Suicide is always a tragedy. Many families have been touched by its pain.
The moral implications of this are vast, of course, and not the topic of this column. Today I am more intrigued by the modes that people select as they act on their suicidal impulses (or long-deliberated decisions).
As a pastor and military chaplain, I have worked with families in the aftermath of suicide. As a volunteer law enforcement chaplain, I have responded to the actual event.
Life is precious. It should never be squandered. Contrary to the notions of reincarnationists, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). That judgment need not be feared, for those sheltered in the mercy of God. Still, I doubt the Lord desires to see us ushered into his presence for that judgment by our own hand.
Even the darkest of lives can be rescued and recreated with new hope. That’s the testimony of many people, like Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic at only seventeen.
There are diverse ways people choose to end their days on earth.
Some European countries have made the passing a gentle, numbing for the most part, painless transition. In their euthanasia clinics, powerful drugs can be used to simply suppress one’s breathing until they “fall asleep” permanently.
Others make drug concoctions of their own, and some die in agony because of miscalculation, or are “rescued” to live debilitated by their failed attempt.
Some, for twisted macho reasons perhaps, decide to go out with a literal bang. Here too the attempt can fail and leave the individual in a horrific condition. And, even when it is “successful,” it leaves a sickening aftermath.
Perhaps the worst of all are those who desire to leave a “mark” on this “cruel world” as they depart. They may lash out at people they know—or even strangers—seeking to leave a lasting scar as a memory. Most of these people are likely insane. Not so the fanatic “suicide bombers.” Those disciples of evil comprehend what they are doing. The magnitude of their vile acts do not escape them.
Not the Why, but the How
As I said above, I’m not thinking today about the reasons a person would end their life. I am wondering about the means they choose to do so.
I was shocked by the recent suicide by a sixty-five year old Thai woman who calmly removed her shoes and then leapt into a ten-foot-deep pond which is home to more than a thousand crocodiles. A dozen were on her immediately.
I cannot stand to watch nature shows that portray crocodiles viciously dragging antelopes or zebras to their grim deaths. Just thinking of this woman’s final moments leaves me in emotional disbelief.
C.S. Lewis hinted at humanity’s archetypal antipathy to crocodiles. In a 1949 letter he wrote:
I don’t think the idea that evil is an illusion helps. Because surely it is a (real) evil that the illusion of evil should exist. When I am pursued in a nightmare by a crocodile the pursuit and the crocodile are illusions: but it is a real nightmare, and that seems a real evil.
Just as shocking as this poor woman’s death itself, is the fact that a decade ago another woman committed suicide at the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo in the same way.
The only reason I can conceive of for a person choosing such a terrible manner of death, is that they believed they deserved to suffer. Aside from that, only insanity can provide an answer.
For those who believe their guilt for real or imagined sins demands such a path, I have a life-saving alternative. There is One who can forgive those crimes and failings, and offer us a new beginning.
In the same passage from Hebrews cited above, we read the following good news.
[Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Share this hope with your friends and family—especially with those you know who may be contemplating the untimely end of their lives.
I have written on the subject of suicide in the past. If you are interested in considering the subject from a different perspective, please read “The Anguish of Suicide.”