This weekend I went to the funeral of my father-in-law’s former best friend and business partner. Yes, his former best friend and business partner.
His name was Ted. In life, he was a yacht broker, and he loved deep-sea fishing, Jimmy Buffett music, island-themed bars, and deserted beaches, not unlike me.
His three daughters and his wife of 35 years were in the front row at the viewing, hovering around the open casket as the pale face of their father and husband peeked above the mahogany and silk.
When I went to hug them, I couldn’t help staring at Ted. He did not look like the Ted I knew… Ted, the man who never let anyone have a bad time at a party. Ted, the man whose infectious laugh will always reverberate through my mind. Instead, he looked like any corpse, with sunken cheeks and an ugly, drooping chin. His pallid skin was all the more striking due to the fact that, in life, Ted was always suntanned. This was no longer Ted. It was a body.
Ted was a suicide victim, although that term is sadly dismissive; the real victims of Ted’s suicide were his wife and daughters, as well as his grandchild who was about to be born, the little girl who will never know his bear-hugs, his booming laugh, or his crooked pirate smile (Jimmy Buffett reference in Ted’s honor).
Ted had written his suicide note approximately one week before he followed through with it. No doubt the pressures of life had been boiling within him for a while. His business which sold high-end yachts to high-end people had been going downhill since before the recession even began; the high fuel prices that preceded the recession had already devastated the gas-guzzling yacht market before anyone even knew that Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac weren’t actual people. To stay afloat (pun intended, again in the victim’s honor), Ted began borrowing money, lots of it, but not from banks; he borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from friends, and my father-in-law was one of those generous folks.
Needless to say, his relationships with his longtime friends had recently gone sour due to the obvious fact that Ted would never be able to pay the loans back. With no hope left, and no laughter or good times on the horizon, Ted first tried to kill himself in the parking lot of a Winn Dixie supermarket, but his family talked him out of it. On the night of September 13, 2011, however, two days before his 57th birthday, Ted succeeded; he put a gun to his heart and left this world with the simple act of pulling of a trigger.
What caused Ted to find himself in such darkness that he believed the only way out was death? And where is he now? Those are questions that can only be answered by God. But could anything have saved Ted when he was teetering on the edge of his darkest hour? I do know that faith could have helped; Jesus gave us an antidote to the problems and pressures of life when he said this to his disciples:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
Please pray for Ted and his family. One thing I do know is that your prayers are more powerful than all the money in the world.