I thought I would post a few thoughts this morning. I’ve been staying home on Sunday mornings for the last few weeks. This is the time of the year that I approach tenderly. April is the month that my father killed himself. Time has past since he died, 9,114 days ago, almost 25 years ago, almost 2.5 decades ago, almost 1/4th of a century ago. I give up trying to think how many seconds it was that first year my dad rested behind every thought. His suicide still brings up a lot of feelings. I honestly don’t think that’s ever going to go away. My dad died April 17, 1998.
That first year after finding my father in his garage, his death was on my mind awake and in my dreams. Dad’s sweet, scruffy dog looked at me so sadly before I went inside as if saying “he closed the door, Karen; I couldn’t stop him.”
I am totally sure my mind was sick after his death. I had crazy thoughts, but I functioned okay. Maybe. I worked quite a bit of overtime at my job. Later getting our house ready for sale, so we could move to Columbia, TN. All the while, my mind played Dad’s death over and over in my mind like one of those old broken 45’s on a record player. My mind made up stories for the reason of Dad’s suicide, mostly a mentally ill story was of a demon living in Mom and Dad’s septic tank terrorizing Dad. Dad obsessed over the septic tank that last year, not letting anyone put water down the drains. I believed that demon had seen me when I found Dad’s body, saw me when my mind separated from my body and watched from the rafters of his garage. I believed it followed me home and whispered crazy notions in my ear.
I wanted to learn how to fight that demon. To make it go away. To overcome it. There for several months, I was as obsessed over the demon in the septic tank as Dad was obsessed with the thought of having to dig it up and install a new one. Everything around me felt stained by evil. I couldn’t go to a movie and enjoy it. I would run out of the theater with sweat pouring off me because something reminded me of that day I pulled his garage door up. I couldn’t watch TV without seeing Dad’s body. I really do think I know how soldiers feel when they come home from war and avoid the 4th of July fireworks. When I asked a pastoral counselor how to learn how to fight it. “It” being that evil thing that followed me home and terrorized so many of my moments, awake and asleep. She told me to not look at, to put my mind on Bible stories. We read them together and discussed how God loves his people. She made sure that I knew I was a child of God. I will always appreciate her help.
The Columbine High School Massacre happened April 20, 1999. One year and 3 days after my dad’s suicide. This year, 25 years later, we had another school shooting in a long line of multiple deaths at schools and churches. This time in Nashville, TN. I feel so sad for the families of the murdered children and adults, including the shooter’s family. After my experience with PTSD after my dad’s suicide, I don’t have to really imagine what they are going through. I know it. My heart is broken for them all.
There’s no making sense of evil. It shows up in all kinds of ways. I think evil is the epitome senselessness and powerlessness. But, for real, if there’s anything I’ve learned it is that trying to figure it out will drive a person insane. I really think people experience insanity when they apply judgements to the people that evil has played through. The young person who murdered 3 children and 3 adults on March 27, 2023 at Covenant School was a victim of evil as much as the people that person mowed down with guns. Her family hurts. Our country is now, again, in an argument over gun controls or gun freedoms. It’s an old argument that seems to never be able to find a solution.
Something I’ve learned, wonderfully learned, is that God will restore a person’s sanity. I think God has restored mine to the point that I am not hard on myself for taking a break from corporate worship during Easter seasons. I believe God knows that I can find God’s promise of resurrection in all kinds of things during the Spring season; God forgives me and helps me forgive myself for not wanting to hear and discuss about the death of God’s son. God knows I can’t keep my mind on the ideal that Jesus died for us when all I can see and feel is my human father’s violent death.
A friend of mine told me the day of the Covenant school shooting that “God loves us and draws closer to us when we suffer.” Believe that ! It is a beautiful, valuable truth.