Sunday, June 27, 2010


Eight o'clock genetics class finished early. Mark and I decided to grab a coffee and cinnamon roll at the SU Cafe. We got through the line quickly and sat down, relieved to get a break from Mr. Beakman's boring Genetic's lecture.

"Mark, did you notice Elizabeth in class this morning and how forlorn she seemed?"

Perhaps I will write her a comforting note, I thought.

That afternoon I wrote a note telling her that if she needed a friend, I was there for her. I put it in her campus mailbox.

Word traveled quickly Sunday morning that Elizabeth had committed suicide using strychnine secreted from a Chemistry lab. Sunday afternoon, still reeling from the shock, I checked her mailbox. My note was still there.

The above story is true, although her name is not Elizabeth. "Elizabeth" and I were fellow graduates students in Biology at Tennessee Tech University. I am often reminded in interesting ways about this heart-wrenchingly sad situation. Thursday mornings I volunteer at the front reception desk at our church. This last Thursday a good friend stopped in to drop off some materials for our secretary. She showed me a posted and returned 'Get-Well' card she had recently sent to an ailing, fellow parishioner. Matter-of-factly he had passed away and had never received his card. That occurrence for her reminded me again about "Elizabeth's" suicide and my unread card. Of course I felt as if I had been too late and if only she had read the card...well, you can imagine the rest of my sentiments. I still cry to this day whenever I remember "Elizabeth".

Suicide is terribly sad, and its ripple effects run deep and wide through family and friends. Depression and despair that leads down this path is serious business. I have been there... In the U.S. suicide occurs every 17 minutes, resulting in over 30,000 deaths each year. There are in excess of a half million ER visits annually for self-inflicted injuries. Suicide death ranks third for cause of death among young people, aged 15-24.

If you know someone who is troubled, depressed in any way, do not be afraid to engage them. Take a healthy dose of love and human kindness to them. It may be that this love and human kindness is just the 'ticket' in creating a small miracle.

Thank you all for your creative work in response to my prompt for this week's Saturday Centus. I hope it was challenging. If you have not done so, please check out the wonderful writing creativity by going to

Peace and blessings

Jenny Matlock


  1. Jeff, I am sending you a hug and a prayer. Your caring soul and tender heart were present in your actions. I can only imagine how you have chastised yourself for not seeing, not knowing, not reacting.

    But someone that is suicidal does not always give any warning signs or symbols. The "cry for help" we read of is not always something our hearts or our minds can hear and understand.

    You may laugh at this suggestion because this event happened so many years ago but there are wonderful suicide survival groups out there. I'm not saying they help us understand someones pain...but they do help us to deal with ours in trying to make sense of something we perceive as so senseless.

    Your "Elizabeth" sensed your good heart and willing ear. I have no doubt. Her pain was greater than friendship could ease.

    Thank you for this powerful and honest link to the prompt this week.

    I think your mind led you to use this prompt so you could help the healing start on this tragic event.

    Prayers to "Elizabeth" of peace and closure.

    And hugs and prayers to you, too.

    Thank you for linking this.

  2. You have such a deep soul, you feel so much and I hope that by writing this prompt and reading the responses, you are able to see how your writing touches others.

  3. Dear Jeff, Thank you for sharing this story. I have had a few brushes with Grandfather and a friends Father. It is so beyond my understanding but I know the pain must be deep and they believe unbearable to take their own life. Family and Friends can reach out (like you did) but unless the other person is ready to grab that hand, nothing will change the outcome. I am sad for you, these events effect us far longer then most would understand. You have a very sensitive soul and thus are very touched by these events. I pray for your healing and that 'Elizabeth' found peace! Sadness is all around us and this is a great reminder to reach out to one another!

  4. This was beautifully written. It rang so true that I feared it was based on personal experience, although I was hoping it was not. Hopefully this was cathartic for you. Thank you for the prompt this week, it was a great one to work with. Kat

  5. This makes me so sad that this was a true story. It was written beautifully though. Thanks for the back story on this as well. It's sad that people think suicide is their only choice. You have a good heart, Jeff.

    Great prompt writing too. It was very challenging to me because of the storyline I'm going with.

  6. Jeff, please go to my blog and read The Road Home. It may take some time because there are several chapters.

    Glad I found your blog.

  7. Yes, a very great post and writing prompt. This only proves to me that good writing can be found in everyday lives, both the good and bad. While I don't care for werewolves and vampires, I allow anyone else to enjoy them. For me, the real stories are life stories, as you have shared here. My students used to ask why great literature was full of problems and troubles. I told them I believed it was because literature and great writing gives us models for living; most of know how to live through goodness. It is the problems and darkness we need help dealing with. Your post was surely a model for someone today.

  8. Oh, my. My story of suicide was made up, thought up out of thin air. You, dear, have suffered such a great traumatic loss. I am so very sorry. To not want to live must be the most horrible feeling in the world. I cannot imagine.

    Your way of putting words together is elegant and easy. Thanks for sharing this painful story with us.

    I will keep you and "Elizabeth" in my thoughts.

  9. This was beautifully written. And thank you so much for sharing the story behind your words.

    You noticed, and you cared. In you, Elizabeth had a friend.


  10. This was a beautiful post. When my oldest son graduated high school in 2003 a girl he knew had a friend, a basketball player, who was on scholarship at a university in NM. I never met this boy but he hung himself. I wish I had known him. I have always had good relationships with our kids and their friends. That will always haunt me. Why couldn't someone help him? But being the kind and caring person that you are was the very best you could do. Elizabeth just did not know how to reach out for help. That is so sad but the world is so full of sadness. I truly believe that if you feel you have no friends at all you need to know God. He is the best friend we can ever have. Thank you for your honesty and compassionate and beautiful writing today. Anne