 4:8). Because of God’s love and hope I have finally stopped comparing myself to the images in our media: I can look in the mirror and see the beautiful child that God created. It is because of God’s love and hope that I can stop believing the lies that I am not good enough as others at our school and realize that God has given me very unique gifts. This love and hope have enabled me to forgive the people who have betrayed me in the past. This hope and love have been crucial to overcoming these struggles.

It is important, too, though, to address the physical symptoms as well as the spiritual. Medication and psychiatric counsel are important and wise if taken as part of a holistic approach to helping those with the struggle. As one who is called to the health profession, I can say that medications as well as other psychiatric health intervention can be blessings that can help us along the journey to see the way that God sees us, as His precious children who are worth dying for. It is not a question of which way is right or better but we should use all the resources provided to us to help us to be the way that God originally wanted us to be.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 NIV).

Just as the psalmist expressed despair and hope I would like to dedicate this poem to all the past, present and future stars who ever felt the pain of living in a broken world very keenly.

A Light for the Stars
Oh twilight star from whence you shine,
To fall through galaxy’s deep black hole.
No human ears heard the screams of the soul,
To all concerned it seemed you were perfectly fine.

Once the crème de la crème, rising on top of the pail
The pressure was just too much and you sank thinking

you’d only fail.
Too busy in the tunnel to see the light
Chasing after what the world sets in front of your sight

The world may go dark where there’s no hope
All the suffering and pain only leads to more negative loop
You may think you’ve been forgotten by the world
But there is one who never forgets, God our Lord

There is a greater truth and it is not all relative
You can keep on believing your post-modernist and nihilistic views
We are not in control and to think that is not naïve
So I dare you to see an alternative and join me in the pews

Even though we feel that we are living in obscurity
A mere derivative of the seven billion numbers for humanity
Our creator is one who died despite his divinity

And that is the reason enough for our security

Image by daisukerman from morguefile.com.

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