The Fathers of two of my friends are dying. The Father of another friend passed away in the last three weeks. And, I found out today that the father of a man with whom I was to meet tomorrow is also deathly ill. In times such as these I find myself at a loss. I have no idea how you truly provide comfort and support to someone that has just lost or is in immenent peril of losing a parent. Frankly, I anticipate falling completely apart when the mortality of my Mother comes knocking. But, particularly with Fathers and death, I find myself confronting an entire host of complicated and conflicting feelings.
As an abstract concept I understand the concept of Father. As a matter of fact, at one time or another, I have legally had four Fathers in my lifetime. In practice, there are two men that I have called Dad—my biological father William and my first step-father, and the man that raised me during the formative years, Clinton. One man my brother and I had decided to call Dad just before he abandoned my Mother and left us in Kansas City. My current step-father married my Mother two years ago and is four months younger than I am. He doesn't really fit into the Father equation. My birth Father popped in and out of my life every three or four years until I was a teenager, as he was in the military and moved around the world. At the feet of my step-father I can lay most of my psychological trauma—I wrote extensively about him on my old blog at www.itainttruthifitdoesnthurt.blogs.friendster.com. Look for the entry called Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about my Father(s), the impact or lack of presence they have had on my life, the wounds that I have carried around that, at this point, are my fault and no longer theirs (at some point, as adults, we have to realize that though they may have wounded us as youth...the only way those wounds can keep bleedings is if we keep ripping them open), and the legacy, role, and history of black men and why so many turn out like my Fathers.
But, as I have engaged with friends---many of whom share a similar history of disconnection and dysfunction when it comes to their own fathers—I have found myself wondering at my lack of ability to offer anything more than surface platitudes and an empathy that is responding to their pain as opposed to their experience. Juxtaposed against the very clear idea that I have and the ghost hurt I have felt even imagining the passing of my Mother, my confusion, contradictory emotions, and awkwardness at connecting with loss or potential loss of a dad is sharply outlined.
I am at an age where friends are having babies and the parents of friends are beginning to die. This is a new stage in my life, one that illuminates ever more clearly that whether I am ready or not, I am moving into a generational experience where I and my peers are expected to take up the official reigns of leadership, care for our ailing parents, and begin creating, prepping, and educating the generation that will come after us. It seems ludicrous that in that context that I still have so much to sort out with regards to a parent(s), nor is it hopeful watching those I care about, some of whom are older, trying to grapple with some of the same issues as their Father is dying.
It is hurtful, to me, to watch friends have to set aside the wounds and pain and hurt caused by their dying parent in order to ease the passing of that individual. It is n honorable sacrifice on the part of my friends that they are setting aside their very real grievances and hurt, but it also seems to me that there should be, in the minds of these passing shapers of young lives, a corresponding desire and move to frankly evaluate their lives and attempt to make amends for their shortcomings. Ideally we do this as we live, but, it seems that the principle of Last Rites and Last Confession should be applied broadly in principle if not in practice: a final reckoning of sin and, if necessary, making amends with your last breath.
I don't necessarily have a point to this other than to share my confusion and to publicly acknowledge the loss to those that have lost and the love and honor that those who are losing are sharing with those that are dying. They should have that love and honor lauded by those that still live even if those that are passing are unable to do so.