Here are just a few thoughts and memories I have myself:
- When we first moved to Findlay so I could attend seminary, the first church we connected with was call New Hope. It was a small gathering of people, led by a group of people of which Gene was one of. It seemed like just the type of church/group we had been looking for all our lives. And Gene was the first person I'd ever seen preach while sitting on a stool (instead of behind a podium). Unfortunately they decided to close the doors on the church within months of us falling in love with it.
- I remember after they had the closing service for the church - I still hadn't talked to Gene too many times, but I could tell he was a sincere and deep thinker - and I stopped by the library when he was working one day and gave him the lyrics to the Rich Mullins tune "Peace." I'm not sure why, and he probably thought it was pretty strange, but it just felt like something I thought he needed at the time. We never discussed it.
- I remember one other occasion during a time when I was feeling rather low and confused about life. I had a night class and he was teaching in another building, I just felt like I needed to talk to him. So I pretended to lock my keys in my car and asked him if he would take me by my house to get the other set (this was before cell phones). He did, and even though we didn't really even talk about anything important, I guess it meant something to me to just spend a bit of time with someone who I felt understood me. I know, I'm strange.
- I thoroughly enjoyed his teaching - he taught my theology classes - and he opened my eyes perhaps like no one else ever had. He could challenge anyone's thoughts and reasoning in ways I'd never known possible. He preached in much the same way - putting a spin on things that often left me speechless, but with a mind so full like the perfect sunshiny day.
- I'm sure the fact that he was a big Bob Dylan fan and an avid runner helped to feed the connection, but I guess I knew there was something else as well.
- We were in a small group together with our spouses and another couple for a brief time. I never felt like he really thought much of me, but I wasn't all that concerned about it.
- I did have him come and preach at our church one time when I was pastoring. I remember I started the service out by singing the Beatles song "Help" and had Carrie placing different images on the overhead projector while I sang (again, this was a long time ago). Gene did comment that he'd never heard anyone sing a Beatles song in church before.
- I suppose the biggest, and maybe only, reason his suicide has impacted me so is because... almost every time I hear that someone has taken their life, I feel like, "Dang, another one of us has lost the battle." Please don't misunderstand, I am not suicidal - or even close to it - but I feel a definite connection to people like Gene who have gone that route. There, but for the grace of God, go I. I tend to think I can relate to the pain they were feeling. I feel a kindred connection in my spirit. It's almost like a part of *me* has died. There is a deep sense of longing in my soul.
- I've heard it said that people who work those suicide hotlines are told to listen for two scenarios which mean people are serious: 1) they have thought out how they're going to go about committing suicide, and 2) they say they don't want to do it, but they just can't stand the pain anymore. I have never had a plan, but I have sensed #2. Again, I am not right now, but those times when I have been my lowest, I have probably used those exact words. I don't want to feel that way, but it hurts so much. I don't know how to describe soul pain. So when someone "does it"... I don't get upset; I understand; and my heart aches. My heart aches now.