Life, Death, and Love
No, I am not talking about leaving this earth as we know it, only as we perceive it. That is, if we can ever accurately understand it.
I was born in 1943 to a 55-year-old father and a 26-year-old mother, who already had a daughter, born 18 months before my arrival. As with all families, ours was the typical American family in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I think it would be generous to say that we were upper lower class. My father, a 1912 Yale graduate, lost everything with the market crash in 1929, including his first wife. Fortunately, they did not have children. My mother was from a very lower class southern European family; she worked two jobs and raised her younger siblings during the Great Depression. My maternal grandmother was a barfly and two years younger than my father.
When I was 15, my father was 70. I emphasize this because I was raised by a relatively young mother and a grandfather, so to speak. At best, there was peace in our family. I cannot say that there was an overly emphasis on showing love – at least through physical connection. dis
My father was a Christian Scientist and spent many hours towards the end of his life reading his Bible and Science and Health. He was a gentle soul who rarely showed his emotion, reflecting on his New England raising.
For many years, and even today, when I reflect on it, I feel cheated from a life with a normal father to take me fishing or teach me to throw a baseball; I could pad the list with examples. Then I think what I learned from my father and his relationship with God. First: be thankful, for health, family, a roof over your head, an income; I could list many other things, but you get the picture.
My father, mother, and sister have all passed into God’s eminent domain, and I have a hard time thinking of them in a loving fashion. It is a very difficult struggle to remember love, when for all practical purposes, there was little. Henri Nouwen reminds us that it is not always easy to express our love even to those who mean the most to us. We do not have the proper words to express how we truly feel; for example, in Greek, there are five separate words for the concept of love. We have one. . .
I really do not care how many words we have; if we can say “I love you,” we create a whole different world for us. Jesus lived a life of unconditional love, even loving from the cross, when he asked God to forgive those who crucified him. As I recall my family, can I do any less?
When I open myself to admit that there is love between me and my family, even if they are no longer physically with me, I realize that Clarence, Beatrice, and Judith are not gone; they are still alive in my mind, still alive in my body, still alive in the very essences of my life.
For this, I am grateful.