Cannonball Moment: A Friend’s Death

woman sitting on bed in darkness - photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re celebrating 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore cannonball moments—moments that changed the course of a life, just as getting hit by a cannonball changed the course of St. Ignatius Loyola’s life. The inspiration for our theme is the Ignatian Year, which marks the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’s injury and conversion.

Five hundred years ago, St. Ignatius was hit by a cannonball in battle. He sustained a horrendous fracture to his right leg and damage to his left. There are so many paths this story could have taken, but during the time of convalescence, Ignatius’s imagination began to wander, and he began to hear God’s voice more clearly. Being hit by a cannonball changed his life for good.

I have had moments like this in my own life. Several in fact. In these moments, my story could have taken a darker path, but instead I was brought into God’s brilliant light.

One of these cannonball moments I have not shared. It is a difficult story to share. It is the story of my own depression and anxiety that kept me in my apartment, and how I would not go out or see many people or do many things. The depression took over my life.

On the other side of town, the same thing was happening to my childhood friend, Suzanne. We’d known each other since Kindergarten. She ate lunch with me when no one else would because my tuna sandwich was stinky. (The best friendships are formed on such things.) The two of us went to school together from Kindergarten until high school graduation. We went to different colleges but stayed in touch with letters and calls and visits, and when I returned to Los Angeles to marry my husband, she moved into the same apartment building.

But our friendship had fractured just a year before. Our grief and depression had pushed us away from each other. We could not help each other when we needed help the most.

What I didn’t know is that it had gotten worse for her. She believed the lies in her head until they won, and she took her own life.

When I found out, I could have fallen deeper into despair. I could have let the lies win with me too.

I look back and wonder how I didn’t. Instead, I picked up the phone. I called a friend, Melissa, who knew us both. I told her the sad news. Knowing she was cleaning out her parents’ garage that day, I told her I was coming over to help.

Although we were too grieved to speak of her, it was good to be with someone who knew my friend Suzanne. I sorted and stacked and swept and dusted as if my own life depended on it. And maybe it did.

I see now how Suzanne’s death was a turning point in my own life—in my faith—to walk forward towards light. It didn’t happen at once. It was hard work. I went to therapy and prayed and exercised and learned new ways to move into goodness.

I only know part of Suzanne’s story. I wish I would have been stronger. I wish I could have been a better friend when she needed me most. I wish she were still here. Like I said, it’s a difficult story to share. It isn’t tidy and clean. I do know that God loved Suzanne so very much. Her memory is a blessing to me.


Jump into 31 Days with St. Ignatius by reading Praying with St. Ignatius by Vinita Hampton Wright.

Use the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius on your favorite social media, and share your cannonball moments.

Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Shemaiah, instead of allowing regret to drag you down, you forged your way out of darkness, and in so doing, you honor your friend. Your writings on this blog have been impactful to me. I wish peace and comfort to you, your dear friend, and all who loved her.

  2. Thank you for telling us this so private part of your life. I am very pleased I read it today. Same things happening As far as deep sadness and loneliness in so many lives today, some more than others. Very hard
    to stay Positive about so many things without God’s help. Keep up your good work ; it is much appreciated. A.M.D.G.

  3. Shemaiah – Thank you for the courage to share. My heart goes out to you. Loss is so hard a big part is having so many unanswered questions and in this case the feeling of powerlessness to help someone you love and care about. But yes, I believe every event especially sorrowful ones are when God places a fork in the road for us and slows down so that we have the opportunity to catch up to him and follow him. I am grateful you followed him at such a critical fork in the road. I am on a similar path, that you for the reminder. God Bless!

  4. It’s no accident that I read your story. It spoke to me. God is consistently-present, forging signs around me.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I too suffered from depression. Through a combination of medicine, recovery meetings, and prayer, I persevered. It’s part of who I am. It’s a cyclical disease I am told and I have experienced variations in intensity over the years. What kept me going? The above combination of therapies but there was for me, thank you, God, an underlying faith and hope that helped me maintain my faith. It’s a lonely disease and sometimes inexplicable to those who are observers of our behavior. They can not understand it. I believe my sickness, which I am on the other side of my most recent bout, helps me be of serice as a friend to others and as a writer. Your share is a gift and helpful. Thank you for your bravery and love and I am sorry for the loss of your friend.

  6. Shemaiah,
    You are brave to share and trust as you have-thank you. So much of life is Holy Mystery – shades of dark and brightness, of weakness and strength, of fulfilling the needs of others and in being too weak or distracted to be fully present to others in a moment of need, especially to those whom we love. I am learning to love myself as the Creator loves me and to accept my limitations and my gifts in this life so filled with Holy Mystery, cannonball moments and all. Blessings.
    Rob

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