[Today’s guest post by Charlyn Wright speaks of despair and redemption, suicide and family, movies and life.]
The first movie that I remember seeing that broke my heart wide open was “The Shawshank Redemption.” Based on a Stephen King novel, it tells the tell of Andy Dufresne, who was given a lengthy prison term for a crime he did not commit. Despite his circumstances, Dufresne continues to hold onto the optimism that the future will be better. He tells a friend, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” Sadly, his fellow inmate Brooks does not share that sentiment. Upon being released from prison—and hence the only home he ever really knew—Brooks finds himself scared and alone on the outside. In the most heartbreaking scene of the movie, he says he has “decided not to stay.” He later takes his life.
I remember vividly cringing at the scene of him swaying back and forth from the ceiling of his rooming house, his neck in a noose. Why, I wondered, would anyone ever do such a thing to themselves? That was 1994.
Fast forward to December 24, 2014. It was a bitterly cold day in western Kentucky, It was Christmas Eve, my first ever I would not be spending with my two beautiful kids. All I could muster up the energy to do was to lay on the couch and replay over and over how I had gotten to the place I was in and how it had all gone horribly wrong.
I thought about the 23 year old woman who walked down the aisle to get married to the father of her 6 month old despite knowing that it was the wrong decision. I thought about the woman who naively thought that having another child might fix the marriage and curb her husband’s sex addiction. I thought about how broken that woman had been when the father of her children had asked her to “open” the marriage and how she had turned to alcohol to cope. I thought about how quickly the drinking had gotten out of hand and how the woman had filed for divorce and then decided to go to rehab. How, when she came back home, her husband had moved back into the house while she was gone and said to her frankly, “It’s MY house and if anyone’s going to leave, it will be you.” How that very thing happened a few months later and how gut-wrenching it was to know that leaving meant estrangement from those 2 precious teenagers who were exposed to things that no children should be. As I watched the snow fall outside my window, I felt half unconscious from the shame pouring over me.
That day, I too decided not to stay.
Since I had no car to get around, I decided to walk to a nearby hardware store. The plan was surprisingly simple. After looking at the beamed ceiling in my apartment’s dining room area, I figured all I needed was one of the kitchen table chairs and some good, strong rope. I bundled up and headed off into the blustery day. The hardware store was almost empty when I arrived. I wandered the aisles until coming to the section I was looking for. The rope felt prickly in my hands. I was conscious of the song playing on the store radio but not much else. “Here I am, Lord, is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.” I headed up to the checkout area. A young man who looked an awful lot like my son was behind the register. I tried to avert my eyes and act nonchalant.
When I looked up to pay, his eyes met mine. They were full of kindness. “Ma’am, I hope you have a blessed Christmas.”
I hurriedly thanked him and headed out of the store, It was snowing harder. I thought of my kids. I thought of my parents and brothers, I thought of the song playing in the store. I thought of how God might have something better for me, possibly. I thought of Andy Dufresne. I thought of hope. And I decided to stay. I tossed the rope into a nearby dumpster.
Five years later, I think about what I would have missed out on had I followed through with my plan on that dark, cold day. How I would have missed out on meeting and marrying the love of my life, who ironically enough, I met through a mutual friend in AA. How I would have hurt so many people who cared about me. How we can live with our heartache and let it prod us to try to bring light into other’s darkness. How I would have never known that God really can and does revise our next chapters to make meaning out of the painful previous ones.
My prayer every morning when I wake up is that God will use me, a broken but redeemed person, to tell others that I hope they decide to stay too.
Charlyn Wright is a writer, wife, mom, music aficionado, teacher, naturalist, and world traveler who’s passions revolve around putting into words stories that reach out to people who seek connection. In her free time she practices mindfulness by kayaking and hiking every chance she gets. You can find her on Facebook.