Thursday, November 27, 2008


Someone recently asked me did I believe in heaven? I do and have thought lots about it and here are my comments.

I definitely believe in heaven. It gives me comfort to think that in the great mystery of life and death, that this time on earth is not the end. My favorite Bible verse reiterates this. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

For me personally, I wonder about how heaven will be. I don't think it will be in what we call a temporal sense, meaning knowing in the way we do now, earthy sort of stuff. I would want my friends to meet up with all the special people that I've known in this life. And, it would have to be in a way where the memory of them is not as we would think. Intimacy issues, etc. Of what they would be, I really don't know. It sounds very complicated but in my own mind, I see that heaven can work it out. OK, my theory which is as good as any.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


This friend of mind recently committed suicide and I am devastated. He had been calling me throughout the week wanting to talk. I just didn't see it coming. It is so tragic. I was on the way to see him when I found out. There's a lot involved. I am totally in shock.

So sorry. My counsel is first of all, not your fault, nothing you can do about it. And, you never, never want to ever think you are responsible for someone else's behavior. Suicide is such a difficult thing mainly as it is so wrapped in the tragic and sad circumstances often of mental illness, mostly bipolar types, which is sad in itself. I subscribe to the Albert Ellis view, (guy who developed theory of RET, Rational Emotive Therapy) that a person's life belongs to them and if they choose to end it, their decision. Sounds really cold and there is only relative truth to it, I believe. Mainly, that every suicide victim has a different story. Most of the time, drugs and almost always mental illness is involved. My experience.

Over the years, I've come to believe that most of the time, a person momentarily goes crazy; unfortunately, if they are successful, there is no changing their minds.

Here in San Francisco, we are constantly debating those who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and it is indeed a popular spot. When I was a chaplain at Letterman Army Medical Center, when it was a 250 bed teaching hospital, part of our job was to retrieve the jumpers and get them to the hospital's morgue as they almost always died. Rarely, but it did happen, one lived. And, I talked to one who did. He told me that he immediately, after jumping, knew he'd made a mistake and wanted to live and so he got himself in a position to hit the water straight: feet first and together (much like paratroopers are taught to land feet together) as opposed to just randomly flopping. Saved his life. For him, it was a spur of the moment decision. And, he is an example of the thinking now, if we can do something to take away a person's ability to be spontaneous as to taking their lives, i. e., a barrier at the Golden Gate Bridge. And, once they are over the impulse, they are OK, at least for the moment.

I know you feel badly and I would too. If he had talked to you, would it have prevented it, maybe? Hard to know but you are not responsible. I think the key is to recognize mental illness and then to be responsible with what you believe the problem to be. I don't know if you have ever been involved with someone who is crazy (my shrink friend says the best definition of how to know someone is crazy is that you can't understand them--I've always found that is exactly right, just can't understand them or their behavior). I have stories to tell. A couple of them, I do not know how I survived, always grateful. People that you truly care about who simply are on another planet, sometimes a different galaxy.

Sorry about your friend and the difficulty. All life is the laboratory. da