Something sacred happens when the sun sets.
My family felt it often when we lived close to Lake Michigan. Several years ago, USA Today listed sunsets over Lake Michigan as some of the best found anywhere. Many evenings we finished dinner, left the dishes, and piled into a car for a couple mile drive to a remote park we dubbed “Sunset Beach.”
A short boardwalk stroll from the parking lot landed us on cool sand and dune grass. Most times, we stopped talking just as the sun hit the horizon and begin its unusually quick drop beneath the water line. We always stayed for the last ray, which would linger as if saying, “Goodbye for now; I’ll be back.”
That’s it; a sacred promise took place. Whatever happened today cannot be changed. But take heart because tomorrow will happen, and with it comes new possibilities, new opportunities, new everything. Watching the sunset fills a heart with such hope. A welcome relief when a day (week, month, year) has felt dark. Or cruel.
A year ago, my wife Becky received a 12:30 a.m. call to tell her that Teri, her lifelong friend (and my friend too) had taken her own life. They were as close as sisters and enjoyed a love that would make real sisters envious. Teri loved our kids as her own. Her smile shone as bright as the sun.
But that sun set all too quickly and we didn’t get to stand and watch it go. Loss works that way; sudden, without warning, and painfully permanent. How does a person recover from something as dark as a loved one’s suicide? I don’t know the entire journey one must travel, but I did write a book about the first steps to take. A short, companioned walk that will take you to a place as sacred as a sunset. One filled with promise. Where you honestly shed the tears that today deserves – yet feel subtle warmth from a ray of hope about tomorrow.
Three years ago, I listened as a high school student at an assembly told nearly 2,000 peers how much she appreciated their help following her best friend’s suicide. “Even when you just smiled and said hello you helped me make it through another day,” she said to a very quiet fieldhouse. “Wow, what grace!” I thought at the time, completely unaware of how life would unfold for my family and me.
Today her words make even more sense after experiencing the hard-to-breathe-without-it-hurting pain that happens when someone close takes his or her own life. Compelled to do something for others who face this horrible situation, and with a blessing from Teri’s family, I wrote Four Corners of Grace to help you or someone you know make it through another day. All the way to the sunset.
David Staal serves as a consultant to the nonprofit sector following 11 years as President & CEO of a national organization (Kids Hope USA), 10 years in church staff leadership (Willow Creek Community Church), and a 13-year marketing career (Abbott Laboratories). A senior editor for Christianity Today International for 12 years, he also authored these books: