For the last few weeks, I have been reading family memoirs—my sister’s memoirs, alternating with my mom’s memoirs. It amazes me how two people, who lived the same events, can retell their stories from such vastly different perspectives. Both views cannot be completely accurate, yet they both have insights the other can’t imagine. As the youngest child, I didn’t experience the challenges my older brothers’ and sister faced, though I inherited a fractured family with emotionally wounded parents and siblings in an unforgiving climate. Both my parents and two brothers have passed on now, and my last three siblings want someone to understand their stories. To understand them. They are not alone.
In the larger world setting, I serve as the secretary/treasurer of our town’s cemetery, and with each grave dug, it becomes very evident that a final boundary does exist. So many issues fall to the wayside at the graveside. We, as family and community, are our own worst enemies when we hang on to the poisons of anger, blame, and if-only.
As I read my poetry for the day, Blake’s “Song by An Old Shepherd” spoke to a truth that resonated deep within my soul.
Whilst Virtue is our walking-staff
And Truth a lantern to our path,
We can abide life’s pelting storm
That makes our limbs quake, if our hearts be warm.
I found it rather ironic that my bookmark depicted a picture from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with the words: “We’re All Mad Here.”
In a world where spring buds peek out despite the frosty morning temps, violence and depression have risen to all-new heights, addictive drugs have become the panacea that kills rather than cures, and suicide, as a last resort, is chosen at younger and younger ages, I have to ask, what are we doing to ourselves?
Perhaps, I have been the lucky one. Drugs and alcohol addiction, blame, and hate did not serve my family well. So, I chose another path. It lies somewhere between the acceptance of Alice’s Wonderland assessment and Blake’s plaintive plea.
There is great evil in the world, as headline news and any classical story will attest. Yet inside the depth of each human heart, there remain daily opportunities—to love or hate. To forgive absolutely or nurse the riotous fury of a wounded spirit.
Reason begs our hearts to protect us—and our children—to see the faults of our mad world clearly. Our imagined socially engineered solutions inevitably fail, and tireless evil rises once again. Sadly, we end up writing memoirs that recount the evils done to us and precious little else.
Though I may not be qualified to define the “Truth” of my parents or my siblings’ experiences within the family realm, and though “Virtue” appears old-fashioned and quite out of date, I do think a warm heart goes a long way toward abiding life’s pelting storms.
There is a reason why sarcasm, insinuation, seething anger, and hate are often described as “cold,” while love, forgiveness, and understanding warm our spirits. Dead things grow cold. Life breathes warmth into our chilled blood.
I can remember conversations with family members in which the sentiment, “I will never forgive that!” was all too clearly expressed. Memoirs can become long-winded, ironically entertaining, ways of saying the very same thing.
When my mom passed away after years of dementia, I cried. Not because I had only good memories of her, but because despite the passion of her chosen hate as well as her passionate love, I wished her well on her journey, where ever she was going. When my brother passed after an overdose, I suffered the loss of a life that I could never reach. A troubled soul who, it seemed to me, never knew happiness. When another brother passed unexpectedly of liver failure, I wanted to understand, but too many questions could not be answered, and I was left with poignant grief. When my father died, after a long life and much professional success, I had too many terrible stories and painful memories crowding my mind to celebrate his life.
So, what warms the heart at such gravesides?
Sincere and complete forgiveness breathes life into blood chilled by life’s pelting storms.
As I read the personal memories of those who have gone on, a conviction rises in my soul stronger than ever before: Do not wait to forgive, for love cannot live in hate, and the graveside will call us all.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
“I loved reading Ann’s wise, hope-giving thoughts about life and love. Truly, life is the art of overcoming obstacles and becoming stronger to live a fuller life. Beautiful work!” ~Ksenia
“bring fresh inspiration for the day on life, love, and overcoming obstacles with faith” ~CBM
“The author uses the virtues and vices of Tolkien’s creations to remind us that those same virtues and vices are present in modern days.” ~Joan