Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Tale of Three Mothers

I am heading to South Dakota for the funeral of a very dear older woman. This is the 9th such loss I have had in the last 13 months. It has given me reason to stop and consider. In light of that consideration, I am going to compare three of the five women lost from my life this year.

This first woman, the one whose funeral I will be attending soon, raised several children who are all, to the best of my knowledge, kind, polite and loving people. They have raised their children in the same vein. In our current political climate, where people of all stripes are looking at our personal duties to each other vs. our duties to each other as a community, I look at the life of this woman and I cannot help but think, that if all the children in the world were raised as this woman and her husband raised their children, there would be no need for the discussion. We would just help our neighbors as naturally as we breathe. And that is perhaps the best thing anyone could say about another.

We lost another elderly woman early this year and that was a cause for reflection also. That woman had a stormy life as did her children. Even though her children are not in a position to see it, no matter how badly her children thought they were treated (and by today's standards, they were roughly treated), their treatment at her hands was much, much better than the treatment her parents gave her. The same is true for their father.

Then there is the third woman I lost this year. This was a young woman, whom I had known for over 20 years. She had a rough start in life, adopted by alcoholics, and made many decisions over the years that did not improve her lot by much. She told me that her husband was abusive and she had several serious health issues, including one that was terminal. She fell into a depression and ultimately shot herself this spring.

The object of this current funeral did her family the ultimate courtesy of arranging her own funeral. She had issued a do not resuscitate order several years ago, when her health started declining, but changed it at the request of her children who loved and needed her. As a result, she lived at least ten years longer than she would have otherwise with a reasonably good quality of life. In doing so, she taught her children the value of sacrifice. Her children have coordinated with each other on the disposition of her property over the years and, I have no doubt, will not say a cross word to each other, but will spend their time supporting one another in this time of grief.

The other elderly woman refused to leave a will. She had disowned one daughter for marrying someone of whom she did not approve. While she did speak to this daughter when she came by to help while her mother was going through surgeries and cancer treatment, it was the first time in many years. She was not given the foundations for providing a kind and loving home environment by her own parents. She did the best she could with what she had and considered that her children were doing better than she did and was content with that. Her children are were unable to get together at her funeral without harsh words to one another. As is common in stormy families, the siblings all had very different experiences of their parents growing up. This made it difficult for them to reconcile their feelings for and about each other and their parents.

The third woman left her family when her husband's abuse became too much for her, assuring me that they were safe with him, because he never hurt them-only her. She ignored the fact that he was hurting them, as was she, by not becoming the type of man who does not abuse his family. She went back when her husband refused to let her see her children otherwise. She left her daughters with feelings of anger and resentment along with grief and an example that says when the going gets tough, give up and leave and that people who behave badly cannot change. I am angry at her myself as she had promised me, personally, that she was not going to take the suicide option, regardless of the challenges she faced. She assured me that her main concern was for her children, and that she would not want them to have that example.

Some of the things these women had in common? They all made their own choices and lived and died with the consequences of those choices. They were all unique and wonderful people in their own way. They all faced challenges of varying degrees in their lives with varying degrees of success. I think sometimes we forget that there is value in the challenges we are called to face. Making life easier is not the same as making life better.

We can choose to provide a firm foundation for our children or not. Sometimes all we can do is to do the best we can and sometimes, in a moment of weakness, we may fail. That's part of the journey. The important part is getting up and trying again. While I won't deny that it might be nice to have all families be like that of the first woman, that's not to our benefit as a nation. My own early life had some serious challenges and I have learned from those challenges. I have learned things that I could not have learned anywhere else. Those challenges are what define me. I appreciate all three of these women for the lessons they have taught me and I wouldn't have changed them for all the pain they had to go through to become who they were. Except that I would have given the third woman an abiding faith in the God she claimed, to allow her to endure past that crucial moment of suffering.
I think that, many times, when reformers want to change the world, they are talking about those bits of the world that allow people to suffer or to cause suffering. That's a goal. But it's an impossible goal. It's also a goal that would, were it possible to achieve such a thing, utterly debase and remove from us the very essence of being human. Would our armed forces be as good if they didn't have to go through boot camp? I don't think so. There would be essential components missing if they did not subject themselves to boot camp. Just so, we, missing the challenges, suffering, sorrows, joys and triumphs that have shaped us into who we are would be missing essential elements that make us into mature and fully functioning human beings. Maybe that's the deal with the comments I have seen about "extended adolescence" of late. Maybe we have made things too easy for ourselves and our children in this world of modern conveniences.

One other thing I have noticed about these three women is a significant difference in their faith. They all claimed some form of Christianity for their religion, but the two older women had faith. Real, "get out of the boat and walk on the water towards Jesus" faith. They knew, as the third woman did not, that you must do as God instructs regardless of how much it hurts or how unwise it may seem at the time. Neither of the two older women left their children debt to deal with. As far as I am aware neither of the two older women ever cheated on their spouses. The third woman did both of those things. Maybe that's just because they were older and had had time to take care of those things that required debt or because they were raised in a time when fidelity was expected. I think it far more likely that they did their best to follow God's instructions about such behaviors regardless of the fact that they may have appeared to be things that could have made life easier for them and their children. I don't know.

What I do know is that people have individual value. All people. Even the ones we don't want to sit next to on the train, bus or plane. Even the ones who make mistakes, or who treat us unjustly. I also know that faith, experience and attitude make a difference, and not all the government money in the world can change that.

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, " ~ Galatians 5:22 RIP Lillian

"I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me"~Psalm 69:2 RIP Caroline

"For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. " ~Rom 10:3-13
RIP Nancy


Dr.D said...

A very thought provoking post, Mom.

Our Lord Jesus will make provision for each of Lillian, Caroline, and Nancy in His own way. At this point, all that remains for us to do now is to pray for the welfare of their souls.

I hope that you have a safe journey out to South Dakota. That is a long drive, so do be careful along the way.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this.

I think that I might venture to encourage you to forgive your friend. And, even more importantly to forgive yourself.

In my experience, (through several suicides), I have come to understand depression to be a disease akin to cancer -- sometimes, it is terminal.

AnnieP Looking forward to seeing you!

Call Me Mom said...

Thanks Dr. D. So far so good, we're in La crosse for the evening.

I'm looking forward to seeing you too. I'm working on the forgiveness. It's hard not to forgive someone who suffered so much in life. It's one of those things that I think I've dealt with and then some new aspect of it sneaks up and grabs me. I suspect time and prayer will suffice. I also know that the sheer numbers of folks I'm bidding Godspeed this year has me taking things a bit harder than I might otherwise find them.