Accidental Suicide

When I was younger, I thought of all sorts of ways I could kill myself by mistake – to avoid Hell, see? I’d maybe take too many pills one time. Or, by mistake, cross in front of a busy street. See, God, I’d say, I haven’t ignored you, I’ve just died. It’s o.k., I didn’t plan it, so don’t send me to Hell? But the problem is that God understands your thoughts, so God could zap you down there.

So I left the Church. Why care about a God who will send me to Hell? My mom got defensive – ‘That’s not the Catholicism I taught you, you’re just easily scared.’

I used to have all of these dreams about going to Hell. There’d be fire and pitchforks, and torture racks, and chains. And lots and lots of devils and dogs. I thought if I left the church, the dreams would go away. But they didn’t. I would intellectualize that God was a terrible Father and I was Separate from that now and I’d go to a better place when I died. But the fact that I was obsessing about it meant that I still hung on to ideas about Hell. It was only through coming back to Catholicism, at my own pace – not being pushed, but a slow reckoning, that I was able to feel in my heart, that I wasn’t condemned. That God was a loving God. What happened was a shift in dreams as I came back to Catholicism. A shift in dreams so powerful that I knew God had a considerable share in them.

It was the End Times and I had a few days before the world would blow up and I would go to Hell. I had some obligation to a certain boy and I had to be chained to a rock to wait for him.  Then the boy would lead me to Hell.  Anyhow, I wrote a long letter from the rock to a friend about how I didn’t want it to be the End Times and I didn’t want to meet this boy and go to Hell.  It was a long, handwritten letter and I used an owl to get it to her and she wrote back instantaneously, delivering her letter by owl. She explained that she was sending a giraffe to undo the chain and that we would both go to Heaven.  So will our families, God said so, for God is compassionate and anyone who thinks otherwise is a worrywart.  So this giraffe came and undid the chain and I rode on the giraffe to meet my family.

I never had an End Times dream again. While I still think Hell has its uses (I joked to a friend that I am “beginning to warm up to idea of Hell again”), I know that I am not going to go there. And that was something I could only understand by coming back.

7 thoughts on “Accidental Suicide

  1. Really powerful story. Thanks for sharing.

    I have to think that God never intended Hell to be a paralyzing fear that drives people away, and just wouldn’t approve of the way some people seem to focus more on Hell than on God. Seems to me God is so much nicer to contemplate — and the more we focus on God the less we have to worry about Hell anyway.

  2. “and the more we focus on God the less we have to worry about Hell anyway.” True words, Josh!

    I’m always bemused by folks who make the argument that without the threat of Hell there’s no impetus to act justly. Oh, really? So everyone faced with the threat of heart disease quits smoking? Everyone who knows about climate change stops driving cars? Or when pondering an unjust act, the knowledge of hurting someone else or yourself in the present isn’t deterrent enough?

  3. Kind of like saying that capital punishment is needed to deter violent crime, or that a well-armed populace makes us all safer.

    I’m reminded of the verse (I don’t remember where it is exactly) that says that perfect love casts out fear. But too often we can focus too much on the fear and lose sight of that perfect love. We need to remember that Jesus conquered death for us; Heaven is greater than Hell and God is stronger than the Devil, and if we keep our focus on the perfect Love of God we have nothing to fear.

  4. When I was an adolescent, I learned in CCD that those who commit suicide go to hell, and I remember the feeling of dismay this teaching awakened in me. How could an all-knowing, ever-compassionate God not understand the pain of someone who sees suicide as the only solution? I agree with the Church’s teaching that our lives belong to God, not to ourselves, so I understand the teaching against suicide, but I think that hell bit really comes from people who are so terrified to lose someone they love to suicide. And fear can lead to people saying terrible things. I agree with Josh that we must always trust that love will serve us better than fear.

    This post got me thinking and I came across this link about the Catholic Church’s teaching on suicide. I was relieved to see that the Church has relaxed its stance and is coming from a much more loving place now. Just further proof that it does change and become more enlightened over time:

  5. Thank you for that link, Lacey.

    “The Church still teaches that there is a hell, but leaves it to God to decide who should go there. And divine decisions, in this regard, are filtered through divine mercy.” I definitely agree, this is a fine example of Church teaching evolving toward a better understanding of God. And if one takes seriously Christ’s promise to the Church — that “what you hold bound on earth shall be held bound in Heaven”, etc, I’d hate to go meet God with another soul’s eternal damnation on my hands.

    The one issue I would have with the passage I quoted above: I don’t believe God does “decide who should go” to Hell. I believe the decision is made by the person who chooses to reject the Love, Compassion, and Charity that is God. I believe every soul goes to meet God face-to-face and God greets each one with open arms. Then each soul either recognizes and embraces everything they had been seeking and striving for throughout life, or they recoil from a God they really never understood.

    Another image I like to use is of the afterlife as a Big Cosmic Party, which we arrive at to find God surrounded by everyone we ever knew in life. Most of them, hopefully, we’re on friendly enough terms with that we can join right in. There may be a few people we had slighted or treated badly, but hopefully we have the strength of character to make the necessary amends.

    And it’s those who can’t bring themselves to embrace all those between themselves and God who have to slink away to the far corner, where the wailing and gnashing of teeth thing is going on.

  6. I agree Josh; God welcomes us with open arms but even in death respects our free will. Although I can’t imagine anyone not wanting heaven when they see the face of God if you will.

    I remember reading somewhere that the Church says that yes, there is a hell, but has never proclaimed any person to be sent there.

  7. Yeah, I actually have a similar belief about the afterlife and have a lot of trouble imagining God “damning” anyone. But I feel much better about my religion telling people that “God decides” than insinuating that we humans have any authority on the matter.

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