Written Spring of 2007
It’s been 12 days since it happened and I still can’t seem to forget it. I think a lot of persons in the Mennonite community may feel the same way. Why would someone so well-liked and so talented take his own life? It nags at me like a splinter in my finger. I go on with my life, but the thoughts keep returning to Lee Eshleman and how someone so full of life and vitality could end his life in suicide.
I have a lot to learn about depression and bi-polar mental illness. I do know that when I’m depressed I can’t function very well. I’m tired yet can’t sleep. I’m thinking yet can’t form cognizant sentences. I’m aware of others yet can only focus on my own hurt. There have only been a few times in my life when the pain was too great that I felt that I couldn’t go on. I heard college friends and even one of my own children talk of suicide. So why is his story any different?
It may be because I just saw Lee perform in “Jacob and Esau” two months ago at Souderton Mennonite Church. I witnessed first hand Ted and Lee’s incredible gift of making the scriptures alive, in a way that will stay with me the rest of my life. I found myself relating to the Biblical characters in a way that I never had before. In contrast, when I read about them, they feel frozen in time and I forget the choices they had and the conflicting emotions they must have felt. But Ted & Lee brought that home in a powerful, hilariously funny dramatic presentation.
I went on the Ted & Lee website to hear in Lee’s own words a clip from the Cathartic Café. He speaks of the times that torment people late at night…
Oh, Lee I remember you and our talks from our Eastern Mennonite University days. I can hear you ask me to pose for one of your pictures and how I turned you down. It wasn’t you…I didn’t like my own body and was afraid of what would be asked of me. I’m sorry, Lee.
I laughed and laughed at you and Ted when you recently performed “Jacob and Esau.” I wanted to talk to you afterwards and tell you what an amazing actor you’d become. I didn’t. But please know, I miss you and I wish I could tell you…
Note: This was found among my writings and I resurrected it with a few extra lines after spending a weekend with Ted and reading his excellent book, Laughter is Sacred Space. Please order a copy of your own at http://store.mennomedia.org/Laughter-is-Sacred-Space-P1206.aspx