Daddy's Precious Guncase
"My wounded heart wanted something, anything, to hold onto."
by Peg Coleman
So there we were, "the sisters", standing in the bedroom shared, until recently, by Mom and Dad. It was the day after the funeral and we were alone for the first time since word of Mom's death become known. In an attempt to hold at bay the painful experience of dealing with my first great personal loss, I suggested it might help Dad if we went through Mom's things while we were all together. It seemed 'sensible' to save Dad the pain of doing it on his own once we had all returned to our "normal" lives. If you had pushed me at the time to consider why I felt the need to do this, my honest answer would have been "for Dad". But I realized later that my way of dealing with my own pain was action--action of any kind was better than sitting around. Sitting around simply meant facing the obvious glaring gap of my mom--our family's center. Sitting around meant we would be doing it without my mom curled up in the Lazy Boy Recliner, toothpick in hand, Twins baseball on the radio and the latest crossword puzzle from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in her lap. She was the ultimate multitasker. No matter what she was doing, if she was in the room, it felt complete to me.
There are six children (all adults now) in our family. As the years have passed, we've begun to share more about what life was like for us, growing up in our large, noisy, active family. It is during these times of sharing that I realize just how different our experiences of growing up together were, even though our outward circumstances were so similar. Each of us had a different understanding of, and relationship with, our parents. Simply because we were all in the same physical place at the same time did not mean we all reacted in the same way to the situations we faced. We truly are unique individuals who interpreted circumstances according to who we are--not according to the way someone else thought we should.
I am the third child of the six--the youngest of the first group of three, and therefore the baby of the family for five years until the next group of three arrived. For a long time I felt caught in the middle, not relating to either group very well. The young ones, for so many years, were too young to relate to, while my older brother and sister were just enough older to cause a distance between us during the years we lived together.
All of this brings me back to that room on that day. With Dad's approval, we were going to divide up anything that was important to us, and give away the rest. And this is the time when all of the dynamics of growing up together, and all of the interpersonal, family realtionship things had an opporunity to express themselves. If there were any insecurities, any feelings that "mom loved her best" or "mom never loved me" or whatever might be hidden in the hearts of those gathered, this was the perfect time and circumstance for those things to surface.
Times like these are some of the most highly charged, emotional times a family can face. Things can be said that would never be said if the situation were different. But when you combine grief with thoughts that have lain hidden in the heart, it has the potential of becoming a combustible combination. That became clear to me as I stood in the bedroom that day, and at the moment I decided not to ask for a thing. It was a battle for me, because my wounded heart wanted something, anything, to hold onto the person I had loved. But the people in that room, and the mother whom I had loved so dearly, were more precious to me than any "thing" could ever be. And because I had begun to experience a sense of the personal love of God for me, and had begun to see all of the ways I tried to use things to fill a great hole of emptiness deep inside me, I knew I did not want any part of that grasping type of life any longer. So standing in mom's room that day turned what could have been a time of taking, into a blessing of letting go of things that didn't matter. The love and honesty she and I had shared between us was not changed by her death and would not be enhanced by any "thing". I could be at rest whatever the outcome of that day.
How many times have we heard or read of families enmeshed in great disputes and all sorts of turmoil after the reading of a will? How many cases can you remember where people have gone to court to challenge someone's right to an object or to money they, for some reason, feel entitled to? How sad that is. We scrape and feud and fight for things we ourselves did not work to earn, yet simply because we were born into, or associated with someone, we feel entitled to all they worked for. Why is that, do you think? What causes us to think we 'deserve' this share of another's wealth or possessions? Or that we are somehow meant to be preferred over someone else who received the thing we longed for?
I think the answer is simple, really. Until we know, in the most personal way possible, that we are deeply loved, and that the One who loves us has carefully provided all that we need in this life, we feel that the only way we have any sense that our life has value and meaning is if others acknowledge that fact. If they won't do that, if the jewelry you feel you deserve goes to your sister, or the beautiful wooden gun case you helped your father polish for all those years goes to your brother, it seems like a personal rejection. What seems like the loss of their sense of approval in this way can be a devastating blow.
While the reality may be that their decision had nothing to do with any of those thoughts-- to you it's interpreted as further evidence that your life is unimportant to others and therefore must be unimportant. Fight against that, fight against that with all of your might. Because while you may struggle with thoughts that your life lacks meaning, don't you also see that there is an urging from deep within you that those thoughts are not true? Those thoughts are actually what keep driving you to find meaning in something, in anything. Well the truth is that those urgings come from the depths of the heart of God. He knows He made you for a purpose and that to Him your life has great meaning and value and significance. You're just looking in the wrong place, that's all.
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