A tragedy occurred Labor Day when a young woman jumped from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where she was a graduate student. She was only 23. Her death wasn't an isolated incident. She's the latest of six NYU students this year to have jumped from buildings, either on campus or elsewhere in Manhattan. Five of the six are apparent suicides; the sixth appears accidental.
Although it's sometimes hard for the rest of us to find words of comfort, it's easy to find the feeling that something is desperately wrong. That these things should never, ever happen. That there must be something, something the rest of us could say or do to forestall such tragedies.
And since this isn't just one incident, but is, sadly, the latest in a growing line, the quest for a remedy is that much more urgent. How do you convey the message, to someone perhaps floundering desperately in mental darkness, that suicide is not the answer, not ever? It is no solution at all and offers no escape whatsoever.
It is easy to imagine friends and family members riddled not only with grief but also with guilt, obsessed with questions such as, What more could I have done? Why didn't I let her know how much I loved her?
Perhaps the most needed message, though, is captured in Jesus' words, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Abundant life - what an invaluable promise for every individual! Abundant life - what a wonderful defining of the message, the gift, the assurance from the Almighty to each person, whether a grad student or someone younger or much older. Life that is abundant in meaning, in warmth, in purpose, in fulfillment, and yes, in peace of mind.
This message, which could also be defined by the single word Christ, comes from the Divine to each of us. It pierces the night, bringing encouragement and hope to those who have lost them. Christ - the Spirit of life and of love - penetrates deeply into the hearts and minds of each individual, bringing light to places of despair. Christ empowers individuals to break from the temptation that suicide is even a temporary solution - which it is not. The message of Christ leads to surer peace and guides to vantage points that take in near-term and long-term solutions. There are healing answers to life's troubles.
Although it would be irresponsible to simplify the complexities that play into suicidal decisions, too many instances spring from a kind of mental weariness. It's a weariness with the wickedness one sees in the world, or perhaps, the wickedness that people think they see in themselves. Curiously, such weariness often crops up in people still in their teens or early twenties.
But Christ, like a summer breeze snapping off a high mountain lake, comes to each individual with a freshness that clears off weariness. Christ comes in ways that underscore the abundant worth of each individual and highlight the value of what he or she has to give. The mental weariness spawned by overwhelming wickedness can't help breaking up and scattering over the horizon into nothingness. Then it's easier for individuals to reclaim their buoyancy and zest for living.
In response to a question touching on suicide, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, "Not through sin or suicide, but by overcoming temptation and sin, shall we escape the weariness and wickedness of mortal existence, and gain heaven, the harmony of being" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 53). It's plain from the rest of her writings that she uses the term "heaven" not as an after-death possibility that some people might attain, but rather as a here-and-now promise of harmony that is for all.
If friends or loved ones wander along self-destructive paths, it's easy to fear that our own personal messages will fail to reach them in time. But the message of Christ does not fail. The promise of abundant life is not vain or empty. The gift of heaven here and now for all of us, does not go unexperienced. These facts from God are true already. Yet, that is not quite enough. We have to know them to be true. Then it is enough. Then you are helping friends find the hope they need. You are perhaps even helping a friend you have yet to meet to avoid a wrong step that doesn't ever have to be taken.