Words of Encouragement at the Funeral of A Teen Suicide…
I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
Words of Comfort
for Grieving Friends and Family
My degrees say that I’m trained for moments like this, trained to have answers to the big questions that we all face. I humbly stand before you asking for forgiveness because I don’t have a lot of those answers.
I’d like to share a couple of thoughts that I do have that might serve as points on the compass as we navigate the next few days and weeks. I’d like to speak especially and particularly to the teens who are here. I want to speak to you as someone who has a few things in common with you. I was raised on the North Shore in Glenview; I went to private catholic schools all my life and Loyola Academy in Wilmette; my dad owned a business for decades; my parents split up when I was nine, and I made a lot of poor choices trying to cope with that in high school and in college. I personally have struggled, on a daily basis, with clinical depression since I was seventeen.
I want to share a few of the lessons that I’ve learned over the years that I hope will be a blessing to you.
First, when you mourn and grieve, you’re in very good company. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus Himself wept. Jesus, when he wept for the death of his friend Lazarus, didn’t have just one of those stoic, one-tear-down-the-cheek kind of a mourning and grief for Lazarus, but He mourned demonstratively. He mourned in such a way that other people noticed and said, “Look at how much Jesus loved him.”
So give yourselves permission to mourn. You gentlemen, especially, God gave you tear ducts for a reason, so if you feel like crying, cry. It’s okay. You’re not weak. That’s what God has designed us to do, to mourn during times of intenseness.
Secondly, I’d like to ask you to let go of the guilt that some of you have been carrying. I found a block of steel; I don’t know its purpose, but it weighs about 25 pounds. So I’ve been carrying this around all morning. My elbow is starting to hurt and it’s frustrating to carry. I want to put it down.
My encouragement to all of you is to do the same with your guilt. If you are asking those questions, Why didn’t I do more? Why didn’t I notice? I should have seen what was going on! I should have done something to prevent this accident! Let it go. Set it down – by talking to God and being honest with Him about what you’re feeling. Set down that guilt by believing that this isn’t your fault. There’s nothing you could have done to stop this. You have to believe that. Talk with your parents; talk with older people whom you respect and trust, perhaps parents of some of your best friends, teachers, coaches, counselors – just talk and say, “I’m still wrestling with this. I still think I could have prevented this accident.” Give them the permission to speak truth to you, to take it in, to tell you it’s not your fault. You brought joy into this young man’s life just as he brought joy into yours. If he were here right now, he would be telling you personally what a great friend you were and how blessed he was to know you. Let them speak that truth into your lives and over time, you will be able to let that guilt go.
Next, give yourself permission to laugh. It’s not disrespectful to the deceased when you laugh, whether it’s something related to him or something completely random. This young man brought so much joy and laughter into your lives that it actually honors him when you allow yourself to laugh. So give yourself that permission.
If you ever feel like you are starting to buckle under the weight and the pressure of life, whether you think it’s something serious or you think if you told someone it would be something that isn’t a big deal – please reach out for help, over and over and over again. If you feel yourself backed into a corner, if you ever feel like you are in a room without windows and without doors, start pulling on the books on the bookshelf, because God will provide a secret passageway out of that situation. God will always provide a way out for you. He will never leave you; He will never abandon you, even when the situation is your own fault. I know this because He’s promised this in the Bible.
Please also know that you are not weak when you reach out and ask for help. As we are in Lent, we are about to commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross nearly 2000 years ago. Even Jesus reached out for help. There was a point when Jesus couldn’t physically carry his cross anymore and so this man, Simon of Cyrene, was ordered to help Jesus carry his cross. Jesus accepted that help because he knew that he couldn’t do it alone. So, if any of you feel like you will be weak if you ask for help or that people will make fun of you, do it anyway. Just as you are in good company when you grieve- in the company of Jesus, you are also in good company when you reach out for help- because Jesus did the same.
I’d also like to challenge you to a little spiritual jujitsu. My professor at Moody Theological Seminary has been learning about Jujitsu. He said, “This particular martial art allows a smaller person to defend themselves against a much larger person because jujitsu trains you to use the momentum/force of the other person against them. It’s not merely a collision of two strong people where the strongest wins, but a smaller weaker person can handle a bigger foe or adversary by using their momentum and strength against them. I’d like to encourage you to do the same with what you’re feeling now. None of us can handle this on our own. This is big. This is huge. Parents, counselors, coaches & pastors are all grieving as well as you.
But you can channel your grief, pain & frustration into something positive. You can start asking yourself:
A. Who do I need to forgive today?
B. Who do I need to start forgiving?
C. How can I build a memorial to Will with my words/actions for the remainder of my earthly life?
D. Who do I need to apologize to today? Who have I wronged?
E. Who do I need to stop making fun of or gossiping about?
F. Who do I need to stop chipping away at their life whether I know them well or not?
G. Who do I need to start building up, even if they’re not cool, even if we have nothing in common?
H. Who do I need to start sticking up for simply because it’s the right thing to do?
I. How can I start becoming a real man/real woman? Instead of just lounging in an extended American adolescence, instead of trying to be a kid as long as possible, how can I start becoming a real man/real woman today and not just take from others but pour into others and giving to them the way that Will did with me?
J. How can I support my parents? How can I make their job as parents easier instead of harder?
K. How can I make LFHS into more of a healthy community instead of just a bunch of silos of people groups?
L. Ask yourself every morning when you wake up: “How can I leave a Will Laskero-Teskoski-impression on others the way he has left on me?
I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage all of you to pursue Jesus. You are never going to meet anyone like this guy. There’s a reason why, for the entire world, our calendar centers around his birth. Some of you know Him well and some of you are not sure about Him. Some of you aren’t even sure if He ever existed or if He’s real, but I’ll tell you – there are billions of people around the world whose eternal and earthly lives have been changed by a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth in the Middle East. You will never meet anyone like Him who has changed the course of history without an army, without money, without good looks, without even a place at night to lay his head. Jesus is less angry at you than you imagine; Jesus is more involved in your daily lives than you realize; He’s more powerful than your fears; He’s cooler than you think. He’s more loving that you can understand; He’s more real than your senses, and He’s better than anything this world can offer you. Pursue Him, whether it’s here or at another local church—pursue Him. You won’t regret it.
When I was a young man, back in 1988, I remember when the giant wildfires were raging in Yellowstone National Park and literally millions of acres of some of the most beautiful forest preserves that this country has to offer were just being decimated by these raging fires. Scientists back then were saying this is a natural catastrophe that America has never experienced and never experience again. We are losing one of the most beautiful geological and ecological habitats in the world. It was a sad time to see the ashes, the trees, the soil just burnt and destroyed like an atomic bomb had gone off.
Yet, twenty years later, something surprising happened. Many of those same scientists were writing in leading scientific journals about the transformation that had taken place over two decades before in Yellowstone and continues to take place today. You see, God, even through the intense devastation that had happened, used that ash, soot, and animals homes that had been destroyed to nourish and reinvigorate the soil in a way that no one expected. So now, scientists are saying that Yellowstone is healthier than it has ever been and that this is nothing short of a scientific miracle that such life has been produced where there was such pain and destruction.
I want to leave you with that thought. If God takes care of forests and the homes of raccoons, beavers and antelope, He is going to take care of us, He WILL bring good out of this situation, but we have got to believe. We’ve got to keep trusting in Him and doing our part. God is going to bring good out of this. Trust in that, participate in it, and look for it in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.