We hear about people dying everyday in our 24-hour news culture, and there’s always that moment of shock – some longer than others. Regardless how tortured the person was or how anticipated their demise, the news serves as a reminder of our our own mortality. I often jokingly say my nickname is “Princess of Darkness” because I’m so comfortable with death and dying. I’ve lost many friends and family members since I was quite young, and find myself oddly at ease under these circumstances.
But yesterday was different. I was offline for the holiday weekend and late to get the news, but an online friend of mine named Trey Pennington took his own life on Sunday. Trey was only 46, and a father of six children. He was an international speaker, consultant and all-around superstar on marketing and social media. I had only been Facebook and Twitter friends with him for several years, but for some reason I felt like I got punched in the stomach when I heard. The details only made it worse. He shot himself under a large oak tree outside his church in Greenville, SC while fellow church-goers pleaded with him not to do it. Undoubtedly there is so much more to this story, and I’m not going to play armchair quarterback on his life. But from what I knew of him, he was a humble rock star…and I am so glad to have known him, albeit on the Internet.
This isn’t a post about suicide or depression, since I’m not an expert on either issue. But I have dealt with mental health issues in my family and lost people to suicide. Furthermore, I do know a bit about violence…but today I’m not talking about the kind people commit against each other. His death has made me think a lot about the self-violence we inflict upon ourselves.
The thoughts, the fears, the anxieties that run through our minds absolutely destroy our essence. Mentally, self-violence takes over our thoughts and prevents greatness. Emotionally, self-violence digs into our hearts and our most treasured relationships. Physically, the stress inflicted from self-violence causes a whole host of ailments that make walking through this life even more painful. Sometimes the culmination of it all leads us to mistakenly believe there is no way out…
Suicide isn’t known for leaving behind a sense of peace or resolution, and I have read many tweets from Trey’s friends, expressing remorse about not doing more to help him. Maybe they are right. Maybe there is something magical they could have done or said to save him. Or maybe not. We’ll never know. The real question is, will they perpetuate the cycle of self-violence and beat themselves up for the rest of their lives, pointlessly wondering “what if?”
While certainly easier said than done, I believe the best way to honor people lost to suicide is to free ourselves from the same demons that took our loved one. Because really, I’m not sure what makes me more sad – the fact people die by suicide, or the idea people live with such tremendous pain before they go.