Thank You For Your Service

With his wife and son away from home, he took a gun pointed to his head and like he had spoken, blew his own brains out.

Today is a day for remembering our veterans. Yet we often exclude and even look with shame on those who take their own live. The following is a different take, a brief story which can save our own lives and that of our loved-ones.

He was my cousin. He was my friend. He was a quiet and kind man, with an offbeat sense of humour.

He spoke with subdued meanness about the father he never knew. Perhaps that was a clue. Perhaps that was the beginning.


The last time I saw him, he had returned home from fighting America’s war In the land of Iraq. I asked him, “what are you going to do now that you are home”

He replied, “I want to go back and blow some brains out”

“You’re not serious,” I questioned, wondering if this was an ugly example of his warped sense of humour.  He didn’t respond. I don’t think he smiled.

In search of a more loving mood, I change the conversation. But I could not find his smile. I could not find his love.

The day I heard of his fate, I realized I had been speaking to a ghost; for the cousin and friend I once knew never returned from Iraq.

With his wife and son away from home, he took a gun pointed it to his head and like he had spoken, blew his own brains out.

Now I say tearful thanks to him for bringing greater attention to the mental illness that comes from the many wars of our lives.

His broken life sheds light on the millions of mentally ill living with sicknesses our eyes cannot see, struggling to cope with the ravages of life.

As mental illness spreads like a virus, we urgently see the need to learn how to love and how to save another mind, another lost loved-one.

To all desolate war veterans driven to take their own life, thank you for your service. Thank God for your life.

Motivating Through Loved-Based Conversations

When I do friendly visits at the hospital,I often see two patients (to maintain confidentiality I will call them Mrs. V and Mrs. L). I estimate that they are in their early 70’s. I have seem them cry sobbing tears as they come to terms with the devastating stroke, which took them from their former strength and independence, to paralysis and total dependence on others.

To motivate Mrs. V and Mrs. L, I engage them in what I call love-based conversations. When I push their wheelchairs or sit with them, we share life stories that are filled with hope and optimism. When we talk of the stroke, I share my own long ordeal, and the hope that lead to miraculous healing, especially of my heart. I point out that they too are likely on a long road, which can be brightened with positive energy and hope. No one knows where that road will carry them. Yet in that moment, that road has brought me to them, and it is my sincere pleasure to learn from them and spend a little time with them.

I have also looked on the saddened faces of the daughters of Mrs. V and Mrs. L, as they struggle with their own desire to see their mother as she once was. As I compassionately make myself a listening for their frustrations, I hear one daughter, or another, say such things such as:

‘She just won’t try. I am trying to help, but she won’t listen. She doesn’t understand that she can’t come home, for she can’t do anything for herself. She needs to be some place, where they have people to work with her, to help her get better. She is angry. I am so stressed.

I have compassion for these daughters, who loyally visit, and want so much to motivate their mothers to get better. I say to them:

Your mother is now experiencing a new normal. Give her the love and compassion she needs to create whatever possibilities the future desires. Do not hold her in comparison to a past that is no more. The paralysis, tears, and the anger are parts of her healing. Try not to be frustrated with her for this, just compassionately be with her. Make an effort to let go of any frustration that may prevent you from giving the hugs, the laughter, and the hope that can motivate your mother to find and hold on to the hope she needs.

The daughters hear, but it is hard for them to listen to more than their pain, to see more than the physical reality. The mothers, on the other hand, have no choice but to see and hear more that what appears real, for their healing is unseen. When they engage in loved-based conversations, they can see a more hopeful possibility for themselves.

In the few weeks I have been there, daughters of both families have told me how much my visits mean to their mothers. Even when I am not there, I know the impact remains. Mrs. V pastes my name on the side of her tissue box. Mrs. L always wants to know where I was, indicating that she misses me on the days I am not there. As long as our love-based conversations remain in their minds, I pray they receive the continued hope and motivation they so yearn for.