Claire shifted the lunch tray to her other hand and knocked yet again on the door to Tyrone’s cabin, hardly daring to breathe while she waited for him to answer. When there was still no reply, she let herself in, her stomach knotting into a hard ball as her eyes slowly adjusted to the gloomy light.
All the lights were off and the curtains closed, and she could just make out Tyrone lying face down on his bed.
“Tyrone!” she shouted, and snapped on the light, believing the worst. Suddenly Tyrone lifted his head, squinting at the bright light.
“Oh, Claire - lunch time already? Didn’t realise I’d sleep that long,” he said as Claire shakily placed the tray down on the table beside the bed. “Late night - thought I’d catch up a bit this morning.”
Claire busied herself with organising Tyrone’s plate and cutlery on the bed beside him, not trusting herself to speak just yet. Picking up her own plate she sat down in the chair beside his bed, her heart still racing from the shock she’d had when she’d walked into his room and seen him lying motionless on his bed.
Well, it wasn’t today, she thought desultorily, staring unseeingly at the plate on her knee, but will it be tomorrow morning, or the next that I find him and it’s too late. . . Lord, what can I do? Please give me the wisdom to know what to say to him, she prayed, please change his heart so that He might know your love and comfort.
Tyrone had rolled onto his side facing her, and began eating his lunch.
“So’s everything sweet now between you and the Doc?” he asked between mouthfuls, looking up when she didn’t answer. “What’s up - you haven’t fallen out again have you?”
“No.” Claire answered quietly, putting her untouched plate back on the tray. There was no way she could eat - even the smell of the food was making her nauseous.
“What’s up, then?”
She took a deep breath and looked him in the eye, “Rumour has it you’ve spent the night searching the internet for ways to kill yourself.”
“Why’d you think that?” His tone was unconcerned when he replied a few moments after her question, but the expression in his eyes immediately after Claire had spoken confirmed her worst fears.
“Because the main computer makes a temporary file of all the web sites anyone on the system accesses.”
“Oh, yeah,” he ran a hand through his dark fringe, chuckling, “Knew that, too - forgot all about it.”
“So you weren’t just trying to stir up trouble?”
“Nah - why’d I bother? It’s got nothing to do with anyone else,” he frowned. “Bet they’re all going to come down on me like a ton of bricks now?”
“Uh-huh, I guess so.” Claire took a deep breath, “Are things really that bad, Ty? Are you really ready to give up?”
He took another mouthful before answering, “How bad does it have to get? I’m going to die one day anyway - what’s the point of going on like this for years first?”
“The point is that there’s no reason for your life to be over yet! Sure, we’re all going to die one day - but when it finally happens it’s not because we choose to, it’s because there’s nothing more we can do to keep ourselves alive.”
“But why?” Tyrone took a sip of his juice, “It’s my life - if I don’t hurt anyone else, what’s the big deal if I choose how and when I die? It’s not like I’m acting on impulse here - been thinking though this for months - it’s just I’m getting it all figured out now. ”
Claire shook her head in disbelief. “I’d like to see this stuff you’ve been reading to make you think that life is so disposable! No-one has the right to decide whether we live or die except for God himself!”
He laughed derisively, “What’s that got to do with anything? Should know me well enough by now to know I couldn’t care less what anyone says about God!”
“You haven’t thought about this seriously at all, have you?” Claire was angered by his casual attitude, “If you’ve got it all worked out, tell me what is going to happen to you once you take your life!”
“Be better off than I am now - that’s for sure!”
“You reckon? But what happens exactly?” she demanded.
“Come on Claire! No-one knows exactly . . .”
“I can’t believe you, Ty! You’ve got no idea! You’re ready to sell your life to go on this one way mystery flight - and you don’t even know where you’re heading for! You’re so proud of yourself because you’ve got the departure all worked out . . .but you haven’t got a clue about the destination!”
“What are talking about?” he snapped back, slamming his cutlery down onto his plate.
“About hell! Have you even thought about the mistake you could be making when you don’t even know if you’ll be a whole lot worse off than you are now?”
Tyrone had raised himself onto his elbow, his eyes blazing, “I am not making a mistake by putting an end to this misery! This religious stuff is total garbage - I don’t believe any of it!”
“It doesn’t change one thing whether you care to believe it or not!” she replied, her voice rising with emotion, “The Bible says that unless you know Christ as your Saviour you’ll be spending eternity in never-ending torment. It describes being in hell as being in a burning fire that never goes out - it really makes what you’re going through now look enjoyable in comparison!”
“Yeah, right!” he snorted, “And you really think telling me this is gunna make me feel better about anything?”
“No! It’s meant to make you wake up to yourself! You may choose not to believe it - but I’d stake my life that unless you’re right with God, and you go ahead and kill yourself, instead of the peace you’re hoping for - you’ll wake up in hell, and have no way back!”
Tyrone swore viciously at her, slamming his empty plate down on the bedside table.
“Some friend you are. Who made you my judge?”
“Oh, Tyrone! I’m telling you this because you are my friend, and I really care about what happens to you! I promise you I’m not judging you - but God will. The Bible says that every single one of us is guilty of rebellion against God - and that every single one of us deserves eternal punishment in hell. I can’t stand by and let you make plans to take your own life without at least warning you of the consequences.”
Her heart was pounding with her desperation to get through to him, and she sprung to her feet and pulled open the top drawer of his beside table, thankful that the small Bible she'd seen at the back of it was still there.
“If there’s even the smallest chance that what I’m saying is right,” she said, putting the Bible on the bed beside him, “you owe it to yourself to find out for sure before you make an irreversible decision!”
“And what use is this to me?” he snatched up the Bible and waved it at her, “If you reckon I’m going to hell anyway - what’s the point of putting it off and suffering here as well?”
His mouth was so hard and his eyes so full of mocking as he challenged her that Claire felt like shaking him.
“The point is that while ever God gives you life, there’s still opportunity to make peace with him! He could have taken your life the night of your accident, Ty - but in his mercy He didn’t! God offers eternal life and heaven to anyone who seeks it through Jesus Christ. It’s yours for the asking.”
She paused, trying to calm herself down so she could continue, “But if you want to throw away that chance and end your own life now, you’ve got no-one to blame but yourself!”
“Get real Claire - what have I got to live for anyway? You reckon I should get religious - but what difference could that possibly make to what I’m going through?”
“All the difference in the world, I promise,” Claire was stung by his sarcastic tone but unwilling to give up on him, “I know I’ve got nothing to complain about compared to you - but if I didn’t know God’s comfort and have the certain hope of heaven to look forward to - I don’t know how I’d keep going sometimes. Look, you may think things are bad right now, but it’s a matter of perspective, even a rotten life is short compared to all eternity.”
Tyrone shook his head in an insolent dismissal of her words, “Nah - you’re no different to the pathetic psychologists they keep sending me - easy enough for someone who isn’t paralysed to tell you everything’ll be fine if you just have the right attitude. Yeah, believing in fairy-tales about God probably does just fine for some do-gooder like you who doesn’t have any real problems.”
He regarded the Bible for a moment before sending it flying with a crash into the bin beside the drawers, “None of you know what you’re talking about!”
“I know a lot better than you realise - and I’m the last person who’ll tell you everything is going to be fine,” she answered.
His bitter resignation had strained her emotions to their limit, and she felt as though she was fighting for his life with every word.
“Your accident happened, what, less than a year ago? And this week has been your first brush with complications like bedsores? Well, let me tell you, you know nothing about real suffering yet! I’ve spent my whole life living with David, and seeing what he goes through day after day - so I do have a pretty good idea what I’m talking about! I’m not minimising what you’re going through, and there’s no way around the fact that even with God’s comfort your life is probably going to be incredibly hard, but I can assure you that the consequences of suicide are far worse than even this.”
“I don’t care what the consequences are - there’s nothing that can make my life worth living!”
“No! You’re wrong - knowing God can make any life worth living! What about David? He suffers incredibly, more than you could possibly imagine, and yet God’s love and promise is enough for him. Not just to survive, but even to rejoice in God through all of it.”
Claire’s eyes were burning with unshed tears, and her throat felt choked as she fought to continue, “ Why don’t you ask him, Tyrone? If you think I don’t know what you’re going through, why don’t you ask him?”
“Because David won’t understand any more than you do!” he shouted, grabbing her shoulder and shaking her hard, “Can’t you see it’s not the same! It’s all my fault - I wrecked my own life, and that’s what I can’t live with! David was born the way he is, could never have been any different for him, but I brought this all on myself. Neither of you could have any idea how bad it is for me!”
“You don’t know anything Tyrone!” Claire broke down, tears coursing down her face as she wrenched free of his grip, “David was born just as perfect as you were! At least you had a chance! If you think you’ve got it tough living with your mistake, you try living every day with a father who hates the sight of you - because it was he who wrecked your life!”
Tyrone gaped at her in stunned silence.
“I didn’t mean to say that . . . I didn’t mean to . . .” she stammered in dismay, and stepped unsteadily backwards, knocking into the bedside table and sending Tyrone’s plate smashing to the floor .
“I thought he was born like that,” Tyrone’s voice was suddenly subdued. “Are you saying your dad hurt him?”
“Yes . . . but I . . .I should never have said that . . .” Claire sobbed brokenly as she crouched down to the floor, picking up the pieces of broken plate as frantically as she was trying to piece together her shattered composure.
Claire didn’t answer, fighting to overcome the rising panic within her. Her desperation to reach Tyrone had overthrown the careful guard of a lifetime, and now, horrified by her own betrayal, was at a loss to know what she could do to repair the situation.
“What happened, Claire?” Tyrone pressed again, when she still hadn’t answered after several moments.
“He . . . he . . .shook him in a rage when he was just a few weeks old . . . it damaged his brain . . .”
She looked up at him imploringly, hoping her frank answer would dissuade him from pursuing it any further, “Please, don’t ever tell anyone . . . please promise you’ll never tell anyone that I said that.”
“Yes . . .but no-one else. . . I never meant to tell anyone . . . if David knew I told you . . .” she stood up, her hands shaking as she put the broken china onto the tray.
“It’s okay, Claire,” Tyrone answered, every trace of anger gone from his voice, “I won’t say anything to David or anyone else.”
“Thank you . . . ,” she murmured, picking up the tray and moving quickly towards the door, longing for escape, but as she reached out to the door knob she paused and turned back to Tyrone.
His dark eyes were as unhappy as ever as he stared at her, but as much as she longed to somehow pull him back from the brink, she knew there was nothing more left within her now.
“I’d better go . . . I won’t . . . I won’t talk to you about religion again, Ty . . .I’ve said what I believe . . . and I’ll leave it at that . . . just call me if you need anything . . . ”
Claire shut the door gently behind her, and leant back against it as she tried to bring her surging emotions under control, her own distress overshadowed by her fears for Tyrone.
How can he consider death so lightly, without even caring what happens to his soul? Why can’t he see the truth? She closed her eyes tightly and silently prayed, “Dear God, You alone can open Tyrone’s eyes so that he can see the truth and be able to turn to you . . . please have mercy on him and save him before it is too late . . .please bless even what I said to him.”
Claire’s heart was heavy as she stepped away from the door and began to walk up the path, but she felt a measure of peace in resigning herself to God’s will regarding Tyrone.
Even though Tyrone had been violently opposed to what she’d told him about death and eternity, and not taken it at all seriously, she had no regrets in speaking asshe did. All she could do was faithfully tell him what the Bible said - the result would be completely in God’s hands.
Claire sighed, still distressed that she’d become so upset about Tyrone that she’d told him what had happened to David. In the heat of the moment all that had mattered was making Tyrone see that by God’s grace other people survived terrible tragedies - but as soon as she’d said it she’d have done anything to have been able to retract her words - and she was shocked that after so many years of discretion it had slipped out so easily.
She winced thinking about the pain it could cause her family if Tyrone told anyone about it. But there is nothing I can do about it now . . . and that too is in God’s hands.
Claire felt a little bit better by the time she neared the main building, knowing that the awful weight of Tyrone’s confidences would be lifted as soon as she unburdened herself to Cameron. For once she had no hesitation in deciding to tell him everything - it was clearly in Tyrone’s bests interests - and Cameron would know exactly what to do.
She stopped at her desk only long enough put down the tray, and was about to head straight upstairs to his office when she changed her mind and decided to ring him first.
“Oh, Cameron - I’m so glad you’re still there!” she said as soon as he had answered, “Am I right to come straight up?”
“I’m glad you called, Claire. I didn’t have a chance to let you know that I’m in conference and neither Chris, Lynette or myself are to be interrupted this afternoon.”
“Oh,” she’d replied, deflated. “Are the people from Mental Health already with you?”
“Yes. Did you have a message for me?”
She sighed - obviously he couldn’t talk to her now - but she wondered if his indirect answer was a hint to her?
“Can I talk? Do you want me to tell you quickly how things are?”
“Things aren’t good, not good at all - it was definitely him on the internet - and he wasn’t just mucking around,” she said in a rush, “He’s really serious, Cameron - he sees suicide simply as a better option - and I didn’t get anywhere trying to talk him out of it either - he’s very defensive.” She paused and took a breath, “Is that enough for you to go on for now?”
“Yes - thanks for letting me know. I’ll have to discuss the matter with you later on.”
“Okay - but I wish we could talk - I’m so worried about him,” she said, realising she’d better not keep him any longer. “Bye, Cameron - I’ll be praying for you.”
Claire hung up, miserably dissapointed that she couldn’t see him. Not only did she want to make him aware of the full extent of Tyrone’s plans, but the whole ordeal had shaken her, and she craved his reassurance that she’d done the best she could.
Forcing herself to not brood any longer she checked the activity roster. With both Cameron and Chris in conference her help would certainly be needed - and Cameron would surely be free to see her by the time sports were over.
© R Brown 2005