Most pastors, like other caregivers and community leaders, have known the heartache of a beloved community member attempting or dying by suicide. My first such loss as a pastor was Esther Lee.
Esther was a fun, musical, extroverted, beloved young woman who was extraordinary with children. She also had a long history of depression and hadn’t always experienced the acceptance and support she deserved around her developing sexual identity. Esther had gotten involved in the church I lead, Reservoir Church, as she was looking for a spiritually vibrant community that was also fully supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ people. Tragically, Esther died by suicide in late 2014.
Since then, friends of Esther and other members of Reservoir Church and other local faith communities have run with Team Eagles’ Wings each year. We run in memory of Esther and other beloved children of God we’ve lost to suicide. And we run and support Samaritans to celebrate and lean into joy and resilience, even in hard times. Our name comes from a line of poetry in the Jewish and Christian prophetic tradition, that promises God can inspire strength and hope even in hard difficulties, helping us run and not grow weary, like we’re rising up on eagles’ wings.
While we’ll miss the cheers and hugs and reunions of an in-person event this September, our hope is that a virtual 5K may allow new people to participate in new ways, running and walking wherever we are, with each step treasuring life and wishing and hoping and praying that we all will find the hope and connection and joy and resilience we need. We so appreciate the great work Samaritans does in helping so many find these things.