On this, the Anniversary of Your Death

When you died so many years ago, I felt that I cheated you and myself because my grief robbed me of the capacity to say the true but unacceptable words at your funeral. You can’t speak ill of the dead at a Southern Christian funeral. And so, the words remained buried because the majority of my memories of you were not good. They were not kind, but they were true.

The poor bewildered pastor. He didn’t know you at all and we, in our grief and with minds clouded and overcome with hosts of negative experiences, could not offer insights of good that weren’t tainted with bad. Only Lydia could bravely tell her truth at the time and I loved her for it. Her eulogy was the only real part of your funeral, and the rest felt like a dark joke.

Those first few weeks, I felt numb to all but my anger, loss, and relief. Anger that you’d finally gotten what you’d tried to achieve for years: to be done with life. Anger that you didn’t care that you left behind your younger children. And relief that there would be no more late night phone calls from young children 12 hours away asking me what to do when you slept through your days, rendering you unable to care for your children still left at home. None of us called it addiction back then, but that’s exactly what it was. I was relieved to no longer be living on the edge. I did not like being the one to constantly confront you, knowing you were lying to me, knowing you couldn’t stop yourself.

But time and distance have helped me to heal and to feel your absence. Those random moments that I wanted to call you and tell you something but remembered you weren’t there. Wishes that you could meet your grandchildren because I know you would adore them and they, you. And time has helped me to remember the good. Yes, for me at least, the bad is the majority, but there are good memories and the good was really good.

So on this 14th anniversary of your death, I want to thank you for the many ways that you loved me. Even though nearly all of these have their tainted edges, I want to remember the good today. I want to say the things that I could not at your funeral.

You knew my love of music from very early on. I do believe that you understood my heart. You also understood that although I struggled (as I did with everything), I should keep at it. You made me practice and didn’t allow me to quit. And when I composed my first little piece (and stole half of it from Bach), you were proud of me.

I truly believe that in the moments that I shared my heart as a child, you truly cared. You listened, you felt deep, loving empathy. I do not believe that it was ever your intention to turn nearly all of my vulnerable moments into shame; that was part of your illness, your long ago corrupted self-defenses.

You liked to hear me sing and play the piano (most of the time).

You raced us once in the driveway and beat us, and you told us about your high school track career, and we loved that you did that with us.

You helped me get my first job at the doctor’s office when I was 11. And coincidentally, I learned the invaluable lesson that I will try to always avoid working in an all-female environment (Lol).

You made me feel special and loved as we took our fast-paced nightly walks together. You told me things that were probably unhealthy for me to know, but they made me feel close to you. And during those times, I could share some of myself with you.

You advocated like a bear when you wanted us to have things for which there was no money: piano lessons, homeschool co-op classes, etc…

The one time that I loved having you as my teacher was when you taught us what we called anatomy, but it was really nursing 101. You taught us with enthusiasm and passion and I’ll never forgot how much I learned. I still use much of that information to figure out the weird stuff with my kiddos and they are convinced that I’m basically a nurse (hahaha!).

You taught me how to work hard. It may not have been in a healthy way, but I learned how to work hard nonetheless.

You made me feel special when I was old enough to stay up late and watch your favorite shows with you: I Love Lucy, ER, and Mr. Bean were many of our favorites. Sometimes, we even ate ice cream with maraschino cherries and coconut.

Once we discovered the 99 cent section of the old movie rental place, you and I shared a special love of black-and-white movies that no one else seemed to share. I accidentally introduced us both to some pretty amazing classics that are still amongst my favorites: Rebecca, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Bringing Up Baby. This led to the hilarious problem that my few teenage crushes were either very advanced in age or dead. We also got a few duds we laughed about later, like The Grass Harp…oh my gosh nothing happens…

You believed me when the unnerving incident occurred at our church. You stood by me when the church leaders accused me of being “on a witch hunt” and that the particular “Godly man” would never do what he did and because you believed me, we left that church.

You showed up to one of my home school high school tennis matches, with all the little kids in tow.

You knew how I loved to be in plays and always encouraged me to do it.

That time we were in the store and you wet your pants because we kept dropping the celery—or was it broccoli?—because there was no bottom to the plastic bag we were trying to put it in. Thank you for your laughter and mischievous sense of humor.

You wrote in your journal after I left home that you “missed the music and happiness that [I] brought to the house.” You said it wasn’t the same once I left.

You came to visit me at college. The one time, you were on your biggest Bipolar high and charming as hell and not at all yourself, but you came and that meant something.

I built up a wall as a teenager, wise to your ways. It was nearly impenetrable, and over the years, I nearly lost a large part of my empathetic self. But I didn’t because I let others in. Some forced their way in, others were patient enough to wait for me to allow them entrance. But you put us with people and in places where there were good people surrounding us.

You kindly offered to buy me a wedding gift that I knew you couldn’t afford: a George Foreman grill. Not because I wanted it, but because you wanted it, and you had trouble with being able to tell the difference. I thought it was generous of you, but I’m glad you didn’t give me anything as I asked.

And when I began to show you loving but impenetrable boundaries as a newly-wed, although you hated me for it at first, you eventually grew accustomed to them. In time, I was able to share with you the small vulnerable things. Things that I knew wouldn’t hurt me much if used against me. I shared with you the shallow “tidal pools” of my heart, to borrow the phrase of a wise friend. But I could never share with you the depths of the ocean within myself because I might not ever fully recover myself from your impending vengeance. But I am thankful for those shallow tidal pools that we shared in safety together.

I hope that you are healed, better, content now in Christ’s loving embrace. I can’t claim to miss you, but I do love you and I look forward to one day seeing you again—this time for the real you, not the one drenched in so much sadness and trauma and propped up by drugs.


  1. Sandi mom says

    Thanks, Anna, for sharing your truth and your heart here. Both and. Love you so very much!

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