No Night Is Forever
Suicide, my friend, you’re calling me again. So began a poem I wrote at 15. The escape of abuse and what sounded like an ultimate revenge on my abusers, was often on my mind. I think subconsciously I knew those thoughts came from the enemy, because I was always trying to escape them. The only safe place after school was the roof of the house, and I’d often slip through my second story window to sit out there and wonder if there was any other way.
It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be accepted, loved, treated with the tender care I saw other teens receive when I visited their homes. Daddy treated me with respect when we worked in the woods together, and when he was home – which was as little as possible. I couldn’t blame him. He was away again on a work trip when I finally tried it. I took lots of pills and went up to the room I shared with my sister. The middle of that memory is missing. I only recall getting sleepy, then screamed at, slapped, and pushed into a chair with my head held back. Warm butter poured down my throat and gagged me. It was a very effective purgative, and an immediate neutralizer of thoughts to try that again – at least until the dereliction of some ‘friends’ made me wish the attempt had been successful. I hated to go home to the mocking derision that I couldn’t even do that right. I felt like the darkness would last forever. Those words were a small thing, though, compared to the looks, whispers, and cold shoulder treatment of some of my classmates – that was the hardest part…Not being understood by most of my peers.
I couldn’t tell anyone why I did crazy things like spend half the night on the roof, because I’d get beaten again. Especially if Daddy was gone. Daddy only learned of the suicide attempt ten years later when he drove me to visit one of my sisters. We hugged her and she and I immediately began sharing our thankfulness to be away from home, and remembering various abuses and escapes, totally forgetting Daddy’s presence. He’d slipped into a chair in the corner, and not until hours later, when his chair scraped as he stood, did we remember that Daddy had drove me there. Turning in shocked acknowledgement, his tears told us what words had not. He hadn’t known.
I’d never seen a man cry, and this was not just any man, this was our hero. He wept and begged our forgiveness, and once again called us girls his “Honey Bunnies” like he had before sickness and violence had overtaken our lives.
The tables had turned and we were now comforting him. What had we done! We’d only focused on the bad of our lives. Quickly we sat Daddy down and shared how our faith had grown through different people and circumstances, and amazingly, the same book – the allegory of Hinds Feet in High Places. I’d received a copy from a church friend, and my sister, from someone at the hospital. Like the main character, Much-Afraid, we were encouraged on the way by the Chief Shepherd, who came to our rescue, surprisingly accompanied by the companions Sorrow and Suffering.
The ironic theme of Much Afraid’s journey was being saved from the treatment of relatives named “Fearing.” Like her, we assured him, though Sorrow and Suffering tried to lead us down instead of up, the Shepherd made a covenant that He would never leave us, and we only had to trust His word.
Daddy knew we trusted his apologies that he had not meant we be harmed in any way and he joyfully listened to the story of Much Afraid. He nodded when we told how we feared that the Shepherd would make us go up to the high cliff alone, and smiled when we shared evidences that He never left us, and taught us to climb the heights.
Daddy had felt overwhelmed with grief as he heard us sharing through tears the struggles of our valleys, and the loss from carrying our loads of bitterness, but he was thrilled to learn how much the rest of our story matched the book, as we finished sharing the journey of Much-Afraid being transformed with a new name.
Years later Daddy had heart surgery, but in his pain and despair, remembered my story and called to tell me, that was what got him through. A few years later, I got to share another story with Daddy that gave special meaning to the suicide attempt. Because of my experience, I was able to recognize the signs in a new co-worker. It was with much fear and trembling that I called and told a stranger Daddy’s story, and mine. That friend recognized his symptoms and agreed to join a family vacation and then see a doctor when they got home. When his daughter sent a note saying ‘we have our daddy back’ I felt like my nightmare life had purpose.
Suicide? You’re nobodies’ friend. I am free of your taunting whispers. I’ve forgiven my abusers and I do not answer to you any more. You see, my name is no longer Much-Afraid. My sisters have a new name too, and others who joined us. The night is over. Your lies have been exposed. No night is forever.