Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Father's Voice

My father, Jesse E. Stay, died a week and a half ago, a month shy of his 87th birthday. The funeral last week-end was a beautiful celebration of his life. He was a man who gave his life in service to his wife, his family, his country, his fellow man and his God. He was always moving, serving, and working around the house and the yard until he became too weak a few months ago. He loved to garden, but had to give up most of it a few years ago, though he still grew tomatoes. The fresh, ripe tomatoes were delicious all summer, and he made his famous tomato soup all winter from the tomatoes he canned. This picture was taken when he was 83, still a young man:-). He is holding an orange from his beloved orange tree, that he decided looked like him. He even put a sore on the "nose" celebrating the removal of a cancer from the end of his nose.

This last year had been difficult for him. My mother was very sick, and he waited on her hand and foot, tenderly caring for her when she wasn't able to do anything for herself. He did it lovingly, but he worried about her a lot. His mind was becoming old, and he began to forget a lot of things. When he was worried about Mom, his thought process became worse. Slowly she started improving, and then he started having his own physical health problems. But even to the end, when his mind was going, he would take care of Mom, do the dishes, take out the trash, and check on the tomatoes. When we were there caring for both of them, he would stand up and say, "I know I'm supposed to do something. I just can't remember what it is." We would tell him that everything was done, that he didn't need to worry about anything, and he would sit down again, still dissatisfied. He didn't know how to live life without working and serving. We were blessed that his dying process was relatively quick and very peaceful, with his wife and many of his children around him.

Each of his children were asked to take part in the funeral. Several of us were asked to share memories. There were so many memories that I had a difficult time deciding what I was going to talk about. Then I started hearing my father's voice. I started remembering all the things he had told me, had taught me, the sayings that were typical of him. Words like, "If you see something that needs doing, don't wait for someone else to do it, just do it yourself!" And "A mule would rather break his back with one trip than to take two." I remembered him teaching morse code while we did the dishes together. I remember him making his famous pancakes and saying "I don't hear any oohs and aahs." It was usually because our mouths were full, but we rapidly showed our appreciation for the featherlight, delicious taste in our mouths with dutiful oohs and aahs. And when I inched my way into the cold ocean as he rapidly dove into the waves, he would paraphrase Shakespeare: "A coward dies a thousand deaths but the brave die but once." So I talked on my memories of my father's words and how he assisted in shaping my life.

I've been considering the affect that the words we hear when we are very little have on us. I was very blessed to have the father I did. But when I was young, he was still learning how to be the best father, and he had a loud voice when we did something out of line. I don't remember being punished, though I know my mischievious little brothers received an occasional spanking reminder to be good. I do remember that sometimes I was afraid of him, just because I was small and he was big with a loud, sometimes angry voice. I don't blame him for anything, because I know he always was the best father he was able to be, and I have very little to complain about, but I wonder what affect his loud words had on me when I was tiny, and how that affected how I reacted later in life.

When we are born, our mind is open to every outside influence. We have no boundaries, and take in everything coming into us as our own. The emotions, words, actions of those around us, how those who care for us or who are in authority over us tell us we should act and what we should believe, all flow in without filtering and become part of our subconscious mind. We become programmed.

Throughout our lives, as we experience the world around us, those voices from the past become our own voice, telling us what is right and wrong, telling us how to be and how to act. If we were taught consistently with love and caring words, this can be a very positive influence. If we were taught with anger and criticism, we may find ourselves repeating that anger and criticism to ourselves whenever we make a mistake, or just beat ourselves up in general because those thoughts keep coming. Or we may find that the anger may come out and affect others. We may find ourselves repeating those words from the past to those we love, whether we want to or not.

I have found that when I have negative thoughts about myself or others, I get to take time and ponder where those thoughts are coming from. Are they the voices of the past, of parents or teachers, who in their best desires pointed out our shortcomings? Are they they words or feelings or limiting beliefs we picked up from those caring for us that they felt about themselves? Are they the voices of brothers and sisters, or the children, cruel at times in the schoolyard? I find that often my negative thoughts are not really my own, but voices from the past that I have made my own.

Once I realize this, a visualization serves me to begin to let these thoughts go. I visualize whomever I picked up these thoughts, feelings or limiting beliefs from standing in front of me. Then I tell them something like the following: "I appreciate all you have done for me in my life. However, at this time, these words (or feelings, or beliefs) that I picked up from you no longer serve me. I give them back to you, and ask God to bless you with them. I forgive you for any of these things that may have caused me harm. I know you loved me the best you were able to."

I then visualize the thoughts, feelings or beliefs as a color, and allow that color to gather and flow from me to that other person, until the color is gone. Then I send them the color I see as love flowing from my heart to their's, and I know that this connection never ends. It is a very peaceful and loving visualization, and has served me well in letting go of the things in my subconscious mind that do not serve me.

As you read this, you may find yourself feeling guilty because of what you may have created in your own children; what their open minds absorbed from us as they were little. We all do our best. We all make mistakes. I have done things that have created problems in my own children. Every child has mother and father issues. It's the way of life. I believe that if we chose our own families before we came to this earth, that we chose them as much for their weaknesses as for their strengths. It is learning from our own weaknesses and the weaknesses of those around us that allows us the greatest growth.

As we work hard to heal our own hearts, it is easier for us not to react from those voices, feelings and beliefs of the past. Then we create less problems for those around us. And as we begin to heal, it creates a healing energy that opens doors for those around us to heal as well.

I was blessed to have the father I did. His loud, sometimes angry words of my early childhood eventually changed to loving and uplifting words as I was a teenager. He worked continually on being a better person, and he was successful. As we seek, we shall find. That is a promise.

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi


Jesse Stay said...

Thank you Aunt Judi - that was a beautiful tribute.

B.J. said...

This can be such a beautiful yet difficult time all in the same breath. My mother has been taking care of my Grandma for the past five years. It's extremely hard to watch my grandma who was a vibrant spunky lady at one time transform in to this frail confused woman. She has dimentia, which has really played a toll on my mother. It truely can be hard to spend everyday with your loved one and watch them slip further and further away from you everyday.

However, my mother wouldn't trade these years for the world. even with the heartache and sadness it has been 5 years of close, sometimes very funny bonding times with grandma. All in all I think everything happens for a reason and Grandma has honored my family buy choosing us to spend her last days with.

Love and Light

Dr. Judi said...

Beautiful comment, Becky. Thank you.

Brenda said...

This isn't the appropriate spot for a comment which is so off-topic -- I just can't figure out how to ask you a question (I've searched your whole blog to no avail). I sprained my ankle Dec. 14, 2007 and was diagnosed with RSD/CRPS. I am now 7 1/2 months post-injury and am dealing with the terrible pain of this condition. I would like to know what you know about this condition ... forgive me for using this beautiful post about your father to address you. I don't even know how often you check comments.

Dr. Judi said...

Brenda, thank you for the question. This is the right place to ask it:) Please see my latest blog, "Trauma and the Brain."