I have a cousin, who is more like a brother, who took his life 163 days ago.
The wound is fresh. Even the grammar of it hurts—do I say have a cousin or had.
His memory haunts, leaves me tormented by daydreams I force upon myself—the reels of horror that replay in the mind when I think about how his brain might have shattered when the bullets plunged in slow motion from the barrel to his bones.
He left this world 11 days after I gave birth to my first child, 11 days after breath screamed through my lungs and blood surged through my body while life forced itself from out of me.
The day life mattered the most to me.
It was a Saturday morning, light falling and spilling brilliant through the window. The kind of light that glows so bright you wonder if someone slit a hole in the blanket of the heavens.
My husband and I were taking pictures of our son when the phone rang with a sobbing sound on the other end that was sighing and breathing and choking all at once.
“He’s not with us anymore,” my mom said.
163 days ago, the wound still fresh. The torment of his tragedy tattooed forever in my head.
I think about it most when the day falls dim and silent. When the bellowing air conditioner hushes to a whispering chill, when the screen of my phone fades black and dies out, when the baby falls asleep and the echo of his laughter stops dancing through the air.
That is when I make my brain go there.
That is when I think about my cousin and try to imagine the words that filled his brain the moment before steel shot through every blood-soaked cell in his brain.
The only way he could have done it is if that raging lie that slips into the crevices of weary souls whispered louder than the truth that could have carried and covered him.
We need that raging lie to fall silent, fall lifeless—lose its hold and grip and slaying power.
We need light to win; we need love to win.
I first came across Hannah Brencher and her writing when her first book, If You Find This Letter, came out. Her words weren’t flashy, and I loved that about her. She wrote with graceful simplicity that was both gut-honest and witty.
Come Matter Here is Hannah’s second book, and it is exactly what it says it is: an invitation to matter.
I can’t help but shout from the rooftops, calling for any and every person marked by heartache and longing (that makes all of us, am I right?) to get this book. To read the words and drink them deep. To hear Hannah’s story and to realize that we are not alone in our wandering and wondering—not alone in the depression, the loneliness, the pain, and our search for purpose.
Her book has been like a match dragged across a tiny strip of gritty paper, lighting candles one after another, igniting and stoking hope to burn bright in others.
COMMUNITY. FEAR. LOVE. ANXIETY. DEPRESSION. FAITH IN GOD. THE BIBLE. PRAYER.
She writes about all of that. And she doesn’t dance around her words, either. She doesn’t dress her words up with cute cliches and pretty filters. She just tells her story and tells of the hope that has changed the ending of her story.
And lately, I’m starting to believe that’s really all of us are really here for—all of these stories and the changed (for the better) endings.
There are a lot of bodies walking among us.
There are a lot of bodies walking among us in the stores, at the banks, and on the baseball fields, and a lot of these bodies have heads that hold brains concealed behind pretty hair and fake smiles. Brains with battleships.
Brains with brokenness and wreckage and other words like that.
Depression is real. Suicidal thoughts and wanting to end the flow of blood, the rising chest—it’s all real. Cold steel against warm skin is real—the sharp of a blade; the ring of a barrel. The mathematics of mental health are real. There are real people that walk around with the very real calculation in their brain that
World – Me = Better.
There couldn’t be a more flawed math equation.
It makes me wonderwhat kind of math was going on in my cousin’s head—what kind of long division and fractions he saw. The hovering numbers; the intimidating symbols. Even harder, I can’t believe I missed the signs. Can’t believe I’d mistaken negative numbers for positives, wrong answers for right ones. Now my head is swirling in a reality that just won’t add up and I’m seeing the math was wrong all along.
It was wrong all along.
Death didn’t have to be his ending. That kind of death and darkness doesn’t have to be anyone’s ending.
(If that seems like it’d be easy to say from the platform of a blank page with a blinking cursor know that I’m not just some pleading voice behind a blog. I am a knower of Darkness—Darkness and I were one once friends.)
If you are in the thick of darkness and all you want is a bullet to the brain to make the pain go away, please…please. Read Hannah’s book. Shoot me an email, text your friend, go to your doctor, put the knife down.
Light can be in your story; light can be in your life.
If you are struggling with finding a community to be a part of, or with your faith in God, or with fear, or anxiety, or believing that your life has purpose and meaning—read Hannah’s book.
There is hope for you, hope stored by the buckets in heaven. And Hannah’s words help to unearth that hope.
If ever there was a phrase that our generation needed to hear right now, it would be Come Matter Here. If ever we’ve needed the reminder that we are invited (come), that we are important (matter), and that we belong (here)—it’s now.
To be called into mattering within the places and the spaces that we’re in—it’s the one thing that every aching soul and beating heart on this planet wants and needs and lives and breathes for.
Even dies for.
I love you, Soldier. Miss you most.