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Tag: Suicide

Bruce’s Ten Hot Takes for September 28, 2023

hot takes

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs to move on. While racism may have played a part in his inability to get a gig six years ago, today that is no longer the case. Kaepernick is thirty-five and hasn’t played in six years. He will be of no help to the New York Jets.

The United States has an immigration problem. Democrat denial of this fact only makes the border crisis worse.

If you harass someone just so you can record a clip for your YouTube channel and end up getting shot, I don’t feel sorry for you. Personal space, Dude. I may not shoot you, but I will club you with my cane.

Ohio 2023. A high school football coach ran a play called “Nazi” against their predominantly Jewish opponent. He has since resigned, but I do wonder how he (and his players) thought this was a good idea. Heil Hitler!

My best “hot” take for today is my partner Polly. She’s still hot in my eyes.

Republicans seem hyper-focused on President Biden’s age, yet ignore Trump’s age. Why is that? I’m for term and age limits. Neither of them should be running for office. But, here we are, so if Biden is the candidate in the general election, I’m voting for him.

MSNBC has become the official campaign organ for President Joe Biden. In their eyes, Grandpa Joe is a spry, sharp-as-a-tack old man. His age, cognitive ability, and physical wellness are issues of importance. Not the most important, but must be considered when voting in 2024.

Most opiate-related deaths are due to Fentanyl and other illegal street drugs. Yet, the FDA, doctors, and pharmacists continue to wage war against legal prescription narcotics users. Once again, a pharmacist refused to fill my prescription, even though I tried to fill it on the day my doctor wrote on the script. Nope. I had to wait five days. This time, I drove to Michigan and bought some cannabis to tide me over. Thanks, pharmacist, I am now a drug addict. 🙂

Everything I eat, drink, or breathe is bad for me. So bad, in fact, that I should have died before I was born.

My mom killed herself 30+ years ago. I still miss her. In moments of deep reflection, I think of how much Mom would have enjoyed our grandchildren; that she would have been thrilled that most of them are avid readers. Suicide leaves a scar that never totally heals. So much is lost the moment a loved one says “No Mas.”

Bonus: The Cincinnati Reds will not make it to the playoffs this year. Coming off a hundred-loss season last year, the Reds have played well above their pay grade. Last night’s win guarantees a winning season — far above my expectations. Next year is THE year. Of course, I’ve been saying this for over forty years. Hope springs eternal. 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Spend Time With Those You Love While You Can

barbara gerencser 1978
Mom and Bruce, Rochester, Indiana, 1978

The redheaded preacher stood before his church, preparing to preach as he had done countless times before. This Sunday was just like every other Sunday — until it wasn’t. His expositional sermon was well-received by the fifty or so people in attendance. Most of them would return a few hours later for Sunday evening service; another opportunity to hear from God and fellowship with God’s people.

The preacher, along with his wife and five children, lived in a 12’x60′ mobile home that sat on the southern edge of the church parking lot. His wife had already walked from the church to their home so she could prepare dinner, wondering, “Will he invite someone to dinner?” She never knew who would be eating dinner with them. Her preacher husband loved to fellowship with church members. She just wished he would plan in advance.

On this particular Sunday, there were no extras for dinner. As the preacher’s wife set the table, the phone rang. It was the preacher’s aunt. “Just a minute, I’ll get him.” By then, the preacher was almost to their home. “Your aunt is on the phone.”

“Hmm,” the preacher wondered, “why is she calling me?”


“Butch.” (a family nickname given at birth).

“Your mom killed herself.”

The preacher’s mom lived in Quincy, Michigan — five or so hours away. His mom has taken a Ruger .357 revolver, cocked the hammer, and pulled the trigger — shooting herself in her heart. She quickly slumped to the bathroom floor, and in a few moments, she was dead.

The preacher’s mom’s lifelong battle with mental illness came to an end. Numerous suicide attempts had come before this one: prescription drug overdoses, slit wrists, and driving a car into the path of a truck. (Please see Barbara.) Her prior attempts failed, but not the last one. Why she chose to kill herself on this fateful day remains unknown. Decades of physical and psychological pain certainly played a big part, but the preacher wondered if there was more to her sudden suicide. He would never know, of course, because the woman who taught him to read, instilled in him a passion for truth, and modeled to him standing up for yourself, was dead. The moment she pulled the trigger everything changed.

The preacher planned his mom’s funeral. No viewing, no dealing with countless well-wishers and glad-handers. His siblings viewed their mom’s corpse, but the preacher chose not to. He wanted to remember her as she was — a beautiful, passionate, complicated, contradictory woman.

On the appointed day, the family gathered at Fountain Grove Cemetery for the graveside service. The preacher’s mom had written in her Bible that she wanted her preacher son — whom she had never heard preach — to take care of her funeral. She also wanted her grandchildren to say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the Star Spangled Banner. These requests were ignored.

Family and a few friends gathered at the graveside, right next to Grandma and Grandpa Rausch’s graves. There was not enough room to bury the preacher’s mom, so his grandmother was disinterred so the vault could be dug deep enough to accommodate two coffins, one on top of the other.

“Why did Mom want me to do her funeral?” the preacher wondered. The preacher delivered a brief sermon, complete with Bible readings and prayer — weeping the entire time. A moment after the benediction, there was one more indignity to be had. The preacher’s Fundamentalist Baptist grandfather (John) and his wife (Ann) were in attendance, and John wanted to have the last word. (Please see Life with My Fundamentalist Baptist Grandparents, John and Ann Tieken.) As everyone stood there with broken hearts, John decided to give a sermon of his own. Of course, he did. Whatever his grandson did was never good enough. A few years prior, John and Ann had driven to southeast Ohio to visit their oldest grandson and his family. These visits were never welcome, and a few years later, the preacher ended his relationship with John and Ann. On this particular day, the preacher delivered a sermon to 150 or so people in attendance. At the conclusion of the service, the preacher’s grandfather stood up and told the entire congregation what was wrong with his grandson’s sermon. The preacher wanted to die; that is, right after he murdered his grandfather.

As the preacher’s grandfather deconstructed his daughter’s life at the graveside, homicidal thoughts briefly returned to the preacher’s mind. He wanted to tell everyone who would listen that John had repeatedly raped his daughter as a child; that he physically abused his sons (and spouses); that he was an angry, abusive man — even after Jesus allegedly “saved” him. John and Ann may have loved Jesus, but they most certainly didn’t love their daughter. “Maybe they were broken too,” the preacher wonders. Regardless, these sums-a-bitches are responsible for their behavior, as are all of us.

Death irreversibly ends relationships. All we have left are memories — good, bad, and indifferent. The preacher deeply loved his mom, but rarely took time to express that to her. On the day of her suicide, it had been months since to talked to her and saw her face to face. There were plans in the works for the preacher to take his children to Michigan to spend a week with their grandmother. Alas, a bullet put an end to that idea.

The preacher was a busy man. He had a church to pastor and a school to operate. Yet, none of that mattered as he pondered the life of his mom and their relationship with each other. He wished he had been a better son. He wished he had visited his mom more often. He wished he had called her every week to see how she was doing. But, he didn’t, and now she was dead.

The preacher is now sixty-six years old. In failing health, he knows his days are numbered. His children and grandchildren live near him. Rarely does a week or two go by that he doesn’t see most of them. Yet, there are those nights when he sits alone, wishing one of his children would stop by for a visit. The preacher can no longer drive, so he must rely on people coming to him or taking him to school events. He hates depending on others.

He knows his children and their significant others and his grandchildren have their own lives to live too. Everyone is busy these days, yet he can’t help but think about that moment over thirty years ago when the phone rang and the voice on the line said “Butch, your mom killed herself.” He knows there is coming a day when the phone will ring at his children’s homes, and the voice on the line will say, “Your dad (grandfather) is dead.” He knows what hearing those words can to do you, the regrets that flood your mind.

When the end comes, the preacher knows that his family will be there for him — not for money (there is none); not for material goods (most everything has already been given to them); but for love. In the present, all he wants (and needs) is as much time from them as they can possibly give. Not selfishly, of course, but he knows there is coming a day when the relationship the preacher has with his family will come to an end; that all that will be left are memories. The preacher wants to leave behind as many good memories as he possibly can.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Why It is Important to Talk to Someone if You Are Suicidal

bruce gerencser 2023

For the person contemplating suicide, he (or she) feels alone. He may be physically surrounded by his family, friends, and fellow employees, but psychologically he feels as if he is stranded by himself on a remote island without supplies. Depression is akin to darkness; a darkness absent of light, even the faint glow of a night light. Everywhere he looks, it is dark.

One of my favorite TV shows is the Showtime hit Dexter. Dexter is a blood spatter expert for Miami Metro Police Department. He is also a serial killer. Using a moral code taught to him by his father, Dexter murders people who “deserve” it. His need to do so Dexter calls “my dark passenger.” Depression is my dark passenger. It lurks in the shadows on “good” days, but on days when I feel overwhelmed and oppressed by things that non-depressives might think are insignificant, my dark passenger envelopes my thinking, telling me life isn’t worth living. My dark passenger pushes me closer and closer to the cliff’s edge, so close that a gust of wind or a stumble will send me careening into the chasm.

Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die, they just want the pain to stop. Sometimes, people will kill themselves for the silliest of reasons. In the 2000s, I conducted the funeral of an eighteen-year-old man who drove his pickup into a field and killed himself with a shotgun. Why? His girlfriend broke up with him. I suspect this young man felt very much alone. Maybe he tried to share his feeling with his parents, friends, or a guidance counselor. If he did, I suspect they blew it off as the angst that comes when the girl you thought would love you forever wasn’t really into you; that she wanted to play the field or she was interested in dating someone else. Who hasn’t gone through such experiences? Eventually, we moved on; we survived. For this young man, however, his grief overwhelmed him, and he decided life was no longer worth living.

I certainly don’t want to die. I have much to live for: Polly, our six children and their significant others, and our thirteen grandchildren. Two of our grandchildren will graduate from high school this spring. Both are straight-A students and plan to further their educations this fall at major universities. I want to see them walk down the aisle and get their diplomas. Our oldest grandson has a hankering to become a writer. I want to read his first book. Four of our grandchildren are in middle school. Good students, the lot of them, and I want to see how they develop and mature over the next four years. The Cincinnati Reds show promise this year. Is a World Series championship possible in the next few years? And what about those Bengals? They are playing the best football in the history of the franchise. Is a Super Bowl win near, just a Joe Burrow touchdown throw to Ja’ Mar Chase away? Polly turns sixty-five in October. Sometime after that, she plans to retire. We have plans … You see, I (we) still have a bucket list; places to see, and things to experience.

While I don’t want to die, I want my pain to stop — or at the very least lessened to a degree that it doesn’t dominate every waking hour of my life. Of course, that’s not possible. My body doesn’t care one whit what I want. My bones and muscles are waging a zero-sum war where death is the only outcome. I fight back with narcotics, muscle relaxers, NSAIDs, and other drugs, hoping to lessen the pain enough that I can have some sense of meaning and purpose in my life.

As I previously mentioned, when facing deep bouts of depression, it is small things that threaten to push me over the edge. Take last night. We put our mattress and box spring on the floor so it would be easier for me to get in and out of bed. On my side of the bed, there is a 100-year-old oak mission desk. It’s quite close to the bed — about 2 feet away. During the night, I rolled out of bed, smashing ribs-first into the desk. More pain. I swore profusely, dragged myself off the floor, and got on the bed. I quickly fell back asleep. Come morning, I picked up my iPad Pro, only to find that the bottom of the case was wet. That’s when I found out that the half-filled can of Pepsi I left on the desk had toppled over, spraying the wall and leaving a sticky pool on part of the desk. Fuck, I said to myself. Polly came to my assistance, helping me to clean up the mess. What a start to the day.

Polly . . . the one person who truly knows me. She can read me like a book and knows when I am really struggling psychologically. My former counselor told me not to tell her about my struggles with suicide; that it was too much burden to bear. Both Polly and I disagreed with him. Without her, I have no doubt I would be dead. Our lives are very intertwined. When Polly had to have part of her colon and bladder removed and had to have a colostomy, the “care” shoe was on the other foot. Polly spent three weeks in the hospital. Afterward, she was weak and deconditioned. I was the one who had to push her to get up and move; to walk ten laps around the dining room table; then twenty, and so on.

Forty-five years ago, we made a vow to each other: in sickness and in health, until death do us part. We meant it then, and still do today, even after decades of challenges, trials, loss, and suffering. Polly, of course, wants me to live. Who will pay the bills, fix things around the house, and operate the remote? 🙂 And besides, there’s the sex (inside joke). That said, Polly knows I am weary and tired, overwhelmed by constant pain and debility. She knows there may come a time when I no longer want to do this. She has a front-row seat to what my life has become. So we talk. She knows it is important for her to stay connected to me; to not let me fade into the darkness. Sometimes, all I need from her is an embrace; like the time she found me sitting on the floor in tears, having a top-of-the-chart pain day — those days when no amount of narcotics will stem the pain. I told her, sobbing, “I can’t do this anymore.” Polly didn’t try to talk me out of killing myself, nor did she utter the cliches that people who mean well say when they don’t know what else to say. She got down on the floor with me, drew me close, and told me that she loved me. She couldn’t help my pain — no one could. But, just knowing I was loved, that I mattered, helped me get off the floor and to the bed.

I have had two therapists over the past twelve years. Two years ago, I started seeing a new psychologist; one who has extensive experience with treating people who have experienced trauma and have chronic pain. I talk to Melissa once a week. She knows me well by now and is comfortable speaking frankly to me. I struggle with the realization that I will never regain what is lost, be it physical or time-wise. The virile, strong-as-an-ox, invincible, work-a-holic Bruce no longer exists. Photographer Bruce? Gone. Athlete Bruce? Gone. Builder and fixer Bruce? Soon to be gone as I sell off or give away my tools and equipment. Even if I were a relatively healthy sixty-six, I still wouldn’t have the strength of thirty-year-old Bruce. One of the keys in therapy is getting me to embrace things as they are, and not how I want them to be. It is what it is, and no amount of wishing will change this fact. When I fall into delusions of yesteryear, it is Melissa’s job to help me return to reality. I have no future if I can’t see things as they are.

I owe my life to Polly and my counselor. Both of them know that if I am determined to kill myself, nothing they can do will stop me from ending my life. But, they aren’t going to make it easy for me. Melissa asked me how I planned to kill myself. After I told her, she suggested that Polly make it hard for me to have access to certain drugs — a small speed bump to slow me down. Good idea.

What I need most from family and friends is connection; small talk or genuine words of concern. Those who know me, know I love to talk. My oldest son came over tonight for an hour or so. We talked about philosophy, religion, economics, and stupid people. Quickly, my depression lessened. Is it really that simple? I can’t say, for certain, but on this day, talking with Polly, Melissa, and my son made all the difference in the world. Don’t underestimate the power of your words in helping people who struggle to make it to sunrise.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Sometimes It is the Small Things That Lead to Suicide

chronic pain

Ask the average person why people commit suicide and they will give you all sorts of explanations. Many people think there are signs depressives display when contemplating suicide. While that can be the case, often the person seemed “fine” before killing themselves, or the “signs” were so subtle that they were overlooked. Depressives often fade into the fabric of day-to-day life. They become like furniture, always in their places. When this happens, people miss the signs, often tragically so. I know my wife and family love me, yet I also know that they are so used to me being sick, disabled, and in pain that I always seem “normal” to them.

Several days ago, I attended the Defiance Pride Parade. While I can walk short distances using a cane, I can no longer walk long distances without the use of a wheelchair or motorized cart. The degeneration in my spine, hips, shoulders, and arms, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to operate a wheelchair without help. Polly or one of my sons usually pushes my sorry ass around. My youngest son got the privilege and honor to push me along the parade route. The road was rough in spots, causing me excruciating pain. I knew this is the way it would be, but supporting LGBTQ people mattered more to me than pain. I endured.

A dear friend of mine told me that he could tell I was in a lot of pain. I tried to hide my suffering, but my face said to him that my pain levels were high. I appreciated the fact that he understood what I was going through on that day. The next day, we had dinner, a monthly event for myself and three other men. We now call ourselves “The Woke Mob.” Getting together with them is one of the highlights of each month. I rarely get out of the house these days. Thanks to declining motor skills, I can no longer drive. The last time I drove an automobile was in March 2020 — over three years ago.

After dinner, my friend said to me, “you look better today.” I smiled and replied, “narcotics, and the use of modern pharmaceuticals.” You see, I always want to “look better.” I don’t want to be pitied. I want to be perceived as the virile, strong-as-an-ox Bruce of yesteryear, even though I know this is the absurd fantasy of a crippled, broken-down old man.

My pain levels were the same on both days, but what was different on the second day was a significant increase in suicidal thoughts. My friend couldn’t know this. I didn’t give off any signs that suggested that I was struggling with making it another day. Even when talking with my therapist, it is not always easy for her to suss out whether I have increased suicidal thoughts. I see her tomorrow, which is good. The edge of the cliff is getting too close for comfort.

Many people wrongly think that those with suicidal ideation have exact plans as to how they will do themselves in. While I have a good idea of what means I will use to kill myself, I really don’t sit around thinking about it. It is the small, insignificant things in life that often drive my suicidal thoughts. Let me explain.

My life has a rhythm to it; what I call my “new normal.” This normal changes over time, as disease and pain continue to ravage my body. Two years ago, when an MRI and CT scan of my thoracic spine revealed:

  • Disc herniation (T7,T8)
  • Disc herniation (T6,T7)
  • Central spinal canal stenosis (T9/T10, T10/T11)
  • Foraminal stenosis (T5,T6)
  • Disc degeneration/spondylosis (T1/T2 through T10/T11)
  • Facet Arthropathy throughout the spine, particularly at T2/T3, T3/T4, T5/T6, and T7/T8 through the T12/L1 levels.
  • Hypertrophic arthropathy at T9/T10

I adapted to my new normal. I had already been diagnosed with widespread osteoarthritis (joint pain), fibromyalgia (muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue), and gastroparesis (a debilitating, incurable stomach disease). I also have diabetes and high blood pressure — both of which are well-managed. On any given day, I spend my time managing my health, writing, and spending time with my family. Some days, I have doctor’s appointments or we go grocery shopping. On other days, I try to do things around the house or in the yard. Our backyard is teeming with wildlife and feral/stray cats. I enjoy watching them from the living room window. We have a new outside cat, Binx is his name. You know, the strays that don’t go away. He and I are now friends, so I will spend some time petting him or feeding him tuna fish. This is my normal.

Typically, I have a four- to five-hour window to productively work. After that, I lose my starch, and I retire to my recliner for the night and read, watch TV, or cheer on the Cincinnati Reds (I watch every game). Polly comes home from work at 2:30 am. Then comes bed, the worst part of my day. Yet, I have come to accept that this is my “normal.” It takes me twelve hours to get seven or eight hours of sleep, and even then I am never rested. At best, I live to see another day. Tired, fatigued, in pain — but alive.

It is what it is, a cliché I often tell myself as I try to navigate a life of pain and suffering. However, there are unexpected things that happen, small things that can quickly increase suicidal thoughts. My life is like a spinning plate full of food held on one finger above my head. Okay, I can handle this, I tell myself, but then along comes someone or something that is thrown on my plate, and my life spins out of control. All of a sudden, I find myself thinking about whether I want to keep living. But it was such a small thing that caused your plate to spin out of control. And therein lies the problem. When small, insignificant things accumulate, collectively they can be overwhelming. A bowel problem, incontinency, phantom smells attack, blurred vision, Morton’s neuroma flare-up, a fall, memory problems, unexpected bills, not hearing from my children or seeing my grandchildren as often as I want (need), edema so bad I can’t put on my shoes, getting out of the house so I can attend a sprint car race, only to get hit in the head with a rock thrown off one of the car’s wheels, stepping on Legos, tripping over the cat, finding out I have a yeast infection from taking an antibiotic for a toe infection, losing my glasses, being so weak I can’t lower the footrest on my recliner, eating food at a restaurant that immediately causes me to vomit, finding out someone ate the last of the peanut butter, or a host of other small things. To the healthy, and to the strong, these circumstances may seem insignificant; and they are when taken in isolation. However, when it takes every bit of your strength and energy to just get through the day, small things tend to overwhelm you and leave you questioning whether you want to live another day.

This is not a plea for help, nor is it an opportunity for readers to send me unsolicited medical advice. Please don’t. If my friend and I had more time together, maybe I would have shared with him where I really am in life; how close to the cliff I am actually standing. Or maybe not.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Short Stories: Playing the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game

white birch clare michigan 2003
House we rented in White Birch, a wooded community north of Farwell, Michigan. At the time, I was pastoring Victory Baptist Church, Clare Michigan 2003

Depression Sea is roiling today, my mind is twisting, turning, and dying.

She knows, she always knows. My face and body language tell a story she’s read time and again.

She worries that this time the story might have a different ending.

I’m at the doctor’s office.

Wasn’t I here last month? I already know the answer, having made the trip eight times and the year isn’t even half over.

As we wait for the nurse to call my name, we play the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®.

Playing the game allows me to change the monotonous, deadly channel that keeps playing over and over in my mind.

We look at one another, smile, and begin the game.

The game always has the same answers, but we like to play anyway.

In the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®, we take shared places and experiences and meld them into one. A fantasy, to be sure, but who knows, maybe we’ll strike it rich, rob a bank, or write a book detailing where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

Spring in Ohio, with its promise of new life and flowers.

Fall in Ohio, with its crisp air and changing colors.

Winter in Arizona, no snow for us, we survived the Blizzard of 78.

Summer in the Upper Peninsula , nestled as close to our Canadian friends as possible.

Our rented house in White Birch, Michigan, with a 1970 green Nova SS sitting in the drive.

bruce 1970 nova ss
Bruce putting water in 1970 Nova SS, March 1976, somewhere in Kentucky

Package these things together and magically move them to the eastern seaboard, to a small, out-of-the-way fishing community on the shore of the Atlantic.

Turn the house so it fronts the ocean, allowing us to sit on our deck and watch the sunrise and the fishing boats making their way to the secret spots known only to those whose hands and faces bear the weathered look of a lifetime spent fishing.

Nearby live our six children and thirteen grandchildren. Not too close, yet not so far as to be beyond an invite to a Saturday night BBQ.

This is Bruce and Polly’s fantasy.

She remains worried, wondering if the slough of despondency will bury the man she loves.

All I want is for the pain to stop.

Is that too much to ask?

I already know the answer. I always know the answer.

The nurse calls my name and I  haltingly walk to the exam room.

My vitals are “normal” though blood tests, scans, and X-rays say I am anything but. Refills ordered; sure is hot; how’s Bethany; he’ll be in to see you soon.

The doctor walks through the door and sits near me.  Twenty-five years we’ve danced to this tune, both of us now dance much slower than we once did.

The doctor thinks I am chipper today, better than my last visit.  Little does he know what I’m really thinking. We talk about the Reds, the Bengals, and the Browns. I promised the nurse that we wouldn’t do our thing, “our thing” being shooting the breeze while other patients wait. I lied. He’s behind and I’m to blame.

We shake hands, and afterward, I put my hand gently on his shoulder. I tell him, see you in two months. This sounds like a lie, a hollow promise with no hope of fulfillment.

I want to live.

I want to die.

June 19, 1957, in a building now torn down and replaced with a modern new one, at 9:01 AM I drew air into my lungs for the first time. A new life born into poverty in a nondescript rural Ohio community, delivered by a doctor who also worked as a veterinarian.

The path is now long and how much path remains is unknown.

Will the game be called today or will we get to play, for one more time, the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®?

I’m still betting on playing the game.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

I Don’t Want to Die, I Just Want the Pain to Stop

pain to stop

Yet another visit to the doctor’s office, visit number twelve for the year — primary care doctor, dermatologist, cardiologist, podiatrist, neurosurgeon, general surgeon, and orthopedic doctor. No major surgeries this year, but I have had a benign tumor removed from my abdomen and a large cyst removed from my upper back (which is already coming back).

My main health problems remain the same: gastroparesis (an incurable stomach disease), fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, degenerative spine disease, and eight herniated discs in my spine and neck. I am also being treated for high blood pressure and diabetes. Both are well-managed. My latest A1c was 5.8. Diabetic readers know that anything below 7.0 is good. 5.8? Awesome.

Thanks to gastroparesis, I am chronically anemic and my B-12 levels are all over the place. I have blood work done every three months to monitor a host of issues. Gastroparesis has also affected my eyes. I was nearsighted for almost fifty years. I am now farsighted.

Taken together, these issues create a real challenge for me. Pain, of course, from head to toe, dominates my life. The pain is so severe that I have a hard time sleeping. I typically sleep in two-hour increments, readjusting my body so I can fall back asleep. Last night, I finally fell asleep at 5:30 am. I woke up five times during the night — hip pain, back pain, and peripheral nerve pain in my legs on this night. I woke up for the last time at 2:30 pm. Throw in a lack of bladder and bowel control, along with profuse — and I mean profuse — sweating, going to bed is a nightmare. Thanks to my therapist, I have come to accept that this is just how things are for me. Sure, I take narcotic pain medications, high-powered muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, and sleep drugs. They help, but these drugs do not make all my pain go away, nor do they bring deep, peaceful sleep.

I am now forced to use mobility aids wherever I go: cane, wheelchair, walker, or motorized cart. Not that I get out of the house much these days. Come March, it will be three years since I have driven a car. On a typical month, I get out of the house 4-8 times a month, usually to go grocery shopping, to medical appointments, or out to eat with Polly. I am not well enough to do any of these things, but I can’t bear being cooped up 24-7. So I endure, much as I do when my rambunctious grandchildren come over to visit.

My declining muscle strength and balance have made walking an existential threat to my survival. Falls are increasing, some severe. If I had to put money on how I will die, I would put it on tripping and falling. I am careful, but it takes very little to find myself flat on my ass/back, swearing profusely. Readers may remember that last Christmas I fell into our tree, breaking several branches and damaging the train below the tree. We have an artificial tree this year. 🙂

There are days when I just want to put an end to it all. People who suffer from chronic illnesses and endure unrelenting pain often have thoughts about suicide. Well-meaning people tell me that they are praying for me, or that I need to “put mind over matter.” I love it when someone tells me, you know, there are people who are worse off than you. And this helps how, exactly? There will always be people who are sicker than I am or have more pain than I do. And there are countless people who are in good health, and their biggest pain is a zit on the end of their nose or a backache from too much headboard banging. Each of us lives in a contained world unto ourselves. My health problems and my pain are mine alone to bear. Just think of Jesus’ suffering, Bruce. He did it all for you, Christians tell me. What, a day or so of pain, a long weekend, and then a pain-free body? Jesus had it easy. I would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Let Jesus walk in my shoes for a while — not that he can, he’s dead. Conjuring up an imaginary suffering deity as a way to “encourage” those who are in real pain is not any more helpful than that same God spitting on dirt, making some mud, and using it to restore a blind man’s sight. Forget the theatrics. If Jesus is really the Great Physician, what’s he been up to for the past two thousand years? I know a lot of people who sure could use his help. His inattention makes me wonder if he is actually dead, and what’s really going on here is that the Christian church has been playing a con game for the past twenty centuries. Just keep praying. Jesus will heal you — someday.

suffering and pain

People with chronic pain have often suffered for years. Their lives are an endless repeating of the movie Groundhog Day. In my case, I have suffered chronic pain for twenty-five years. I worked my last full-time job in 2005. Their lives are an endless repeating of the movie Groundhog Day. I endure the day, collapse in bed, spending several hours getting to sleep, only to start the process all over again the next day. And pain is just one of the plethora of issues I must deal with every day. I am not complaining. I accept life as it is, doing what I can to lessen my suffering. I don’t expect my doctors to work miracles, nor do I anticipate waking up one day and finding myself miraculously healed. That’s not how things work in the real world. Thousands and thousands of prayers have been offered on my behalf, and I spent the better part of twenty years daily asking God for healing. As the mythical Christian God is wont to do, he remained silent.

When I write about suicide, people immediately worry that I am about to pull a David Foster Wallace. Not today, my friend, not today. All I am saying here is that chronic illness and pain drive people to ponder ending their lives. In fact, it is totally normal to have such thoughts. It’s not that I want to die — I don’t. I want to live. I want to watch more sunsets over Lake Michigan with the love of my life. I want to eat Polly’s food and enjoy her company. I want to hear Bethany laugh while watching a stupid movie. I want to go to stock car races and baseball games with my sons. I want share Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. I want to watch my grandchildren come of age, go off to college, and perhaps have families of their own. I want to watch the trees, bushes, and plants Polly and I have planted grow to maturity, covering our yard with summer beauty and shade. I want to watch the raccoons, possums, squirrels, and feral cats as they stop by to eat and provide us with a bit of entertainment. (Recently watching a raccoon run off on his back feet with an old bagel in his front paws — priceless.) There are so many things I want to do, yet when my body is wracked with pain, all I can think is this: PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

You see, that’s what healthy people don’t understand. It’s not that people such as myself want to die, we just want the pain to stop. Oh, how I yearn for a day — just one day — of waking up in the morning pain-free. Some of you reading this post know what I am talking about. You understand longing for a day without pain, yet you know such hope doth fantasies make. For the present, we live between the one certain cure — death — and a life of finding meaning and purpose. For me personally, writing, family, and hoping the Cincinnati Reds will, one more time in my lifetime, win the World Series, are some of things that give me meaning and purpose. When I devote my energies to those things. thoughts of suicide diminish. That said, suicidal thoughts will never, ever go away, and I have, through anguish and tears, thought on more than one occasion this year, ENOUGH! But today I say to myself, LIVE. Who knows what tomorrow may bring? For now, I focus on the things that matter, hoping they continue to provide reasons for living.

I know the goodness in you will urge you to try to encourage me in the comment section, or with a text or an email. There’s no need, friends. This is just me talking out loud and being brutally honest about life. I may die today, but it will not be by my own hands. My sister has a project she needs her wise, aged, technologically savvy smart-ass of a brother to take care of (she reads my blog, so I just had to say that).  I can’t leave her in the lurch. And besides, the Bengals are likely headed for the playoffs. Maybe, just maybe this will be the year the Bungles become world champions.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Short Stories: Carolyn

bruce gerencser eighth grade
Summer of my eighth-grade year, with my mom and a friend (that’s a Rambler in the background)

I was a young child in the 1960s when I first realized my mother was different; that her wild mood swings were not “normal.” By the late 1960s, I knew Mom was mentally ill. Mom was a wonderful person: bright, witty, and passionate. She was also “crazy.” Her irrational fits of rage were legendary, as were her long bouts of deep, dark depression. By the time I reached fifth grade, mom had tried to kill herself thrice in one year. The first time, she swallowed a bunch of pills and had to be rushed to the hospital in Lima to have her stomach pumped. The next time, she pulled the car she driving into the path of a truck. The older woman who lived next door to us was with her, Fortunately, both of them survived. The third time, Mom slit her wrists. Imagine being an eleven-year-old boy and coming home to find your mom lying on the floor in a pool of blood. No matter how much I try, I cannot push that memory out of my mind. Mom survived, but she would try again and again before finally succeeding. She was fifty-four.

Mom sought help for her sickness. Her father, who sexually molested her as a child, recommended that she see a “Christian” psychiatrist in Lima. He was a sexual predator. Dr. Milke was his name, I believe. Mom would go to her scheduled appointment at Milke’s office. While there, he would give her “injections” that were meant to “help” her. Instead, Mom became addicted to the narcotics in the injections. While impaired, Milke would sexually assault her. He later lost his license to practice medicine.

Mom had two lengthy stays at the Toledo State Mental Hospital. She received electroshock therapy (now called Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)) treatments while there. I remember visiting her several times. She bore no resemblance to my mother. She was docile and zombie-like. Imagine trying to process as a twelve-year-old boy what has happened to your mother. Back then, children were expected to be seen and not heard. Dad never said one word to me about Mom’s sickness, leaving it to me to figure out what was going on. I grew up quickly.

During one of her confinements at the hospital, Mom met a woman named Carolyn. They quickly became good friends. After both of them were released, they stayed in touch. On occasion, Mom would drive to Toledo and visit Carolyn. I had the opportunity to meet her. They also wrote one another and sent each other cards for their birthdays and special occasions.

One spring, shortly before Easter, Mom received a beautiful card from Carolyn. In the card, Carolyn thanked Mom for befriending her. She also told Mom that life was too much for her, that she was done. Carolyn finished by saying, “Barbara, by the time you receive this, I will be dead.” This card was Carolyn’s suicide note. And sure enough, Carolyn put a shotgun in her mouth and pulled the trigger.

In 1992, Mom would take a Ruger .357 revolver, point it towards her heart, and pull the trigger. In a few moments, she was dead. In Mom’s meager belongings, I found Carolyn’s card. I kept it for a number of years. I even used it as a sermon illustration, but only once. I felt dirty afterward. I had violated the relationship Mom had with Carolyn, turning Carolyn’s death into a prop. The things preachers will do to make a “point.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Man Endued with the Power of God at Wife’s Funeral

jack hyles praying
Jack Hyles Praying

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt from Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

“Dear Dr. Hyles. I am 24 years of age. I am a preacher boy whom God called to preach six months after I got saved three years ago. I felt led to go to a certain Bible college in a certain state. I attended there until God called me to pastor a small church. I was ordained. From there, God led me back to a certain city in a certain state where I got saved under Dr. Joe Doe. (I’m using ficticious names.) I worked on the staff of Dr. Doe for that summer and started to go to the Letot Bible Institute that fall.

As I started to go to school that fall, I got a full-time position in a church as assistant pastor and youth director. While I was in a certain state, I met and married a wonderful girl, a spiritual girl, a girl that loved Jesus Christ. As we lived in Letot, I was working for a church in a certain place. I seemed to be getting away from soul winning and getting deeper into the books. After awhile I was not doing what God wanted me to do and what God made me to do. I was not knocking on doors and winning people to Jesus Christ. My not being the man of God I ought to be affected my marriage. It affected my marriage to the extent that my wife told me at one time that if I didn’t become the soul winner that God wants me to be, she couldn’t respect me as a man of God, and she thinks. . . .”

“One afternoon as I was leaving from school, my wife and I seemed to be in the flesh. We didn’t have devotions that day and pray as we usually do. I walked out of the house without telling her I loved her and without telling her good-bye. As I got to school, I felt bad, so I called on the phone, and there was no answer. I knew something was wrong. I drove home immediately and found my wife had committed suicide.”

“As we had her funeral in her hometown up North, I went a half hour early before her relatives and friends viewed the body. I walked in and put my head on my wife’s chest in the casket and was hoping that she would lean up and hold me, kiss me, cuddle me, baby me and tell me that she loved me, but she wasn’t there–she was with the Lord. I then fell on my face before the casket and talked with God. Something happened to me there that I can’t explain, but for once in my life I had the full power of God, but what a price to have to pay! As her friends and relatives came by the casket, I stood there like a soldier witnessing and telling them about Jesus Christ. I feel, Dr. Hyles, that God is leading me to Hyles-Anderson College to learn more about Him and learn more about character and discipline and be the man that God wants me to be.”

Does anyone really believe this story is true? I know I don’t. Jack Hyles was a pathological liar, often spinning yarns, half-truths, and exaggerations in his sermons. Such behavior is not uncommon in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist circles.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Depression and Lightening the Load


Updated, corrected, rewritten, expanded

I have battled depression most of my adult life. For many years, I denied that I was depressed, attributing my melancholy to God testing or trying me, Satan tempting me, or God punishing me for this or that sin. My religious beliefs told me that depression was a sign of a backslidden, sinful, or rebellious life. After all, the Bible says in Isaiah 26:3:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee [God]: because he trusteth in thee.

Psalm 43:5 states:

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

The Apostle Paul — a First Century Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer — had this to say:

 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Philippians 4:11)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

And if these verses weren’t enough, there was always the “look at all Jesus suffered on the cross just so you could be saved and go to Heaven someday!” Compared to what Jesus went through, my depression was nothing. (Please see I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend.)

I had numerous colleagues in the ministry, but talking to them about my depression was not an option. Talking to them meant admitting I was weak or “sinful.” I never considered seeking out the help of a psychiatrist or a psychologist. How could I? I had preached numerous sermons on the aforementioned verses, and on my bookshelf sat books such as Psycho-Heresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity by Wayne and Deidre Bobgan and PsychoBabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology–and the Biblical Alternative by Richard Ganz. No, I concluded that I was the problem.

I now know that having a Type A personality and being a perfectionist and a workaholic didn’t help matters. No matter how hard I worked, I never measured up. The church growth craze of the 1970s and 1980s only exacerbated my depression. The ministry was reduced to a set of numbers: attendance, souls saved, and offerings. Push, push, push. Go, go, go. Do, do, do. Much like a crack addict seeking his latest fix, I focused on attendance increases and souls brought to Jesus to push my depression into the background. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, declining attendance and a lack of “God working in our midst” forced my depression to the forefront. I spent countless nights alone in the darkness of the church building praying to God, pleading that he would fill me with the Holy Spirit and use me to bring in a large harvest of souls. In the end, no matter how hard I worked or how much I sacrificed— money, family, and health — it was never enough. Success was a temporary elixir that soothed my depression, but its effect soon wore off and I retreated for the thousandth time into the deep, dark recesses of my mind.


In 2005, two years after I left the ministry, I told Polly I needed professional psychological help. It took me another three years before I was willing to pick up the phone and make an appointment. At first, finding a “Christian” counselor was important to me. Once I found one, I then had second thoughts about people seeing me entering his office or noticing my car in the parking lot. I live in an area where almost everyone knows me — both as a pastor and now as an atheist. It wasn’t until I deconverted that I began calling counselors, hoping to find a non-religious, secular counselor. Fortunately, I found just the right person to help peel away the layers of my life, allowing me to finally embrace my depression and find ways of handling what Dexter the serial killer called his “dark passenger.” Late last year, I started seeing a new counselor, a woman. My first counselor and I had become friends (a common problem in long-term counseling relationships), so I knew it was time for me to see someone new.

Readers who have been with me since the days of blogs named Bruce Droppings, NW Ohio Skeptic, The Way Forward, and Fallen From Grace have helplessly watched me repeatedly psychologically crash and burn, only to rise again out of the ashes like a phoenix. Surprisingly, the current iteration of my blog has been active for seven years. I attribute the length of my success to the help I’ve received from my counselors. That said, I can’t guarantee that I might not, in the future, crash. I’ve told myself that if that happens again, I’m done blogging.

Some days, I feel like I have tied a knot on the rope of my life and I am desperately trying to hold on. There are days when I feel my grip slipping, leaving me to wonder if I can make it through another day. I do what I can. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen. Health problems, especially chronic pain and bowel problems, continue to drive my depression and virtually every other aspect of my life. I can’t escape these things. All I know to do is endure.

As depressives will tell you, small problems often pile up for them and turn into full-blown depressive episodes. I mean, suicide level, I can’t deal with this any longer episodes. My counselor is keenly aware of how quickly things can pile up for me. Starting with chronic illnesses, unrelenting pain, loss of mobility, and decreased cognitive function, my plate is quite full before I even get out of bed — that is, if I can get out of bed.

Recent events have filled my plate as I would on Thanksgiving Day. What’s one more helping of ham, turkey, and candied sweet potatoes, right? While I find it too painful to write about many of the things that have been added to my plate, I have talked to my counselor about how overwhelmed I am with life. She encourages me to focus on what is best for me, and not “fixing” the problems of others. I am not sure how well I can heed his advice, but I am trying.

I have written all this to say that I must continue to find ways to “lighten my load.” My health will never be as good as it is today, and someday I will likely be unable to leave my home. In the interest of improving the quality of what life I have left, I must identify the unnecessary things that are weighing me down and cast them aside. This is not easy for me to do. Giving in has never been my strong suit. I hate to let go of things (and people) who have been very much a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Over the past few months, I have made a concerted to downsize and simplify my life. I sold all my photography equipment. Boy, was this hard. Even worse, I am turning my office into a pantry and a storage room. Gone will be the metal desk I’ve owned for almost forty years — a M.A.S.H. era desk. Most of my 4,000+ plus sermons were crafted on my desk. Countless couples and church members sat across from me, telling me their woes. I used this desk every day for most of my adult life — until I couldn’t. Thanks to herniated discs in my back and neck, I can no longer use the desk. Saying goodbye to my dear friend brought tears, but I knew it was the right thing to do. My oldest son will soon move my desk to his home. I wonder if I should tell him what Mom and Dad did on that desk? 🙂

It goes without saying, that above everything I could ever do or own, I deeply love my wife, children, and grandchildren (and yes, my daughters-in-law and son-in-law too). As illness and pain whittle down my life, I am learning that what matters most is love and family. The praise of congregants and the approbation of fellow clergy are but distant memories. I would trade all of them for one day without pain. We silly humans so often focus on things that don’t matter. Age brings perspective, and what really matters — at least to me — fits on a small Post-it note. And even now, I continue to mark through things on my list. I suspect that when death claims me for its own, my list will contain a handful of names and the words “they loved me until the end.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser