IN AN UNUSUAL MEMORIAL of a woman who died a year earlier, her parents and lone brother chose to grieve in grace by speaking about her death, in a solemn commemoration on June 3rd at Don Bosco Campus, Dimapur, instead of hushing it up and forgetting. Chakreni A Mao, lovingly known as Abo by her family and friends committed suicide after battling with bouts of depression for as long as 10 years. She was healing and planning for higher studies, leaving Delhi for good. Which she did–Forever.
In what is almost a taboo-uncomfortable and unspoken in most communities, people gossip and Churches shun burials of anyone who dies of suicide. The family of Abo changed the fate of it and opened up a conversation for people with depression and families living with one. The memorial perhaps will be a part of healing for everyone battling with the silent sickness.
Dr. Ngully, the first Naga psychiatrist and a rare one at that, shared, “Suicide is not an act of cowardice. It is a desperate attempt to end an excruciating pain.” Sometimes, our inability to understand mental health and agony makes us insensitive and even make the family feel awkward or guilty when such unfortunate death occurs.
Dr. Ngully appealed, “Don’t ask why the suicide. Ask why the pain.”
A song Abo wrote in December 2019 sang by two of her friends Chapeji and Manini Caroline Rajina in the memorial narrate of such pain and yet, whispers hope to those in pain.
Dear whoever may be out there with whatever
Make it back, make it home
Only know you’re not alone
Whatever pain you swear by
There is hope in you forever ‘cause love is real,
Love is here and you’ll always be a part of this love, of it all
My heart was broken a year ago till Christmas Eve and you found me!
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Dr. Ngully remarked, “In her passing away Abo has opened a new door,” as he underlined “We should not stigmatize suicide.” Mental health, Dr. Ngully stressed is a serious public health concern.
Ela, Director of Prodigals’ Home, Dimapur encouraged the gathering to get to know the person who smiles and laughs, deeper. She remembered Abo as an intense person. She said the message Abo left is about what more needs to be done, and more importantly, about the need of compassion in our society.
She pled with the people to open their eyes and hearts to people around and listen to their mourn.
She thanked Abo and her family for opening the door and sharing their story, their vulnerabilities and appealed the memorial service to create a community that listens and not judge.
Rev. Khayaipam Khamrang, a pastor in Imphal and a bosom friend of Abo’s father, Adani, thanked the family for allowing them (Rev. Khamrang’s family) to be a part of the memorial and be partners in the healing journey.
He elucidated on how many try to comfort those mourning often saying, “God needed her more.” These words, he said, maybe comforting but there is no biblical basis. “Our God is not a needy God. He is all sufficient and infinite in his loving kindness,” he said. Rev. Khamrang added, “God also wept, for he also knows what it is like to lose someone close, God weeps for us and with us.”
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Enunciating on the deep mystery of God from John 8, he shared “God is love and the love of God sets us free. That is the basis of our hope and salvation. Salvation and freedom comes from his love.”
Abo, Rev. Khamrang said, was found by Jesus as reflected by her writings, her song compositions and lifestyle and appended that “She may have had her moments of doubt like many of us, but let us not judge what had happened. Let us not try to be God. We are not God.”
Rev. Khamrang in a line, reflected on one of the most beautiful attributes of God, “When God judges, mercy comes first.”
According to Rev. Khamrang “The two most important treatments for mental health are love and faith” and wished the family a closure in God’s time.
“Our heart is restless until it rests in you,” he quoted of St. Augustine, and reminded everyone “We are here not to mourn but to celebrate.”
“This is not the end but the beginning of love and life,” he concluded.
Chapeji, a close friend of Abo said, “I’d like to remember her as the most compassionate and intelligent friend who was always there to help, no matter what situation she was in.”
Through the courage of Adani, Roni and Azhiio, the expanse of our hearts and minds are broadened. Truly, a memorial that seeks not just to break stigma and discrimination, but challenges the way we process death from suicide.
It asks of us not to condemn and not act like God, but to be compassionate like Abo was.
Tungshang Ningreichon is a mother of three. She is based in Delhi and writes occasionally on issues close to her heart.
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