Even though my life was unreasonably and seemingly excessively cruel, I did not consider suicide during the first 20 years of my life, because G-d seemed my only ally and I did not want to disappoint G-d. I feared discovering that G-d didn’t want me either.
At age 21, however, in reaction to the unnecessarily cruel death of my 5-year-old nephew (my namesake), I felt betrayed by G-d and we seemed to turn our backs on each other. I entered into an affair with a married professor, acting out my anger and objection, while also cementing my eternal destiny as a flagrant undeniable sinner…an adultress. From that point on, suicide, while seeming like a desirable escape from life’s continued cruelty, would have put me squarely at the feet of the G-d who betrayed me. I spent the next 40 years in a spiritual wilderness.
At a very low point near the end of the 40 years, I became no longer afraid of death; I believed G-d didn’t care one way or the other. For someone who held visions of suicide like a mantra, that presents a slippery slope. The few years following that were intense with a few 7-10 day ‘retreats’ in mental hospitals (some voluntary, some not) combined with intense and intentional spiritual healing exercises, fervent prayers for healing and forgiveness (mostly my praying to forgive others), and the subsequent loss of employment, home, possessions, reputation, dreams, goals,…
During the exhausting process of moving myself and my two children in three directions, I failed to notice exactly how it came about but once settled, I found my new occupation was working for Jesus….and I once again feared death…but this time, I feared that I would die before I had done enough to make up for all of the years I had tried to fix what was wrong with my own life. I felt I had so much to make up for.
Then I had a near-death experience a year or so ago. By that point, I had wrapped up most of the big issues in my life; both children seemed to be working things out in their own lives; I was at peace and was discussing with G-d that I could see how my role in life might be done and I could see how it might be the right time to take me home….but, I really wanted to do more. I wanted to help. I wanted to continue and increase my being in this world…acting on His behalf.
“Well then, pay attention,” I was told. And as I looked ahead of me down the 2-lane road, I saw coming around a curve, a tight formation of cyclists in the left hand lane and a van coming toward me in my lane. The road was cut into the mountain side with a steep drop-off to the right. I calmly but quickly stopped my car in time to allow the van distance to pass the cyclists and pull into their lane in front of them.
“Well, okay,” I thought. “What’s my next assignment?”
I have struggled with a bit of disappointment and potential grief when reading from mystics like Bernadette Roberts, who insist we lose all sense of self at death. I mean, after suffering as much as I have in the past, I was hoping to have an experience of the joy promised; If I have no self, I have no experience…no sensation. That bothered me a lot for a while….but only for a while.
Life continues to be inexpressibly beautiful at times and heartbreakingly confusing at others, but my sense is that death will be a bit of a slide…similar to the slide from wakefulness into the dream world of sleep. I want to stay alive to see how the story ends and to be as useful as He wants me to be, but the when and how are details of the itinerary and not really of my concern. Life has become very daily with its allotment of bread and assignments; they are my concern.