'Grace' is the word, it's got groove, it's got meaning

A reader submitted a story from the Caspar Star-Tribune with the following note:

Is there are word whose meaning is being more rapidly drained of meaning than "grace?" Apart from the "prayer" towards the end and the name of the group, I'm not sure what "grace" has to do with this story. Healing? Sure. Acceptance? Of course. Grace, as in "grace and peace be to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ?" Nope.

The story is headlined:

After suicides, a family's journey toward grace

The article tells the heartbreaking story about a Cheyenne family that lost two sons to suicide. After Beau and Brett Wagner killed themselves, mother BJ started the "Grace for 2 Brothers Foundation" to help raise suicide awareness.

Now, it's clear that the headline is just a riff on this name.

The story itself is a breezy feature that begins from the perspective of the middle brother:

He grew up the middle of three brothers. By his 25th birthday, he was the only one left.

Brett, the youngest, killed himself in December 2005, two months before he turned 20. His depression could appear with a stunning swiftness. On that final night, he talked of forgiveness and the future. And then, like the flipping of a switch, something changed.

The oldest, Beau, struggled for years with depression. In the final few months of his life, mounting problems pulled him into a downward spiral. His family tried to help, but nothing could keep him from slipping farther into darkness.

Four years after his brother's death, Beau told his stepfather that Brett, who had shot himself in the head, had done it wrong. Days later, he went up to the attic of his family's home and shot himself in the chest.

The article includes statistics about Wyoming, and the state's suicide rate consistently ranks near the top in the nation.

It includes unsubstantiated claims about Wyoming's culture and how depression is viewed as weakness there. Having experienced suicide in my own family, though none in my former state of Wyoming, I tend to agree that it's a serious problem to view emotional pain as a weakness or flaw. But you can't just throw lines like this out there without attributing them to someone, can you? About all Wyomingites, much less.

We learn the father, who wasn't around, had bipolar disorder. We learn that Brett was depressed and substance abuse problems. The family's efforts to get him help were unsuccessful.

There's a story about the two brothers getting into a seriously violent fight where they used knives against each other. We learn about the night Brett killed himself and how hard it was for the family to deal with their grief. And then four years later they lived through it all again when Beau took his own life. He left a note but one that didn't come close to answering why he did it.

And finally, at the end of the story, we get to a hint that there might be some kind of religious issue at play:

A few days after Beau died, his mother, alone in her backyard, made a deal.

God, I will do whatever it is you need me to do. You can use me however you need to use me.

She didn't want another mother to experience the pain she felt. She didn't want a sibling to know her surviving son's hurt.

Most of all, she did not want to quietly recede into the darkness of grief.

Grace for 2 Brothers came to her.

The foundation would focus on preventing more suicides. She wanted to reduce the stigma of seeking help for depression and mental illness. She wanted people to know they didn't have to suffer in silence.

And that's it. That's it! It's possible that the family has experienced a journey toward grace, as the headline promises. But, to agree with the reader who submitted it, it sounds much more like a journey to healing or acceptance. Given the name of the foundation, of course, it's also possible that there were some omissions in the family's story. Heck, a simple quote about how the name of the foundation was chosen would be nice. Is it a reference to Ephesians 2? Something else? No clue.

But even accounting for the fact that grace has many meanings, from a description of a dancer's form or movement to the name of a great Jeff Buckley album to a description of God's forgiving mercy, the headline is not well served by including the word.

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