I’m writing late, now ten days past your death. There are so many things I wish I’d told you, many things I wish I could understand. Brother Mark has written some beautiful eulogies, reminding me how each of your sons had a unique experience of our lives together, with you.
At first, I was in panic about Mother. How would she carry on? Where would she life. But we’ve all gathered in close, to care for her. To resolve those pesky financial concerns, repair things, set the house aright. And James and Gail have invited her to move to Wilsonville, where she would be close to them and their children. Mother seemed to feel good about this.
As for me, my grief came as a surprise. I guess I’d done what most men do, compartmentalized my feelings. I wish I’d been closer in the last few years, when you seemed so frail and ailing. Certainly, I had my busy life, too many excuses. And my fear, of your vulnerability, your close march onward towards death, this must have kept me away. For that I am sorry.
Grief surprised me, as did my sense of isolation. Especially as I’m the black sheep, in a family of believers. Oh, you know this, as does Mother. Long past the days of my questioning, of writing you angry letters. This week I dug them out of my files, for a reminder. I was so angry. And lost. I guess grace does come with age. For now, I’m still a skeptic, but no longer need to proselytize. I’m even realizing I come from a long tradition of questioning the family faith, as you did with your father, and he with his. Each of us had to struggle to define ourselves, to set out to find our own way.
The beauty of insight is that I see now how much of you I have taken with me. The way of the Peacemaker, for instance. You always held true to that part of Jesus’ teaching, the most important part, as I see it. “Blessed are the Peacemakers”. “Turn the other cheek”. And you did. You always chose the path of non-violence. A pacifist, but not passive. Indeed, you ruffled the feathers when needed, spoke truth to power, protested when many expected their small town preacher to look the other way. And truth prevails. Did you know the Methodist Church in Philomath now houses both a Head Start PreSchool, and a Montessori School?
I see how your path has been mine. When we moved to Philomath, I sought to create an ecumenical retreat, dedicated to healing and non-violence. I named it Ahimsa Sanctuary, after Gandhi’s Sanskrit word meaning the way of non-harming. Our family home being the “House of An” continues. The stained glass symbol your created adorns my home, bringing a feeling of peace and tranquility whenever I see it.
So we are walking this path together, again. I have many more things to tell you, but the most is that I am proud to be your son. You showed me how to become a man, to live with conviction and integrity. In all my early struggles and protestations, you always responded to me with love and grace. May I do likewise as I venture on in my own life.
Stephen aka Ocean
(Readers: Here’s my brother Mark’s blog, many posts on my father. This is the obituary… http://midlifemeditation.blogspot.com/2014/12/elam-j-anderson-1926-2014.html )