How do you make sense of the stories told about your father when he’s gone?
As one of our most influential models for relationships, our parents set us on the lifelong path for the ways we engage with others– be it romantic or otherwise – a path we unconsciously choose to stay on or consciously choose to curate for ourselves.
Parents (and the culture we are born into) aren’t our sole influence.
According to James Hillman, author of “The Soul’s Code” we are born with a unique and authentic expression “The soul of each of us is given a unique daimon before we are born, and it has selected an image or pattern that we live on earth….. is the carrier of your destiny.”
As a child and into my adulthood, the stories I told about myself about my father was bound to my experiences of him as his daughter. Limited in scope, the stories were all one thing or another. A kind of shorthand, they were meant to make sense of a “truth” that I may, in turn, have a default position toward him.
In her Ted talk , Nigerian writer Chimananda Ndangozi Adichie speaks to this with great clarity: “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story.”
The danger of a single story is that it limits the way we can be with one another, cutting us off from the intimacies, the depth, the love we seek in the relationships that matter most.
When my father died in August, stories about him were told from family members, friends, caretakers and from his colleagues at the United Nations where he worked for most of his career. Although I had done much to broaden my view, these stories told an even more expansive one.
We are more complex than we appear.
Sitting next to each other, the stories line up as if on stools at a diner- each having their own personality, foibles, strengths, and loves. The full gamut made for a cast of characters I don’t fully recognize. A kind of paradise, a richness that was the man.
As I listen to the stories, I get to hear to flesh out in death the man I knew as father in life.
And I realize, this is SACRED space.
What we do to fulfill this life is to die. I, for one, feel grateful to know my father lives inside me through the stories that continue to unfold. His wisdom, knowledge, and support can be called upon at any time.
What are you meant to share today that will bring you closer to the ones you love?
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