This is surely the toughest post I’ve written to date (as it’s often easier to disclose pieces of me while remaining within the fictional realm). I couldn’t on this occasion. My heart just wouldn’t let me.
Most of you don’t know me well enough to realize that I pretty much raised myself as a latchkey kid, while my widower father worked many miles away as a teacher and a coach (meaning I saw him leaving as I awoke in the morning and rarely was still awake when he came in after a lengthy day of work). Single parents do the best they can with the resources they have. Their best provision under those circumstances can’t equip their children with the social skills they need to function in healthy relationships out in the world, though. At least, not for me or many others I know.
Despite the values I thought I had, I was pregnant at the age of 17. Looking back, I don’t think it was an issue of morality. I think it was the need to be fulfilled through a close relationship – it was a desperate plea for love.
Despite the involved young man’s lack of desire to be a father at 18 (and his suggestion for me to reconsider being a mother), in the end, he surprised me. He showed up in another town (where I was hiding out at an older sister’s house) and offered to live with me. My older sister, in her best intentions, insisted we should get married. My morals agreed to that price because my experience didn’t understand the higher price of victim-multiplication.
Now, this young man hadn’t had it any better off than I had in the relational realm. If put to measurement, his life experience was surely greater (on many counts). He’d been the oldest of six children. (I’d been the youngest of four, by far “the baby.” My sisters had already left home when our mom died.) This young man had been tasked with the responsibility of caring for five younger siblings every night while his mother worked second shift into the night (and then imbued in her social life thereafter). “Caring for” his siblings included cooking dinner, assuring clean-up, homework, baths, bed, and any other demands, including figuring out how to scrounge up food for dinner on many occasions. There was no father close by to visit, with only an abusive father figure who had died. My point is, this guy might’ve been better at cooking and even surviving than me, but neither of us were equipped for a healthy relationship, particularly not a marriage.
It was no time after getting married (about 3 months, to be exact) before I was back at my dad’s, baby in tow. Within the year, my newlywed husband was back in town with no place to live; within two years, there were two babies in tow. Not long after that, while in school, I lost a third infant. (Yes, young people are extremely fertile; and, no, birth control isn’t always effective.) A little more time passed, and my father was killed in an accident. (To be brutally honest, I probably wasn’t helping his health conditions much anyway.) My young husband and I were left to figure out how to finish raising ourselves and our own children.
I don’t intend to go into the details of our 18 years of marriage; but I will tell you that we didn’t do such a great job on that part about raising one another. The marriage ended (for real this time – unlike all those other times) after my husband was involved in multiple affairs (likely many more than I ever learned about), battled addiction issues, and finally placed a bullet through his heart as I stumbled over myself falling out his back door (because I thought he had pulled the undisclosed weapon to use it on me). His concluding action demonstrated what he’d been feeling for likely his entire life – his heart was bursting in pain – and neither of us had the ability to relationally heal it. We weren’t equipped. Perhaps he thought taking control of this heart-breaking issue by his own hands was kinder than allowing others to rip it to pieces for him. I’ll never truly know the answer on this side of heaven.
Interestingly, we weren’t arguing at the time of his death (not even for the couple of months prior). Things had actually been more peaceful between us. He’d been to my house for a birthday dinner; and he’d even openly had another girlfriend, though we weren’t yet divorced (yes, that had stung too; but I knew it was time to move on). Just as I’d told him that morning, I continued to hope and pray that he was on the road to recovery, for his sake and for the sake of our sons.
His life coming to such an early and abrupt end was very tragic – and still is – more than my own heart could ever stand to express, though I trust in a merciful God who loves us even when we can’t find reason to love ourselves.
Today, the wound of that sadness was re-opened when I learned from a friend that the woman who had a hand in putting a demise to our family (or at least putting the final nail in the coffin), with a blatant affair of shared addictions, had also passed due to years of abuse to her body. My mind traveled back to those many years ago when I honestly would’ve wished her dead – back to when I felt so much hurt from her actions with my husband that I had to pray daily – no hourly… make that by the minute – that God could somehow give me enough compassion for her to take those thoughts away. Amazingly, that day finally did come – after months and months of prayer – when I was able to see this woman as a wounded child, also hungry for relationship, also desperately searching to meet her need for someone’s love. In that instant, I was able to let go of my hatred and pain, to forgive her transgressions (as mine have been forgiven), and even years later, to continue to pray for her health and wholeness – to pray that she had found peace and joy in her life.
According to my friend, this woman’s Facebook read, “R.I.P [with her name]“. In my mind, I want to imagine – to hope – she was able to enter into a healthy relationship, to find her peace, that my prayer had been answered long before this day of her demise came.
And I pray the same for anyone reading this today. I offer up that prayer for us all in the most difficult of circumstances, the most challenging situations, when our hearts are breaking, when we feel the pain and the demise of life – that we can find not only our peace, but we can recognize and embrace the joy of a life that’s been given to us by a loving Father, one for each of us to share…
in healthy, whole relationships with one another.
I believe I took this at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City (Jerusalem)