I learned this morning that comedian Richard Jeni died of (apparent) suicide over the weekend (story at cnn.com). I usually found Mr. Jeni funny (which is a good recommendation – I don’t know any comedian whom I always find funny, and I can think of quite a few whom I rarely or never find funny), but I always heard anger in his schtick. He will be missed.
Suicide touches close to home for me, as I struggle with Type II Bipolar Disorder, which is a form of manic depression in which the manias don’t get too terribly severe (but the depressions are every bit as soul-stealing). Thanks to recent advances in pharmaceuticals, and thanks to an excellent therapist, I’ve had an abundance of days with no thoughts of suicide at all. But I have also had many days where I considered it to be pretty good if I made it to lunch without having fantasies about killing myself.
I hear your uncomfortable laugh, and see you shift position in your chair. “Surely you’re exaggerating,” you are thinking. Unless, that is, you have experienced depressive disorder before, in which case, you are nodding in understanding. Left untreated, depression can be fatal; heck, even treated, depression can be fatal. It’s bad stuff, and you don’t want to go there.
Which brings us back to Mr. Jeni, and his girlfriend who found him, too late. I find it interesting that while he claimed to be 45, his actual date of birth was in 1957. He would be 49 now, approaching his 50th birthday. With our obsession with youth and beauty here in America, I suspect that this milestone birthday was looming over him, compounded by his dishonesty about his age. I hope that Mr. Jeni finds the peace and love he craved. I can see him, cupped in God’s hand, surrounded by the Light. Maybe he’s not yet able to look up and meet God’s gaze, but I have faith that in time, he will. I also pray for healing for his unnamed girlfriend. May she find healing and peace as well, in the wake of this tragedy.
And today, I pray for all those whose lives are touched by depression, bipolar disorder, and other disorders of the brain. God, please help us all to see, to feel, to know down to our bones that we are Your beloved children, created by You in Your image, and that with us, You are well pleased. As we continue on the walk to Jerusalem with Jesus this Lent – the walk to his arrest, torture, and execution – please give us compassion for the people around us who are hurting, who are in trouble, who need a companion. Please help us to love ourselves and to take tender care of ourselves. Help us remember our uniqueness and preciousness – and the uniqueness and preciousness of every person we encounter. And help us to find peace and beauty and joy… even where we don’t expect them.