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Lessons Learned from Two Raccoons

Are you contemplating suicide? Read this and then seek professional help!

Matt Walling took his own life and then his fiancé Sarah Munger took her life about 2 weeks later. Many questions about this tragedy will never be answered on earth. But for others who are contemplating taking their own life, please read this and think about it.

Raccoons wear a mask. Are you wearing a mask? On the outside you seem OK, but inside you are living in quiet desperation. Your problems are getting out of control, and you are getting tired of facing them every day.

In our society, it isn’t cool to run away from your problems. You’re supposed to be strong and know the answers. You’ve got everything “under control,” right?

Matt Walling kept his problems under control.  Or so his friends and family thought. But he was wearing a mask, just like a raccoon. He didn’t run away from his problems – or did he?

What can two raccoons teach us about this?

There’s a difference between running away from your problems and running away to a refuge. Matt knew his problems were too big for him – and he was right. He fought and fought his problems, but he lost every time. That’s hard on your pride. Every time you try and win - you lose - and it’s hard to tell those close to you. It’s hard to tell anyone.

When raccoons are being hunted (by a dog and a man with a very powerful gun), they know the odds are against them. They know instinctively that there is no way they can face enemies like that and win. What do they do?

They run.


Matt & Sarah, Christmas 2004

But they don’t just run. Otherwise they would eventually run out of energy and collapse. The difference is that they run to a refuge. And along the way, they try to throw their enemies off their trail.

They are very smart at losing their enemies. They run along the ground, and then on top of a tree branch. Jumping off the tree branch, they run in the shallow part of a stream so that their scent will be lost to the hunting dog. Then they find the hollow of a tree somewhere and hide. And with two raccoons, they have each other for support.

Matt tried to face his problems alone. He didn’t run away to a refuge, and he didn’t ask for help from his companion – Sarah. They were to be married in just a few months. What did that say to Sarah about his confidence in her to be a support to him in times of trouble? 

The two raccoons have each other for support, and they run to a refuge.

For raccoons, a refuge can be a hollowed out tree. The tree has been there for a long time. It is much greater than the hunter or the dog. It is a place of safety and rest.

For people, a refuge could be another person who is older and wiser. Maybe they went through some hard times and could share how they made it.

It could be a debt counselor who can give protection from creditors. It could be someone who has the skills and knowledge to help you see your life more objectively and help you overcome the voices that say, “It’s too late, there’s no use, and there is no other answer than taking your own life.”

It’s hard to tell someone that you can’t handle the problems you are facing, and that life has become a burden too heavy to carry. It’s hard on your pride, and it might mean that you have to admit that you have made some mistakes.

It might mean that you wouldn’t look as good, or as strong, or as cool. It might mean that you would have to change. You might even start liking yourself on the inside and appreciate the good things you have done.

In our society, often times people judge themselves according to the most shallow standards. Are you doing that?

If you could stand in front of a mirror and ask the famous question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of all?” what would be the answer back? Is beauty or intelligence or financial success going to give you the reasons you need to live?  If the answer from the mirror isn’t what you want to hear, what will you do?

How about the two raccoons - what does nature teach us about life? The two raccoons face problems (hunters and dogs and other wild creatures) every day. In the winter, they have food shortages. But they instinctively accept themselves and their surroundings, and when necessary, they run to a refuge.

They know when to fight, when to stand, and when to run. And when they run, they don’t just run, they run to a refuge. They look for a place that will provide shelter and protection and rest. Maybe the shelter is only temporary. Maybe they will have to run again. But at least their temporary shelter can provide some rest while they are looking for another way to escape.

We humans are so proud. We don’t need a refuge, we often go without rest, and we often fight when we should run. We don’t want to lose, or admit that there is a problem. We want to keep wearing the mask and live up to the false ideal that we think other people have of us. We are afraid that the ideal we are living up to will be destroyed by our admission of weakness and the need for other people.

Also, it isn’t cool to be associated with older people. How would it look if you were seen with an older person, having a conversation? Maybe your friends would give you strange looks and wonder about you. What kind of questions would they ask?

In our society, older people are often stereotyped as being senile and stupid. No one wants to get old. It isn’t cool. But it may be that someone older than you may have the answers you are looking for.

It isn’t cool to accept help from others. In the USA, we are willing givers but often poor receivers of help. It’s too hard on our pride to admit that we have a need and ask for help. We may even get angry when help (especially financial) is offered to us. We want to be the “self-made millionaire.” It is easier on our pride not to accept help.

Like the two raccoons, we all have a mask. No one puts out their entire life for everyone to see. That wouldn’t be healthy. But when the need arises, find someone who is wiser, who is stronger, and who might be able to help. Take off the mask and share with them. Let down your pride and your “self-made” mentality. No one is self-made. Every successful person who has ever lived has needed the help of many different people.

And finally, go to God. That isn’t a crutch for weak, stupid people. He is a refuge for cunning, savvy people who know they are not as powerful as a hunting dog or a bullet. “He is our refuge, a very present help in times of trouble.”


“Dear Lord, please fight this battle for me. It’s too big for me. I need you, for you are my refuge.”


Running to a refuge is cool for raccoons. And it’s cool for people, too.


In conclusion…

When you are being chased by your problems and by voices that say, “Give up, it’s no use, just end it all,” run away. Don’t accept those voices. Say this prayer, “I reject these voices and these lies in the name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then, run to a refuge, like a counselor or an older person you can trust. And rely on a companion for friendship and support. And most of all, rely on the Lord who is bigger and more powerful than any problem. He is the “Ancient of Days,” the “Wonderful Counselor,” and the “Mighty God.”


If you don’t know him, pray this prayer: “Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me of all I have done wrong, be my refuge and support, and please give me the wisdom and strength I need today. Please guide me to other people who can help me and give me good advice. Please help me to get the rest I need.  I commit my life and my future to you, amen.”


“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good, and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This picture is from a painting by Susan Burrows, 1991.

It is dedicated in this article to Matt & Sarah who liked to go camping up in the Rockies, to Pingree Park.

Their ashes are spread at Pingree (at a memorial made for them).

Go back to beginning of pages dedicated to Matt & Sarah

Pictures of Matt & Sarah copyright 2004 by their families and used with permission. Painting used by permission of Susan Burrows.

Matt & Sarah, January 2004

Pictures of Heaven