Image: Dragonfly by André Karwath
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of playing with my sisters in our basement in Iowa. Roaming the woods of Missouri with my youngest sister and building shelters and small fires for cooking bacon. My father read to us each night from the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books. When he and I went fishing I’d watch the dragonflies dance in the air and land on our poles.
“The dragonfly normally lives most of its life as a nymph or an immature. It flies only for a fraction of its life and usually not more than a few months. This adult dragonfly does it all in these few months and leaves nothing to be desired. This style of life symbolizes and exemplifies the virtue of living IN the moment and living life to the fullest. By living in the moment you are aware of who you are, where you are, what you are doing, what you want, what you don’t and make informed choices on a moment-to-moment basis.” –dragonfly-site.com
That was before his mental illness got worse and we ended up in a severe car accident. He suffered a major concussion that worsened his illness exponentially. He had already been abusive toward my mother, though she tried to hide it. She was a pastor’s wife — church members would ask her if she would need help, and she always said nothing was wrong. I often feel angry with her for not speaking up because it would have saved me from many years of torment. When I was just nine his attention, especially sexual attention, turned to me. I never said anything. Especially since I would immediately block the trauma from my mind. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I began to recall all that had happened. I was always aware of the verbal and physical abuse of myself, my sisters, and step-siblings. I’ve had to deal with the fact that it was the fault of the adults in my life and not mine that nothing was done to save us from the violence. I knew if I told anyone, I would be killed. He had guns, too, and when drunken arguments between him and my step-mother got heated, they’d draw pistols.
It isn’t easy to talk about and many people, especially family members, often don’t want to hear about it. They would rather I remember the happy times. I don’t know if not wanting me to talk about it is for my own good or theirs, but I get tired of hearing that I need to move on. Unless they’ve been through what a survivor has, they won’t understand that you don’t just move on. You take life a day at a time. You focus on healing one day at a time. Nobody heals overnight. There are steps forward and steps back. No matter how much an individual’s pain makes others uncomfortable or makes them sympathetic, they can’t force a miraculous healing.
I’ve struggled for years with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, taking various medications and seeing counselors as part of my healing path. That path also includes Gaian Paganism: seeking the reaffirming interconnected life that Gaia provides. But I was stuck living in the past, recreating in my mind over and over the various things that had happened.
My father passed away just a few weeks ago. There were many different feelings that I struggled with. I mourned the kind and caring father he could be, and I was angry and deeply wounded by the psychopath he could be.
During the funeral I got so frustrated at hearing over and over about what a great man he was. I did enjoy hearing stories from one of my uncles about their childhood together. I know everyone was trying to be proper, but I also know that my father had schizophrenia and he was good at getting others to play along with his delusions. Once he stood before an audience of five-thousand people and told them he had been hunted by the CIA because of the War on Drugs.
This perpetrator, this liar, was the good man that they were talking about. I believe, as some Pagans do, that we cross paths with significant people in our lives for a purpose. I’m still not exactly sure why I ended up with him as my father. Either way I didn’t want to reincarnate with him again. He had crossed the line. Our time together was physically and spiritually over. At the graveside service, when it came my time to say a few words I instead slipped a letter into the casket. It was a good bye letter that made sure he knew past pacts were invalid.
Then I walked, walked faster, and finally ran toward a row of trees where I flung off my shoes so I could feel the blessed body of my Goddess with me. I fell to the ground pulling at it and screaming. The streaming tears felt good as I released many years of pent up anger. I had also been mourning the loss of a loving father for a lifetime. Once I could no longer cry, there was a great sense of release and closure.
Dragonflies swarmed across the cemetery and I knew everything would be all right. Today I live from moment to moment and continue on my healing path.