Many of you were at the funeral and experienced that remarkable moment of both weeping and worship as Todd led us in singing "We Fall Down." It will remain a signature moment in my life--a sincere expression of hope, joy, pain and misery all in one instant. We have all wondered about the experience of sorrow once we enter the eternal Kingdom and I think we glimpsed the possibliity that joy and mourning can co-exist.
Some of you know my past and know my own struggle with depression, or at least the version I have shared with you. Others of you know the experience personally and you know the permanent changes that enter your life once you have ever opened the door to suicide. You know its lingering persistence and the frequent reminder that it exists and you know the resolve you have found to ignore it. Such is life, but it's been five months and I find it difficult to push aside and Robbie remains an ever-present memory.
Robbie took on significance in my life that was almost symbolic. Surely, he was one of my first students, but he never went away. Robbie's trips to college were always followed with time where we could reconnect and an ongoing knowedge of what his life was like. I can trace his story simply through the pictures I collected with him since he was in 6th or 7th grade. We were together in Atlanta, Colorado, Kentucky, Peru and Puerto Rico. I watched him grow in ways that I have never gotten to see--the journey of many years that I now experience only as a father--and I grew up right alongside him. In many ways, he shaped me.
Texas has been a season of difficulty and struggle and loneliness for me personally. His death was almost too much for us. Wendy and I had gone out for our anniversary to an Art Cafe in Plano with a gift certificate we won. It was the kind of place Robbie would have liked but would have made fun of--I am often surprised by how frequently I weigh my surroundings by what Rob would have thought. Tim called during dinner and we began the journey that his sickness has forced many of us to undertake. In numbness, we went on to the theater to see Batman Begins. Wendy needed to talk about it, but I needed a dark place to sit without speaking, a place to cry. Robbie would have liked that movie.
Pieces came together later. I understand why he didn't tell me he was in Dallas, but I still grieve the serendipitous conversation we had just a few months prior. I was testing new messaging software and Robbie was cleaning up a computer when we stumbled onto each other online. We talked a long time--I wish I had thought to save the transcript. He talked about coming to Dallas, getting a new start. He talked about the struggle he was having since the breakup, but I truly had no idea the real scope his depression had reached.
I wish so deeply I had known him these past two years, but I looked at a stranger in those recent pictures at the funeral. And yet, there was something so familiar. I remember those empty eyes and that vacant stare from my own life and I continue to mourn the loss of hope he was experiencing and the comfort he found in despair. God led me out of that place. Robbie didn't come out. It's so easy to trace a path of regret and wishes and to weigh our role in his life, but I know better. Depression is a bitter friend. It blinds you and deafens you and dulls you and sometimes it wins.
So, five months later, I'm continuing to unpack the emotion of that event and the place Robbie held inside me. Sometimes I feel that I have no claim for that kind of sorrow--Robbie had closer friends and stronger ties, but I cannot help what he had come to mean for me. Now I move forward, plagued by that sense of failure and loss, searching to find my own heart again. If the other events of our life in Texas were not so trying, I would say that we bask in the opportunities of seminary, but that's simply not true. It's been hard and I needed to get that all onto paper, or whatever this is. Superchick says it really well in "Beauty from Pain:"
I know it won't be today, but someday I'll hope again.
Thanks for listening.