Passing the Hope
When I first heard about Robin Williams' death by suicide, like everyone else, I was stunned and saddened. Later, in the darkness of the night as I read the online tributes, the tears came. They didn't just fall for Robin and his family. They fell for all the people I have known who have battled depression and for all the people I fear may be battling depression.
I find depression more terrifying than any other disease. It can lurk where you least expect it and it can be impossible to treat. Robin's death brought back the memory of when I was teaching graduate classes and I had a student who seemed to have everything a person could want. She had just finished her first marathon, she had been promoted at work, and she was about to finish her graduate degree. My class was the last class before she graduated. Then she didn't show up for the final night of class. I emailed and I called over and over asking her to at least turn in her final paper so she could still graduate. No response. A few days later, I was in my car getting ready to drive home from work when I got the call from one of my other students. It was a rare rainy night in Phoenix. As I watched the rain roll down the windshield, I heard the words, but I just couldn't quite believe that this amazing woman I had mentored for the past two years had lost all hope and killed herself. As Robin Williams' death reminds us, fame, fortune and good looks do not protect anyone from the disease of depression.
I know I have had moments where crushing sadness made it hard to even open my eyes, yet in my soul I always know that this too shall pass. I always had hope. What I struggle with is trying to figure out why for some depression is so all consuming that it ends up killing them, but others find a way to live through it. They find hope.
I think of depression as a mental cancer. For some, cancer kills. For some, they are able to treat it and live. They must live with the physical and emotional fallout of the cancer treatment, but live they do. For some with depression, they find a way to cope and live. Others don't. How is it that some can find hope and some can't?
I can't cure depression any more than I can cure cancer, but I can be part of the treatment for those around me who are battling this disease. Each of you has been part of that treatment for me. When I was physically ill from cancer treatments and mentally wounded from the diagnosis, I could come to Sunday service and feel hope. Many of you didn't know what I was going through and you didn't know how precious and life giving your smiles, handshakes and hugs were. You gave me hope. I pray that I can offer that same hope to others. I don't need to know what they are going through to know how important my smile, my encouraging words, my hug, my unconditional acceptance and my love is to them.
We pass the peace at Saint Andrew, but we also pass the hope.
Dear Creator, Bless us with peace, but also bless us with hope and let us nurture that hope in all whom we meet. Amen.
Lori Schreiber is a Saint Andrew Pastoral Partner. Lori, her husband, Bill Bowsher, and their daughters, Hana and Aubree Bowsher, have been members of Saint Andrew since 2010. You can reach her at email@example.com.