In August 2013, only a handful of months after I graduated from high school, I found out that one of my graduating classmates, a boy named Will, had committed suicide. It left me and numerous other students from our school devastated. For me, my pain was magnified because I had seen him two weeks before he died.
On that day, I walked out of a grocery store near my neighborhood, and saw him walking towards me. We smiled and waved at each other, and I walked away, not knowing what was on his mind at the time. Because of this, I spent the following years blaming myself for failing to see the pain Will had been experiencing. I thought that if I had known sooner, I could’ve prevented his suicide.
I carried that that self-inflicted blame and grief with me when I started college that same year. There were a couple of times in my first two years as an undergrad when I would remember Will, and subsequently, be overwhelmed with sadness.
Shortly after Will passed away, a Facebook group was created in memory of him and Paige, a girl from our school who had committed suicide the year prior. During a quiet night in my room in September 2013, I saw Will’s mother post something about her son in the group, and I broke down all over again. I couldn’t stop crying for several minutes, because I still hadn’t let go of my guilt.
The next year, in my creative writing class, we had a guest speaker come in one day. To my shock, the woman who joined us looked just like Will. She had the same facial structure, hair color, everything. It was alarming, and I came dangerously close to crying in the middle of that class session. I’m certain that it was a sign from God about Will, but for whatever reasons I had, I still held onto my belief that I could’ve stopped him from dying.
God could clearly see that I was still essentially beating myself up over Will’s suicide, and He evidently had something powerful in mind to help me let go. I had a beautiful experience this past October that aided me in finally letting go of my guilt and self-blaming.
As a side note, and as vital background information, October happens to be the Holy Rosary Month for Catholics. I found this out rather unwittingly while scanning the web. Each day of October is dedicated to a certain saint, and this saint has a patronage of immense importance.
On October 4, 2016, I had an immensely vivid dream that shook me to the core. First, no doubt influenced by YouTube clips of American Horror Story that I had watched before falling asleep, I dreamed that I was Misty Day (a potentially Christian witch from season 3) walking around a campground that may have been symbolic of Hell. It hurt to walk on the ground, and all around me, there were people in painful situations. There was a firing squad gunning people down, and the atmosphere was thick with terror and anxiety.
There could be a number of reasons as to why I was walking around as Misty Day, namely my faith. But regardless, as I gazed around the campground in her form, I desperately thought about the mercy of God.
Hardly a second after I had that thought, the entire dream suddenly transformed into a much more serene setting. Now, I was truly myself, inside a massive building that somewhat resembled the Tamarack Mall in West Virginia. The negative atmosphere was completely gone, replaced by a feeling of pure peace and joy. All around me were people walking around, smiling and without any negative emotions.
For a number of reasons, I thought that I was seeing a symbolic representation of Heaven, or maybe I had somehow been taken into Heaven itself. I saw a few things there that baffled me completely, one of them being Pope Francis walking around with a peaceful smile. I was alarmed to see him in my dream, because I was certain that he wasn’t dead (naturally, he wasn’t). I walked through the building, and had an even stranger encounter that confused me further.
Somewhere in the middle of the building was a 10-foot tall marble statue of Michael the Archangel, with an appearance similar to a Roman centurion. When I walked up to him, he looked down at me, and began speaking in a gentle, but commanding voice. I’m not entirely certain what he said, but it was along the lines of “It will happen soon.” He repeated this message, and I walked away, towards the exit of the building.
The outside of the building gave way to a beautiful row of buildings, with people lounging absentmindedly. It was so quiet, and so peaceful. I think it was at this moment that I truly believed that I was somehow in the real Heaven. And it’s likely because of this belief that the following occurred without warning.
I suddenly had the most emotional breakdown I’ve ever suffered. I collapsed into tears, and began wailing “Will! Please, somebody tell me where Will is!” The people sitting around looked at me in alarm, and began looking around themselves wildly, in a bid to help me. Before they could do anything, I was woken up by my roommate’s alarm.
When I woke up, I was completely shaken, and feeling drained. In the mirror in our dorm room, I could see that my eyes had the telltale puffy, glazed look that you can get after crying. After I walked around for a bit, I came back to my bed, and tried to pray to God about what I had seen in the dream. My thoughts were feeble, and I could barely make myself think clearly.
On my bed, I heard God gently whisper to me “Child, you’re on the verge of tears.” At that, I broke down once more, collapsed on my bed, and whispered Will’s name as I wept.
Adding to my sadness was the music playing in my head at that moment. The music was “Wandering Flame” a tragically beautiful theme from the video game Final Fantasy 10. The significance wasn’t lost on me, because “Wandering Flame” plays in an area called the Farplane, a serene place where the spirits of deceased loved ones appear.
I spent the day exhausted, and terrified at the potency of everything happening to me. I had no idea what would happen next, and that worried me. That night, I think I may have been scared to fall asleep again.
I woke up in the middle of the night, and in all sincerity, I saw Will kneeling next to my bed, looking so shocked. When I saw him, I freaked out, and effectively told the apparition to leave me, because I was paranoid that what I was seeing was only an illusion. Will disappeared, and I was left with more questions.
My Catholic coworker and I discussed my experience, and the two of us talked about the horribly negative belief that anybody who commits suicide is automatically doomed to Hell. I cried as I told her about my pain of not knowing where Will was, and she did what she could to comfort me. She herself didn’t necessarily believe that he was in Hell, but she too was aware that this belief was fairly widespread.
Later in the day, I did some research on the Internet, desperate to find some answers. Because Pope Francis and Michael the Archangel, two important Catholic icons had appeared in that dream, I wondered if my answer would be similarly Catholic-themed. That was when I learned about the Holy Rosary Month.
According to one page that I viewed, the saint dedicated to October 4, the day of the dream, was Saint Francis of Assisi. And on the page I viewed, Saint Francis’s patronage was described, among other things, as peace and dying alone.
Well, I broke down again upon reading that, because the connection was painfully obvious to me. It was what I needed to hear. But God wasn’t done with His planned catharsis.
Finally Letting Go
That night, while thinking about Will being truly at peace, I heard God whisper to me once more. This time, all He said to me, tender and lovingly, was “I love you, child.” And I broke down again, this time much worse than I had the previous day.
For about 30 minutes, I wailed to God about the role I believed I had in Will’s suicide. I told Him that I should’ve done more to help Will. On top of that, I recall tearfully begging Him to “take me back there”, because I really did believe that I had been in Heaven, and I desperately wanted to see Will again. All the while, it was like God was gently nudging me, urging me to let all of the grief out at last.
In all honesty, I was worried that night that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying. I think what happened was that God enabled me to release the grief I had been holding onto ever since Will died, and helped me finally admit that I wasn’t to blame for Will’s suicide. I’m glad that it happened, but weeping like that, and feeling all of the sadness rushing out of me was far from fun.
Adding to the beauty of this whole thing was the fact that October 5 is dedicated to Saint Faustina. Now, I would call Saint Faustina a special saint, simply because her patronage is quite unique. Instead of being the patron of a specific human quality or career type, Saint Faustina is the Secretary of the Divine Mercy.
After I learned about that, I studied Saint Faustina’s life, and discovered that she had numerous conversations with Jesus Himself about the true nature of His mercy. Essentially, she discovered that God’s mercy is limitless, boundless, and can’t be boxed in by human standards. God is always merciful before He is just.
I did more research on this, and found a conversation had with an old nun who had received numerous visions of the afterlife. Throughout these visions, she learned that no person who commits suicide out of despair for life is punished by God. Instead, they are saved, with their grief and pain being cleansed in Purgatory, a place of purification, so that they may enter Heaven without their suffering burdening them any longer. None of these souls are ever lost, because God, more than anybody else, is fully aware of how grief can blind us.
Now I know that Will is at peace, and knowing that has finally put my mind at ease. God’s mercy is truly beautiful.