Friday, October 29, 2010

Dealing with Loss ... Loving in Life

My emotions have been ragged this week as I approached the loss of a man I cared for deeply when I was young.  To be honest, I'm not sure I can find words to make sense of what is going on inside my heart.

A college professor, mentor, friend, committed suicide this week and I can't understand why I am so devastated, but my heart just hurts and that hurt keeps pouring out of me in the form of tears.  I haven't seen him in quite a few years, haven't communicated with him in several years, but I always knew that there would be time.  There wasn't.

He was a force ... a passionate, musical, demanding force.  He taught me how to work with groups, his conducting class showed me how to lead people and how to bring out everything I could from them musically.  His joy and exuberance gave life to incredible musical dreams for many students.

I spent the summer with him after I graduated.  We worked together preparing the summer musical - that year it was "Man of La Mancha."  I stayed on campus as the rehearsal accompanist and had the best time as I experienced his treatment of the music.  He introduced this young, inexperienced Iowa girl to Chinese food!  He made me feel so important as he picked me up and took me out to dinner - simply to say thanks for what I had done for him.  He probably had no idea how much it meant to me.  We worked hard that summer and I had one of the best times of my musical life.

When I got the email notification from Coe College that Rich Hoffman had died, I was in shock.  I knew he had been battling pancreatic cancer and assumed that it had finally taken him.  I cried tears of loss and then realized that life kept moving on, so I needed to keep busy with what I was doing.  Later that evening, one of my close friends emailed me that he had been found in his car, in his garage ... it looked like suicide.

My emotions changed from the pain of loss to a sorrowful ache at the loneliness and desperation he must have felt.  Assumptions are being made that he'd had more bad news regarding the cancer and his death was imminent whatever way ... he chose this way.

I've known of people that committed suicide, but I don't believe I've ever felt it so closely.  There is such an aching feeling of sorrow, knowing that person was alone, with no one standing there to assure them they were loved and cared for and that there would be understanding for what their choices were going to be.

This morning I spoke with a pastor friend of mine - Craig Finnestad - and asked how he counseled families that deal with loss through suicide.  He gave me a profound thought to consider.  When our hearts deteriorate, they stop beating and we die.  When other organs deteriorate, they cease to work and our bodies die.  The mind is yet another part of our body and when it finally deteriorates, our body may die.  Even if it is a short term level of desperation and insanity, we have to know that it can cause our death.  And since God is not bound by time, we can't know what happens between a person and God in those moments just prior to final death.  That isn't ours to judge.  Because our mind has deteriorated to the point of death, does not mean that God rejects us from heaven.

That really made me think.  My parents had a friend commit suicide and I remember evenings just after that event as they sat around and discussed the ramifications surrounding it.  Neither could accept that a God who loves us so much and spends our lives wooing us to Himself would punish us for not being able to hold up against seemingly insurmountable pain and agony.

The world is a lonelier place for those of us left behind - but that happens whenever we lose someone we love.  It hurts me to know that loneliness generally surrounds suicide.  But, the moment Rich was gone, those painful fears and terrors, pain and agony that he faced were gone as well.

We can rejoice in his life, pray for his family and those that were close to him and love those who are close to us.


cjb said...

Thank you, Diane. I didn't know you were called the Oracle but that must be why I had such a need to share with you. You always seem to know what to say to leave our hearts a little lighter.

Diane Muir said...

I miss you, Cath ... one of these days I'll find my way to CR and I can hug you!

Josie P. said...

So much of what you wrote resonates with what I'm feeling and pondering these days- thank you. I too believe that he believed that this "solution" would be the better choice for him (and others), sadly.

Diane Muir said...

It certainly is hard on the rest of us. I really pray that he had peace regarding his decision.

Fran said...

Sorry to have taken so long to respond, it's hard sometimes for me to respond on suicide. It hits so close to my heart. But I agree with what Pastor Craig said and that the brain can only handle so much. I know that my Mom chose what she felt at the time was the best for everyone, but mostly for her. I'm okay with that but it doesn't stop me from missing her all these years and wanting to share everything with her.
I hope this week will be a much better week for you, know that I love you and pray for your heart to heal over this sadness in your life.