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The Longest Road: Finding Peace With the Past - By Maureen Lyttle

Chapter 1: The Primal Wound

My father died when I was 6 years old. My mother, 8 months pregnant with my father's 10th child, buried him & never spoke of him again.

What I didn't realize that day, nor would I fully comprehend for the next 34 years, was that she also buried all 9 of her surviving children. We were just too close to her pain. We would all survive, of course, but the damage would be, for the most part, irreparable.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday.

It was a hot, sunny day in June. We had driven to the hospital, a neighbor & my mother in the front seat & my younger sister Kathy, then 4 years old, in the back with me. My mother & the neighbor got out in a hurry, leaving my sister & me alone.

As time went by, I felt anxious & overly warm in the back seat of the old car. I didn't understand, nor could I possibly comprehend, the tragic event that had just taken place within the confines of the hospital.

My little sister squirmed beside me, wanting to get out. We were both restless & I began to feel very uncomfortable & distressed, waiting for mother to return. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, they reappeared.

Slumped over & weeping uncontrollably, my mother stumbled towards the car, supported on either side by a stranger. I was terrified seeing my mother like this & desperately needed an explanation as to what had happened. Not a word was forthcoming.

She stooped to enter the car & smashed her head against the door frame. I sat there, dazed, thinking how much that must have hurt & why didn't she cry out in pain.

My younger sister whimpered beside me & I held on to her tightly. Something very important had just happened & I had to try hard to remember this. It would affect me the rest of my life. Try as I might, I can't remember the car ride home.

We were gathered in the living room & everyone was deathly quiet. My brothers & sisters had been taken out of school & we all stood awkwardly about, confused & not knowing what to do. There was a neighbor in the room with us, which was heavy with gloom & semi-dark.

No one thought to turn on a light. There were none of the usual sounds of supper being prepared coming from the kitchen. A strange & eery silence permeated the old house as darkness enveloped us. We huddled with the 2 youngest children, who cried in vain for their mother.

She was weeping in the next room, but we were restrained from seeing her. I wandered from room to room, talking to myself, numb with shock. Still no one comforted me.

A few days later we were dressed in our Sunday best, bonnets & all & taken to the funeral home where my father was laid out. He was pasty looking & when I was held up to kiss him a final good-bye, he was cold & stiff to the touch. I didn't cry. Nor did I understand why some of the relatives were weeping & making such a fuss.

I was traumatized over these proceedings & remained silent. Perhaps they thought I was too young to understand. In any event, I had been forgotten & no one bothered to tell me he had died.

The others knew. I stood quietly in the church next to my older sister Patricia, who was 8 at the time. She was crying broken heartedly.
"Why aren't you crying?" she demanded of me, painfully jabbing me in the side with her elbow. "You're supposed to be crying!"

I stood there, confused & numb with shock, unable to utter a word.

I don't remember any gravesite service, nor do I remember the days that followed. In fact, I don't remember much of anything else except being very much alone that summer.

I didn't miss him. He was rarely home anyway & occasionally I witnessed him coming home late in a state of drunkenness & it terrified me. I didn't know at the time he was intoxicated or what that actually was or why he fell on the floor, unable to get up.

I was quickly ushered back to bed with a lollipop for comfort. My mother & older brothers helped him into bed & nothing was ever said about it. I couldn't understand why I got a special treat for witnessing him drunk.

Mostly, my father spent time with his boys working on the old Studebaker in the backyard. He never spent time with me, except on one occasion that I can remember. He was working on an old engraving machine in the basement, making broaches with Royal Air Force inscriptions engraved into them.

I watched in wonderment as the swirl of brightly-coloured paint was carefully placed into the carving. I felt special standing next to him, intently watching him work. I didn't realize at the time that he was an artist, and later on in my life, I would become one as well. I did not have to have dinner with the rest of my siblings upstairs when mother called down to me.

"She's with me, mother!" he answered. Indeed, those few precious moments would never leave my memory, for he never spent time with me again. A massive heart attack claimed his life shortly thereafter.

Summer came & went. I played alone or with my younger sister Kathy. Mother had given birth just 1 month earlier & was extremely busy with the 10th baby. All of her time was spent with Josephine. Although I felt very much alone, I never complained.

Instead, Kathy & I were free to roam & occupied ourselves running across 17th Avenue, the busy roadway that ran from the city core to the poorer outskirts on the southeastern edge of the city. The road ran right in front of our dilapidated, old house with the run-down, weather-beaten fence.

I held Kathy's hand & we ran across the road, laughing. When traffic cleared, we similarly darted back to the other side, breathless & laughing harder. Many times we did this, each time finding it more exhilarating than the last. We had discovered a new game - playing on the road, in the traffic.

A police car approached.

"Where do you live?" one of the officers demanded of me in a very stern voice.

Afraid to speak, I pointed across the road. Unfortunately, we were caught on the wrong side of the street.

"Get on home & don't run across the road again!" was the strict admonishment.

The blood crept into my face & for the first time in my very young life, I felt shame. My sister & I scampered back across the road & as I nervously glanced back over my shoulder, I saw the police car drive away slowly, checking our progress.

Time for a new game, Kathy. No, we can't run back across the street. Why not? Just because.

When I was older & recalled this memory I would laugh, but there would come a time when I cried like a baby, wondering why on earth a 6 year old child was taking care of a 4 year old. Who the hell was taking care of me?

I was, in effect, at the tender young age of 6, my own little parent.
Because I hadn't yet received my First Holy Communion, I would sometimes be allowed to stay home from Sunday mass. I delighted in making the beds & tidying the house, as best a 6 year old can do.

In my young mind, I thought it would make my mother happy. But it never worked.

Those 2 months after my father's death were the loneliest of my young life.

I looked forward with anticipation to my first day of school & getting away from the sadness that permeated the place called home.

Finally, the first day of school arrived. I was able to find my class & approached my grade one teacher, Mother Gemma, with trepidation. I had never seen a nun before & her black habit scared me. She asked me several questions & finally asked me about my father.

Remembering my mother's careful instructions of the previous night, I answered her nervously:

"He passed away."

I wasn't even sure what the words meant. I only knew he was gone. After that day, I became the teacher's pet. At least once a week, Mother Gemma would collect all the sweet desserts from the teachers during lunch hour, put them in a white box tied with string & keep me after class.

She would give me the treats & tell me to take them home to share with my brothers & sisters. Dutifully, I wouldn't eat any of them but would bring them all home to my mother. I would gleefully present them to her, so very proud of my accomplishment, thinking: This will surely make her happy! But it never worked. She stayed sad.

does religion help in recovery?

Does Your Childhood Hold You Back? - By Jo Ball

Have you come to a point in your life and got stuck and unable to move on?

I’ve been shocked recently to discover how many women and men have suffered one trauma or another during childhood, in particular the amount that have been through abuse.

The experience of abuse, at an age when it would be impossible to know how to handle it, is horrific, be it beatings, humiliation or sexual abuse. These experiences stay with many children, through their teens right into adulthood, bringing up insecurity, anxiety jealousy and even threatening or violent behaviour patterns throughout life.

And maybe it’s here that your life gets stuck. In day-to-day situations where you feel insecure, anxious, jealous or violent you’ll probably revert to a behaviour pattern that you learned in your childhood. When you use that to deal with a current issue this is what you do…

You react – withdrawing or lashing out – even though you know the current situation has nothing to do with what is happening now, and before you know it you have lost an opportunity.

In the aftermath regret and depression set in. You might ask why this happens to you and why life is such a mess and why, every time things seem to get better something comes along and stops you from progressing. Within it all you might even be searching for the meaning and point of life.

If you search for the meaning and point to life and are stopped just knowing and believing the three points below is a very good foundation for your future.

1. I want to tell you that whatever life has dealt you up to this point, that your future can be brighter.

2. I want to tell you that you do possess a unique gift. I also want to tell you that you have a distinctive way of expressing that gift.

3. What might well have happened is that that gift has been buried underneath all the other confusion and chaos.

The last few years of my life have been dedicated to helping people from all walks of life, with all kinds of childhood and adult issues. The moments when they overcome what previously stopped them is very powerful. Their stories are amazing.

Whatever it is that stops you in life right now I hope this article has helped.

Love & best Wishes

Jo Ball (LCA, Dip)
Coach & Founder, Unstoppable Life

I'm in recovery....
just as many people today are finding their way into recovery from many things that happen to people in their lives.
My mother was sad, too. She didn't ever get happy. She seemed happy at times when she was drinking alcohol, but I knew that it wasn't a "true" happiness inside of her. She looked as if she were in pain since I was a little girl. It was a deep hurt that she was hiding inside herself. I just knew it.

You Are Responsible For Who You Become - by Timothy Gwinn

You are not responsible for the background and circumstances that may have influenced who you are, but you are responsible for who you become.

As I have said before, “we need to learn from our mistakes.” Not only that, but we need to learn from others mistakes. All to often I hear people say, I was abused as a child, I come from a poor family, my spouse left me, my parents were alcoholics, I have been physically abused, etc. I am not making fun of these people, nor am I insinuating that these events were not significant. After all, I have had trauma in my past as have most people. Although, I will say this, there is nothing that we can do about the past. We can only change the impact of past events as it relates to our future. In many cases we may need to seek professional help. But at some point in time we are going to have to decide what to do with our past experiences.

I would say to at least do this: Put the past where it belongs, in the past. Also learn from those mistakes that others have made, and don’t let them happen to you. For example, almost 80% of people that come from alcoholic parents become alcoholics themselves. If this is you, for heavens sake don’t drink alcohol because you know what the impact of that action is. Get professional help if you have to and do whatever it takes to overcome you’re past experiences. Remember you are responsible for who you become.

I started out my life as an infant, sure that my mother was unhappy & that my father was absent. I've always felt he was absent. He wasn't there when I was born either. I know that "back in the day" fathers paced diligently the floor in the waiting room, but in my case, my grandfather was with my mother when she was having me. Perhaps that's why my bond with him was so great. My dad was away in the Army.
Many things happened in my childhood that cause me to be traumatized severely. Every reaction to every trauma was forbidden if it were to be emotional. We were not allowed to be emotional. We could not cry, we couldn't be sad, we never knew mad & we were completely assured that if we needed something to cry about - my father would give it to us, gladly.
But now, now that I've been recovering for 5 years, I'll be 50 years old this year; I have realized that it's my responsibility who I turn out to be in the end. It's my responsibility to learn about my past, educating myself about what happened way back in the day. It's my time to process all those events to the best of my ability. It's time for me to put the past away. It's time for me to say that it happened, it's over & there's nothing I can do to change it.
It's time for me to throw that heavy baggage off the train. It's time for me to stop excusing myself for not moving forward because I had a traumatizing past. I've had 5 years of counseling. I'm on meds for the rest of my life. I've been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder & depression. I've recovered from my eating disorder.
Bad things happened, but now it's time to live in the present. Now it's time to be the person that I was born to be. It's impossible to start over like a newborn because these things have happened to me. I know that. But I am responsible for picking myself up - taking myself away from the past - and begin to appreciate the personal growth I've experienced these past 5 years, and now set some goals & plan to achieve them.
It's time for me to take action & live life to its fullest. 

It's my personal responsibility to get on with it. I have some good years left in my life, it's time to live them in a positive manner. It's time to make happy memories. It's time to appreciate everything & be grateful for what I make happen.

John 14:6 Helps Son Heal After Fathers' Death - by John G. Banks

This past weekend provided me with a new insight into God's plan.

I was asked to do a memorial service for a man who attended our church. I did not realize the impact this ceremony would have on my life and the lives of the people attending the service.

After meeting with the family, it became apparent to me that I had more in common with this man than I knew. We are both the stepfather of six children. Both of us worked a program of recovery. We each have a son who we abandoned as we worked toward our own selfishness and self-centeredness. I knew this man’s young son would be present at the service, and I wanted to touch him in some way to let him know that his father had succeeded in changing his life.

As I prepared my notes, I planned to use the book of John and the verse John 14:6 in my service. I read it again as I have so many times. Somehow this time the meaning was amplified to me.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.? I had no way of knowing if this young man knew Christ, but I knew his father did. I decided to go through Christ to bring this young man to his earthly father and then to his Heavenly Father.

While performing the service, these words slipped out of my mouth: “Remember him for who he had become, now what he was.? I paused, and watched a young man, one who never knew his father until a stranger shared something about the man, fall apart.

The six stepchildren and biological son reminded me of the believers sharing their possessions in Acts 4:32: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. Six children sharing with a son healed a torn relationship strained by years of addiction.

The son approached me later and indicated to me that he would like to talk in private. I knew this was going to be one of the most enlightening experiences of my life.

The story that was told to me was one I have heard many times. Somehow, this one had a different feeling to it. This young man shared with me that he had turned out just like his father. The realization that he wasn’t proud of his dad or himself was devastating to him. The son shared that he had been able to turn his life around just about the same time that his father did. For the past year, in different parts of the state, each was doing what God wanted him to do: repairing relationships, committing his life to Christ and asking, for a daily reprieve from his addiction.

This I thought was enough considering the circumstances, but God always saves the best for last, it is called a miracle.

The son asked me if his father had been a good father to these six children. I assured him that he was. I could see the tears begin to develop in his eyes, the urgency to fight them back. His nose began to sniffle and his throat was dry as he spoke these simple words: “I’m glad he found a family, someone he could love.?

This statement opened the door for healing and forgiveness. His struggle was over just like his father’s. Today, they are free because John the apostle, wrote the book of John for new Christians and non-Christians to prove that Jesus is the Son of God.

John 14:6 is a powerful verse that to some, without clarification, can seem overwhelming to anyone. All we have to do is have faith and the process becomes available for our struggles to disappear as they flow through Christ an on to His Father.

Saturday, July 18, 1998

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