“Beauty For Ashes”

Beauty For Ashes | Aniron Wellness Center

This handsome man’s name was Danny. He passed away a few days short of his 35th birthday and before the Christmas holidays. His passing was indeed tragically and completely unexpected. Danny was my husband and the father of our four children ages two to ten at that time. I was hesitant to share something so personal, but I feel it’s appropriate and relevant for today, World Mental Health Day, because Danny committed suicide.

Danny was “A type” personality. That kind of personality that makes someone charismatic, outgoing, and approachable. It didn’t make him popular, but people liked him because he was cheerful, happy, easy-going, and down-to-earth. Making friends came very natural to him. He was also extremely intelligent, compassionate, kind, hard worker, and proud to be the father of four “princesses”, as he called them. Yes, . . four girls! As a side note, when we went for the first ultrasound of our fourth girl, he just said to the sonographer “I already know it’s a girl!” Before then, he was hopeful one day to have a son, because as the only male from his father’s side, he would be the last one to carry the family’s last name. Ironic, isn’t it?!

He was the most generous and selfless man I have ever known. At church, someone complimented his tie, and without hesitation, he removed it and gave it away. (By the way, I was not happy about that, it was the tie he wore at our wedding. Over the years, I questioned why he gave it away. Lol). He would fix plumbing, do errands, and give rides to the elderly sisters who didn’t have the means to get to church or to doctors’ appointments. He served a proselyting mission from our church for two years in Puerto Rico. He loved the island, the people, and yes, . . . the food, of course. Everyone loved him.

But would you suspect someone like him ever deciding to take his own life? Would you had imagined that deep inside he was actually very miserable, in pain, feeling utter despair? Family, friends, and me included, knew that he was depressed, but never imagined the extent and severity. He always appeared happy even when things were hard for him.

During an accident at work, he sustained severe injuries to his back. Since then, he suffered horrible chronic pain that was never under control even after several procedures and surgery. Pain management with narcotics would make the pain barely or moderately tolerable, but not sufficiently to let him perform the duties of husband and father, the way he wanted. This inability affected tremendously his self-esteem and became depressed but not enough to raise any red flags.

It has been over a decade, but I still sometimes blame myself for dismissing and ignoring that Danny had severe depression, or if ever did acknowledge it, I never realized how dangerous it was at that time. From time to time, I invite and entertain the “what ifs” in my mind, we are former acquaintances. “If I would’ve acknowledged how much he was suffering?” “If I would’ve called his doctor?” “If I wouldn’t have gone to work?”

And for this reason, I am sharing my story, . . . to tell you, . . . to warm you, . . . that you could be me or you could be Danny. I think at some point we all suffer some sort of depression and say to ourselves “I’m not good enough”, “My family would be better off without me”, “My life has no meaning”, “I want to end this pain”. We all have times when we feel broken and see no escape to misfortunes and demands of life. We all experience loss, guilt, loneliness, hurt, and just the right concoction of bad feelings mixed together to make a witch’s brew to poison us.

Because depression feels like complete darkness, it’s important to rely on others’ lights to illuminate the way out. Yes, I myself, have suffered from depression. Ever since Danny’s passing, my life changed forever. However, now I realize that I made it through by having wonderful people around me, but most importantly, God was watching over me and by His grace my trials became “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3). Yes! . . . He has indeed given me a purpose in life I never thought I had, and it has gotten me where I am now.

So, please! If you find yourself in a similar situation, talk to someone, seek professional help, offer service to others which is a marvelous way to help you feel good about yourself. Pray to God, it doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, go to church or not. If you believe in a higher power, reach out to it. Meditate, exercise, eat well, get enough sleep. Even the little things make a huge difference in how our bodies and minds cope with depression. And the most valuable advice I can ever give you, never dismiss the signs, never assume a loved one is incapable of committing suicide. Please reach out to the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. They have professionals available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in several languages.

And to close this rather somber post, let me share two of the most significant messages that have helped me remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and no trial is wasted in our growth.

Invictus Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

Poem by William Ernest Henley – 1849-1903

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