I came across a song recently. One of those songs from an album I’ve had for many years but haven’t listened to in awhile. This particular album was released in 1997, and I likely bought it pretty close to its release date. It’s the self-titled album from Caedmon’s Call.
For those who are intimately familiar with this album, you probably know what song I’m talking about given the nature of this blog, but stay with me. The songs have a singer-songwriter acoustic feel while having the fullness of a band. The songs tell stories, and you can feel emotions as they are being sung.
The song I’m talking about is stripped-down and raw. Just vocals and acoustic guitar. It’s called “Center Aisle.” The song’s meaning is best stated by Derek Webb, its writer:
In November of ’95, the sister of a friend of mine from high school committed suicide. Having never been to a funeral, I was very apprehensive, especially since I had been asked to play a song during the service. Seeing her in that room along with all of those people who loved her and cared about her really made me think. I mainly wondered if whatever it was that had driven her to that point could have been worked out in that quiet room with that group of people. I suppose
questions just lead to more questions. I wrote this song on the way
back home in the car.
Back when I was regularly listening to this album, I would suffer from depression on and off. It was also during this time period that I thought about suicide and once started the act. But I never thought about this song’s meaning. I didn’t realize that my mental condition wasn’t normal or healthy.
Now things are different. In 2016 I hit rock bottom; my mental health had deteriorated to the point of suicidal crisis and near drug addiction. Depression and suicide is real to me now. And when I recently thought of this song, it took on a special meaning. Before, it was just a good melody. Now it pierces my emotions because, well, it’s real.
Two parts of the song resonate with me. First is the chorus: “What crimes have you committed, demanding such a penance, that couldn’t wait for five more minutes and a cry for help? ‘Cause this room is so peaceful, and this room is so quiet. And I hate the silence. And I can’t walk the center aisle.”
Five. More. Minutes.
I’ve been there. I get it. The hurt, the pain, the desperate desire to end your own life. When I hear of a suicide loss it breaks my heart to think of what their suffering must have been like. It’s one of those times I wish I had magical powers or a time machine to be with that person and plead with them to just please wait five more minutes.
But you know what? It doesn’t take magical powers or a time machine. The other part of the song that resonates with me are these lines: “There aren’t words to say, words aren’t remembered. But presence is, a good friend once told me. And he was there. He was there.”
Be present in the lives of your friends and family. Have and open and honest relationship so that they know they can be comfortable reaching out to you without judgement. Do everything you can to have a presence that may be remembered in a moment of crisis to give pause and a cry for help. For those of whom you know are struggling, tell them now to just wait in a moment of crisis and you will be there. For others, you may never know until that cry (or worse, a loss) that they are struggling. That’s why you should strive to be present and genuine in all of your relationships.
If you are one who is struggling, I can’t say it better than the song. Please wait five more minutes. Cry out for help. Call someone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). No matter what crimes you think you’ve committed, they do not demand such a penance. Your loss would be mourned, just as expressed by this song. You are worth it.
You. Are. Loved.