Suicide. According to the Oregon Health Authority, Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Oregonians ages 15-34, and the 8th leading cause of death among all Oregonians in 2010. The rate of suicide among Oregonians has been increasing since 2000. Suicide rates among adults ages 45-64 rose approximately 50 percent from 18.1 per 100,000 in 2000 to 27.1 per 100,000 in 2010. The rate increased more among women ages 45-64 than among men of the same age during the past 10 years. (http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/InjuryFatalityData/Documents/NVDRS/Suicide%20in%20Oregon%202012%20report.pdf)
We read reports such as the one I’ve quoted and wonder at the enormity of the problem. But when the phone rings and we are confronted with suicide among our community of faith the numbers become real. Frank Page, President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention had successfully served as pastor of a large and influential church. He and his wife were transitioning into denominational leadership roles when a neighbor called to alert him that emergency medical people had raced to his daughter’s home in response to her self-inflicted death. As he writes, “We were not a family whose daughter kills herself.”
And yet Melissa’s death was real. In his recently released book, Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Dr. Page describes in heartbreaking and honest detail the aftermath of Melissa’s death. He organizes his reflections around what he describes as “core truths and observations that have been instrumental in getting me this far in my healing journey.”
Even walking with one family through this valley of the shadow of death would be one too many. However, the reality is that pastors and churches will likely have to walk with more than one family through such a perilous journey. Dr. Page’s honest reflections and observations are a priceless guide for such a journey.
The book was written with several purposes in mind. First, Frank Page wants us to meet his daughter, Melissa. Though she is in heaven his father’s heart wants us to know her as he did- “She was delightful. She was difficult.” He also writes with an aim to help those who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts. At the end of each chapter Dr. Page writes a personal letter to any who might be struggling. Finally, he writes to encourage others who are walking the same path as he and his family.
As one who has struggled most of my adult life with depression (and on occasion thoughts of suicide) I could hardly stop reading the book. Dr. Page’s style is personable and easy to follow. His honesty is compelling. Though I have only met him in a very formal setting I found myself reading the book as though Dr. Page and I were having a personal conversation.
Chances are you know a family who has experienced a suicide. This book will open your eyes and heart to more fully understand the various stages that accompany such a dark season. The book will also remind you that our hope cannot be grounded in medical treatment- though there is a time and place for that. Our hope is ultimately grounded in the nature of God as He has revealed Himself in Christ. As you read this heart-wrenching account you will walk with the Page’s as they draw nearer to God and discover more of His grace and mercy to help in times of need (Heb 4:16).