Day 196: Be Careful What You Say

I wish I could write this under more positive circumstances.  I really do.  But it’s not possible.  One of my wife’s oldest and closest friends from high school passed away two nights ago, and all signs point to suicide.  She had battled mild depression for several years, dating back to a snowmobile accident a few years back.  I didn’t know her, but from the stories I’ve heard, a good portion of her battle centered on her self-confidence and her appearance after the accident.  Including a battle with weight.

On Friday night, she attended a major league baseball game with her husband.  At the game, a fan seated behind her became drunk and belligerent, making fun of people and saying nasty things.  One of those things was a comment about my wife’s friend’s weight.

Needless to say, her friend couldn’t let go of the comment…the ugly rambling of a drunk cut to her core.  On Sunday, word spread quickly that she had failed to wake up in the morning.  While the official cause of death is currently pending as accidental overdose of sleeping pills, everyone who knows her has read between the lines and knows what really happens.

She left behind a husband and three daughters, all teenagers.

She left behind many, many caring friends.

She left behind tears.

She left behind a world in which a casual, throwaway comment from an inebriated tongue can cause life-ending pain.

She left behind a story that hurts to hear.

I didn’t personally know her.  I’ve seen her pictures in photo albums and on Facebook.  I’ve heard her friends talk about her and her beautiful daughters.  I’ve known firsthand that she was a source of strength to a young, impressionable girl entering the halls of high school: my wife.  And I’ve now come to know that she battled these demons for years.

I can not eulogize someone I didn’t know.  There will be many people who can do that this week.  I can not speak of how her family is coping.  Others will be there there in their sorrow.  I don’t know much of her story beside what I have been told.  But I do know this: the tongue is a wicked, wicked instrument and we wield it far too freely.

I wish to teach my children many things as they grow.  First, to know their faith and trust in Him.  Second, to love their family above everyone else.  Third, to always strive for achievement and excellence.  And fourth, to control their temper and tongues.  ]

Maximus said it well in the movie Gladiator when speaking of our actions here on Earth:

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

I think you can take creative liberty, apply it to the quote, and come up with something equally as poignant:

“What we say in life echoes through our lifetime.”

Lord knows I’ve said things I regret.  Harsh words to an ex.  Ill phrases to my family.  Ugly statements to my friends.  Lies, half-truths, and the occasional aforementioned drunk spew.  I have no doubt I’ve caused sleepless nights, tear stained faces, and tortured conversations.  For these, I am deeply and truly sorry.

I have contemplated beginning an online crusade to find this woman who may have caused this young woman’s suicide.  With enough connections to the town where it happened, I’ve no doubt that someone, somewhere, could eventually connect me to her.  I don’t want to berate her, pseudo-lynch her, or anything of that nature.  I would just like to calmly let her know that her actions and words on a hot summer night at a baseball game, after consuming a few too many beers, left a husband without a wife and three young girls without a mother.  Despite all precautions this drunk may have taken, including having a designated driver, she nonetheless drove someone to death.

I don’t think I will pursue that crusade, however, because this isn’t my fight to fight.  I have a voice that can do more good by bringing her tragedy to your attention.  And if you remember anything from today, please remember this: A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4).

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.
Matthew 15:11

Day 128: A Classmate’s Obituary

These days, I expect to see something shocking when I log on to Facebook; someone’s political statement will offend, cursing will be prevalent, or the latest and greatest movie will be magically posted in my news feed.  The last thing I expected to find tonight was a posting letting us know that we lost a classmate from high school.

He was 32.  That’s not usually the age at which someone succombs to a liver disease.  Nevertheless, there it was.  He passed away yesterday.  We didn’t exactly run in the same circles, but when your graduating class is less than 90 and your town has fewer than 3,500 inhabitants, there are very few people who don’t affect your life.  His brother was friends with my brother, his parents were friends with my parents.  And while we may not have hung out together much, I knew Matt and we spoke often enough.  Often enough that I feel deeply saddened by his death.

“The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”
-Thornton Wilder

It’s not just the cold shock of peer-age mortality, although the shock hit like a splash of cold water in the morning.  It’s the fact that someone who truly knew who he was is gone.  Unlike so many in high school, Matt never cared about popularity or peer pressure.  He was one of those guys who went his own way because he was comfortable with who he was.  At an age when failing to get invited to a bonfire could ruin a weekend, I have to admit that I admired the ones like Matt who never seemed to care about where they stood, as long as they stood where they wanted.

I wasn’t as confident as that.  I struggled to find my own self-confidence in my own personality until much later in life.  It took a divorce and separation from friends and family by 10,000 miles for me to develop a knowledge of “me”.  Matt, and several of those whom I would call his close friends in high school, never seemed to wonder about themselves in that respect.  And I’ve come to appreciate that more than he could ever have known.

It’s the loss of someone who was truly unique that saddens me more than anything.  Matt was unique in that he was Matt, and only he could have been Matt.  He seemed to enjoy that.  I respect that.  And I am remiss that I never got a chance to tell him that at any class reunion.  Before this year, I probably never would have, but if you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve made it a goal to tell people how they’ve impacted my life.  Maybe I would have mentioned something like this to him should our paths ever have crossed.  Maybe I wouldn’t have.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I will never have that opportunity, and the shame is that he should have known.

My prayers tonight are with Matt’s family, and his friends who knew him best.

Never let the sun go down without telling someone they matter.  You never know if you’ll get another chance.

“While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.”
-John Taylor