{The Black Dog is Chasing Me}

I struggle with periodic depression.  I’ve written a lot about it here on the blog.  See above link for more. 

This, this is today.

'Run!' photo (c) 2012, Steve Garner - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I feel myself withdrawing.  I am slowly closing in on myself, retreating …
Avoiding the very thing that heals,
I do the thing that I most hate:  run.

I cannot stop.
For days I have run and run and
that Black Dog laps at my heals.  Chasing
me, mocking. But on and on I run

believing I can run fast enough, far enough.
Away.
I have never outrun the Dog.

I am filled with sadness, a despair
that’s sweetly familiar while so sour.
I hate
that old dog. I hate myself. I hate my
cycles.

This too I hate
about myself for I am a piss poor friend.
There it is
the Demon of Lies, legions there flying about the room — named.

Long ago, before I was even born
this legacy grew into an inheritance, and I cannot break the cycle.
It, this would take a miracle.
Where do I find a miracle because I’m all out of them.

Break the cycle.
Break the pain.
Kill the demon that
whispers,
chants,
sings,
sighs,
plays with me,
plays an opus of loathing.
Someone please help before it crushes me.

For I am just a little girl not good enough for a friend.

All’s Well That Ends Well.

As much as I would like to take it back, I wrote what I did the other day about my family of origin because it was true.  That won’t make it less real.  But, that said, my father is dead and gone and he left us to sort out our lives without him.  That is what I am attempting to do, sort out my life, but I realize that I cannot keep talking about it.  I have to do something to move on.

I love my sisters and Mother dearly.  Whatever happens, I simply want them to know that. And like my dear sister said to me today she is not my father.  I must do something to move on.

It isn’t that easy to move on.  First we must heal.  Then we must figure out how to live!  We must face the fact that we are creating our own legacy.

These conversations about family legacy force this question:  What do I want to leave my precious children with when I am gone?  

Here are a few things I thought of today in no particular order:

  • I want my kids to feel like home is a safe place.  This means I will be there when they cry, listen when they talk to me, offer advice or just an ear when they have a problem they don’t understand.  I want to be available for them day-to-day.
  • I want my kids to know that they can change anything about their life and they have personal power. That they are in control of their bodies and can eat healthily, exercise and keep in control of their weight.  I must teach this by my example. (Sigh.)
  • I want my kids to know they have the intelligence to accomplish anything they set their mind to if they are willing to work hard.
  • I want my kids to feel that our home was a welcoming place for others — their friends, our friends, even strangers.  If so then our home should be a place where anyone is welcome, anytime. My kids need so see me listening attentively to my elderly neighbor with love and respect, bringing a meal to a sick friend or neighbor, opening my heart and our home and welcoming others in.  That means keeping the house tidy and if it isn’t “clean enough” then lighten-up.  Relationships are more important.
  • I want to pass on our love for music, literature and the arts, so I need to think about creating spaces in our life that cultivates this. This means setting aside time intentionally for bedtime reading (before they or I are falling into bed dead tired). This will mean buying tickets to the symphony and visiting more museums and shows.  Showing them this great love that we have.
  • I want to pass on my passion for social, racial and gender justice and live my life in such a way they understand how important it is. I want it to be as natural and right to them as breathing.
  • We want to live our lives so that our children know how important it is to treat every person with dignity, kindness and respect.
  • I want to regularly and passionately affirm the good in my children — not superficial qualities but those things that are a part of your core person.  
  • We want our children to have empathetic hearts so that they see other’s needs and willingly, lovingly meet them.
  • I want our children to know that being a follower of Jesus was the central motivation for my life and that knowing and loving Yahweh changed me.  It transformed me and made me the person that I am and it set my life’s priorities.

Whether we set aside time to consider it and be intentional, or not, we are building a legacy for our children every day in how we treat one another and prioritize our time and money.  Even so we have no control over what our children remember about us.  My father would certainly be heartbroken to know what I recall most about him — the yelling more than the hugs, the disappointment I thought he expressed to me over the affirmations that also came.  

What will we be remembered for and what will we leave behind?  I only have a few more years with my children under my roof.   I want to keep thinking about this.  When my children are remembering Tom and me, what will their most powerful memories be? What about you?  How do you hope your children, family and community will remember you? 

Aging, Legacies and more Time with our Family

my parents did as well as they could

I often wonder if I am too hard on the memory of my father.  As the years go by the memories fade good and bad ones.   A couple of things happened this weekend that made me think of my father.  He died in his early sixties.  He should have had another thirty years.

92-year old Billy Graham was interviewed recently.   He has come to the time of his life when he spends a lot of time alone, requiring the care of others.  I suppose that stage of things makes one reflective.

When asked to give advice to those who are aging he said “Accept itAnd thank God every day for the gift of that day.”

I do dread getting old.  And yet I have this idea that I will just sort of live on in perpetuity with my body and mind falling apart.  I have joked that I want to be euthanized to save everyone the misery of my madness gone out of control.

My father wouldn’t accept that he was sick or was going to die, so much so that he refused to talk about when he was gone.   Even when he was diagnosed with brain tumors in regions of his brain that would leave him without speech and would impact his ability to sort out emotion.  And yet as he slowly left us, his body breaking down from the chemotherapy and his mind  slowly slipping away from us, he became meaner. And more confused about reality.  And eventually he couldn’t form words.  One or two here and there in the week that he died were like small gifts to those who received them.

His very last words to me, when I told him I loved him, were “I love you more.”

When he was still cognizant and before the surgery he did to his credit want to clear the air. Those last conversations differed for each of us daughters.  In mine, I spoke more than he did.  Fearful, I told him his anger and disappointment with me over the years had shaped my life.  He listened and accepted.  He spoke the words of apology.  It would have been miraculous and life changing had he not then gone on to spend an hour with my sister berating and criticizing her for how she managed money.  He wanted some money my parents had loaned her.

I felt responsible for that.  My conversation had been unexpectedly positive and though a lifetime of experiences told her not to she trusted him and met with him.  He crushed her as he had each of us so many times over the years.

That’s what he left us.  He left no letters for us.  He left without any parting advice or even the last word.  Ironically, the man who always had the last word in life refused to believe he was going to die.  He was going to get back out there to continue God’s work.  He believed he had time.

When asked of his regrets Graham said “he would spend more time at home with his family, study more and preach less.”  Wow! I think every MK and PK alive today longs to hear those words from their parents.  He wished he had spent more time with his family.  My dad prayed for healing to get back out there, not a few more months of life so that he could treasure his family and say his goodbyes.  He wanted to get back out there and reach our world for Christ. (At that time it was his work in China.)

Graham continued:

“God has a reason for keeping us here (even if we don’t always understand it), and we need to recover the Bible’s understanding of life and longevity as gifts from God—and therefore as something good. Several times the Bible mentions people who died “at a good old age”—an interesting phrase (emphasis added). So part of my advice is to learn to be content, and that only comes as we accept each day as a gift from God and commit it into his hands. Paul’s words are true at every stage of life, but especially as we grow older: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

I miss my dad.  He was never content.  And I’ve concluded that he had to die for the rest of us to live.  I know those are harsh thoughts.  Do I really believe that God “took him” or did his life finally just end?  I will never know and it doesn’t really matter does it?  What I do know is the result of his death.  I could not break free from the chains of my experiences with him and my mother.  I did not have the strength or the knowledge of how to do that.   In the end, he left and I became free.

Could I have experienced the growth of the last eight years with him still alive?  Not so quickly.  Or intentionally.  Or in the same way.  He was such a force.  He was IRON in my life, but as iron sharpens iron, iron on something weak shapes it in the ways it wants.

So why so much talk of legacy and more time and regrets?  Because it is a bittersweet thing to lose a parent when they were a coercive fury in your life.  Choking.  Compelling.  And yet all that you knew of love.

Yeah, it’s mixed up.

MH

PK: Preacher’s Kid and MK: Missionary’s Kid

Good Dad, Bad Dad (A poem I wrote in 2004)