Summary: This is a eulogy of a high school principal who committed suicide
Today we are faced with a painful and perplexing situation we could never have imagined. A mother, grandmother, co-worker, mentor, teacher, daughter and friend has been inexplicably and unexpectedly taken from us. We cannot pretend that we are not shocked and grieved by the death of Earline. The timing of it makes it all the more difficult. She was in the prime of her professional career and had many more years to live and so many more lives to influence.
We are gripped with a range of emotions, the sadness over the loss of someone so gifted, talented, loving and special. Some of us are angry because we have been left behind and because we didn’t get an opportunity to help. Some of us are having feelings of guilt because we didn’t see the signs or we feel like we could have done more. And all of us are asking “why?” How could it have come to this? Why didn’t she ask for help?
There is so much we don’t know. We don’t know what burden Earline was carrying which seemingly appeared to her to be too much to shoulder. We don’t know why she took her own life or what led her to think she had no other choice. We wonder how long Earline lived with this mounting burden and how long she had to endure it. We wonder at the despair that at last got out of hand and drove her to this decision. Our hearts go out to her, someone we thought we knew so well, and someone we loved and yet managed to conceal from us a struggle that lasted for all we know, weeks, months or even years. And we wonder, of course, how much she suffered at the end, in this final lonely act. There is much we do not know, and it hurts.
But that is not what today is about because there is a great deal we do know. We know that though she carried with her a great burden with which she struggled and eventually enveloped her, God’s grace is sufficient. The Apostle Paul was bothered by what he called a “thorn” in his flesh. He doesn’t say what that was, except that it was a constant harassment that would not go away. Paul said that he prayed continuously imploring the Lord to take it away; but the Lord answered him with words that have since given hope and courage to countless Christians who have questioned and struggled with life’s dilemmas: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Even in our times of weakness, God’s grace is sufficient for us.
Paul put it this way when he wrote to the Roman church, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:1-2, 38-39) Did you hear that? God withholds his love from no one. He loved Earline all the days of her life. When she was born, God’s love was with her in the gift of life. When she was baptized in the faith, God’s love was with her. When she professed her faith in Jesus for the first time, God’s love was with her. When she went to church with Ms. Ruby, God’s love was with her. And even when Earline’s days were at their toughest, when the pressures and stresses facing her seemed overwhelming, God’s love was still with her. And God’s love is with her today as well. No matter what we do or fail to do, no matter what we say or fail to say, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And the same is true for us: you do not have to bear this grief of losing Earline alone. In fact, that same love from God that Earline experienced in her life and is experiencing right now can be experienced by you today in this time, this place and in these circumstances.
You see, grace is God’s answer, and it is the only answer I know to the many questions we face today. We can wrestle with “if”. If only I had said something… If only I had done something… If only I had noticed what she was struggling with…” We can wrestle with the why’s. Why did she do this? Why did she make this decision? Why didn’t turn to us for help? But that is a path which leads nowhere and provides no answers. When we understand that God’s grace is sufficient, then we know he loves us and hears us. He is aware of our weaknesses. He knows our problems and frustrations. Even in our grief and sorrow, he understands because he knows what it means to lose someone close to him, in his son Jesus Christ. And we know that God’s grace will help carry us through and will heal the pain and brokenness in our lives.