He played for the University of Texas’s National Championship team. He taught Sunday School for hundreds of students on Sunday Morning at Hyde Park. He helped build Fellowship of Christian athletes to over 600 students on Wednesday nights, speaking, helping plan ski trips, letting students live with him and his wife in their lovely home in Austin.
He was successful in business, family, community. He exuded confidence.
The wheels came off. She left and took the kids. He spiraled. I traveled down and spent a couple of agonizing hours while he blew smoke practicing denial as an art form, intricate yet see-through art.
Then decades later, on April 30 he ended his life. No funeral. No obit. One of our students from back then tagged me on Facebook. We talked on the phone. No details. Just gone.
So many aspects of his end nag at me, bother me, and even anger me — but the most surprising part, shocked me.
What nags me, what bothers me is that the process is so bloody predictable. Man goes “interior” and gets lost in his own thoughts. Listens to his heart, which Jeremiah said, “is above all things deceitful”. He separates from people who will call him or call his decisions on the carpet. He shields his lies to himself from others. He slips. He excuses it. He slips further, he rationalizes. He separates from some people, others separate from him. It is the same process that wolves use to separate a weakened specimen from the herd.
People go see him. He lies to them. Fewer people keep striving to touch him. He finds new “friends” who “accept” him as he is. He slips further. Some slips are accidental, but more of them are intentional now.
Suddenly everyone gets the “call” — he is gone. People closest to him berate themselves, “Why did I not see this coming?” Others judge themselves as failing him. Still others wonder at some chemical imbalance or deficiency, some chemical-physical REASON for this. And everyone experiences loss. That angers me.
But the surprise, the sucker punch comes later.
It comes in the instant that someone else is found dead, alone, inexplicably. It is then when I realize that my first thought was – “self inflicted, suicidal.” I am not thinking clear headed. Three possibilities for someone’s passing, no four are all possible on the face of it, accident, foul play, natural causes, and suicide. And I jumped to suicide first.
That hit like a sucker punch. His end shifted my way of processing information, of listening, of “being there” for a friend. I “assumed” that this other soul had ended life here as he had, when the other possibilities are FAR MORE practicable.
That tinge of loss, cynicism, nihilism — that shadow on my thinking is the hardest thing to predict, to counteract, and protect against. If I had not the Hope I have in Christ, I would have no way to expunge it, once identified.