6 years ago, my friend Afran ended his life. Though I hadn’t known him long, his life and death impacted me so deeply. Witnessing the effect of his suicide on my community and the grief of so many people I love was almost unbearable. I didn’t know what to do or say, but I knew I had to be there and I knew I could not look or turn away. This quote from George helped begin to understand how I might be able to be with all the shades of devastation that I saw in the eyes and faces of Afran’s family, his loved ones, and those of us whose hearts were broken as we thought about, prayed for, and desired to help and ease the pain of everyone affected by the many deepening and widening layers of loss that unfolded.
6 years ago, I could never have imagined all I would learn about life, death, grief, friendship, pain, being there, depression, the often deep failing of our best efforts and desires to help, the brokenness of so many parts of our selves and our lives, the beauty of learning to love what is left behind, our unrealistic expectations about how grieving should happen, and how little we know about what to do, how to be, what to say in the most horrifying moments of someone’s life. And also I know that every single person is doing the very best they can in every moment.
I wish with all my heart that Afran had found a way to stay alive and I am eternally grateful for his life and his spirit. On many occasions, he has helped me learn to put down and back away from even considering the very final action of taking my life. I hold no judgement of any person that chooses suicide, whatever their reasons, I honor their sovereignty. I know for myself that when I’ve devalued my own life, it’s always a massive misunderstanding of my value and the love available to me at any given moment, though I may struggle deeply to access and accept it. The thought that those we love might be better off without us is just never, ever true. There is always hope as long as our breath exists. I absolutely hate that this dear man died, but I honor him, his life, and his family by choosing to live my life as joyfully, enthusiastically, and as fully as I can every day.
Please love the people that you love even more liberally and vocally. Say all the things you love and admire about people now instead of waiting until they die to say out loud how they moved you. Consider opening more space in your heart for those you may not know yet that that need your love in exactly that way that you know how to give it. Any judgements, envy, jealousy, fear, anger…anything at all that gets in the way of love…the sooner we can let it go, the warmer, tighter, and more loving the circle can be. We all need the circle more than any of us can ever know. I think of Afran all the time and remember this.