When Dad began to attend church regularly with Mom after they retired, I was very cynical about the whole endeavor. He and I had yet to form our relationship into what it would be. More to the point, I had the experiences I’d had in church when I was 14.
Adolescence is not fun. At least, it wasn’t for me. I had the need to fit in, but none of the ability to follow through. I also had an intellectual thirst that was as temperamental as I was. I was closed off by default–I just didn’t know how to be open. And I found that church, a place where one was supposed to be able to question the legitimacy of mainstream values, was no less ruled by the same tropes and hierarchies. But this betrayal felt much worse. It cut so much deeper because I felt that I was being told that if I didn’t fit in because I wasn’t trying hard enough I was damned. I decided that if my spiritual brethren couldn’t understand me because of a fault in me, I’d much rather be around a peer group that didn’t understand me because I didn’t say the right things or know where to go on a Friday night. So I left.
Some hurts fade and some will always be fresh. That particular hurt is still there. I continue to put distance between me and it, filling my life with new, wonderful memories in the intervening years. When C & I moved back to California for a respite, we found a church we still love. That church gave me hope that we’ll be able to find something here. But that first hurt is still there. It’s turned into one of things that I live with. It nestled inside of my body, and I planted my faith and the love of everyone who has ever loved me all around it. When I encounter it now it’s lost most of its sting.
I am grateful to be back and unembarrassed of who I am. In the last two years after the diagnosis, Dad’s faith took on a different meaning. I was able to see him in a new light, and I believe that his faith is what gave him such a tremendous will to live severed from the desperate fear of dying.
Still, the hurt of his death remains, although I have faith that one day it will have lost at least some of its sting.