I gotta tell ya, this grief thing is weird. Just when I think I have a handle on my emotions I find myself tearing up and wishing this was all a strange dream.
Having a faith that sustains me, and a Faith Tradition that is Truth, allows me to process the anguish of losing a loved friend without having to explode unpleasantly all over other people. That was not true for me when my husband died but it is true for me today. I am grateful that I am not the same person I was twenty five years ago.
I do get twinges of jealousy at times, however, because I don't know what it is like to have grown up with a father like Neil or Joe or the other good men I have met through my Parish. I do not want to paint my father as a complete monster - the man was horribly damaged by an awful childhood, horrific combat experiences during WWII and his own unspoken and unacknowledged battle with Alcoholism. Neither do I want to be one of the people who run around with an open head wound, bleeding on everyone around me while insisting that I am FINE, dammit, JUST FINE. It is important, in my opinion, to be able to look at the past with a clear and loving eye. It is important to look at the past through the lense of Faith and Love. If I don't I will rob not only myself of the chance for serenity and happiness but I will wrest the possibility for a good and stable life from the hands of future generation of Shaws, of which there are three members that mean the world to me.
Thanks to good therapy and the guidance of good priests (Father Hurd, Father Serpa, Father Illo - you know who you are), I think today I am able to accept the past and embrace it without lying to myself and others. My father's behaviors - his infidelity, his lying, his drinking and his violence in word and deed - adversely affected me. I am also able to embrace the past without wallowing in it. My father's behaviors - all of them - did not make me an alcoholic nor cause me to choose to live a life of sin when I was younger. I did that of my own free will and I paid the price for that; I have repented, I have received the Grace of Forgiveness and I have done what is necessary in this world to lessen my time of Purification when my time comes to leave this earth.
My challenge today is to not alienate those I love because of my worry for their eternal souls. God has their backs just as He has mine and I have to trust that my prayers will lead them Home to Truth in the same way my mother's prayers led me Home twenty years ago. I hate the idea that they might have to suffer as I suffered, but if that is their fate I rejoice in knowing that their dark pasts will become their greatest assets.
And I take comfort in knowing I have people like Neil and Joe praying with me for their souls.