She moved to the edge of the observation deck of the 86th floor of the Empire State Building and removed her coat. She gently hung the coat over the rail and proceeded to write a letter expressing her sorrow. She moved to the edge and just stood there. As the gentle breeze complimented the cool night, she jumped.
At the bottom of the building, she lay sprawled atop a United Nations limousine. She seemed calm, almost as though she were asleep, cradled like a baby in the crushed steel of the vehicle. Her ankles were daintily crossed and her gloved hand rested ever so gently on her chest, holding onto her pearl necklace. A photograph of the scene was published in Time magazine. The mere image made her world-famous. It was called “the most beautiful suicide”. Her name was Evelyn McHale.
The reason for her suicide is unknown, but one can only assume it was related to depression, anxiety, momentary insanity or loneliness. What is known is that every year around the world, thousands of people feel the same way. They leap to freedom from a captive, broken world.
The technological advances available today have resulted in us being very spoilt. We have access to every technological comfort imaginable, and yet we are the most miserable generation. Our current status reminds me of the song Ironic by Alanis Morrissette: We live in palaces that are prisons, we place our heads in gas stoves designed to feed us, we swallow bottles of prescription drugs that are meant to help us, we pull the trigger of a gun designed to protect us, or jump in front of a train designed to take us to our destination. Isn’t it ironic? We do all this to silence the noise. In truth, the real reason is we see no hope, no value of love, and ultimately believe and feel no purpose to our existence.
Charlene’s story is no different to Evelyn’s; the despair for life led her into the arms of death. Charlene was just three weeks old when I first laid eyes on her. She was sporting an unbelievable mop of jet black hair. We smiled with excitement as my brother, Charlie, introduced his beautiful daughter to my father. She was a happy child who thrived on the innocence of youth, but as time passed, her understanding of life began to evolve.
In most six-year-old’s lives there are an inordinate amount of teddy bears at their disposal and trips to the ice-cream store. For Charlene, her experiences of childhood were plagued by drugs and alcohol. She was the child of a drunken family, drowning in debt and mayhem. Her parents’ drug addictions forced her to fend for herself. Poor little Charlene held onto the rope of normality as long as she could, until she too succumbed to poor choices that resembled the choices of her parents. Alone and broken, she fell pregnant and gave birth to a boy, named Deon, who she protected as best she could and loved the best way she understood.
The phone rang and Charlie answered and listened to the voice on the other side. “Mr Roberts, there is a problem with your daughter. I recommend you come over immediately”. Charlie obliged, not suspecting anything other than a drunken brawl. Charlie arrived at the house and entered the little room she rented. He looked up and screamed: “Oh, Jesus, please… No!!!!!” Charlene had hung herself. As he cut her down, he placed her on the bed and stared at her.
Evelyn and Charlene felt despair, were lonely and had reached a point of no return. My dreams were plagued by memories of Charlene and the ensuing question: what if I had done something to change Charlene’s outlook on life? She was a victim of her life circumstances and had succumbed to life itself.
From my conversation with Charlie, I remember him telling me: “She looked so peaceful and beautiful, as though she was sleeping.” Charlie wept bitterly for a long time. The tears were as much for his choices as they were for Charlene’s choice. Charlie eventually departed from this world from what I believe was a broken heart.
Evelyn and Charlene’s lives ended early, but sometimes interventions by others come when it is most needed. On December 2 1979, Elvita Adams decided to end her life, feeling forlorn and depressed. She was facing eviction from her home. She proceeded to the Empire State Building, to the same spot Evelyn had chosen. She stood there staring at the glistening lights of Manhattan that beckoned to her, and likewise… she jumped. A strong wind was blowing and a gust swept her violently onto a two-meter ledge on the 85th floor, just one floor down. With a broken pelvis, she lay screaming into what must have seemed to be a lonely night. As she was about to give up hope, a man reached out and grabbed her hand. His name was Mr Clark. Not Clark Kent (Superman), just an ordinary security guard named Frank Clark. Not everyone is that lucky, and not everyone gets second chances where Clark Kent pulls you from danger. Sorry, I mean Frank Clark. Maybe it’s not always about superheroes; sometimes it’s just ordinary people who can be instruments. In our darkest moments of despair, there seem to be no hands out there, reaching lovingly and determinately toward us, reeling us in.
As a society and as individuals, we build insurmountable walls around ourselves. We don’t know our neighbours and we don’t have friends, because we are afraid. Will they hurt us? Betray us? Spurn our love and cheat on us? When we feel like we are free-falling, can we reach out a hand to God, and will He catch us? Does He even care or are we important enough for Him to notice?
As the thunder claps over Manhattan and a bolt of lightning lights up the sky like fireworks, for a brief moment I’m certain I see a figure standing there on the ledge of the Empire State Building. It’s not a jumper. It looks like a man in bitter agony, suspended from a cross with rusty nails in His hands. I can hear Him crying in pain and agony, just like Elvita, Charlene and Evelyn, but no one seems to hear. The old rusty nails rip His flesh, His scalp ripped by merciless thorns that represent the brokenness of the subjects of His Kingdom. I hear a desperate, bitter cry from His parched lips tear through the dark Manhattan skies: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
A second figure emerges who appears to resemble a thief. “Remember me, Lord!” he cries in anguish toward the broken King whose throne is a rugged cross. With a genuine, loving smile the King winks at him and cries: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise!” As their eyes meet, a silent exchange takes place and the King whispers ever so softly, mustering His last breaths: “I cannot change the gift of free will that I gave to you or change the things you have done. That is the price of free will. I could have walked away, but instead, I chose to be a part of your anguish, to identify with it; to understand it. I hang here for the choices you have made and I hang willingly. I am here! It is not the nails that keep me here; it is love that binds me, and because of that love I cannot and will not come down until my children are home.”
Again, lightning flashes and a new figure metamorphoses beside the broken figure on the cross: it is the creator Himself; the Ancient of Days. They are inexplicably indistinguishable and inseparably the same; they are One! Yes, He is both Divine and human; man, and God, and He feels our pain, identifies with it and is hurt by it. Then I hear the most triumphant cry rip through the curtain of the universe like a million roaring oceans: “It is FINISHED”.
The transfer payment has been made and the damnation that was mine has been successfully moved to His account. It was the costliest transaction in history. As I weep, I see Him stretch His broken hand into the night and I hear Him call: “Come, beloved of mine.” For a fleeting second, I see Charlene reach out and grab His hand as she is swept into His arms. With a tear-streaked face, she touches the scars on His ripped hands, and as His own tears begin to flow, He smiles at her and says: “I did it all for you, and I was with you all the way.” Evelyn steps forward sheepishly and places a finger in the gaping hole in His side and asks: “Was this for me, because of what I have done?” “Oh, child how blind and shallow is the world to My love. It’s not just for what you have done; it’s for all the things the world has yet to do.”
“It is FINISHED.”