(Warning—there is a mention of suicide and means in this post)
I speak on a tough subject, suicide prevention based on personal experiences, and I stopped doing a question and answer session at the end because it is such a heavy subject. I tell the people hiring me I will get there early and stay as late as needed, as people often come up to me after the talk to share their experience. The letter below was received from a guy I chatted with before my talk. We are both living in South Carolina and we enjoyed talking about our state. We did not discuss anything heavy as I was about to speak, but he had a couple of break outs to choose from on this day, and he chose mine. This led me to believe that maybe he had a story about mental health/suicide prevention. Well a couple of days later he sends me this post that he put on his Facebook page a couple of years ago. I have read it no less than 5 times and I cry every time. I read it out loud to my soon to be wife and we both cried. When I stopped crying, I realized this mission I am on is very important. I always knew it was important, but with guys like Bill in the audience, this talk takes on greater importance. Moves into more of a mission now because if one person writes a note like the one below, many others have been impacted.
Read it—-and have a tissue handy. I appreciate Bill Rivers for sharing this and I appreciate you.
I enjoyed briefly meeting you Thursday afternoon at the Artex conference in Orlando last week. I was the guy with the beard from Cheraw, SC. Like you, I’ve had my own experiences with suicide. I wrote the following in June 2018 and shared it with my friends on my Facebook page. I thought I’d share it with you also. Thanks again and keep fighting this battle. Because life really is always, always, always worth living.
June 12 is a momentous date in my family’s history. My great, great aunt Claudia James Sullivan, the first woman to be admitted to and graduate from the University of South Carolina School of Law, was admitted to the Bar on June 12, 1918. And on Saturday morning, June 12, 1976, when I was ten years old, I was alone in our home with my mother when she fixed breakfast for me, turned the television on to Scooby Doo cartoons, and then went into her bedroom, stuck a pistol in her mouth, and pulled the trigger. Many years later I learned about the former event. The latter has never ceased to affect me.
Despair: the complete loss or absence of hope. At ten, I certainly didn’t understand it. Throughout my teenage years, all I saw of life was about how wonderful it could be. We have so much potential within us. This world we live on is amazing. How could anyone think of leaving it voluntarily even one moment earlier than required of us? Living is fantastic! Life is always, always, always worth living.
Fast forward about thirty years: I’m sitting alone in the bedroom of my lovely home. I have a gun in my hand. It’s loaded, cocked, and ready to fire. And I’m thinking about putting it in my own mouth and pulling the trigger. My life had just fallen down around me like a house of cards. I finally understood that feeling. Hopelessness. Nothing to live for. Absolute, total, and utter despair. I thought, “Okay, mom. I get it. This is how you felt. I finally get it.”
But I’ll tell you something. That feeling is a lie. It’s the greatest deception in this world. There is never really a time when we have nothing to live for. Life can be horrible to endure, but there is still always hope. This world and the people we share it with can be terrible, but this world and the people we choose to share it with can also be absolutely wonderful, kind, generous, and loving.
There are two forces at work in this world: Love and Evil. Evil is the voice whispering in your ear that life is horrible, painful, unbearable, and hopeless. Evil does all it can to make us so miserable that ending our lives seems preferable to living. But Evil lies. Because there is great Love in this world also. Love leads to joy, happiness, kindness, and contentment. Love allows for generosity, helpfulness, perseverance, and forgiveness. Love is truth. It always protects, always trusts, and always hopes. Love ensures that life really is always, always, always worth living.
I’ve lost a mother to suicide. I’ve lost a friend and business partner to suicide. I’ve lost a brother-in-law to suicide. My son recently lost a good friend and fraternity brother to suicide. Almost everyone has lost at least someone to suicide, and we’ve all seen too much of it around us and in the news. All of these suicides were caused by despair. All despair is caused by Evil. And Evil only lies.
Love guided me to teach my children a few important lessons as they were growing up. More than anything, I do hope these lessons have stuck with them and always will: Never give up; always stick together; life is always, always, always worth living. When I felt that terrible moment of despair, when Evil was whispering so urgently and so persuasively in my ear, Love helped me to look up at the photos of my children that hung on the wall. Love helped me put down that gun and put it away forever. Love helped me through the most terrible moments of my life. Love surrounds me today. Love helped me write these words and I pray that Love will give me the strength to reach out and help others who listen to Evil’s lies.
Because life really is always, always, always worth living.
Another June 12th is coming up in a few days. I can feel it coming. I can feel it like an itch in the back of my throat. It’s the kind of itch that only a gun barrel can scratch. It’s been 42 years since June 12, 1976. My mother would’ve been 75 this year. And just look at all she missed. She missed out on Taylor Rivers and William Rivers. I’m so thankful I haven’t, and I intend to enjoy my time with them both as long as I can.
Wow—just wow. On to my next speaking engagement with a spring in my step thanks to Bill.