There, but for the grace of God...

They say she was radiant, her love boundless, her hospitality second nature and unmatched. In photos, you can tell how fiercely she loved her children, how proud she was of her husband. She was a remarkable woman married into a remarkable family. There's not a photo remaining that shows the pain deep in her eyes. Yet, one day not long after Mother's Day, she took the raspy rope and threaded it around her neck and hung herself from the rafters of her barn. In all the confusion that ensued, not one person could come up with a reason for why she took her own life. Was it her impending divorce, striking at the core of her beliefs as a Catholic? Was it the separation from her children brought on by the grid of a visitation schedule? Was it depression? Mental illness?


Profound grief rakes my heart as I read about all of this. There, but for the grace of God, go I. John Bradford, an English preacher burned at the stake in 1510, penned those words after watching a group of Christians walk to their execution. A few years later, he did follow in those martyrs footsteps. In his quote is an echo of the words of James, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’(4:13-15 NKJV)

I know the depths of depression that lead you to the rope and the beam. I know the grief and shame over your failures that extinguishes hope. I know the stubborn root planted by an evil wind in your soul that is ever so difficult to uproot. I know that the only hope for those, like me, who walk down that tangled path is the Word that cuts off tenacious roots of self-doubt, self-hatred, and despondency. Immedicabile vulnus...a wound that can never be healed, a poison in the veins she nourishes, to be consumed by the hidden fire.

Looking back on the darkest days of my life, my song is Psalm 124:

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:
Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream would had gone over our soul:
Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: 
the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.



How different the song might have been, had I fallen prey to their teeth. Had the waters swirled over my head. Had I been completely overwhelmed. The hands of friends reached down into the dark waters and pulled me up from the deeps. The love of my husband was a life raft of hope, not hope of mine, but the hope in his eyes that I could adopt and buoy myself upon. The prayers of the saints who would not let me martyr myself on a pyre of selfish insufficiency. The parents who prayed, helped, loved unconditionally.

I pray for Mary Kennedy's family. Pray that her children are rescued from the darkness that has fallen like a shroud over their little family. Ages 10 to 17, they face their adolescence without their mother - their life forever without her.


There, but for the grace of God, go mine.