Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where is Ron?

If you've been following this blog you may recall that last week I introduced a fundamentalist Christian friend who had a few firm opinions about my plans to remarry. That wasn't the first time she'd shocked me with her outspokenness.

Soon after Ron’s death, when I was expressing fear for his soul, she told me there was no question at all as to where a suicide victim would end up. He’d gone to hell.

My first thought: It’s amazing how sweet and compassionate people can be when you are grieving. But I quickly moved beyond that.

Why? Because at least she was talking to me about it. Suicide is a difficult topic to broach. People don't want you to cry. They don't like feeling helpless. This friend, on the other hand, walked beside me—literally. We became walking partners, sharing our beliefs and philosophies and good books while traversing the hills of Berks County, beginning at 7 a.m. most mornings.

She was never less than honest. Even I had a question as to the whereabouts of my husband’s soul. Isn’t extinguishing your life a big "f@¢k you" to the Creator who bestowed it?

After much thought I have chosen to believe that God suffered along with Ron, recognized his addiction as illness, and when Ron was too weak to take one more step on this earth, met him at his collapse with arms strong enough to carry him home.

This obviously was not my fundamentalist friend's opinion.


She changed her mind when not a year later her twenty-year-old son died of a heroin overdose (my son Marty referred to the incident in his lyrics for "Know What I Know" at a previous post). Her son's death certificate stopped short of saying “suicide,” but like me, she realized that in terms of deadly weapons potential the difference between the words “needle” and “gun” might be semantics.

She "knew" the truth espoused by her church. But try as she might, she could not envision a God who would condemn her son to hell for his actions. She knew her son was with God, in heaven, and that his pain had been relieved. She felt this in such a way that she knew it, body and soul.

She left her inflexible church for one that believes in the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. That message is simple: God loves us all.

Is there life beyond our physical existence? We can’t know, for sure. My friend and I have covered a lot of ground on that one, literally and figuratively. Who ever would have thought we'd have so much in common.

This is what I do know. Heaven and hell exist right here in the physical realm, and that barring certain mental ailments, choosing one or the other is within our power. Ron and I lived on the same farm, one we both loved, yet I lived in increasing peace as he lived in increasing torment.

What about you--do you give much thought to the notions of heaven and hell?



Kathryn, thanks for this and for checking into Shirt of Flame. My heart goes out to you, and to Ron, especially as through absolutely no virtue of my own, I somehow made it out alive...do you know the spiritual writer Ron Rolheiser? His website has archives of all his columns and he has several on suicide with a take that may (or may not) want to check out...all the best to you and on your memoir.

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks for stopping by, Heather. I look forward to reading more from you.

Charli Mac said...

A friend of the family's son shot himself inside his car outside their home. They were devout Catholics. He was given a Catholic burial. A person who can take one's life is obviously not in their right mind. Something, I am sure God understands and has empathy for.

It is unfortunate that your friend became more open and comapssionate about Ron when her son passed away. People who judge often do so from a perch. When they experience the unthinkable they are forced to see things differently.

Kathryn Craft said...

Charli: Thanks for your comment, and the story. Even after all these years I am still shocked to hear that someone has obliterated themselves. I guess that means my own perception of the sanctity of human life is still firmly in place.

Your perception that the timing was "unfortunate" for my friend to have a soul-changing experience when she did is an interesting one, and reminds me of one of the wise comments my therapist shared: "You only know what you know when you know it and you can't know it until then."

I'm glad to hear the Catholics, too, came to a change of heart about suicide. Your comment had me do a little digging--Catholics started to allow burial of suicides in consecrated ground in 1983. I'm sure there were many grief-sticken families who wished that might have come a little sooner. But seeing as compassion is rarely extended unless there is an accumulation of despair, I'm not sure we should go around wishing for it to come any sooner than it does!

Whether individuals or organizations, we're all on a path, and such a complex confluence of events is required to lay that path, I prefer to simply be thankful that any of us is blessed to reach our destination.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the standard versions of heaven and hell, but if Him Upstairs is going to judge someone, it ought to be on how they lived, not how they died. Otherwise, He's not worth worshipping.

Just my opinion, of course, though I daresay I'll find out if I'm right or not at some point ;)

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks for your comment, Jon. It is our beliefs, not "facts," that pull us forward. But you are so right--we'll all find out the full scoop one day.