|Romance Non-Fiction posted February 8, 2020||Chapters:||Prologue 1 -2- 3...|
A Father Returns From the Grave
A chapter in the book MY ANGEL OF GOD
A Father Embraces his Daughter
Ch1 narrates our innocent beginnings--a co-ed invites me to eat lunch with her at a Chinese restaurant. We slide easily from topic to topic. By the end of the meal, I recognize her as My Angel.
MY ANGEL OF GOD: Chronicles of her fierce compassion and grace-filled healing love -- This is an unusual and dangerous love story that I have tried to relate with honesty and insight. I have relied upon my journal entries and upon our love letters that I carefully preserved for thirty years. Now that I am facing my own death, I want to share with family, friends, and writers those personal experiences that have shaped my life most profoundly. Hence, I ask you, as my reader, to prepare yourself for a mind-bending and heart-rending experience. This is also a story of my faith and hope in the face of small "miracles" and enormous tragedies; hence, those who share my faith and hope are in for a special treat. Please advise me (a) by identifying [using "copy and paste"] those lines in my story that most moved you and (b) by offering your ideas on how I might improve my telling of the "chronicles of her fierce compassion and grace-filled healing love."
Our first luncheon took place in a Chinese restaurant. An unusual touching took place:
She recounted for me the secret of "unwinding the fascia," and I related this to what I knew from my practice of massage therapy. As she spoke, her hands touched me briefly from across the table. This happened three or four times during our conversation. These were natural gestures for her. It was almost as though her hands (like her words) were reaching out to me. I was reading her signs loud and clear.
I admired her therapeutic hands and imagined them artfully and gracefully holding, handling, healing. She wore no fingernail polish. I also detected telltale signs of fingernail biting. Was her history plagued by worry or nervousness? I couldn't know for sure, but I made a mental note to find out.
Our second luncheon took place in her home in Walnut Hills. She prepared a "light lunch" for us, but it turned out to be a veritable feast—a tasty chicken casserole—served on the elevated wooden deck overlooking the shallow woods behind her home. She spoke of there being a rough, hidden path snaking through this band of woods that followed a small creek. The thought of a "hidden path" captured my imagination, and I unconsciously put it away in the back roads of my mind for some future use.
I was mysteriously hyper-alert. I remembered everything for years—even such seemingly inconsequential things like her telling me about the path snaking through the woods.
Slowly the story of her father emerged. He had been dead for exactly one year and a few days. She recounted his days of glory as a policeman making the rounds of the warehouses lining the Ohio River waterfront where the bewildering assortment of meats and fruits were daily being unloaded from refrigerated trucks for redistribution to the hundreds of grocery stores in the Cincinnati area. On Saturdays, she felt proud when he would take her along with him to meet the managers and truckers whom he had come to regard as his friends on the beat. You remembered how highly they spoke of her dad and how generous they were with this or that "gift for the family" that could be given now that her dad was off-duty.
On normal days, she found her father warm, cheerful, affectionate. She especially liked those times when they would get into roughhousing together. "He would catch me and wrestle me to the living room floor. Then, he would softly kiss me and say sweet things in my ears," she told me. "I can just bet that these were the same things that he told my mom when they were making love."
A red flag went up when she said this. I mentally put this aside for future reference. I had learned early that it's best not to interrupt someone's story when they are on a roll.
But her dad could hurt her as well. She recalled the day that Richard, a high school boyfriend, was visiting her at the house. She had been listening to records together in the basement den. Gradually this led to kissing and hugging, holding each other close while lying on the thick throw rug at the center of the room. The next moment her dad was yanking Richard to his feet, shouting at him, "Damn you! Get off of my daughter and get out of my house!" What really stung is not so much that her dad slapped her in the face but his cruel words that he snarled as he did so, "You cheap slut!"
Then my Angel recalled for me the days and weeks when her dad was being eaten up by cancer and his strength was slowly wasting away at home under the care of her mom. All this happened when my Angel had already been married for a year and, as a consequence, was no longer living at home. Yet, her dad would telephone nearly once a day. He would intentionally disguise the fact that he was sick and seemed annoyed whenever she brought it up. When asked about his health, more often than not he'd reply, "I feel great! This is one of my best days in weeks."
During his final months, my Angel visited her father regularly and relieved her mother of the care of that once-burly cop who was reduced to an emaciated invalid. In my Angel's own words:
He never complained. The cancer eating away at him and the suffering he quietly endured had the effect of purifying him. He had always believed in God, but like most of the men of his generation, he never spoke about spiritual things. Now, however, he began to speak of his death in the well honored Irish terms of "meeting my maker."
Half-way through his sickness, he also gave up his binge drinking. Liquor had been used extensively as solace following his sick leave from the police force. But now he was actually apologizing to me for the bad effects his drinking had on his family.
In the end, my Angel summarized by saying, "Suffering purified him of his desire for drink, and his soul became gentle for the first time."
Tears of a Grieving DaughterDuring this telling, tears quietly flowed down My Angel's cheeks. She had been trying to hold back these tears. And now that they were evident, she tried to make them invisible by smearing them with the back of her hand. These sad, salty waters were a source of embarrassment for her, and she ended up apologizing for them saying, "I'm sorry."
"Please don't," I said while gently taking her hands away from her face, "I love your tears." "I have loved everything that I have discovered about you so far," I continued, "so please don't try to cover up your tears for my sake."
It's the truth. Her tears made her even more beautiful in my eyes. I wasn't ready to say this to her just then, but I was on the verge of doing so. Within her sad tears, I was coming to recognize something of the great love and the great loss that had marked her life. My Angel belonged to her dad. My Angel understood his soul. From him, she had learned what it means to cherish someone even when that someone is partially broken and defective. You found that you could even love the occasional sullen meanness and sarcastic blows of a man whose hands and heart were bigger than life for you. His heart was in the right place. And you loved that heart and the bigness of that man whom you called "Dad."
Then, using skills that I had received through my training in psychodrama, I helped to recreate that terrible scene when she was at the bedside of her dying father and "he was trying to say something to me before I left to go home." My Angel cried convulsively for nearly ten minutes. I held her in my arms, and the tears came even more readily.
The force of her tears frightened me. I had never experienced anyone cry so violently like this before. But I believed this long-delayed and inadvertently suppressed grief was the necessary passage back to her father, back to that unfinished business between my Angel and her Beloved Dad.
As her tears began to subside, I asked, "What did your father say to you?"
"I'm just on the verge of remembering," she confessed.
"Close your eyes again," I whispered, "and get back into the scene where your father is leaving you forever and wants to say something to you."
Meanwhile, more convulsive tears burst forth. Her chest was heaving in pain. "Say it. Say it. Say it," I urged her.
Suddenly my Angel cried aloud a single word. Then, she repeated with greater force, again and again, the same word. I couldn't understand the word because her horrendous grief mangled it. What I could recognize, however, was that she understood it and, for the moment, that was quite enough.
After a few minutes, a great calm replaced the great storm. Her eyes were still closed. My Angel was curled up with her head lying on my chest as I continued to hold her. Then, slowly, her eyes opened, and she told me a most marvelous account of how her father had come to her and what he had said. . . .
Father and Daughter in an Eternal EmbraceA Buddhist monk once confided to me, "Most of the important things cannot be said in words." This surely holds true for the vision that exploded in the heart of my Angel that afternoon. Her miraculous vision haunted me as well for she spoke of finding her father in an open grave and of her being invited to come down and to give him her final embrace.
In the days that followed, I tried to capture something of her vision in a poem that I passed on to her:
A few days later, my Angel penned the first lines that she ever wrote to me. The opening lines confirmed everything I had done and assured me that it was indeed her father who had met her in the dark passageways of her imagination. Here are her words:
Hot breath, urgent breath, sweet breath,
Penetrating even the blackish emptiness
Of the open grave that lies before her.
Jaw locked tight, the lion's knees tremble
As she edges toward that fearsome hole
That sucks out her life, leaving her numb.
Hot hands, urgent hands, sweet hands
Awaken her cold body, bearing her forward
Into the blackness stretching out before her.
Then he appears, Daddy, truly her father,
Softly crying in the darkness of the grave
And reaching out toward his beloved Daughter.
With this sign, she recklessly leaps forward;
His long-familiar arms fold around her
And press out a final convulsion of tears.
Death, moved by this piteous sight of a
Father and Daughter locked in a final embrace,
Slackens the chains that bind her to Death.
During the following days, the power of what happened deepened as daydreams spontaneously erupted during her idle daylight moments and night dreams hastened to her bedside as she slept at night. Her next letter testified to this:
For the last two days, I have wanted to tell you how much our [second] meeting meant to me. I also have been struggling to understand its depth of meaning for it was the most powerful and the most satisfying moment of my life thus far.
It is difficult to put on paper the diversity of feelings I've felt this day. As I sat to write to you, my heart was overflowing with all the wonders of life.
The numbness that I noted at the beginning of this chapter has passed. The telling of her story of grief reawakens the trust and confidence that she places in me. It's Wednesday, and I'm expecting that my Angel will rush through my front door and wrap her arms around me at just any moment. The door is unlocked. My whole body is alert and is palpably anticipating her approach. . . . [Please read the next chapter as well.]
Note the resonance between these two citations:
I have wanted to tell you how much our [second] meeting meant to me. I also have been struggling to understand its depth of meaning for it was the most powerful and the most satisfying moment of my life thus far. ~My Angel
Over time I have gained an entirely new understanding of the masculine and how much healing there is when it comes together with the feminine with the intention of healing and wholeness. As our [therapeutic] session came to a close we both laughed and cried together. I continue to be in awe of the power of presence, intention and healing touch that we can gift to one another. ~Dr. Kim Keller
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