I’ve listened to “This I Believe” on NPR for many months, and every time I hear such moving personal stories, I wonder to myself, “What would I write about? What do I believe in strongly enough to contribute an essay to National Public Radio?”
Here is my story. I’m not sure where it will go.
When I was fourteen years old, my mother decided to leave my family: my dad, me, and my two younger sisters. My youngest sister was nine at the time. It was 1972, and women of my mother’s generation were beginning to take more control of their lives. From my family’s perspective, my mother left quite unexpectedly. One day, she was there being my mom; the next day, she was gone. While I was in high school, she lived in a series of small apartments a mile or two away with one or more cats, until she could afford a small house of her own. From what I hear, she now lives in a small apartment with one or more cats, and she exercises regularly in a gym.
When my mother left, my father was very much loved and respected in the community. He had been a Congregational minister in my town for many years, but a few months before my family dissolved, he left the Church to begin a new career teaching in a local community college. From what he told us, he had lost faith in the Church after marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late 1960s and then later counseling Vietnam War draft evaders and conscientious objectors. Rather than preach from a pulpit, Dad thought he could be a better person teaching poor kids in a classroom. He also spent the rest of his professional life teaching in a regional maximum-security prison.
I thought this story was going to be about my mother and my belief in impermanence. But it’s actually about my dad. My father died about a month ago. I miss him very much. I knew this would happen eventually—my dad’s death—but it has been more difficult than I expected.
I have understood impermanence for most of my adult life, but right now, I need to believe in everlasting and unconditional love. I hope I can find it.