Monday, February 15, 2021

Help in Writing "The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin"

Iris Chang's Graveside
I am writing a book entitled The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin. It is a book designed to assist family members and friends who are dealing with the painful aftermath of a loved one's suicide. 

I am placing the FOREWORD to The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin below for you to read. 

I would like to hear from you. Tell me your story of enduring the pain of a loved one who took his or her life. I know this might be the first time you've penned your thoughts, your feelings, and your questions. Tell me of your experience. Let me know what you think I should focus on and what I should avoid. I only ask that you allow me to use what you send if I choose (I'll change your name if you desire). You may leave a comment on this blogpost, or if you'd like, you may email me at or I am not sure when The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin will be finished or published, but I think you could be a resource of help to others. 


The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin
Searing Questions from Those Left Behind by Suicide

Deep in the archives of Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut, is the diary of an American woman who served as a Christian missionary to China from 1912 to 1940. She lovingly served the Chinese people for twenty-eight years and is credited with saving over 10,000 Chinese women from rape, torture, and certain death by invading Japanese Imperial soldiers in what historians call “The Rape of Nanking.”

Her name was Minnie Vautrin.

 As is the archivists’ custom, a biographical/historical summary precedes the diary to familiarize the reader with the author. Yale wrote an eight-sentence summary of Minnie’s life and placed it in the microform manuscript. It is the last sentence of the biographical summary of Minnie Vautrin that took away my breath when I read it for the first time:

“She committed suicide in 1941 at the age of 54.”

That sentence will evoke little emotion in those who know nothing of Minnie or her work among the Chinese. “She committed suicide” is a phrase that ought to grieve all humanity when we hear it, but sadly, a nameless suicide evokes no sympathy.

But “she committed suicide,” when first heard after Minnie’s suicide, tore a hole in the hearts of the 10,000 women that Minnie personally saved from torture and death during the Rape of Nanking.

I wrote The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin for the person living through the consequences of a loved one's suicide. Your loved one’s life mattered; to you, others, the world at large, and God. It is discouraging when “she committed suicide” or “he committed suicide” becomes a phrase that others use of your loved one, defining your loved one's life by how it ended and not the scope of its influence.

This book is for those who have heard the words “he committed suicide,” or “she committed suicide,” and – at that moment – it felt like you died too.

Any suicide is an awful experience for humankind, but the suicide of the one you love leaves a searing scar that feels as if it will never heal.

I understand how you feel, and I may be able to help you heal.

The questions you have about suicide, including how you go about life absent your loved one and where you can turn for some safe emotional, psychological, and spiritual healing, are questions I will address. They are essential questions, and the answers on paper will take time to process into your life.

Suicide kills far more than the one who dies physically. A suicide by your loved one saps your strength and slaps you with excruciating suffering that numbs the positive emotions you once enjoyed. At times, you may have even wished it was you who had taken your life, not your loved one.

I am not an expert on preventing suicide, but I do know something about coping with suicide.
For several years I served as a chaplain for the Tulsa Police Department. I cannot count the number of times dispatch called me to a suicide. The TPD assigned me to notify the victim’s next of kin, but only after going to the scene to answer any questions that loved ones would later ask me after I informed them of the suicide.

Nothing surprised me after working years in the field. The gruesome means of death chosen by a loved one may feel original and horrible to family members, compounded by where the suicide of their loved one took place, how people discovered it, and when and how police informed loved ones. I have learned a principle from my four decades of experience serving as a chaplain and a pastor:

Every suicidal path is unique, but all suicidal pain is ubiquitous.

That means no suicide is the same for anyone, but all loved ones feel the same pain after suicide.

I kept copies of all the suicide notes discovered at the scenes of the suicides I worked. Something is gripping and mesmerizing about one’s final words on paper. I learned a great deal about life through reading and re-reading notes about death. We will talk about some of the lessons I learned from those notes later in this book.

But, as a few of you already know by experience, some suicides will leave no note behind. Those were the hardest for me to work. I had no answers for loved ones who screamed at me, “Why?”

Sometimes families openly wept, and on rare occasions, the victim’s loved ones would attack me physically after I told them the news. I never judged anyone who hit me in the chest or screamed at me to “Get out!” or cursed me and went into a rage. Early on, I learned that emotional outbursts are often unexpected and uncontrolled – particularly when surprised by the devastating and shocking news that someone you love has taken his or her life.

I will be weaving in some narratives of my experiences during my forty years of serving as a police chaplain and pastor, but this book’s focus will be Minnie Vautrin.

Why Minnie? Minnie once said, “Had I ten perfect lives, I would give them all to China.” Minnie’s life wasn’t perfect. Nobody lives a perfect life. But Minnie will provide some profound lessons from her imperfect life for those of us who have struggled with the painful aftermath of a loved one’s suicide.

The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin is not a history book about China, nor do I write to encourage the reader to enter the mission field. This book isn’t even a biography of Minnie Vautrin.

You may have picked this book to read because someone recommended it to you.

Or it could be that the title or subtitle grabbed your attention as you scrolled through a list of books on suicide. I don’t know what made you pick this book, but I understand why you chose it.

You want answers because the one you love is gone, and the aftermath is painful.

Minnie Vautrin served in Nanking, China, the Republic of China’s capital, running a school for young women called Ginling College. She started as a missionary to China in 1912 and served during World War 1 (1914-1918), during the Chinese civil wars between revolutionary communists and the Republic of China (1927-1937), and during the awful start to World War II in the Far East when Imperial Japan invaded China and destroyed the Chinese capital of Nanking (1937-1940).

During the Rape of Nanking, Minnie Vautrin hung an American flag in front of Ginling College and declared her school a “safe zone,” and sheltered 10,000 women and children from death by gunfire, sword, and tortuous rampage. Minnie held her ground when Japanese soldiers aimed rifles at her, slapped her face, and threatened her with death.

Her diary from 1937 to 1940 provides a gripping account of how she managed to save 10,000 Chinese women from Japanese soldiers’ treachery. We’ll examine excerpts from her diary as we look at the psychological and emotional turmoil in Minnie’s life during the Rape of Nanking.

Minnie left China in the spring of 1940 for the United States, intending to return to China after a year-long leave. After speaking to the International Convention during the first week of May 1941, Minnie went to stay with Miss Genevieve Brown, a United Christian Missionary Society secretary in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Unexpectedly, on May 14, 1941, Minnie sealed the small apartment where she was staying and turned on the kitchen stove’s gas jet. She left a note stating that she believed her life “was a failure.”

I didn’t know that Minnie committed suicide until I read Yale Divinity School’s summary of her life in the archives. I learned about Minnie’s heroic efforts to save thousands of Chinese by reading Iris Chang’s 1997 gripping non-fictional book The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World II. That book opened to wide acclaim, appearing on the New York Times Bestseller List for ten weeks, selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

Iris Chang devoted one chapter in the Rape of Nanking to Minnie Vautrin and her heroic courage in saving thousands of Chinese lives in Nanking. When I read Chang’s book, I overlooked the short portion about how Minnie died by suicide in America in 1941.

That’s why I caught my breath when I read that last sentence of Yale Divinity School’s short biography of Minnie Vautrin's life. I knew what she'd done; I didn't know how she died.

Chinese author Iris Chang would have been the best author to write The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin. She was a meticulous historical researcher and a woman who deeply admired Minnie Vautrin.

But on Thursday, September 9, 2004, Iris Chang pulled her small car onto an access road off California Highway 17, just outside San Jose, California. As her car sat parked and idling, Iris Chang took a loaded revolver and shot herself in the head. A passerby found her inside the car the following morning.

Iris left a suicide note that said:
“When you believe you have a future, you think in terms of generations and years. When you do not, you live not just by the day — but by the minute.” 
I hope The Suicide of Minnie Vautrin will help you turn minutes into days, days into months, and months into years – productive years of living, especially in the painful aftermath of your loved one’s suicide.

© Istoria Ministries, 2021. The contents of this website is copyrighted by Istoria Ministries. It may be downloaded or printed for personal use, but it may not, except with expressed written permission of Istoria Ministries, be distributed for any commercial use. 


Unknown said...

Awesome reading this! I have had 3 people in my family commit suicide: distant cousin, niece, and uncle. My father is rumored to have committed suicide as well.
I worked in mental health and fully agree, the lives of these people are so much more than how they ended. I have some insight now and always believed that it was acute and chronic depression alone but now I believe the reason people end their lives is varied; extreme physical pain, terminal illness, anger or rage, depression, accident...the list goes on. Can't wait to read the book.---Julie Villones

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you, Julie - would love your perspective in a fuller email if you feel led!

Bob Cleveland said...

This really underscores the absolute necessity of serving God here, and recognizing that He gives all increase. And also to know how, and when, you are serving Him. Much of the time, I simply do not know the things I mentioned, but occasionally, God lifts the veil and shows me what He did, with something I did.

It always bowls me over!

The key is absolutely and irrevocably knowing Scripture, and applying it to yourself.

Unknown said...

Will do. said...

I've known 2 people who commented suicide Laura and her mother. We knew their family for years. Her grandparents her dad and her aunts we saw them grow up. Then came Laura who when she was old enough played with the kids at our daycare. I remember her smile and her twinkle in her eyes. Then years later when Laura turned 21 on April fools day. She commented suicide her mom hurt so much she commented suicide a week later. Loosing someone this way tears a part of your soul away. But as it is said in Joshua 1;9 to be couages God is with you and will heal you. It takes time but he does. Remember Jesus took all our pain sorrow and sins to the cross He is with you always. Julie Chase

Christiane said...

Wade, I remember a friend from the League of Women Voters up at the lake community in Northern Jersey where we lived for a time, who told me of her sister who had become depressed and committed suicide, and my friend told me that she was so afraid that she also would become mentally ill in future; although she was happily married with two wonderful young children and a kind husband and they all lived on a nice house on the lake in that peaceful place.

But several years later, to everyone's shock, she left her husband and her children and went away, and no one understood 'why?', and her poor husband did ask among her friends if anyone knew what might have been troubling her that this had happened. So I shared with him what she had told me years before, about her fears over what had happened to her sister, and how she seemed so worried that this might happen also to her that she might become mentally ill.

No one really knew what happened, no. She had moved back to the town where she had been raised and lived alone.

Wade, I'm not sure I should have told her husband the confidence she had shared with me, probably wrong of me, but if you had seen his suffering and how we heard the children were suffering from her leaving, anyone would have tried to help in some way if they could. So, I did the wrong thing for the right reason, and likely did not help at all, though I wanted to with all my heart. Years went by and she did not return, and her husband eventually sold the house and made a new start in another town near his family in Jersey. So we lost track of them.

But I remembered this when I read your post, and how it is that there are 'mysteries' about human suffering and the depth of that suffering and how we cannot 'know' the hearts of others or their pain. For some, I think the pain of this Earth is too much and their empathy for suffering creatures is extreme ..... many turn this strong sense of empathy into some kind of positive way to help others, to make a difference. But I think for some, this pain is too much and after a time, they hurt so much that the 'balance of their mind is disturbed' and they do that which we cannot predict or foresee or imagine.

I know my friend suffered over her sister's suicide.
I do not know why she left her family that she loved so much. But I don't judge, WADE. I cannot know her pain.

I wish I had said something to help her long ago, when she shared her worries with me, but I did not know 'what to say' . . . just made us some tea, and listened. In retrospect, I might still have shared what she told me with her sad husband years later, but I also regret breaking the confidence. How do we make sense of what was beyond understanding. said...

I forgot to mention that I was angry I felt that they were selfish and didn't care about how it would be to loved ones in the senseless act of taking their lives and hurting family and friends who knew them. But as I stated God helped me through this. I still hate April fool's day jokes because it hurts there is nothing funny about the day Laura went into the woods and blew her face of with a gun. I think God is using me to help you with the book will continue to help me heal all the way. Julie Chase said...

Wade here is another.I cry because it hurts because 2 precious one's that God had made. Given to their mom and dad in love has selfishly took their lives. Their lives were precious to me what a senseless that they took their own lives. Hurting me and my family along with their family. I don't know but along with myself and my family and theirs. I was angry they we selfish and didn't care how we would feel.Very hurt and angry, shocked at this selfish act. Their desperate act during depression and believing there was no way out. Taking their lives they thought it would help. Not seeing what it would do to loved ones and friends.One of the two I knew took herife because of the first ones selfish act of suicide was her daughter she couldn't handle. Her daughter given from God her precious one whom she carried and bore had grown up only to take her precious life away. This caused the second one that little one's she gave life to died at her own hand taking the sparkle in her eyes away. But even this deep deep wound to our soul God heals in time. But first we have to forgive as Jesus did us at Calvary. Then can we truly heal. said...

Senseless act that they took their own lives.@ one of the two I knew took her life because/ these are corrections to what I wrote last. Julie Chase

Rex Ray said...


A few yards from my headstone there’s another that has a picture of a beautiful 16-year-old girl. Her father is my nephew. One day they found her note: “I know God will take care of me”, and a rope was missing.

When her parents couldn’t find her, all the neighborhood started looking in some very thick woods nearby. Without success, they decided she’d run away. Many days later, they saw a lot of crows; they’d found her.

Every year now, there’s a ‘suicide-walk’ of about a hundred on a golf course that my nephew used to manage. Now he has Alzheimer’s so bad, his second wife takes care of him.

When my nephew was around 20, his father ran him from home when he found him drunk in the bathtub with his clothes and shoes on. He has never become a Christian. I feel sorry for the girl’s younger sister.

RB Kuter said...

Suicide is a confounding thing, especially when it involves a believer.

When in seminary, I took advantage of a preaching program offered as part of the seminary training. Local churches would invite seminary students to preach a sermon as a means for giving them experience. I had very few occasions to preach and was a VERY "green", inexperienced, preacher but one large local church allowed me to come to preach in their Sunday evening service. I was blown away when they put me on a stage in front of a sizeable crowd and were videotaping me for their TV ministry!

I had no prior connection with this church and in my sermon preparation the days preceding my invitation to come to this church, felt led to prepare my next sermon using the passage in Luke 7:10 where John the Baptist sent a message to Jesus just prior to the beheading of John. Obviously John, the original endorser of Jesus being "The Messiah", was having second thoughts when his message sent to Jesus from prison was, "Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?"

My sermon the evening of visiting this large church primarily focused on how we never fully understand God's ways or why we find ourselves in very dark, crisis, situations that life throws at us. I pointed out that even the older cousin of Jesus who had announced Jesus as the Promised One of God was confused and had doubts due to God working in ways unexpected and unexplainable at the time. Jesus did not condemn John, but merely sent a response saying in effect, "You don't have to understand it all. Just look at the evidence of those miracles that I have done."

I had no idea why God led me to preach that word, but immediately following the service I was approached by a lady that said, "We normally have even more people here on Sunday evening but this afternoon we had the funeral service for one of our youth who had committed suicide. God gave us a message of comfort tonight."

Wade Burleson said...

Some excellent comments - Thank you Rex, RB, Christiane, Julie and Bob! Several received by email as well.

Christiane said...

That's a beautiful comment, Mr. Kuter. The older I get the more I am thinking that there are no 'coincidences'. I'm more certain it's all about grace.

Christiane said...


I am keeping Texas and Oklahoma in vigil prayer this night because of the extreme temperatures and the power-outages. I'm hopeful that some folks have fire places and hearts large enough to invite their more unfortunate neighbors in for the sharing of the warmth.

I do not know why it is that the most innocent and helpless among us must suffer the most in this world, but I do hope people will reach out to those in need during this time with compassion and caring. It's almost March, so this cold will pass, but in the meantime, may God have mercy on all affected by this weather.

Rex Ray said...


This ‘Rolling Blackout’ in Texas is driving us crazy. I mean the electricity being turned off and on every 15 minutes is for the birds. To make it worse, every time it goes off, our thermostat for our heat turns down to 62. For a while I thought Judy was doing it.

And I’ve learned the hard way, to save often what I’m writing or you’ve lost everything to your last save.

With snow on the ground, we put birdseed under an outside table. There’s usually about 40 birds from small size and up.

We put a light that burns all the time in our water well housing.

Christiane said...

"With snow on the ground, we put birdseed under an outside table. There’s usually about 40 birds from small size and up."

the God-Who-Loves-Even-the-Sparrows blesses you both for this! :)
Well done !

Rex Ray said...


Word has spread; there’s about double the number of birds now.

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. (Matthew 10:29 NLT)

Rex Ray said...

Rush Limbaugh died today at age 70 from lung cancer. I don’t have to tell how great a man he was or how his radio program influenced America.

Gerry Milligan said...

So, Rex Ray, by smoking did this "great man" commit suicide?

Paul D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul D said...

For the record - I deleted my previous comment because it doesn't belong on this important post by Wade.


Rex Ray said...

Gerry Milligan,

I know the topic of the post is suicide, but ‘stupidity’ is not suicide.

Christiane said...

Hello out there REX RAY,

another night of concern and prayer for those in the ice storm areas, especially the ones who are already medically compromised and in need of medications and oxygen, which cannot be operated without electricity.

What CAN be done now to help? Practical help? This sounds like a disaster turning into a catastrophe. IF the roads were clear, and people had the gas to drive a good distance, getting out of that privately operated power 'grid' area into other parts of the country now might be something to think about. (?)

The worse the climate change situation happens, the more weather EXTREMES will be seen. Larger storms, extreme temperatures, greater flooding . . .
well, it looks like this is what is already beginning to happen

Am praying for those with special needs tonight, that the Good Lord move people to reach out to them.

Rex Ray said...


I believe the worst is over on the lack of electricity. Starting off, the electricity was 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. Then it changed to 15 minutes off and 30 minutes on. Last night, we went to bed with the electricity on, and at 4:20 this morning it was on. I know it didn’t go off during the night because our ‘tricky’ thermostat wasn’t at 62 but at 75 with the heat still on. 😊

Gerry Milligan,

Our father’s definition of a cigarette was “a fire on one end and a fool on the other.” When my twin brother and I were very young, he taught us to step on a cigarette butt and say, “Dirty old cigarette!” I guess that paid off because I’ve never smoked a cigarette and I’ll be 89 next month; “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”. said...

Wade Here is something that God gave me for your book. A letter from the people that I knew who committed suicide. In dispare. I'm so much in dispare I care about nothing. I feel like I'm in a deep deep hole. Nothing matters to me. No one cares anyway. I'm so depressed I feel nothing I'm just in this deep deep hole of dispare and depression. Maybe my death will help. Nothing else has. So I say goodbye everyone and goodbye world. I'm going now to my death no one will care anyway. My death is my release. So I say now. Goodbye said...

If anyone feels this way call someone even call our church for help. Emmanuel at 580 237 0602

Rex Ray said...

Our father, Dave, took our mother to a Dallas doctor as she was getting worse. He told them the medicine she was taking should have been only for a short time, and it would kill her if she continued taking it.

Dr. X was her Bonham doctor. Dave was so angry, he told Dr. X he was nothing but a horse-doctor.

Later Dave phoned Dr. X requesting some cold medicine for our mother.


Years later, Dave was in a rest home, and I rushed him to Dallas because I thought he had a stroke. He couldn’t multiply or remember much. Drs. said he didn’t have a stroke.

Later, I learned when he was in the rest home, Dr. X had them give Dave a nonreversible drug that’s given to control crazy people.

Dave asked for my belt so he could get out of a horse-trough.

I said, “No, Daddy, you’re in a hospital.”

With tears on his face, he said, “I’ve done a lot for you.”

He smiled, as he held my belt in a flash, and said, “I love you.”
I told him the same, and that was our last conversation on this earth.

Christiane said...

Good Morning, REX RAY

that's a beautiful comment about your father . . .

how are you all keeping these days in the frozen southland?

Rex Ray said...


I knew if anyone replied, it’d be you. The snow is gone. :)

Many years later, our mother was in the hospital. One night, my sister was in the corner of her room, and Dr. X didn’t see her. He said to our mother, who was asleep, “Well, Mrs. Ray, do you think it’s time you joined Dave?”

When he saw my sister, he ran out of the room. said...

There is no great pit that God is not greater still. Corrie Ten Boom

Lissa Roberson said...

A podcast called tells stories about current events (BLM, COVID, Election 2020) with details not mentioned in the media. I just listened to Episode 88, "Under the Rug." It covers the story of Trevor Till, a young student at University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign. This former senior high school class president took his life by hanging Oct 21, 2020, despondent as a result of draconian COVID isolation practices at the campus. His mother, Lisa Moore is interviewed extensively in the broadcast.

The broadcast concludes that our kids are the worst victims of COVID. They have witnessed how in our nation's pandemic panic, we have been made to surrender more and more of our personal rights in the name of safety, and they will come away regarding this as a normal function of government. In the case of Trevor Till, the right to assemble and interact with other college students was too great a loss for him to bear. His mother is shattered to the point that she can't even read the paltry two cards that she received from university staff. The U. of IL did not report his death in its university newspaper.

The bright spot in this tragedy is that social gathering restrictions were lifted for his funeral, and hundreds of people attended. That must have offered his mother some comfort, but she will carry the loss of a dearly loved son for the rest of her life.

Scott Shaver said...

Christianne: Is climate not always changing since creation?

Scott Shaver said...

Christianne: Think we'll stick with our independent state power grid in Texas and do a better job of wrapping attic pipes and ahutting off water mains.

Humans have always adapted to "climate change".

Try that on Mars.