Please also see Parts 1, 2, & 3 of this post, as well as a related previous post. All of these posts are under the category ‘Death in my Family‘.
During Dad’s time in the hospital, I had decided I was going to move back to where he was living so I could be with him, and oversee his care. His death did not alter that decision, but it profoundly altered the course of my life. After taking care of a few immediate details, and getting the probate process started on his will, I closed up the house and returned to Boston, and work. I had planned that I would use some immediate funds I gained access to to settle most of my debts, and work through June of that year, then resign and move back to where my parents lived, and where I now live. I originally planned to drive my car across Canada, heading straight north from Boston, and starting across from Montréal and visit family friends and family along the way.
Before the situation with Dad had flared up, my situation at work had not been going the way I had hoped in a new job I had started. When I returned, things deteriorated more quickly than I could have imagined. The reasons are many, but mostly it had to do with mis-communication and misunderstanding on all sides. I ended up leaving much earlier than I had originally planned–ultimately on fairly good terms. I sold everything I had, including the car, shipping what I kept, and flying back instead of driving. As the plane circled around a nearby lake before landing at the small airport here where I now live, I had this warm feeling that I was truly ‘home’. I had never felt at home the entire time I lived in Boston. Sure, I had some wonderful times there, and tremendous professional growth, but it never became a city I felt at home in. Every time I return home now from a trip and I see the lake from the freeway that leads into the valley here, I feel that warm sense of being ‘home’. It has never gone away. I don’t think it ever will.
I moved into Mom and Dad’s old house, which was now my house. They had left me set up very well, with an entire household and car to get started on a new life. For the first time, I truly had financial security. My life was coming to a place where I truly wanted to be. I just wished so much that I could share it with them, tell them how grateful I was. Sometimes, I felt guilty about how this all came about. When I expressed this to a friend once, he said that they “know you’re grateful”, and to not feel guilty. “They wanted this for you,” I remember him saying. It’s true; as I think back on my life with my parents, all they really ever wanted was for me to be happy and fulfilled in my life, no matter what it was I was doing.
I was able to take a year off from working, and I spent the time just exploring who I was and what I wanted to be, and working through and healing from the grief I felt over their deaths. I took a long road trip east part-way across Canada through Alberta and Saskatchewan and visited all of my family on my Dad’s side–family that, while we always were in touch, I hadn’t had a lot of contact with growing up and as an adult. I also visited the town in Alberta where Dad was born, and a town in Saskatchewan where my grandmother’s family first settled when they came to Canada from Ireland. It was good to get in touch with my roots, and my family history. It helped to heal me.
I especially cherish a visit I had with my Dad’s younger brother in Saskatchewan while I was on that trip. My uncle was suffering from vascular dementia. At the time I visited him almost three years ago now, his short-term memory was completely gone, but his long-term memory was quite intact. We spent the evening in their living room talking about times gone by. I told him how Dad had mistaken me for him during his last days in the hospital, and how Dad would call me “asshole”, like he called my uncle when they were teenagers. My uncle had a good laugh. Unfortunately, the next morning, he didn’t remember our conversation, and he greeted me at breakfast as if I had just arrived, and didn’t remember that his older brother had just passed away seven months earlier–I didn’t correct his memory on that latter point. My uncle joined his older brother, my Dad, in the spirit world earlier this month, after giving up the battle against his disease.
Eventually, through some volunteer work I had begun to do during my time off work, I found work in a completely different field from which I had ever worked before. I now work at a front-line social service agency, and I started out running the outreach breakfast they do for the local street population on Saturdays–I had been volunteering for it. In the past, I avoided homeless people; now, I work with them. I also volunteer at a drop-in shelter that is open during the winter months. Yes, these folks are rough, they are imperfect, many suffer from various addictions, and some have done and do some very terrible things, but I have come to see them–and all people, as valuable and worthy of care and respect–and not in need of mine or anyone else’s judgement. I no longer run the breakfast (I’m back to volunteering for it), but I continue to work at this agency, now in the legal advocacy program, and in administrative capacities. Just three or four years ago, I never in a million years would have thought I’d be doing what I’m doing. But, for the first time in my professional career, I can genuinely say that I love my job. In two years of working there, I have yet to wake up and dread the thought of going to work.
I have formed a circle of friends here that are closer than any I’ve had since childhood. They have become my new ‘family’, and while nobody could ever take the place of my parents in my life, some fill different aspects that Mom and Dad filled. Some are trusted advisers, and others are those I can just call on and have a good bitch session.
The sweat lodge ceremony has become a weekly routine for me. Unlike church, I never have to convince myself to go, and I always gain something from it. I only miss out on it if I’m either out of town or sick. It healed me of my grief. During my grieving process, it taught me an important lesson: it is okay to grieve, it is okay to cry; and these are important things. Tears cleanse you; grieving is a very natural part of life, and it must be experienced. It helps you to ‘re-set’ and to ultimately move forward. These things are to be embraced and experienced, not stuffed away or denied–I even took the opportunity to properly grieve over my brother’s death which happened many years ago while I was still a teenager. Christian Science never brought me that comfort or that healing. In Christian Science, death and the grief connected to it were mortal illusions that were to be denied, not embraced. Christian Science left me emotionally ‘constipated’ after Mom’s death, and I realize now, even after my brother’s death all those years ago. The spiritual walk I’m on now has allowed me to release all of that grief, and to heal and to move on. I have fellowship in this spiritual walk that Christian Science never did and never could give me.
Despite how it has all come to me, I have never in my life felt more at peace with where I am than I do now. I used to ask myself the question, “Would you give up everything you have in your life now, and go back to living and working in Boston if it meant having your parents back in your life?” My answer, after a lot of consternation was ‘no’. It took me awhile to get over the guilt I felt at my answer to that question. A dear friend helped me with that by simply saying that my parents weren’t meant to be with me on this part of my journey, but they wanted me to have it. I truly believe that, and genuinely feel they would be very happy for me now.
I have sold the house Mom and Dad left me. It was always their retirement home, I had never lived in it before, and it honestly never truly felt like my home and I had little emotional attachment to it. The equity will eventually help me buy another place when I’m ready to be a homeowner again, or it may just be the basis for my retirement. I don’t outline too many plans anymore. I also use some of the money I have now to travel–something I haven’t always been able to do in the past.
All I know is that Mom and Dad deeply loved me, and they always just wanted me to be happy, whether that meant being a Christian Scientist or not. I realize now, that part of the reason I stuck with Christian Science as long as I did and tried to make it work for me was that I somehow didn’t want to disappoint them. I realize now, that couldn’t be farther from the truth about how they felt. Yes, it would have saddened them had I left while they were still alive, but they would have ultimately been happy for me if they knew I was happy.
I left Christian Science for one simple reason: I have realized that it simply does not work as advertised and that it’s complete bullshit. I didn’t fail as a Christian Scientist, and neither did my parents. It failed us, and it did so in the most miserable way possible. I will not suffer the same fate that my parents did. I now see a doctor and take medication if I am ill or injured. I can honestly say that I don’t think I could ever go back to Christian Science, despite the fact that I’ve usually always lived by the adage “never say ‘never'”. I can definitely say that I will never ever go back to my Christian Science students’ association. I have been able to release some of the bitterness and anger over what my teacher said to me when I told him I had taken Dad to the hospital (see Part 2), but I could never again be guided in any way by a man who holds such extreme views on ‘radical reliance’. He also expressed over the years, other very conservative views on some social issues that had always deeply troubled me and do not align with what I know and deeply feel to be right and just–and to the best of my knowledge have no basis in the actual teachings of Christian Science or Jesus Christ. One of the greatest reliefs for me came the day I finally withdrew once and for all from my association. I have also withdrawn my membership in The Mother Church.
Yes, as a legacy of Christian Science, I probably wait longer than most people before I seek medical treatment, but it’s all ‘baby steps’. I am growing in a new direction–I’m still stocking my medicine cabinet, literally and figuratively. I have discovered the wonders of cold medicine, inhalers, and ibuprofen, and boy do antibiotics work wonders! Where have these been all my life?
Never a day goes by that I am not grateful for what I have, living where I do, and doing the work that I do, and for the spiritual path I am now on. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all that you gave me in life, and for this final gift you gave to me–this life I have now. I love you; I always have, and always will. My grief has passed, but I will always miss you guys, and I hope you are in a good way, and in a good place.