A young man, 22, hanged himself from a tree behind our church the other day.
My friend, who lives across the street, woke up to police cars all down her street. When she walked to the end of her driveway, she saw him, still hanging from the tree. He used a rope and a lawn chair. The tree was surprisingly small, but on a slight hill. One branch with a few big knots was strong enough and high enough.
They had to leave him hanging for quite a while waiting for the crime scene people. That lack of dignity and respect hurts my heart.
Our ministers and some of his friends and people from the neighborhood gathered by the tree later to honor and pray for him. Someone put a cross and some flowers on the tree.
My friend and I spent the next few days working on a fundraiser for the non-profit where she works and I’m on the Board of Directors. People host parties all over town, collect donations, and then gather at one big dessert finale with a band at the local coliseum complex.
Our non-profit provides case-management and prevention services for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Every May for the last 26 years, this Dining for Friends fundraiser has provided a big piece of the agency’s budget. The majority of the donations are $100 or less. That’s a whole lot of people who care. Still.
I watched people from all parts of town come together for this event. The mayor came and so did some of the clients. Young people came (they wear short skirts these days!) and so did some with grey hair. A lesbian couple brought their 5-year-old daughter. There were brown people and white people and people with neon hair. We had desserts donated by many fine restaurants and bakeries, more than anyone could eat, really.
I watched all these people come together to bring money and dance and smile, to celebrate and to help people they will probably never meet. My heart started to heal.
I can’t imagine the loneliness and despair that leads to suicide.
I can’t imagine the loneliness and despair of being told you are HIV positive.
I’ve seen what connection to others, concrete help with disease management, and a safe place to be honest and not hide can do for those who are HIV positive.
I know nothing about the young man who committed suicide–his problems, his life, his circumstances. Not even his name. I know he was one of God’s children who hurt too much to go on. And that is just so sad.