Letter to Elizabeth, Part II

Author's note: Names of individuals and locations where they live have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved. Elizabeth,

It was my intent to finish up this email several days ago. I went to bed that night thinking of what I was going to write. Then I received a phone call that delayed my completing this email until now.

An old friend of mine, Anne, tried to kill herself last weekend. I don't think you knew her. We dated off and on in high school and kept in touch over the years. She married this great guy, Trent, about 12 years ago. Three years ago they moved to Iowa. She's the mother of four young children.

Anne was in town a few months ago to visit family and had dinner with Marathon Girl and me. She seemed happy and normal. She told us about going back to school to complete her bachelor's degree. She talked about her kids and how much she enjoyed being a mom. So when I received the news that she attempted to take her own life, I was stunned. According to her mom, several people have mentioned that she left a note behind stating that Trent and her children would be better off without her.

I've talked to Trent once since then. He's in shock and "pretty messed up." He blames himself for what happened. I tried to console him the best I could from 1,000 miles away. Of all people you'd think I'd be the one that would have comforting words and but I really didn't know what to say to him. Mostly I just let him talk.

The only part in which I felt I was somewhat helpful was telling him about the day my first wife killed herself and the three promptings I ignored that, had I heeded them, may have saved her life. You know all about that but Trent had never heard that part of the story before. I'm sending him a copy of my book because I think some of my experience might be beneficial to both him and Anne.

Over the last few days, I've thought about Anne and what was going through her mind when she tried to kill herself. And, in answer to your question, I've thought back to my first wife and what she was thinking when she put the gun to her head. But knowing Anne and my first wife as well as I do, I've concluded that there must be a dark place that some people reach. I cannot fathom such a place but it must be horrible if people think the only way out is death.

I was surprised to read in your email that before your second child was born a few months ago that your husband constantly worried that you'd do something similar to Krista even though you've had no history of depression and mental illness in your family. How powerfully the effects my first wife's suicide still reverberate years later continues to amaze me.

In Sunday school last week, I taught the teenagers at church how there is no such thing as a "private" decision. Every decision we make will affect someone else at some point in our lives. Rationalizing that what you do won't hurt anyone else is a lie. The world, I told them, is made up of the "private" decisions of millions of people. I think if we understood how our actions truly affect those around us, we'd think twice before doing certain things.

My mind returns to Anne. I wonder how her decision will affect her relationship with her husband and her children. I think of my own life and choices I need to make in the upcoming days and weeks. Some are minor. Others are looming large. I hope and pray that I can make good decisions that will not only be beneficial to me but to my family.

Again, I apologize for the delay in sending this email. I hope it finds you well and let's arrange our schedules so Marathon Girl and I can meet up with the two of you for dinner. There is still so much I'd like to talk with you about.

Your friend,