Wednesday, February 15, 2023

On Linda's Prayer Request

 [Editor's note: I again apologize in advance for deferring this week's installment of Old English and its history.  As will perhaps become apparent below, circumstances have taken precedence.]

At the tail end of yesterday's blog, I had noted a prayer request from longtime friend of this blog LindaG.  I had referenced the post there yesterday as it was a late notice on my part; I post it here today: 

"I know many of you have seen this on faceless book; but I ask you to pray for my husband.  Ask everyone you can to pray for him.

He is asking me to kill him.  :-(

You all be safe and God bless (insert heart emoji here, something I can never do - Editor) "

This is a shocking thing to read as you are about to close down at 2245 local time - however, something I know a bit about as well as this is the same request my father had made of us near the end.  I will not say the thought stuck with me all night, but it was indeed a restless sleep.

Suicide is not something which I have any idea that "runs" in my family; if there was a member that was anywhere close to it even in a theoretical sense it was me from ages 17 to 19.  In my case it was (likely) less of a serious attempt than a cry for help (which did get answered), although to this day there are likely slight scars underneath years of tanning and melanin to speak of a day where it was a bit more than theoretical.  In my case, some years of counseling as well as learning to find some level of balance in my own life.

My father for many years was never one to discuss his internal workings or fears; the day that he mentioned almost in passing that he had been diagnosed as a manic-depressive in his sixties was one of the most surprising of my life, as well as the fact that he was taking medication for it (likely a serotonin inhibitor).  That was probably the only time that he mentioned it; after that it was just something we both knew but never discussed.

The conversation in question started at some point after July of 2020, when I started going to The Ranch once a month to stay with my parents.  I recall the moment quite clearly:  we were out on the porch, my father was talking about my mother's condition and at some point said "If I get much worse, I want you to shoot me".

These are words I never expected to hear.  Frankly, these are never words that a child should hear from their parent.

I talked it off of course, saying that things were not that bad and we could do something to resolve them.  But that was not the only time the conversation came up, either with myself or my sister.  It was never anything to do with my mother, always with him.  "You can just shoot me" - never "I am going to shoot myself".

We took precautions of course, verifying that any potential items which could be used in that way were locked up and the combination conveniently hidden.  And it certainly was not for every visit, just now and again.

Then, of course, the move happened, and then the stroke right after it.

After my father's initial recovery and in the period of time between that and his second stroke - perhaps 3 weeks - the conversation came up again with my father.  It was my sister this time; at one point she got up, told him she was not discussing that with him, and left.  Then of course the second stroke happened, and most all conversations, whether of that nature or others, halted.

To those that have never dealt with a family member that is inclined - verbally or by action - towards talking about suicide, you cannot imagine the stress of everyday living.  Every call potentially becomes something of a potentially bad event.  And it strikes without warning - my own failing seem to have passed on to at least one child, Nighean Gheal.  What do you say to a seven year old that tells you that she wants to kill herself?

You watch.  You get help as you can.  You try to catch conversations before they spiral out of control. And you worry.  You worry a lot.

So as I write this, I suppose in one way I was "prepared" for the conversation that my father had out of the blue with me, because I had been managing that sort of thing for years before.

Why would my father have wished for this?  I cannot fully say, but I suspect it was a combination of stress from years of being a primary caregiver and the burden of watching the love of your life and companion for 50 plus years slowly fall apart and being unable to do anything to halt it.  It is one thing for tragedy to strike when one is younger, when the wisdom and experience may be lacking but the energy and stamina is there.  It is another thing for it to happen years later when the situation is reversed and the wisdom and experience is present but the energy and stamina is not.  

There is never, I suppose, a good time for tragedy, but the timing does affect how we can and are able to respond to it.

 Why my father said what he said and why Linda's husband said what he said are equally unknown and unknowable to me in the specifics - even if they were able to give a reason, I have had my own experience with that sort of despair to know that words cannot truly express what that vast dark tunnel actually feels like.  It is not a thing I think I could convey except to say that I know.

The practice, cultural impact, and ethics of suicide is one I will not touch here, as it is it's own topic (and by "it's own topic" I mean "not today") and does not do a whit to resolve the situations that people actually find themselves in.  Pray, if you will, for those that find themselves in such situations and more importantly, for those that love and are dealing with those in those situations.  Likely they will not mention to you until something drastic has occurred; in that sense I am grateful that Linda was able to ask what she asked.  Pray if you are one that prays; even good thoughts are welcomed by those enduring such situations (trust me, I know).

"Everyone is going through a battle most know nothing about" said some wise person sometime. And often those battles go on unseen and unknown behind the public facades we often feel we must put forth.


  1. Anonymous2:47 AM

    Life can be a real challenge when circumstances beyond our control seem to attack from all sides. Hard enough on ourselves but watching the effects on someone you love can become unbearable.

    I think the person asking for that assistance really is asking for the pain to go away for good. They don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pushing on through has become too much.

    1. Anon - I agree with your assessment.

      Last month (I think it was last month) Glen posted a link to a blogger that ended his life due to the pain he was experiencing every day. His last post was announcing that he had done it. There was a robust discussion on Glen's site (beyond the scope of what we discuss here) about it. What was clear from many people is that those that do not suffer things like chronic pain or extreme debilitation (mental or physical) cannot truly appreciate what it is like to live with it every day.

      It is relatively easy for me to say that there is that "light" as I have seen the darkness and walked back from it - but mine was a mental darkness that could be managed with help. I cannot say what physical suffering or mental decline (as I believe was the case in my father) would do to my own thoughts.

  2. When my mom was dying of cancer, this topic was brought up by her and later we subsequently brought it up with her hospice nurses. Legally, they couldn't offer much in the way of direct advice though sort of backhanded information was passed. In the final days, my mom called my dad out for not living up to his "promise" and it broke my heart. I'm glad she hadn't put me in his position and I think he did the right thing by not doing what my mom was asking him to do. He had to live with the decision while she wouldn't. It was unfair of her to ask such a thing of him. A day after that conversation, the pain medicines were increased to the point she lapsed unconscious and passed away a couple days later. But is is something that continues to dwell in my mind some five years later.

    1. Ed, I had not known that about your mother but am not surprised by it. I had never made any such commitment to my father (and thankfully, he never asked it of me). But even that conversation haunts me to this day.

      I would agree (not that my opinion matters, of course) that your father took the right course of action - but I suspect the conversation still haunts him as well. Hopefully he, like myself, will accept it as a thing of the period at the time and not a reflection on the relationship as a whole.

  3. Praying for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is upon all that are involved (including prayer partners).

    As a Medical sort I've been inside the loop of such situations too often. Probably why some of my peers affect a cold "Professional" manner. To protect their hearts.

    The backhanded information is from Nurses that care, a lot.

    Is it suicide to refuse extreme measures to keep a body barely alive?

    I think not. But God will discuss that with me soon enough.

    1. Thanks Michael.

      I work in the Biopharmaceutical Industry and one of the hardest things is the fact that when we work on clinical trials, we only see the patient identifier. That is to protect the privacy of the patient of course - as a Medical sort, I am sure this is familiar to you. When we hear people "went off trial" it is a note in a presentation or in minutes meeting; what it represents is a human being that likely died or will do so soon. We talk of lives as entries, perhaps for the very reason you say - the actual realization of what we are dealing with, the lives of others, will drive us made.

      End of Life is a complex issue, far too complex like a simple man such as myself to ponder a great deal about except to note that we seem to handle it in precisely the wrong way by hiding the dying away and either refusing to help the process or by actively pushing it beyond its natural rhythm. Were I to posit it, I would suspect it is in part that we have abandoned a knowledge of what lies beyond for what we theoretically want it to be without any rationale for why it should be that way.

      Appreciate the openness.

  4. Nylon124:46 AM

    Prayers out for LindaG since I'm unable to leave a comment so far TB, working on interpreting computer entrails.....aaargh. Stress of a loved one feeling constant pain with no hope of improvement, yah lots of stress. Feeling helpless when reading these revelations TB but the more prayers sent the better IMO.

    1. Nylon12, there is nothing wrong with praying all the more.

      Honestly, talking about this subject is to me (I think) a lot like talking about the experience with my parents over the last three years: many more people than we think go through this but we always feel like we are the only ones because we never share.

  5. That request is jarring to say the least. I've been asked that a few times. Prayers up for LindaG and her husband. May God comfort and guide them both. Man....

    1. It is STxAR, especially when it is from someone whom you never expected to hear it from.

  6. Anonymous7:35 AM

    Suicide is a subject that I've lived with in my family and friends. Mother was bi-polar and when the depression would hit my father and I would gather up all the knifes, scissors, razors and med's in the house and hide them. My best friend for the last 48 years suffers from depression since I've known her along with suicide tries. Son-in-law shot himself. And I had to pull the plug on hubby so my heart broke for Linda yesterday when I read that. She will be in my prayers from now on. Dr. needs to knows immediately and hopefully/possibly up medication.

    1. Wow. No words, or at least no useful words. Thank you for sharing. Hopefully Linda has notified the appropriate people that can take action.

  7. I'm sorry for Linda's situation and her husband's. I was in a similar situation after burning out. The emotional pain and panic was so intolerable that I felt suicide might be the only solution to finally be at peace. Now of course, as I've mostly healed and I'm glad the attempt failed. I've had loved ones talk about suicide before, some flippantly, some seriously. It's never an easy topic. Sending my prayers to Linda!

    1. It is not an easy topic Rain. It is easier in some ways to talk about if, like you and I, we have been down that trail but not all the way and come back - but it is never, ever "easy".

  8. I dealt with depression for a long time. There were MANY times I thought about suicide, but never attempted it. I was literally "in the dungeon" for DECADES. I finally found my way out with the help of God. I've been in the dungeon a few times since then, but knowing the way out has gotten me past it.

    On one hand, it's not fair for a suicidal person to "put the gun in someone else's hand." On the other, the suicidal person is not thinking rationally, and that needs to be taken into account. It's truly a cry for help; almost a prayer to be allowed to die.

    I've pondered many times how "modern medicine" has put us in these impossible situations. In the past, nature took its course and the condition balanced itself out one way or the other, usually in short order. Now, in the name of "prolonging life," people are left to suffer in limbo. My mother-in-law had a major stroke. The doctor told my wife and sister that she'd never recover, and that she should be "made comfortable," and to allow nature to take its course. My wife and sister wouldn't have that, and the result was their mother lying in a nursing home for two and a half years, not able to move or even feed herself, but conscious. "Modern medicine" made this possible. I told my wife and kids not to EVER do that with me!

    ...My prayers and heartfelt understanding are with Linda, and anyone else dealing with this kind of thing...

    1. Pete - It is hard beyond measure, and I suspect it is a lot more common than most people think (thus, I suppose, the importance of writing about such things). Right glad I am that you found your way out - like you, once I found my way back once, I realized I could do it again.

      The decision is really a razor's edge. On the one hand, I do not know that we want to be in the position of prolonging an impossible situation. On the other hand, I really do not want medicine (or government) in a position where they are actively suggesting that people might want to end their lives for "reasons" (looking at you, Canadian government).

      I wonder - has it always been this way, or is this just another manifestation of First World Problems and Modern Life?

  9. Truly a difficult subject with no easy answers. I thank you TB for addressing it, and the forum above for making it a worthy morning meditation.
    I am mindful of the distinction between sympathy and empathy. About all I can add to the discussion is to say that a skilled, experienced, and truly empathetic hospice nurse can be an angel in disguise. Palliative care does not mean sedating the patient into oblivion, but it is an exceedingly difficult judgement to make.
    My daughter has over five years as a hospice nurse, and she was visiting us some years ago when my mother was a terminal but at home hospice patient, she was able to communicate with my father as none of the rest of us could. He was lashing out in anger and mental anguish, and she was able to reach him, calm him, and yet tell him that "she's not going to get better", and we could only see that she was allowed to pass as comfortably as was possible, and giving her our permission was an important part of that.

    1. Greg, thanks for recognizing the quality of the discussion (I really have some of the commenters on the InterWeb) and for sharing your experience.

      We have had limited dealings with hospice personnel, although my father was "on" hospice for most of the 1.5 years he was with us after the stroke. I cannot imagine what they have to deal with. As you say, palliative care can be a blessing for an otherwise difficult event if properly handled.

      These are difficult issues and often the discussion is clouded with a great deal of things that can cloud the discussion. Grateful we have the ability to discuss and share our experiences.

  10. polimath4:57 PM

    Just had a death in the family this past week. Mom's sister. Had cancer on her kidney. She never asked for death but knew she was on the way out. Went in on Thursday to the hospital and died on the following Tuesday. No pain, no suffering. No palliative care drugs. So, she went quickly Thank God.

    On the other side of the coin, a few years back Mom's cousin did the assisted suicide route. We went to the funeral where everyone found out what he did. It was Effing horrible. The daughter did the eulogy and was drunk, and reveling in (how can I paraphrase this) "Pulled one over on God".
    Yes he was never going to come out of the hospital, but he was not in pain or suffering. He would have died with in a month or two but that "may" have given him time to reflect and repent of his sins and accept salvation. But no, he was proud of his own destiny, "master of his own fate, thank you very much." And now both or these relatives have died outside the faith and await Judgement.
    No TB, there is no praying anyone out that place. No amount of candles, ritual, or other voodoo will work. Death seals your fate period.
    It's God who determines your days.
    P.S. I watched my Dad die a little every day of the last 5 years of his life as Alzheimer's took him slowly away from us. Never wished him dead. I never will regret the years I knew him. He was my best friend and greatest supporter on earth.
    How you react to trials and sufferings reflect on your relationship with God. Jesus said "You want share in my Glory? You will first share in my suffering.
    This moment in eternity that we call life on earth is just a blink of an eye.
    Read up on Seneca's Story. 40 days in heaven. I can send it to you. It's still on the internet.

    1. Polimath - Thank you for your comments and condolences. I have certainly come to appreciate the concept of a quick death without suffering - although, as you suggest, there is the fact that then one has to be ready at all times to meet God.

      One point of clarification: when I speak of praying for people I am speaking (at least for myself) of praying for people while they are still living. People can walk back from that edge, as some have indicated here and I have as well. Like you, my understanding is that death is a final decisive point (unlike my Catholic and Orthodox friends, who see things differently).

      Thanks for the reference - if you have it, that would be welcome. A quick search only reveals it in book stores.

  11. Thank you for this post, TB. And I thank your readers for what they shared and for their thoughts and prayers.
    I almost didn't read blogs tonight. Haven't felt like it much. But now I am very grateful that I did.
    And I'm thankful you found your way out of that dark tunnel, TB.
    I hope all of you will be safe. God bless.

    1. Thank you as always Linda, for your faithful reading and your comments. I am spoiled in my readers and commenters, and glad that they could spoil you a bit as well.

      Prayers up.

  12. raven9:45 PM

    Prayer said for your husband and yourself, LindaG.

  13. When I clicked over to LindaG's blog I wasn't prepared at all to read those words. I prayed and will pray. I can't write more, TB, and I can't even finish reading all the comments (it all just touches pain that is still too close to the surface I'm realizing), but I do want you to know I read this post and appreciate what you (and others) shared here. I cannot. LindaG, I'm praying for you and your husband.

    1. Thank you, Becki. May God bless and comfort you also.

    2. Becki, thank you for commenting at all, given the pain it brings.


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