Note – What you will read below may, in some instances, become slightly graphic and I will use personal examples. If these depictions bother you, or if you knew Ellen Louise Allen, you may want to refrain from reading further.
We still don’t know why.
We likely never will.
January 13, 2016 my sister, Ellen Louise Allen, took her own life. And like many of those affected by this kind of action, we are left wondering what we could have done to stop it. What we could have done to change the outcome. And just left wondering what part we may have played in it.
In the days since I have come to the conclusion that there is no yes or no answer. There is no long-form response or explanation that will ever make it truly clear or sufficient.
Ellen was a loving, helpful, joking person who seemed to be OK to many who met her. She always had a helping hand to lend, would fight for those suffering injustice and was well-equipped with a kind word or gesture for anyone she ever met or knew. Only close family members and friends knew that she was fighting a battle below her cheery exterior.
What may shock those that know my family is that as a child, she and my sisters watched my father’s physical and emotional abuse our oldest brother, Eddie. We’re not exactly sure why, but it seems that maybe my father just wasn’t ready to be a parent when he was born. I was some 18 years behind him life so I never witnessed it, but my sisters all agree that there were beatings and verbal lashings that went well beyond discipline and reason.
My burden came in just the last few years when I learned that my father used to treat me as the “golden child”, comparing Eddie’s failures to successes I had not even yet attempted as an infant. He was made to feel inferior by my “example”. An unfair comparison if ever there was one.
It’s no wonder that Eddie chose a life of heavy drinking and drug addiction. He eventually died as a result of those choices and the view he held of himself.
But more than the other girls, Ellen was always very emotional and deeply affected by Eddie’s abuse. Maybe because she was the second oldest and they had a deeper connection. Maybe it was that mothering instinct – that she displayed with everyone she came in contact with – that caused her to care so deeply for Eddie and try to protect him.
In the present day, Ellen still seemed happy even though she battled dark times that had crossed her life. She had lost the love of her life decades earlier in Ronnie Brown. A divorce and loss of other loves also followed in recent years, yet she always seemed like she was on top of it.
Ellen knew God, but I’m not sure she knew of all the resources God makes available to believers when they face times such as hers. I think she knew of God’s unfailing love and what he did for her with the sacrifice of his son, but how to truly access the healing power of God’s love was something she just didn’t have knowledge of. And that is where I think the problem began and eventually ended.
Her daughter Sara texted me the other night, ranting as to why her mother was dead and how “Satan had won.” She turned to me as one of her spiritual guides for a scriptural answer, and I’m not sure there is a good one.
What I do know is that Satan prowls about us like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But like a lion, he knows he has to spring his trap when the moment is perfect, or he’ll lose his prey.
Satan laid this trap some 60 years ago when my sisters watched my brother being abused. They saw it. They heard it. They lived it. It’s something that I’m sure still lives with my remaining two siblings to this day.
As for Ellen, I believe that she got distracted from who God was because she might have been getting close to figuring out just who and what Jesus could do for her. Whatever was good in her life, I think Satan whispered, “Well maybe, but it’s really not that great, is it? I mean, it’s a cruel world.” He may have even tossed in, “Look what your dad did to your brother, right?”
And I think Ellen would hear it and agree, just a little.
And each time the enemy repeated his lie, she reluctantly agreed a little more.
And finally, after years of hearing the lie, she lost all sight of the truth and the savior and could only see the darkness that she’d been deceived into thinking consumed her on all sides.
My sister, the mother of three wonderful children and the grandchildren they blessed her with, is gone. Try as we might, we cannot change that.
But in her loss we can learn that there are others like her all around. Men and women every day are struggling over personal loss, tough times and just making ends meet. They need to know that there’s a God who loves them and who has already sacrificed everything for them, if they would only choose to accept his free gift of salvation.
While the Allen and Brown families are left with numerous questions at the time of our loss, the real question is what are we going to do about it?
Who, standing right next to you, needs to know the love of God today?