This letter is addressed to you but seeing that you are no longer with us – it’s really for those you left behind. I have followed your football career for the last 2 decades. Most kids dream about living the life you lived. Most athletes never reach the level of success you achieved. Even those who make it to the upper echelon of their game don’t last as long as you did – particularly in your sport. You helped your first team make it to their only Super Bowl appearance. You had an astonishing 1526 career tackles. You were invited to the Pro Bowl (the best of the best game) 12 different times. You acquired world-wide fame and a legion of fans. You made millions of dollars. By all accounts, people loved you and respected you. You had 3 children who are left trying to pick up the pieces. We all want to know why. Why Junior? Why end your life when most would have given theirs to have it?
It’s a question that haunts your mother. It’s a question that every teammate and coach can’t find the answer to. It’s a question that millions of young people need to have answered. Sadly, you may be the only one who ever knows. And your answer, as logical as it may seem to you, will NEVER make sense to your children. Ever.
Did you have a dark secret to hide? Did you do something you were ashamed of? Was the money not enough? Were you too famous? Did your glamorous life lack purpose?
Whatever your reason – it’s not good enough. Whatever your motivation, it isn’t acceptable. There is NEVER a good reason to take your own life. And for the benefit of those you left behind, I want to share 6 reasons why suicide is never the answer.
- Though it was your life, it wasn’t yours to take. God is the Author of Life and you do not have the right or moral authority to snuff it out. Though He allowed you to die, it wasn’t His perfect plan for your life.
- Suicide is selfish. It is the height of self centeredness. Watching your mother grieve on national television is painful to watch. The thought of mourning the death of a child is an unbearable torment for any parent. Unfortunately, you don’t have to see it. We do and we feel her pain caused by your moment of selfishness.
- Suicide is cowardly. Every Sunday afternoon for 20 years, you were recognized for your toughness. On Tuesday, you revealed your cowardice. What was so painful that you couldn’t tackle it? What was so wrong in your life that you felt the only solution was to run away, permanently?
- Suicide is a bad example. We all have problems. We all make mistakes. We all have regret. We all have hurt others in our past. We all want a “do over” or the ability to go back and make some changes. A lot of people looked up to you as a role model and you just taught your “students” how you coped with life’s biggest problems. You didn’t.
- Suicide denies you the ability to see the next chapter. In your long athletic career, surely you have been part of a game where your team came back from behind to win. Without a doubt, you have had a coach or two give the speech at half-time that said something like, “Never give up. It is not over. We still have a chance. We can overcome this obstacle. As a team, we can defeat this opponent. We can change the score. We can come back from this disgraceful performance and rise again. We will do better next time, etc.” Not giving up is the badge of the true athlete. It is the mark of a true competitor. It is the anthem of every warrior. You were that athlete. You were that competitor. What happened? Now the game is really over. There is no 4th quarter miracle. No hail Mary can change this outcome. There is no extra time and there are no “repeat first downs.” You chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Your last chapter is now complete. Is this really how you wanted to end your book?
- Suicide robs God of doing what He does best; forgiving sins and redeeming lives. Since we do not know your reason why, we can only speculate. You were obviously living with some demons that you didn’t know how to shake. For whatever reason – you thought you were better off dead, than alive. Had you known God better or trusted Him more – you would still be here. He gives strength when we are weak. He gives hope when we are hopeless. He gives help when we are helpless. He isn’t a crutch for weak people to use. He is THE stretcher for all people. And all He needs to hear is, “Help!” Psalm 121:1-2 says it best, “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” If He can make heaven and earth – He can fix your problems.
I have not walked in your shoes to understand your pain. I do know I have my own pain, my own regrets, my own demons. I have had my moments of feeling the slithering breath of the devil whispering in my ear – telling me to end my life. I have made lots of mistakes. I have done terrible things I deeply regret. I have thought, at different times, that it might be easier to just end it now. But I haven’t quit. I won’t quit. And why? Because…
- It’s not my life to take.
- It’s a selfish option.
- It is a cowardly action.
- It is the ultimate bad example.
- It would prevent me from seeing the next chapter in my life. I want to see God “restore what the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25)
- It would prevent God from showing the world what He can do with a broken Rod.
Goodbye Junior. I hope that God will somehow use your death to encourage others to live on – in spite of their problems.