A journal note from November 15, 2011 (Genesis 1:27 or Lectionary Genesis 1:1-2:4)
A little after noon today, my facilities manager texted that the alley behind the church was cordoned off with crime scene tape and police were everywhere. I happened to be a few blocks away and rushed over. Being clergy comes with undeserved privileges that I take advantage of often, so I was immediately escorted to the detective on site.
Last night a 29 year old woman committed suicide in an apartment building across the alley from my church. From the room in which she took her life, she could see the amazing hundred year old stained glass window on the side of our sanctuary.
My heart is broken that she probably did not know she could come to us. Had she known we would have loved and supported her in her darkest moments, would she have picked up the phone or knocked on our door? If she had knocked on the door, our facilities manager (who lives in the building) would have welcomed her in. He would have called me, I would have been there in minutes. We would have sat with her all night, taken her to the hospital, called her family or friends, called a therapist member of the church, or taken any other steps to help. We would have done anything to save her precious life. We would have journeyed with her long term as she recovered her sense of self and hope. But I know we are unique like that. No one thinks of churches a as 24-hour place of love anymore. And for good reason. Few are.
My heart is broken at the loss of this young life. She was only a few years younger than I am. She, as are all people, was blessedly and sacredly made and deserved to be loved and appreciated for the unique person she was. I wish we knew her.
My heart is broken in a way that will not heal. Each wound like this reminds me of the failings of the church. Every church, mine included. The wound reminds me that we need to work endlessly to build relationships in our neighborhoods; to ensure that every person knows they can come to us in a time of need and be loved. Not judged, not diagnosed, not criticized, not converted or preached to. Just loved.
Let the legacy of this woman be that we were made all the more aware of the needs of those around us, and more ready to ask for help when we need it and offer help to those in need. I pray that her soul is finally at peace, and for her family and friends find comfort in their grief. I gave my business cards to the detective, asking him to pass them along to the family or neighbors should they need support, and will visit the building in the days to come to offer my support, belated as it may be. It feels insignificant. I will carry this moment forever, remembering a life lost unnecessarily, and always wondering how I could have reached out more to provide a safe space for her.