Suicide or Salvation
on Rainbow Mountain

by Mary Glaesman and
Kevin Glaesman

A Mother?s resurrection of faith A son?s resurrection of hope

Morning along the Turnagain Arm in Alaska is a pageant. This Easter morning, rose and coral streaked the sky and splashed among the waves of the incoming tide. I (Mary) surveyed the beauty through our large picture window overlooking the inlet. Easter is a time for joyous celebration, but this morning my heart was in a clammy fog of fear.

Marvin?s and my oldest son, Kevin, was leaving to climb Rainbow Mountain behind our house. He took a gun in case he ran into a bear, he said, but I knew that wasn?t the reason. Consciousness came slowly Easter morning. The first thing I (Kevin) became aware of was the pain. My head felt like it was going to explode. I opened my eyes, and the light felt like arrows of fire. My tongue was dry and swollen. I sat up and became dizzy and nauseous.

Staggering over to the sink, I began to vomit. I stuck my head under an ice-cold stream from the faucet. Shaking, I made my way to the living room.

I had awakened like this many times ? sometimes in the homes of people I didn?t know; sometimes in a hospital; many times in jail; once in an insane asylum. I would try to piece together what had happened. I realized this time I was at my parents? home. Briefly, I relished the safety of their Christian home. I could hear them getting ready for the morning service at First Assembly of God in Anchorage.

Memories of the night before rushed in. I remembered the police at the apartment where my wife, Sandy, and I lived. The kids, screaming; the police, taking a gun I had been threatening Sandy with.

I had blown it ? again.

My life had become an endless series of drinking binges followed by overwhelming remorse and guilt. Brief periods of sobriety would sometimes give me hope. During these respites, I would find work, get a place to live and start attending church. Then I would begin drinking again. Within weeks I would be back on the streets. This Easter morning was painful, because I had just reunited with my wife and kids. My best effort had ended in failure.
I gazed out at the beautiful scenery. I remembered the times I?d spent as a youngster, hiking and camping. I had felt close to God then. Where had He gone?

My mother asked softly, "Kevin, will you go to church with us?"

I couldn?t bear the thought of shaking through a service, while the minister talked about things that seemed to apply to everyone but me. Maybe Christ did rise from the dead. So what? It hadn?t made a difference in my life. I told my mom I was going hiking to try to clear my head.

On impulse I (Mary) grabbed and hugged Kevin as he went out the door. His eyes, full of pain, refused to meet mine. I watched as he made his way up the slope and disappeared into the trees.

As we drove to church, I felt like there was ice in my veins. My son was on the mountain with a gun and a full load of guilt and self-loathing. Our delightful child ? full of laughter, full of surprises ? lived life on the edge from the day he was born. He was always the pivot of adventure ? and misadventure. Then came drugs and alcohol. On his 14th birthday he came home from school out of his mind on some hallucinogenic, while I struggled to disarm him of a butcher knife.

Life became a grim nightmare. Kevin seemed bent on destroying himself. Deeper and deeper our family was drawn into a dark and dizzy spiral. We visited him in reform school and then jail. Six months earlier we had stopped by his dingy apartment and found him lying on a couch, his wrists slashed.

Caring and counseling, tough love and tears, nothing and nobody seemed to be able to make a difference.

Consumed with self-pity and remorse, I (Kevin) made my way up the mountain. No path, just game trails. After a while the brush thinned and the terrain turned into steep meadows dotted with spruce trees and large boulders. I began to feel peaceful. Soon it would be over. Since God would not come to me, I reasoned, I would go to see Him. I didn?t see how He could hold it against me since He was avoiding me. Besides, it was only a matter of time before I killed somebody. Better myself than someone else.

I continued toward the rocky peak.

As the congregation sang, I (Mary) thought, isn?t faith meant for the direst circumstances? That first Easter morning of triumph had followed an ordeal of deepest agony and despair. God?s Son had cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"

The ice in my veins began to thaw. I prayed, "Jesus, please help my son to know that life is worth living, because You live."

As I broke out of the tree line, I (Kevin) came face to face with a man about my age. He was clean-cut with short dark hair and glasses. He had on a light windbreaker and tennis shoes. He looked out of place. Then I realized how I must look: dirty unkempt shoulder-length hair, unshaven, an old leather coat with the bulge of a large handgun in a shoulder holster.

He looked happy to see me. "Hi," he said. "What are you doing up here?"

Unzipping my jacket so he could see the gun, I told him I was hiking.

"Could I hike with you?" he asked.

"Look," I said, "I?m not in a great mood. You want to tag along for a little ways, fine; but don?t bother me."

Silently he fell in behind me. After a little while I angrily confronted him. "You?re not one of them Christians, are you?"

He looked me in the eye and said softly, "Yes, I am."

I started back up the mountain. Christian or not, he had to realize he was in a dangerous situation. I thought about shooting him in the foot, but I had the impression it wouldn?t deter him. I made one last try to get rid of him. I sat down on a rock and glared at him.

"OK," I said. "This is as far as you go. What are you doing up her anyway?"

He told me he had awakened in the middle of the night, feeling he should climb a mountain. He tried to shake the feeling, but it was so strong he couldn?t go back to sleep. He went to an Easter sunrise service. By the time the service was over, the feeling was so strong he knew he had to go climb. When he reached the peak, he sat down. Nothing happened, so he got up to head back down the mountain; but instead of going down the way he came, he felt he should go down the other side, even though it would take him miles from his car. He had been on his way down for about 20 minutes when he ran into me.

"Don?t know what?s going on," he said, "but I do know you?re not supposed to kill yourself this morning."

I began to weep. He sat down, put his arm around me and joined in. Then we made our way down the mountain together.

I (Mary) opened the door to our home, reluctantly. Our son and a stranger were there. The stranger introduced himself as John and explained why he was there. In all those miles of mountains along Turnagain Arm, he found our mountain. In all those acres of wilderness with no trails, he met our son.

Two more heartbreaking years passed before Kevin found permanent sobriety, but that Easter morning made a difference for me. I knew that the victory won by God?s Son on His mountain was a victory for all of us.

It has been 20 years since (Kevin) hiked up Rainbow Mountain. I can still see John bounding up to me as clearly as if it happened this morning.

When I headed up the mountain that Easter morning. I had it in my head that I was going to go to meet God. I did ? and I?m so glad He was happy to see me.

Kevin Glaesman is available for speaking engagements. You can contact him at ph: 907-586-2076, fax: 907-780-6322, e-mail: glaesman@alaska.net

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