Saturday, November 19, 2011

The M*A*S*H Song Is Wrong: It’s Not “Painless”, It’s Senseless

“Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone” – from Fire and Rain by James Taylor

Well, it wasn’t “yesterday”; it was this past Monday when I learned that my brother’s best friend from childhood through high school had died unexpectedly at age 47. I couldn’t go down to the Memorial Service, because it was being held that evening back home in central Virginia, three to four hours away (or more depending on D.C. traffic). So, I didn’t find out how he died until a few days later – Suicide. Even today (Thursday) I learned even more details that add to this tragedy – He wasn’t found for four days! My brother hadn’t been in contact with him for 20 years, so it was probably much longer since I’d seen him myself. But still I remember him well: his laugh, his Jupiter Jones physique (when he was a kid), his peanut butter allergy (the first I’d ever heard about), his accomplished piano playing, and his comic books.

While I may have inherited two of my brother’s friends (one for a time and one for a lifetime) when he left home for college. The deceased was never one of those. No, I was more of the annoying kid brother (six years younger than they were) and even when I lived at his house for a time, I don’t think I was ever allowed to touch his comics. I can clearly remember that he had a copy of Fantastic Four #6, which I thought was very cool. He also had stopped getting Daredevil right before Frank Miller started his seminal run. It wasn’t really an extensive collection, but he and my brother shared so many of the same interests: comics, monster movies, Star Trek, etc. Was it his influence on my brother or my brother’s influence on him that led to the fondness of such things or was it just a mutual appreciation, which is why they had become close friends to begin with? I don’t know, but I’d like to think that my favorite hobby -- comics, which I took up in greater passion than my brother, could partially be the result of this individual.

By all surface appearances this guy had a lot going for him. He was the valedictorian of his high school class, an expert musician, and a skilled scientist. He was also a professed Christian and for a time played piano for his church. He even still had some family around to visit occasionally, the last time being about a month ago. They had no clue, no inkling at all, that their loved one could take his life. Apparently, he left a note, but I’ll never know what it said, nor should I.

Still, it baffles me how he could come to such a decision. Was he lonely? And if so, why? He had good friends at one stage of his life. Why was he a loner later on? He was also supposed to have faith and not just wishful thinking faith, but faith in the God who not only created the mountains, but can move them. Still anybody can get discouraged (even Christians when they take their eyes off of Christ).

“Jesus said He’s with me all the time
That doesn’t stop when things are scary and not so fine
You’ve got some problems no one wants, I know
You even prayed about it– now they won’t go”

– from I Can’t Grow From That (Nor Can You) by J. Jackson
[Parody of I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) by Hall and Oats]

Things DO get scary often or at the very least out of (our) control and bad stuff happens all around us. Sometimes it can seem like God isn’t listening, but then you’ve got to remember what the Bible says and “stand” on those promises.

“Tough things await
I don’t know what – I’m just sayin’
I’ll face them anyway
But James says that they refine you
Trials await – I’ll be coming through them all OK"

– from James 1:3 by J. Jackson
[Parody of Take On Me by A-Ha]

We can let ourselves get defeated, if we don’t tap into the Holy Spirit. What good is your HDTV without electricity? The Christian life also shouldn’t be lived in a vacuum, away from other believers. We get strength from one another; otherwise we’re vulnerable. Only in comic books does a head function without the rest of the body.

This isn’t the first person I’ve known to surrender to despair and give up. My uncle died by car fumes when I was almost eight years old. My mother gave me a C-3PO and Darth Vader action figure after the funeral and I remember playing with them out on the sidewalk of my Great Uncle’s house. She also gave me a 45 record of David Gates’ The Goodbye Girl (an excellent song and movie) with a note that I’d see my uncle in Heaven one day since he too was a professed Christian. (I was going to scan it, but I can’t seem to find it in the house right now – I hope my sister didn’t borrow them the last time she was here. I only thought she took back her Tears For Fears: The Hurting LP [a fantastic album], which I had “borrowed” from her years ago. I could go for some Pale Shelter right now.)

My uncle was emotionally upset over a woman who had spurned him and substance abuse (and depression) certainly played into his actions. He had something (and someone) to look forward to the VERY NEXT day, BUT he couldn’t see it or thought that all his failures would make his dying better off for everybody. I guess he was Stuck In A Moment That [He Couldn’t] Get Out Of. (I apologize, but I can’t help but think in song.) That’s certainly possible. It’s important to remember that the promise of I Corinthians 10:13 (that there is always a way out of temptation) usually means the way out occurs early on before you start head long into sin as anyone who’s experienced Paradise By The Dashboard Light could probably attest.

I’m convinced that if I hadn’t had faith in Jesus Christ, I would’ve done myself in during the tumultuous high school years. Some of those times seemed SO BAD and I didn’t have the perspective I do now that a lot of those things weren’t really that important. Plus, I didn’t know all of the MANY blessings that were coming my way either. Ultimately, I didn’t lose hope, knowing that my life had purpose and meaning. One of my favorite Bible verses (Proverbs 3:5-6) says to “not lean on your own understanding.” That’s where faith comes in.

As my mother says, “people who kill themselves aren’t in their right mind.” Does anyone remember when Doctor Strange almost succumbed to Despaire in issue #55 (drawn wonderfully by Michael Golden)? People who are in that predicament NEED HELP. I hope you’ll forgive me for going After School Special on you (or in my case Sunday School Special), but if there is anyone out there that feels hopeless, I got some things directed specifically at you:

1. If you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline website.

2. You are special and unique!

3. Someone out there cares about you!

4. Life is worth living!

5. Despite your circumstances, there is always hope!

6. You can change your life!

7. As Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush sang DON’T GIVE UP!!!!!!

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