When my father died in October 1982, the hurt was so real and deep as if I died helpless with him. I was 42, divorced again, alone with a baby then 2, and unequipped to handle all the legal and emotional ramifications that followed, nor was I prepared at the estrangement of my oldest three children. I wept and cried out to a God I really only recently gave my heart to. I felt myself breaking, falling. Yet, I knew the severity of his love and that even in my weakness as my Jesus, my father’s love was unconditional and he died loving his daughter, that we were close, that we did fuse and that time would heal.
What I could not bear was the destructiveness and threats of others, for when we rebel, strikeout, harm, turn away, isolate; all the threats, greed, and estrangement begins; for without God to forgive and show HIS mercy, we only exalt ourselves, my children included.
I had no church then, was such a babe in Christ that flesh far outweighed what little I knew about the word. I tried to be friendly. I tried to make decisions, but, I became more and more isolated to face my tragedy alone, locked away from everybody; and in Florida as well. But, I had Jesus and a small inkling of faith was beginning to perpetrate itself to let the Lord do a molding as He still continues. My father loved me and approved of me, mistakes or not, just as Jesus forgives, and I cared for him during illness and did not rob his dignity. I believe he is with the Lord now as we both cried together over many TV preachings. He was always there for me and now instead of depending on literal man and father I would have to turn my life over to my spiritual father.
But, my mother was different. I know I had buried in my subconscious, ultimate feelings and hurt that until recently lie dormant. She died in 1976, Elsie Elizabeth of German decent. I did not even know she had a heart attack or problems, in fact was told by my dad she was in bed with the flu; never mind hold her or do for her before she died. The pain of irrevocable loss. A greater and deeper pain because there was no sense of unity, and closeness. The loss is greater and more terrible when the closeness is not attained. I never realized until this teaching that I’d never forgiven her for dying the way she died and I’d heard her, even now in times of job loss, attacking me, criticizing me, judging. All my life I had struggled to come closer to her, then she was lost to me and it eluded me. Pain now of remembering, disharmonies of not pleasing her since my teen years.
Did I carry over the same traits to my children? To my father I could do no wrong. I was encouraged. But, I could never be what my mother wanted, and I never knew what she wanted. So I tormented myself with all the regrets and guilts…and now in life’s circle as Ecclesiastes so eloquently states, I know my oldest are going through the same. I wanted to die spiritually with her to attain that unity. I remember talking to my father before he died in 1982, “Why, why, could she not show love?” But as always, in tears, my dad assured me she did love me.
The guilts came from my rebellion against her. The anguishing compassion for her life. Smells, her room, a garden when I was a child and wild strawberry patches. Why do people carry away with them so great a part of our knowledge of them, of their thoughts and feelings, which would make us love them better. I see in my daughters the same traits as my mother…and me. In the flesh we think we understand intuitively. We do not. Only the love that comes from Jesus and the work the Holy Spirit can cast that sensitivity in our lives. My mother closed the door on me the day I sought an independent life from her, as a young woman having her own children.
I made mistakes and needed from someone what eluded me. I spent endless efforts returning to her and trying to be a good daughter. What a burden of guilt when a mother serves you, does all the menial tasks for you, feeds you, works for you, but, then does not approve of what you become. (Insert: We are not all solely responsible for our destinies.) I do love and approve of my children, and forgive them of their misconceptions and even sometimes hates. Jesus loves me and loves them. To withhold our own thoughts and feelings and stay in estrangement because of fear of condemnation handed down is a stronghold to be broken and generational bondage. We need to pray and have unending faith and forgive ourselves.
In a sense th dormant pain of her death lying unreconciled was deeper than my fathers’s death. Guilts: I didn’t love her well enough. When I was 18 and left her house and began to grow in a different direction, I rebelled against her beliefs and attitudes which I considered a threat to my existence. My mother wanted me to be someone other than the woman I was, perhaps her own hidden dreams or aspirations? So I turned away from God and my upbringing and lived under her critical eye. As soon as she died, my rebellion collapsed. I had never realized until now fifteen years later. During her life I fought her influence and she fought in me the kind of woman who had displaced her. Strange how God uses even death to make us see the error of our ways. Now with Jesus in my life, I have attained that fusion I so longed for with my mother in my adult life. I have become as a Christian, what she wanted.
Sometimes what blocks compassion is overestimation of the other’s power. So the power over us as children, doesn’t mean they did not have fears, doubts, pains, troubles, tragedies; and that any moment they might need us desperately yet remain silent or stay away for fear of intrusion. Their strength was relative to our childish helplessness, but, later they had a claim to our acceptance of their human frailties and fallibilities. Compassion for our parents is a true sign of maturity…not what the world tells us.
I have really let go and forgave both myself and my mother….neither of us knowing how to reach the other. It is sometimes easier to love parents/people after their death. The traits which were in opposition to our own, which threatened to alter us, to infringe on our ordered lives and privacy are forgotten. It was not that their death created in us the capacity to lose their qualities (my mother had many). But the rebellion died with her, and its absence left me not so concerned with my own survival, but, recognition of others values and reaching out in God’s love. Sometimes it’s easier to do with strangers than your own family. (Insert: I see my daughters now in their 50’s dealing between God and what He demands vs their own treatment or non treatment of me. And they haven’t reconciled.)
We are all handed down traits..some more inherent as genes, which I felt threatened me. Nor was I proud young of being German sa a child of WWII and a madman named Hitler. And so it goes. Do my own children feel the same towards me? (Insert: Oh yes…from divorcing my 2nd husband, a Greek who abused me and cheated.) IE. All the times my Greek mother-in-law threw it in my mother’s face what Hitler and the Germans did to the Greeks…repressed sensitivity. My father had been in an orphanage at thirteen, (his father died in the 1918 flu epidemic.) yet he worked his way though college, built his business as an electronic engineer and innovator, inventor; to give me what he didn’t have.
When my mother died I repressed guilts; was forced to take into myself this conflict, and realized I had long ago lost the battle. I am now a woman in God my mother wanted as a daughter…so the circle is complete…almost.
The loneliest, the most carefree caring aspects of those we love we are rarely given, because of the conflict, real or imagined, which we engage in each one, in each family to assert our own individual rules and existence against the “home” rules. So we hold back our love, our appreciation while the person is alive, bent on our own rebellion and pursuits instead of being sensitive to the crying needs of one who may silently need us so desperately. Or just need a reconfirming, Mom, or Dad, etc. “I love you so much …what can I do for you?
The Lord said that he who exalts himself shall be humbled. (As it is pride.) I’ve been truly humbled. I’ve gone full circle. I know my parents loved me now..my mother too, and made mistakes as I did. I pray I don’t have to reach the grave-site sitting up in 1st Heaven looking down, to hear the words from my children that says, “I love you”. Ecclesiastes says in the eleventh chapter, “Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from the flesh for childhood and youth are vanity.”
When we fear God and put Him first…seek wisdom..all the rest will follow and we will have the unity of love and spirit we desire; both with our relationship with God or our parents, children, spouses…family. If the seeds aren’t planted, they cannot bear fruit. Bondages can’t be broken. Sometimes those seeds lie dormant, and we don’t see the fruit in our lifetime. We need to be good to one another and communicate our love and innermost gratitude to those close to us while they are here on earth….to make a difference and to care. To love and encourage helps build our own self confidence and esteem..and us parents need this too, or we forever silently bear our pain.
(c) 1997 “Journey from Despair ”