I went to a funeral Monday. It was the first funeral I have ever been to for someone who committed suicide and for someone of age to be my son. I hope it is the last such funeral I ever have to attend. With the recent exception of a beloved cousin and contemporary, all of my dead have exited this life in an orderly manner, having given notice in the form of terminal illness and/or old age. It begins to terrify me that I haven’t lost anyone closer or more out of turn – with every day the odds increase that my luck will run out.
But this is not my main thought. The thing that struck me most during the service was the compassion of the pastor’s sermon and the sympathy for the suffering of the deceased that seemed to prevail among the mourners. The religious tradition I grew up in was not forgiving of suicide. Today, the Church takes a far more nuanced look at the roots of suicidal intent, to a degree that similar sentiments could easily have been spoken at a Catholic funeral. What struck me is the difficulty of striking a balance between recognizing and attempting to ease another human being’s psychic pain on one hand and appearing to accept impaired life function or suicide as natural potential consequences of that pain on the other. Maybe I wouldn’t fixate on this on this balance if I felt that life was its own best argument against suicide? I wonder.