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This past month two people I know, one a friend and the other an extended family member, took their own lives. And I just heard that the young son of an acquaintance of my daughter also took his life. The pain and suffering of people with mental illness is something I can only imagine, and by the grace of God have never experienced personally. However, the shock and sadness of these losses tugs on my heart to attempt a response and address the issue of the value of human life, as feeble and inadequate as my thoughts might be.

What I do know is that the God, who created life itself, made every human uniquely for His purpose on Earth. According to Henri Nouwen, world renowned Christian author and speaker, we are all beloved and blessed by our maker, but as humans we are also broken - yes broken in some way physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.

I think of my grandmother. Decades ago when I was a young man working outside of the U.S., my grandmother, then in her nineties, had a stroke which left her unable to care for herself, or even speak, much less be of any practical use around my parents’ home. She was basically bed or chair-ridden. Yet knowing that my grandma was still alive somehow meant a lot to me. I couldn’t physically be with her, but it was a comfort to me to know that she was still with us in spirit. I think of the metaphor of a flower. All it does is give pleasure to people by existing. My grandmother’s life gave me pleasure and was a positive and hopeful factor in my life.

I recently read the words of a 20-year old woman, a college student and mountaineer, who suffered to the point of death in an avalanche in Colorado. “I am a work of art signed by God,” wrote Lygon Stevens, “But he’s not done. In fact, he has just begun. I have in me the fingerprint of God. Never will there be another person like me. I have a job to do in this life that no other can do.”

I can’t pretend to put myself in the shoes of the one who is suffering to such an extent that life has no meaning. But the words of Henri Nouwen ring true to me: “Jesus is God’s wounded healer. Through his wounds we are healed.” There is hardly a form of suffering worse than hanging to death on a cross. He might have run away, but he chose this destiny so that we all have a way out of our wounds and suffering. Nouwen continues, “The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds so we don’t have to be embarrassed (or fear them or run from them) but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’”

My prayer is for friends and families of those left behind by the loss of those who have left us.

May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding be with you.

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