Friday, December 26, 2014

For the Family and Friends of a Suicide, by John O'Donohue

For the Family and Friends of a Suicide 
excerpts, from John O’Donohue’s (2008) To Bless the Space Between Us

As you huddle around the torn silence,
Each by this lonely deed exiled
To a solitary confinement of soul,
May some small glow from what has been lost
Return like the kindness of candlelight. . . .

May one of the lovely hours
Of memory return
Like a field of ease
Among these graveled days.

May the Angel of Wisdom
Enter this ruin of absence
And guide your minds
To receive this bitter chalice
So that you do not damage yourselves
By attending only at the hungry altar
Of regret and anger and guilt. . . .

May your loss become a sanctuary
Where new presence will dwell
To refine and enrich
The rest of your life
With courage and compassion. . . .

How many poems, much less blessings, speak directly to suicide loss survivors' experience? I am grateful to John O'Donohue for even thinking to include us in his book of blessings. And I am touched by his insight into how it feels--the "lonely deed" that "exiles" us; the unremitting "graveled days"; the powerful pull of that "hungry altar"; the need for "sanctuary." But I cannot accept, in the parts of his blessing that I have left out, the idea that suicide is something “sent for” as part of the “eternal script,” to be understood “with the eyes of providence.” That is like saying that suicide was meant to be or all for the best or that we are each allotted only a certain lifespan.  I know that O'Donohue and others who convey that message are only trying to offer comfort and meaning. As the mother of a young man who took his life, I can never see it that way. Instead, I take comfort and meaning from the rest of his blessing and its empathic, generous embrace. And I thank the friends who bring me writings like this at just the right moment.

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