On Suicide: Thanksgiving with a Phone

suicides
And yet, all day long, I thought about suicide. Has there been a suicide in my family? Yes. Has there been one in yours?

At 6:02am on Thursday morning, I clicked onto the Hinds Hospice employee intranet to access the payroll information. After selecting the correct menu choices, I was officially on-call for Thanksgiving 2019.

A few months back, I had agreed to the turkey-day shift for our LOSS team program. My wife and I don’t have kids. Our parents have died. Our siblings live in various places across the country. I have colleagues with children and nearby family. It just seemed right and fair to be the on-call for one of the major holidays.

LOSS is the acronym for Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. This program officially began last July (2019), mostly funded by Fresno County and under the “umbrella” of Hinds Hospice’s Center for Grief and Healing. At its simplest, LOSS will respond to any suicide as quickly as possible after being contacted by the police or coroner’s office. Two people—a clinician and a volunteer—will go to the scene to provide support and information to the family and friends impacted by a loved one’s suicide.

Arguably the most crucial action the LOSS team does is get contact information for the “survivors.” In the moments, hours, and days after a family member or friend has died by suicide, an entire universe has been shattered. Emotions are on a runaway roller coaster. Doing routine tasks become like climbing El Capitan without ropes. Tender memories clash with the new grim reality of non-stop, unanswerable questions. Continue reading →

How Did Jesus Know?

Luke 7:11-17 – The 3rd Sunday following Pentecost – for Sunday, June 5, 2016

“When he saw her, the Lord had compassion for her and said, ‘Don’t cry.’” (Luke 7:13)

Jesus Resurrecting the Son of the Widow of Naim (oil on canvas)How did Jesus know the widow from Nain was a widow?

As an outsider to Nain, how did he easily and quickly identify her and her situation?

It was real easy to spot her as a woman.

It was relatively easy to see she was part of a funeral procession.

Perhaps from her emotional reactions, most could guess the funeral involved her child.

But how could a “stranger” know she was also a widow?

Her neighbors knew. They also knew that without husband and son, without income and status, she was dependent on Israel’s charitable customs and the limited generosity of other impoverished villagers.

+      +      +

Last Thursday, I chatted with our only African-American male chaplain before our hospice’s monthly Remembrance Service. I’ve known he was black since the first day I met him.

Last Wednesday, the death-of-spouse grief support group I’ve led since February finished its twelfth and final session. I’ve known since the first gathering that everyone who walked into the room and put on a nametag was a widow or widower. Continue reading →