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He Suffered in Silence
By Eileen Roberts
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7
This verse has been my go to meditation often since a phone call I received on November 2, 2007. A phone call no one ever wants to receive.
I called my dad one Thursday morning back in 2007 feeling badly I had not spoken to him for a while. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I had spoken to him. So I took a break from my desk and called each of my parents. They were both doing well. Dad was so happy to hear from me. I actually heard him say before he hung up with such love to his friend in the room “It was Eileen.”
The next day during my lunch break I felt a real sense of discouragement and feeling “down.” As I was walking back to my office in Washington DC I received a call from a women who identified herself as my father’s neighbor. She said “Hi Eileen, I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but your father killed himself this morning.” I told her this was a really pathetic joke. She said the detective was there too and that she would have him call me back. “Detective…” I thought. This wasn’t a joke. Dad’s girlfriend lived upstairs from Dad and when she arrived home that morning after cleaning a house, she returned to her condo and found a note written by my dad – “Call the police, do not come down, call Eileen. ”
To my horror the detective called back and confirmed the news. I went numb and thought, “Well I have to go back to the office and get off to go to Florida.” I returned to work and knocked on my boss’s door. She waved me away as she was on the phone. I proceeded to the office manager’s office and told her the news. I was in shock and didn’t seem to be able to cry.
I called my husband, a brother-in-law, and my brother. My sister would call my mother. My brother John and I immediately booked a flight to Florida and left that evening. It was hard to sit still during the two hour flight – the longest ever. My brother and I did not sit together as we were assigned different seats and didn’t even ask anyone to change. We rented a car and drove to my mom’s. I was really numb.
My parents were divorced. They married young at 16 & 17 and divorced after 35 years of marriage. I have great memories playing hopscotch and jump rope on the streets of Brooklyn, NY as a child. My dad took me to the Yankee games (when Mickey Mantle played. Yes, I am too young to be this old!). And as a NY City policeman Dad took us to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade when he had to work the parade route. We had a front row seat sitting on the curb. They are great childhood memories.
Over the years, however, my parent’s marriage was tumultuous. I remember lots of yelling and physical abuse to my mom and myself and siblings. Dad struggled with what was then called manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) even though he was never medically diagnosed. Some other family members were diagnosed over the years including myself. Dad would never go for counseling. We were not Christians but did attend church. When neighbors called the police on occasion my father was always good at convincing the police that “Everything was OK” and no charges were ever filed.
After my parents divorced, we adult children were devastated. Divorce is never easy on children no matter what the age. One of my sisters stopped talking to my dad after the divorce. For 20 years or more! I had always encouraged her to make her peace with Dad so she would not have any regrets for I had reconciled with my Dad much earlier and he was grateful for my forgiveness to him concerning his abuse. In a card he sent me for no particular reason he wrote, “Thank you for making every day Father’s Day.” Dad taught me how to play golf and we took a trip to California and visited Pebble Beach. No, we could not afford to play there but we did find a public course next to it as beautiful as Pebble Beach. As the firstborn I was taught many things by my dad including how to change the oil and flat tire on a car. Oh, yes I can!!!!
When the estranged sister arrived at my mom’s that sad evening, family fighting began again. It was the most horrible time in my life ever. Dad did not have a will. He had given me Power of Attorney many years before and because of this, I was assigned administrator of his estate. This did not stand well with her.
When things calmed down and I was sitting alone, Pastor Sean called. Hearing from him was comforting, especially knowing my church family would be praying for our family.
The next day we went to my dad’s condo and the horror continued. The previous day his body was taken to the medical examiner to determine whether it was a self-inflicted wound or a homicide. It was determined a suicide.
Neighbors saw us outside the condo and came over to us to express their sorrow. One neighbor looked at me after our conversation and said to me “Eileen, Don’t lose your joy.” I was amazed at this statement as she had never met me before yet saw my joy in the mist of suffering. She did not say “Don’t lose your happiness.” She specifically said “joy.” It occurred to me at that moment that I was leading a Titus 2 study entitled Living Joyfully that year and that a stranger saw the joy of Christ in me even in this horrific and evil time!
“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood,the forgiveness of sins.”
What an encouragement this was for me. It gave me the confidence and energy to continue the week’s tasks of memorial service and putting Dad’s estate in order.
Returning home was bittersweet. I found myself not wanting to leave Florida to face life again as I knew it and enjoyed it. I felt as though when I left I would be abandoning Dad and felt closer to him if I stayed there. I can’t even explain why or what that means. But that is how I felt.
I was also looking forward to coming home to my kids and grandkids who live near us in VA and could not wait to get to worship on Sunday. One of the praise songs sung that morning was “Whatever God Ordains is Right.” I lost it. Stan had to hold me up as I wept. What a comfort to be in the Lord’s house, hear the truth, and be able to grieve with the Body of Christ. I believe this was the beginning of my healing. Sharing, praying with, and being comforted by my Titus 2 mentors was instrumental in helping me grieve as one not without hope.
A well-intentioned Christian said to me that I would “get over it.” I could not imagine such a thought. Then a psychologist told me “No, you will never get over it.” And I say, “That’s right, Doctor, you never get over it.”
I am grateful for many things I learned in the Word through this difficult time, too numerous to detail here. There are still some days that continue to be difficult. Especially on the anniversary date which just passed on November 2nd. I am grateful for God’s Word and Christ’s unconditional love for me. 2 Timothy 1:7 helps me understand that my mind in Christ is stronger and greater than any evil.
One discussion with my sisters and brother at the time of Dad’s death was about whether or not Dad was a Christian. Going through Dad’s Bible, we found a note three of us sent to Dad years ago. We wrote “Praising God for your New Life in Christ. Welcome to God’s family.” My brother John was instrumental in Dad’s salvation. My brother served among Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan and here in Northern Virginia way before 911. Although I believe Dad was saved, I regret that he was not a part of a church family like mine and had not shared his struggles in community or with a biblical counselor who might have ministered to him the hope of Christ. I wish Dad would have known that the hope of the gospel is for each day and moment of our lives and not just for salvation.
I am looking forward to the Mental Health mini-conference on 11/16. Here we can learn and God’s Word can help us to know and remember that it is He who gives us all we need – especially a sound mind – and how we as Christians and a church family can be an encouragement and friends to those who have challenging mental health issues.
Without Stan and my sisters at New Life in Christ I don’t know how I would have gotten through. Those many cups of coffee in your homes and at Panera have made such a difference. You remind me to embrace the joy of suffering and entering His glory. It goes without saying that Titus 2 fellowship and studies have been so valuable in my healing process.
I have stopped asking, “Why did this happen?” and trying to figure it out but I have not “gotten over it.” I look forward to meeting my Savior whenever HE calls me home, He who will wipe all my tears. Maybe then I will have the answers. I have learned that suicide is the ultimate in selfishness and hopelessness, but that whatever God ordains is right. It is a mystery. I pray I can comfort others as Christ has comforted me.
Even if you or family members have not suffered or struggled with any mental health issues, please come to the mini-conference next Saturday and learn how you can comfort others in their silent suffering. Besides, the fellowship and food will be fabulous!
About Eileen: Eileen Roberts has been a covenant member of NLICC and married to Stan for 38 years. They have three children who grew up at NLICC and five beautiful grandchildren. Stan and Eileen are semi-retired and have served in many ministries over the 38 years. Eileen presently serves on the Board of Directors at the Fredericksburg Pregnancy Center and assists in the 1st Grade Sunday School class.
Women’s Ministry Committee Meeting – Saturday, November 9th at 8:30am in Room 217
Please remember to submit your updated job descriptions to Heather so that we can all share.
Women’s Ministry Training – Saturday, November 9th at 10am in Room 217
Gale Puffenberger is leading the final training class. Please finish the remainder of the book, Leadership for Women in the Church to prepare for discussion.
Mental Health and the Mission of the Church Mini-Conference – November 16th, 8:30am – 1:30pm
- “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
- Biblical counselor Pam Lopes, Dr. Mitzi Sampson and Pastor Sean will be educating, equipping and encouraging us to minister to ourselves, our families, friends and neighbors. Mental health issues are ones that affect all of us in some way or another, yet are often kept hidden and unshared with the church body out of shame or stigma. How should the church respond to mental illness? With compassion and help and the light of Christ – the same way she responds to any suffering.
- Invite friends and teenage daughters and come for the morning.
- Breakfast and lunch provided. No cost, donations accepted to help cover costs.
- RSVP by Monday, November 11th to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can plan for meals and materials
If you are interested in providing hospitality for Capernaum on a Thursday evening, click here. It’s a great opportunity to serve as individuals, a couple, friends or as a care group. At publishing time, no one was signed up for tonight or for November 21st. Please consider this community outreach – an opportunity for missions right in our own building!
The Thanksgiving ministry is an outreach to the community. In addition to delivering meals to shut-ins, meals are delivered to individuals in neighborhoods throughout the community. NLICC’s ministry to Muslims has grown out of this initial contact. Look for a flyer in the bulletin in coming Sundays about the Thanksgiving Ministry. There will be a need for turkeys and pies Thanksgiving morning. If you can help, please fill out the flyer and put it in the offering plate. There will also be an envelope for financial gifts to assist the ministry.
Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes
Using the brochure in Sunday’s bulletin, fill a regular-size shoebox with items suggested on the list for a child fitting into one of the age categories listed. Once it is full, go to www.samaritanspurse.org to the OCC link. Select the option to pay shipping online. Print out the barcode it generates and tape it to the box as suggested. This not only helps the OCC team run the ministry more smoothly, but it also allows you to track your box to the country where it is going. Bring your box to church no later than Sunday, November 24th. They will be gathered right after church and taken to the local relay center for the next leg of the journey. Questions? Call Brenda Storms
Eileen’s story is not as uncommon as you might think. I praise God that Eileen was involved in trusting fellowship with other women seven years ago and that she has found hope and peace in Christ after the loss of her dad to suicide, even though as she says, “You never get over it.”
in His grace,
for the Women’s Ministry Committee