As I was driving through the Texas hill country yesterday in an attempt clear some chaos from my mind, a memory surfaced. I think I was either in high school or college. My dad shared some things about his baby brother, who died of a heroin overdose at 25, when I was just a toddler. Dad told me that Uncle Robert had participated in the Woodstock Music Festival. I immediately assumed he was a hippie and this intrigued me. Dad also told me that his little brother was always a deep thinker and free spirit. Then, to my surprise, he said that I reminded him of Robert. I remember being unsure how I felt about being reminded of someone who died of a drug overdose, but then I looked straight into my dad’s eyes and he was beaming. I could see the love in his eyes for the baby brother he probably missed beyond belief but had never spoken of much at all…at least not to me.
My Grandma Lola had a few portraits of Uncle Robert hanging in her living room. I remember staring at them, thinking he looked so angelic. I remember looking deep into his eyes, wondering what pain had caused him to follow that path. I know there were family issues that I can’t elaborate on here. Then I thought about Grandma Lola and how hard it must have been for her to lose a son at such a young age. But I never really thought of how it affected my dad. I guess I just assumed he moved on.
It wasn’t until yesterday when I was hiking that I started thinking about my dad and his relationship with Uncle Robert. I wondered if they were close. I wondered if my dad, being the responsible one, was hard on him. Then, out of nowhere, these deep cries came rushing out of my body as I was walking the trail. I mean I was in complete ugly cry mode. I only ran into a dad with his two kids and a dog, so it wasn’t too embarrassing. I don’t know what hit me. Then, another memory…
One night, when my dad was in the final stages of cancer, I walked into my old bedroom where his hospice bed was set up. He was sitting in the rocking chair in the corner as my mom was preparing his dinner or something. His mind was pretty much gone, he was hallucinating, and we couldn’t communicate with him much anymore. He was still talking though…and he was talking to Uncle Robert. He said his name a few times, and I knew. I don’t remember the conversation, but I remember daddy having a look of complete love and joy on his face…he was beaming, just like he was that day he was telling me about his free spirit brother.
I’ve been struggling lately. Something about these memories and tears has been consoling. My mind has gone in so many different directions though, and I don’t really know where they are taking me…where the Lord is taking me with this information, but there have been lots of tears and I’m going to listen to the tears.
Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next. -Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark