I know you.
I guess I should say I knew you.
It seems like a lifetime ago. Poor guy. I’m so sorry. You look so scared and so blank. So utterly confused. And you’re freezing. I remember that much. Here-have another blanket. I know, right out of the warmer? The best!
That catheter is going to hurt like hell when he pulls it out. But he’s not going to hurt you. I know you’ve been hurt before, but try and be kind. He’s just doing his job.
What? Oh, the necklace. It’s called a “giving key”. Gigi gave it to me about six months after this whole nightmare. It says Grace. A word you know nothing about, my friend. Not yet.
You still think grace is part of an old melody you hum as you cut grass. But grace is stronger than any other force in your life. Grace is why you’re still here. And grace will lead you home.
The headache? The throat that feels like razor blades? The legs that will be numb for two more days? The staring out the window, blankly? All of that is grace. It’s called a second chance.
I know you don’t want to be here. But one day, you’ll thank God you made it. You have a long road ahead of you. Counseling, intense therapy, new meds, and lots and lots of embarrassing honesty. But you will make it. You’ll find a strength you didn’t have: the strength to admit you are weak. It will make you a new person.
No, Mom and Dad aren’t going to show up. Yes, that sucks worse than just about anything else that has led you to this point. Four years later, I still can’t wrap my mind around that one, but the best I can tell you is that fear makes people do some really dumb and hurtful things. Even when they love you.
Why’s your throat so sore? You should have seen the hotel room. All of the medications you took, combined with the benadryl, turned the vomit blood red. The room looked just like a murder scene and they thought you were dead. But you’ll sing again one day. Trust me. Here’s your water. Don’t try to talk. It just makes it worse. But it will heal. And so will you. You’ll learn what living is really like.
In the meantime, I need to tell you a few things:
- Be patient with your loved ones. They are shocked, heartbroken, humiliated, and confused. Many of them are going to be incredibly patient with you. Remember that you have exposed a wound they never knew existed, both in yourself and in their own lives. Everything they thought was secure is crumpled up on a hospital bed. They need room to doubt and ask questions and feel hurt. Do your best to speak softly and listen. Know there are going to be times when they can’t hear all that you need to say.
- You’re incredibly lucky. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, nearly 43,000 people die by suicide in America each year. And for every death, approximately 12 more attempt. Suicide respects no one. It robs families of teenagers and grandparents, steals teachers and pastors from communities, and takes mothers away from their infants. It is a gift to survive it. I know you don’t feel lucky right now, but when you learn to value your own life enough to take care of yourself at all costs, you’ll see how fortunate you are.
- Be kind to yourself. Recovery is a long process, so please don’t think you’re going to leave the hospital healed. This isn’t food poisoning. This is a mental illness. You’ll carry it for rest of your life. But the symptoms are manageable, once you learn how to deal with them. And one of the biggest components of healing is self-compassion. You have to stop hating yourself if you ever want to truly live.
- Ignore the critics. You’re going to hear some pretty ugly things - both directly and through the rumor mill - about your faith, your family, your character, and your future. People are going to tell your wife to leave you. Church folks are going to turn their back on you. And some people are going to be shockingly, painfully silent, when you need to hear from them most. But those folks aren’t in this room right now. You don’t need their approval. Learn to ignore the haters, or their voice will choke out new life before it ever takes root.
- Grace is here. Right here, in this room. You are not a lost cause, and your life isn’t over. Actually, your life is about to begin. All of those years you were running and hiding and working so hard just to keep your game face on - all of that was death. What happens next is LIFE. You don’t have to do anything to find grace or deserve it. You just need to accept it, to show up for it.
Grace has found you. And it will not leave you in this bed.