By Lisa Huddleston
On Monday evening I received a text message from a good friend telling me that my dentist had killed himself. His body had been found in his car parked behind a large car dealership near a line of woods. Curiously, my mother (who lives with us), Chuck, and I had been talking about this man during our dinner that very night. I had received a postcard reminder of my upcoming appointment for a cleaning, and we were extolling his virtues as a kind and caring man. And then this news.
It was shocking to us and also to the rest of our small town! Rumors began to fly almost immediately blaming such things as finances, affairs, business troubles, and so on. I still have no idea why he took his life, but I can say I have spent the week pondering the terrible affect suicide has upon those it leaves behind, and everyone I have spoken with in my hometown has brought it up everyday since. What will his employees do? Will the business close? Will his family still receive insurance money? Where will we go if we have a dental emergency? Is suicide an unforgivable sin? These are just a few of the many questions I have heard asked. Many of the gossipy questions being asked were none of our business, others were just practical (and selfish?) on our part, and still others showed genuine concern. In my defense, it took me years to find this particular dentist, and I trusted him—no small feat. I hate the idea of going anywhere else. I confess that was my second thought after I heard the news—after the shock and gasp of sorrow. Selfish, yes. I’m only human.
But I wonder what happened? How could this smiling, congenial, and very kind man we knew end up taking his own life? Mom had seen him two weeks earlier. Chuck had chatted about our children and his less than a week before. All seemed fine and ordinary and mundane. But it’s clear that was not the truth.
I have to confess I’ve thought a lot about suicide—what else would you expect from a depressive person?—so I can understand the urge. But to actually do it? It makes my soul ache. If he could have seen what a hole he would leave, you know, have a “Wonderful Life” moment, would he still have done it? If we who only knew him professionally feel so affected by his death how much more so are those who loved him as a friend or family member? It hurts my heart to imagine their pain.
But I hope we all will imagine that pain. Suicide is increasing. I know of three people who have attempted it this year alone, and I really don’t get out much. So think! You fill a hole in the world that only you fit. Only you can sing off-key in just that odd and quirky way. Only you water the porch plants or teach that ESL class or sleep on the left side of that special person or have the same blue eyes as your daughter. Only you are you. And if you don’t care about you then, please, care about those students or friends or loved ones who will never be the same without you in their lives.
It may sound odd, but I will miss my dentist, and I will never forget how he left us. I pray I will also never forget the value of every life including my own. You do you, and I’ll do me. And let’s all keep on doing or being us for as long as life allows. And, please, SEEK HELP IF YOU NEED IT! People really do care.
P.S. I do not believe this kind, Christian man will be eternally condemned for his lapse of judgment. Jesus died for all our sins. Thank you, Lord!