Tag Archive: suffering

My father died 15 years ago, just months after Ellen and I got married.  I had a very difficult time with it right off the bat, but had to remain strong for the family (I think it’s an oldest thing, right?).  So, I didn’t say a whole lot as the months passed and my mother, brother, and sister started going through his belongings.  It’s hard to stay in that loop when you live 10 hours away.

As they went through things, I know that my sister spirited things out of the house.  She and my dad were very close, and I don’t begrudge her taking things that were important in their relationship.  My brother, I was told, didn’t want anything and didn’t take (hardly) anything at all.  However, if you look around his house, you will find my dad’s things all over the place.

But the upshot of this is that I really don’t have anything that belonged to my dad.   I’m kind of all right with that.  Sad, but all right.  The only thing of his that I really wanted was his jewelry box.  It’s just a neat little round top box made of leather with some designs on the outside.  But I have very strong memories of that jewelry box associated with him.

The last time I was at home (this past summer), I snuck into the room where his stuff is still stored, and picked up the box, opened it, and looked at the treasures it still holds.  Nothing fancy – some tie tacks, necklaces,  scraps of paper, and his wedding ring.  I said my goodbyes, knowing that if I hadn’t been given the jewelry box in fifteen years, it wasn’t likely I was ever going to get it.  It was time to stop holding on to it.  It was the last thing that I wanted to have of his, I wasn’t going to get it, and it was time that I made peace with that.

I thought I had.

My sister is getting married in three weeks.  She and her fiance decided to have their rings custom made.  I think this is a wonderful idea, as they are very artsy people, and I’m sure that the rings will be not only beautiful, but extra special to them.

My mother told me tonight that she is giving my sister my father’s wedding ring.  Not to hold on to.  Not to cherish as a piece of my father’s memory.  But as something to melt down to add to their rings because the cost of gold is so high right now.

[That sound you just heard was my jaw dropping to the ground, and all my insides squeezing my heart until it was ready to leap out of my chest.]

She went on to say that she didn’t give it to me or my brother because it would never fit us, it’s too small, and besides, “I never offered it to you.”  I was floored.  I didn’t know what to say.  It was very unexpected.  Fortunately she dropped this on me while we were on the way in to the restaurant where we were picking up dinner for the family.   I redirected us to the menu and focused on the task at hand while I tried to process this news.

Now I have my heart and my head competing with one another.  My heart says that here is this thing that belonged to my dad, and was a part of him, and she wants to have it melted down.  It seems like it is the last bit of my dad, being melted away.  After this, he will be gone.

But that’s stupid.  My head says it’s just a thing. It is a hunk of metal.  It isn’t my dad, that’s ridiculous.  It has no meaning other than that which I assign to it.  And even if I were to assign this tremendous emotional value to it, what better way to have this “value” live on than for it to become part of my sister’s wedding ring.

I see it. It’s suffering caused by attachment. I get it. I really do. I know my head will win this battle, I just need to sit with it for a while.

And maybe it’s time I really did say goodbye to my dad.

The One Ring
Creative Commons License photo credit: Playadura*

My daughter had wanted to ride horses for a couple of years (and Ellen secretly – or not so secretly – wanted to ride with her). We finally relented and KJ started riding lessons. At the beginning of the summer we decided to use the money from the lessons instead to half-lease a horse, so KJ could ride whenever she wanted to.

This worked out great, and we leased Brandy. KJ was so excited, and really bonded with that horse. She would take her out several times a week, and even showed her at a local horse show. She was getting Brandy ready to show at the county fair next week.

Over the weekend we got a message from the stable – Brandy was colicky and it was probably best that KJ not come out to ride. One of the girls at the stable had taken Brandy out for a trail ride and apparently it was too much.

Yesterday was the first day of school, and KJ’s first day in middle school. She was a bundle of nerves and energy. About mid-day we got the word – Brandy didn’t survive. In the afternoon we got to see the joy, the excitement, the laughter that came from KJ’s great day at a new school, but we knew that we were about to smash her world in two. Ellen told her about Brandy, and she ran crying to her room.

I was devastated. I felt so helpless. I just wanted to wrap her up in my arms and keep the world out. But, of course, I couldn’t. And shouldn’t.

An aside: the worst part of this for me is the feeling that I let KJ down. I never got to see her ride Brandy. I always had something else to do when she was out at the stable to ride. I legitimately couldn’t make the horse show – I was doing something with our son. I was really looking forward to the county fair. I was so proud of what she was doing, and I know now how fragile this existence can be. I pledge to be better in the future, and I hope I don’t fail too bad in that endeavor.

The Christian in me is conditioned to say that Brandy is in a better place, God has a plan, and all that stuff that is meant to make it better, but really doesn’t help very much.

The Buddhist in me is learning that life is a cycle, and we will get through this like we get through everything else. More comforting for me, but hard to explain to a 10 year old.

The Dad in me knows that I love my daughter (and all my children) more than anything else in the world, and I will always be there for her, through the both the joy and the pain.

KJ and Brandy

KJ and Brandy

KJ and Brandy

Into the wind...

I love you KJ.