Sermon For A Teenage Suicide Victim
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Sermon on Teenage Suicide

PLEASE NOTE!

Funeral Service for

A Teenager

1982 - 1997

XYZ United Church

-------------------

GATHERING

Music:

Scripture Sentences:

(Psalms 46:1 NRSV) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

(Revelation 7:17 NRSV) for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

(Matthew 5:4 NRSV) "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Greeting:

God is with us:

God's love unites us;

God's purpose steadies us;

God's Spirit comforts us.

Blessed be God forever.

Words of Welcome:

Friends,

we gather here in the protective shelter of God's healing love. We are free to pour out our grief, release our anger, face our emptiness, and know that God cares.

We gather to comfort and support one another in our common loss; especially remembering NN we gather to hear God's word of hope that can drive away our despair and move us to offer praise to God. We commend him to God's care and keeping as we celebrate the good news of Christ's resurrection.

For whether we live or whether we die, we belong to Christ, who is Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Solo "Precious Memories"

Prayer:

Loving God, your embrace supports us in life, your spirit watches over us in death. We bless you for the joy shown by Jesus in children, and for the assurance that to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. Even in our sorrow allow us to commit ourselves and those we love into your care and keeping. Forgive us when we take your gifts for granted, lift our guilt from us and bring us to trust in the love you offer us. In our confusion help us to trust where we cannot understand. In our aching loneliness may we remember NN in love, trusting him into your keeping until that eternal morning breaks; through our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Words of Remembrance:

We gather here on this sad day to remember the life of NN son NN and NN, step-son of NN, brother of NN and NN, grandson and great-grandson, nephew, friend and neighbour.

NN was born on (date) 1982 and died suddenly, and sadly, by his own hand, on (date).

He is remembered by (father) and other members of his family for his love of science projects. He dreamed of being an electrical engineer.

He loved most sports, was protective of younger children and was in many ways a peace-maker between his parents and others in the family. He was a very sensitive and caring child and was helpful to his family and to the neighbours. Even though he had a common boyish naughty side he was truly well-liked by all.

His love of small animals is remembered by one fellow 4H member. One year he spoke on Guinea pigs for the annual public speaking contest and had actually brought several live specimens and at the end of the speech in a glorious and surprising gesture offered one to the judges. "That is why I love Guinea pigs, here, I'm sure you'll like them too!"

His brother (name) remembers playing catch and going swimming. They would bike around (Community names), talk about their futures and build models together.

(Brother) enjoyed their quiet talks together and listening to their favourite music.

His mother NN remembers his big bear hugs, and his second sense about how she was feeling. He'd say, "Mom, don't cry, things will be OK", or "Mom you sure look pretty!" (mom and step-dad) remember waiting for him to come off the school bus when he would be half and hour behind the others. He had been looking at rabbit tracks or the eagles soaring in the sky. They would look out the window and see him playing with his dog or very quietly trying to see a squirrel up close. He was a child who truly marvelled at the things most take for granted. His favourite question was "Why". Most times the questions had no answers.

His foster-sister NN says that he was the best brother she ever had, and in her heart was 'a real brother'. She remembers the time he crawled under the step so that he could show her a new- born puppy.

His friend N remembers the good times they had together.

In the last two and a half days you who are N's family and friends have been struggling with the sad mystery that surrounds his death. It may seem that the pain you feel inside of you will tear you apart. Perhaps it is a dull aching emptiness that fills your heart and soul. Perhaps you have rehearsed your last meeting with him time and time again? Perhaps you ask, "what could you have said or done differently?" Some of you here may feel guilt over something you said or did not say in that last few days. That is normal. Many of you wanted a chance to say good-bye. That too is normal. Your grief is bound up in these feelings that are part and parcel of the suicide of a close friend or relative. In the light of this I cannot emphasize enough that this IS NOT YOUR FAULT. I want to say that few, if any suicides, happen because of one event, or one bad day. Perhaps there was a straw that broke the camels back, but there is always a previous burden of pain and anguish. So those of you who have guilt feelings over something said or not said, recently or long ago, please remember that you are not to blame. For whatever reason his pain was too great, too heavy for him to bear. I know that you would have done everything in your power if you had known.

No matter what we say here today, we cannot bring NN back, but in the hopes that it could help someone else (father) and some of the family has asked me to speak briefly on suicide prevention. Of course, I can only touch on this subject very briefly at this time.

FIRST: I want to speak to his fellow students. The 1990's are hard times; perhaps harder than they have ever been. With all of the pressures you face it may sometimes seem that life is bleak, and not worth living, especially if you are having trouble at home or in school or if you feel that no one understands you. If this is how you feel TALK TO SOMEONE. If that someone you choose will not or cannot listen, TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE. Very few people can read minds: your parents, teachers and friends may think they know what is going on, but they can't really know unless you tell them. If you have considered suicide PLEASE talk to someone SOON. Talking about it will not make it happen and it can prevent it.

If you need to talk about NN please do so, as often as you want and for as long as you want. Do not bottle your feelings up. Talking about them will not increase the hurt but a burden shared becomes lighter. In fact, this advice applies to everyone, no matter what age you are - share your feelings and do not let them eat you alive. There are people who care and people who can help.

SECOND: I want to speak to parents or people who work with young people. The behaviour of children and teens has always been a perplexing mystery. Some actions are causes for worry, some not. Be aware of changes in their mood or behaviour and BE AVAILABLE TO TALK OF LISTEN TO THEM. Remember though that it is not always possible to know the deeply hidden problems carried by some of our teens. All any of us can ever do is our best. That is all that can be expected of any of us.

I'd like to read the words to a hymn, written by a dying grandmother to her own grandchildren. I believe they speak of NN and to us.

In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree,
in cocoons a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be,
un-revealed until it's season, something God alone can see.

There's a song in every silence, seeking word and melody, 
there's a dawn in every darkness bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds a mystery
un-revealed until it's season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning, in our time, infinity,
in our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last a victory,
un-revealed until it's season, something God alone can see.

NOTE: Please be considerate of copyright if you use this hymn. It was writtten by Natalie Sleeth and is published in Voices United. The HYmn and Worship book of the United Church of Canada. I'm sure you can find it elsewhere. The copyright is held by Hope Publishing Co.

SERVICE OF THE WORD

Prayer for Illumination:

God of comfort and peace,

help us to hear the words and the encouragement of the scriptures

that we may hold fast to the assurance of your love

and the hope of life eternal

through Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour. Amen.

Solo: "Jesus Loves Me"

Hebrew Scriptures:

(Lamentations 3 NRSV selected) {17} my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; {18} so I say, "Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD." {19} The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! {20} My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. {21} But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: {22} The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; {23} they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. {24} "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." {25} The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. {26} It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. {32b}he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; {33} for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

Psalm Reading:

(Psalms 23 KJV) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. {3} He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. {4} Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. {5} Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Gospel:

(John 14 NRSV selected) "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. {2} In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? {3} And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also{18} "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. {19} In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. {27} Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Sermon:

The death of a loved one can shake us to our very foundations. When the person is so young and so full of potential and hope ---- the feelings of grief and loss can be even more overwhelming.

At times such as this we turn to our friends and family for support, for a shoulder to cry on and for someone to walk that road of pain and anguish with us.

At times such as this we turn to our faith, to the scriptures and to the church community for the assurance that we are not alone, that someone greater than us watches over us and that our loved one has found the peace in death that must have so eluded him in the last hours of his life.

The words of the third lamentation could well be our own on this day. The writer knew well the feeling of anguish. Whatever had happened was a devastating event. Not only was this author shaken, but so much so that happiness was all but forgotten. The Bible is a beautiful and powerful book, not only for the message of faith and trust in God that it presents to us but for the unadorned honesty with which it presents human emotions. There are no punches pulled here; the author tells it like it is. The Bible acknowledges these feelings, the people of faith from long ago did indeed feel free to present these feelings to God without fear because they knew, even in the midst of their pain and grief that their God's love was steadfast and that God's promises were sure. When an individual forgot it or when an individual ceased to believe it for a time, the faith of the community, of family and friends walked with them until those hurting and grieving ones could come back to that relationship of trust and faith and community.

The words of the 23 psalm are so very familiar to all of us here. They have been uttered so many times in situations of trouble and grief and sadness. They speak to the reality of a God who cares for each one of us like a shepherd cares for sheep. They speak to the reality of a God who, like a shepherd, goes out of the way to save a little one from danger. These verses speak to the reality of a God who cares even when the people have gone in the other direction. This is a love that never ends. This is a love that surrounded NN in life, a love that surrounds him in death and in the new life to which he has been raised and surrounds us and carried us in our grief.

The gospel lesson speaks to a time when Jesus was preparing to journey to Jerusalem. He knew that the journey to Jerusalem would mean that he had to face suffering and death. Beginning to realize this, the disciples were afraid of being left alone, they were afraid that they would never see Jesus again. Jesus assures them that they will see each other again. Jesus assures them that they will come to know the love of a God who has room for everyone, a God whose love knows no limits. God's love is like a gigantic Bed and Breakfast, where there will never ever be a 'no vacancy' sign. This love gave Jesus the strength to walk the way to the cross. This love strengthened the disciples in the terrible aftermath of his death and this love can give us the strength and the hope and the courage that we need to go on from this terrible week and into the future.

NN's life and death has changed you and you will never be the same again, but God will help you find new ways of carrying on, God will give you the strength to go on without him. God's power can deliver you to a new day. Remember him as he was. Remember the good times, his love and his care for you. Also, in your grief please remember the living: care for one another for you have all been through a terrible tragedy. Do not forget to give thanks to God, for his life was a precious gift to all of you. Lean on God, for God is strong and is able to carry you through this to the light and peace of a new day.

Reading: "Footprints"

THE PRAYERS

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession:

Lord's Prayer:

center>SENDING FORTH

Solo: "Amazing Grace"

Benediction:

Into your hands o merciful Saviour,

we commend your servant NNN.

Acknowledge, we humbly pray you,

a sheep of your fold,

a lamb of your flock,

and a child of your redeeming.

Receive NN into the arms of your mercy,

into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,

and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

Amen.

May the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow

bring you from this place of mourning to the light and peace of a

new day where you may remember what once was and have hope

in what is yet to be.

Amen

SERVICE OF COMMITTAL

Scripture Sentences:

(Matthew 18:10 NRSV) "Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

(John 16:22 NRSV) So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Committal:

With thanksgiving for the life lived and the love shared,

we commit the body of NNN to the ground,

earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,

trusting in God's never-ending love which surrounds both him and

us, now and forever.

Amen.

Prayer:

Source of all mercies and giver of all comfort,

deal graciously with all who mourn,

that, casting their care on you,

they may know the consolation of your love;

through Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Amen

Sending Forth:

The peace of God which passes all understanding

keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,

and of Jesus Christ our risen Saviour.

And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

Amen.

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