Last Sunday afternoon at the cemetery where my aunt Elizabeth Wagler had just been buried, Phil W. looked at the tombstones of his parents, grandparents and others in his family and spoke of one ancestor who was not buried there. The man was his great grandfather, the father of Peter Wagler, Phil's grandfather.
Peter (Pete) had been born in Daviess County, Indiana. He was the oldest in his family, and at the age of six had a number of younger siblings.
One day Peter's father set off walking with his gun in hand. As he left, he told little Peter that when he hears a shot, he is to come looking for his dad. When Peter did so, he found his father dead by his own hand.
Because he died by suicide, he was buried outside the fence of the cemetery. However, since the cemetery needed to be expanded later, the fence was moved, and Great Grandpa Wagler's grave now is located inside the fence.
The last part of this story is identical to the one Dorcas Smucker recently told about her Miller ancestor--the suicide, the burial outside the fence, and now inside the fence. Her lament included reflection on the sadness of depression not having been understood then and often not being understood now.
Surely Father Wagler was not thinking rationally when he arranged for his six-year-old son to find him dead. Having that image seared into the child's memory as it had to have been was a great injustice to Peter. His descendants speculated that moving to Kansas as an adult may have been an effort to put distance between himself and his traumatic Indiana memories.
Here in Kansas Pete was ordained as a deacon in the Old Order Amish church. He was well loved by his church people and had a reputation for great kindness and concern for those who struggled. Two of his sons, Willie and Mahlon, were later part of the team of ministers in our church. Redemption came eventually to this family.
Whether depression was involved in the Wagler man's death might never be known.
In any case, what we do know now about depression should prompt in us compassion and a desire to help instead of condemnation and separation--as if it deserves only ostracization, even in death.
Wrong as those actions of the past seem to us now, perhaps something I heard said about a community that experienced a rash of suicides a long time ago can help us make sense of it. While this was happening, a church leader announced that henceforth there would be no funeral for anyone who died by suicide. Reportedly the suicides stopped. Perhaps burial outside the fence of the cemetery was a decision in the same vein as the "no-funeral" one.
I'm guessing that the minister who made this decree felt that "de-glorifying" death by suicide would lessen its appeal to people in desperate straits. He may have been right, although even acknowledging that seems crass and insensitive.
If anyone can provide more specific details about this, I'd love to see them in the comments. I don't know any names or places involved, or even the approximate dates.
My non-professional, personal-experience observations on depression suggest that it's a mistake to assign the causes routinely to spiritual, emotional, or physical realms. It may, in fact, be a combination of all of them, with one or another of them predominating at different times and in different individuals.
I do have some reservations about the use of medication for depression, just as I do about other kinds of drugs. I have used medication for depression myself, however, and found it a wonderful help. When I hear about people who will not consider taking medicine for depression, I wonder why. Surely side effects of medication are not worse than the primary effects of continued depression. Surely medication for depression is no more morally problematic than medication for high blood pressure or any other physiological ailment.
I eventually no longer needed medication. No great spiritual breakthroughs occurred and no big emotional vacuums surfaced throughout. I did take steps to fill gaps in my nutrition habits while I was also taking medication. I have continued with supplementation ever since. In the emotional realm, I learned some self-care and boundary-setting strategies. I continued to cultivate spiritual disciplines and explored new ways of private reading of scripture and prayer.
I can't say for sure what all helped, but the medication and the food supplements were the two things that were introduced for the first time during the "depression era." I believe they both helped in my recovery and wellness since then.
The whole matter of taking food supplements, selling food supplements, and promoting food supplements has generated controversy for years. I hate the controversy.
What I love is having access to credible information and a variety of options. I love using supplements manufactured according to current good manufacturing practices (CGMP) , using certifiably safe substances (signified by a white NSF on the background of a dark circle--look for it on your supplements), and not having to pay an exorbitant amount for anything. I love buying from someone who is personally educated about the product they're selling. Especially I love the idea of not needing any supplements because of always eating healthful food, living in a healthful environment, and being entirely free of stress. Throw in freedom from genetic disorders, autoimmune system dysfunctions, injury, pathogens, toxins and aging processes for good measure. Not possible, of course, until we get to heaven.
To me, supplementation is a way of attempting to compensate for a host of strikes against our health, many of them beyond our control. I see this as being like what God did in creation--as an act of love and provision for living in a world spoiled by sin and its effects. He provided substances and strategies for our use so that we could survive and thrive in a compromised world. We accept these from him as a gift and use them for ourselves and share them with each other.
While randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled tests "justifying" supplement use may seem ideal, I do not insist on this standard for food supplements--for what I consider impeccable reasons. Nutritional testing involving humans is heavily burdened by ethical difficulties and controlling-for-variables difficulties. That's why I consider these "gold standard" tests an unsatisfactory standard. The information gained is often simply not worth the cost of acquiring it. Humans are not lab rats. I'll leave to you whatever elaboration on that truth you wish to explore. I believe you will find in it solid facts explaining why you should not be unreasonably enamored with randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutritional testing. Google any terms that are not clear to you.
Anecdotal evidence is often considered a poor substitute for rigorous scientific testing. I recognize that anecdotal evidence has limitations. Stories can be tainted by personal bias, even when they're told as honestly as is humanly possible. Variables that influence results may not be obvious to the teller or the hearer of these anecdotes. Greed and dishonesty introduce a great many more problems to anecdotal "evidence." That isn't the same as saying anecdotal evidence has no value at all.
I believe anecdotal evidence can have great value. Stories of others' experiences are another part of God's provision for our learning and benefit. When we've prayed for answers and God sends us story tellers, to despise them is to reveal shameful hubris. Stories of other people's health journey should be no more off-limits to our ears than stories of their international travel journeys. Most Bible stories are a kind of anecdotal evidence--not for nutritional mysteries primarily of course, but for getting at other kinds of truth.
No one should need to apologize for learning or conveying truth via anecdotes (stories) on any subject. The fact that it is against the law to do this in any ways that link health matters and food supplements is a great travesty. Since it is the law, however, I always cringe when I see this law violated. It happens a lot. Prosecution sometimes occurs, and when it does, a good company and a good product can be utterly destroyed.
If you're in the nutritional supplement selling business and you're promoting it publicly, you need to be very careful how you do it. If you're involved in selling, even citing those "gold standard" tests in connection with benefits from nutritional supplements runs afoul of these laws. Consider yourself warned.
Marketing. I've explored network marketing in previous posts and don't feel like rehashing it all. Suffice it to say that I see no halos or horns above the heads of everyone engaged in any specific kind of marketing endeavors--as though some methods originate in heaven and some in hell. Greed is alive and well in many marketing methods as is generosity and a desire to serve. The marketing model is a non-issue as long as people operate with integrity and fairness in it. Any kind of selling assumes that every person makes a profit in every cog of the line between producer or manufacturer and consumer. Deal with it.