When Hope Is Gone
My father committed suicide five days before Christmas.
I had requested an early discharge from the Air Force to help my family, but it was delayed for six months while the situation at home grew worse. After undergoing two surgeries, my father was facing another one. He was barely able to work, and his business was failing. The prospect of losing it and their home was looming large before him.
There were other factors that I’m confident led to his suicide. Family tragedy and hardship caused him to grow up in two homes for orphans. He began drinking after leaving the second home and soon became an alcoholic. He quit drinking when I was young, but he began again while I was away in the military. By the time I returned home, he was drunk nearly every morning before I left for work.
My father’s relationship with my mother was rocky at best because of his anger and his drinking. To my knowledge, neither of them talked about divorce, and for that I am grateful. Ours was a family in distress—but it was still a family.
My sister and my father had a hostile relationship, and she had expressed her hatred for him on several occasions. Years later, I determined that she hadn’t hated him—just what he did. She was fifteen years old when he died and became emotionally stuck at fifteen—and died that way at age fifty-two.
I have discovered over the years that my father’s life consisted of one struggle after another—struggles that he seldom won. I am convinced that he had lost his faith in God’s ability—or desire—to get him through it all. At the time, I didn’t know how to help restore that hope. My family had dropped out of church while I was away. After several attempts to get him to go to church with me, he agreed. That, too, met with disaster when the church we visited was cold and unwelcoming. He walked out that November morning muttering, “Never again!” Three weeks later, he ended his life.
Like many others, my father’s disappointments and failures compounded themselves until he felt helpless and hopeless. And when hope is gone, there remains little, if any, energy for the challenges of everyday life.
That was forty-three years ago. I still grieve for him at times. I grieve that I didn’t know enough to help him and that I didn’t tell him I loved him often enough. I have discovered since then that God is a God of hope—hope without limit—hope that is ours for the asking.