I held a sobbing child in my arms last night for the first time in a very long time. I held her close and just let the tears go, with salty bitterness and nose running all down my shoulder. There were no soothing words to comfort, no back patting to help calm. Hold her. That’s all I could do. I held her until she loosed her grip and let go. I held her hands in mine, and kissed them. I took her face close to mine and kissed it. I whispered “I love you” in her ear.
The beautiful, distraught child was mine. She will be 18 exactly 13 days from now. She stands an inch-and-a-half taller than me, but in her Doc Martens it is near to 3 inches. And last night she was my little girl who needed her Momma all over again. I sat next to her as she, as we, her Dad and I too, attended a funeral.
This was an unexpected funeral, and a tragic one at that, as many tend to be. The service was for a 17 year-old high school Junior who died by her own hand. Vivi was a friend of SugarBug’s from church. Being close in age they went through many of the same church programs together starting in the nursery as infants. They have known each other their whole lives but didn’t develop a friendship until both were in high school youth group together. It was there they bonded over similar music tastes, distaste for conventional trendy fashion and a love for Jesus.
I’ve known Vivi and her parents just as long. I worked in the church nursery as a Supervisor in charge of one of the rooms when she was born. Her dad was SonnyBoy’s guitar teacher for a short time. Her mother and I connected through women’s ministry, and various other ways we had volunteered over the years.
Our girls had another connection: depression.
There are few things in this world I truly hate, and by “hate” I mean I wish it never existed anywhere, anytime in this world. And I HATE depression. It is a sinister quiet little devil of a thing. People who suffer with it look like nothing is wrong with them, at least most of the time. And those fighting it aren’t always immediately aware when it is getting worse. Outsiders don’t always realize that something has changed with the person caught in its grip. Sometimes the depressed don’t see it right away either — and they are the ones living with it. It moves slowly, so slowly that it can be weeks or months before it is recognized as having taken hold.
And sometimes it moves at lightning speed.
Maybe that’s what happened with Vivi, that lightning speed onslaught of darkness. Only she knows, and she isn’t here to tell us.
I can’t blame her — at least I don’t want to blame her — for taking her own life. The whispers of self-loathing telling me the world would be a better place, that I would be in a better place, that no one would really miss me all that much, to ‘go ahead, do it’ have been all too familiar. LIES! Those are all lies.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs. Cursing won’t do any good, and it won’t change anything, and it won’t make me feel any better. It never does. Blaming her parents is the absolute wrong thing to do. Vivi’s dad made sure to have Pastor tell the attendees of the service that no one loved his girl as much or as fiercely as her mother did.
I love my girl fiercely, too. I am afraid that she has heard those terrible whispered lies in the quiet recesses of her mind. I am afraid. And I hate being afraid. I don’t think she is in any real danger of self-harm. But …I know this age and stage in life makes her extremely vulnerable. I am certain she struggles to see beyond being 19 or 20 years old. Anything much past that is just.so.old.
I want her to not just grow up, but grow old. At Vivi’s funeral our Youth Ministry director said she always thought Vivi would grow up to be one of the coolest adults: independent, artistic, poetic, unfettered by the norms that keep adults so ‘adult.’ I could see that. And sadly we none of us will get a chance to actually see that.
The night before the funeral during the visitation time Vivi’s mom took my girl in her arms, remembered her by name, and held her tight. They clung to each other — my daughter in grief, the grieving mother in relief that her child was remembered by a friend. She told my girl how much hers had loved her, how she looked forward to seeing her at youth group, how she loved and admired SugarBug for being SugarBug, and doing it so boldly.
So my sweet girl, continue to go boldly into adulthood. No matter how old you get you will always have my shoulder to cry on. And make Vivi proud by being one of the coolest adults on the planet, and love Jesus the whole while.
- When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
- Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
- My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
- For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
- But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
- And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is Well with My Soul, Horatio G Spafford, 1873