Once a year, I return home to Central Texas. This year we choose to come home for Christmas. As we moved from the metropolitan east coast culture into the small town rural Texas, I began to see reminders of my father everywhere. The Roadrunner Café reminded me of how much my dad always liked road runners. The excessive number of country music stations reminded me of my father’s love of Johnny Cash. The slower pace reminded me of how his truck crawled down the main drag with him making a point to wave at every car we passed. The Santa sleigh pulled by six armadillo’s atop the pizza parlor reminded me of my father’s obsession with armadillos. Horned toads, cactus, bluebonnets, anything Texan all brought a sudden rush of pain and grief.
Though I spent the first seventeen years of my life in this small central Texas community and for first thirty years of my life called this place “home”, the only emotion I feel now, is pain and grief over my father’s suicide. My father was born, raised, and died is this small town. He spent his entire life building a small chain of fast food restaurants called Storm’s Drive In. I spent many hours at that restaurant rolling salt napkins before and after school. I loved going there and working with my dad. Rather than a smile filling my face at the sight of the Storm’s brightly colored billboard, tears fill my eyes. It has been eleven years since his death and the sense of doom still hangs over this place; this place that is still home to my mother whom I dearly love; this place where I spent my happy carefree childhood years.
I was listening to music on my morning walk through a pasture behind my mother’s ranch. I had stopped atop an embankment surrounding a dry tank to look out over the small town in the distance when I realized the chorus of the song I was listening to was “Remembering is Honoring”. I began to listen to the words and realized that the author was remembering a loved one who had passed. The words “Remembering is honoring” echoed in my mind as I pondered the meaning. For eleven years, I had chosen to forget; to cut myself off from the pain by cutting myself off from this place. In so doing I cut myself off from the memories of a good father, and a happy childhood. As I choose to forget no more, the tears streamed down my face and I prayed for the pain to stop and for healing. Slowly, the clouds of grief, shame and regret began to lift and I found peace. I decided I will choose to honor my father by remembering and I pray someday I will be able to dance the two-step and smile at the memory of standing atop my father’s giant boots as we swayed to a Loretta Lynn tune.
We all have painful memories in our lives and like me, many people choose not to remember, to cut themselves off from the pain by cutting themselves off from the source of the pain. However, when we refuse to recognize the wounds we have endured, we are unable to heal those wounds. I will always bear the scar of my father’s suicide; it has marked me for life. However, I can now look at it and it cannot hurt me anymore.
For many, the memories that are lost are all so ugly and there is nothing worth honoring. For many a simple prayer and a few tears, only serve as salt in a deep festering wound. For these the path is long and the journey far more difficult than mine. But the reward is equally as sweet and the healing just as liberating. For my dear friends who suffer so greatly, I pray for Devine grace and mercy to make you whole, to heal your wounds and restore you to a place of peace and rest. I pray someday you too can choose to remember and find healing from your past.