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Spiritual Autobiography
by jackie oneal
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Spiritual Autobiography
By Jackie O’Neal
The renowned Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung once wrote: “Life begins at forty.”

I feel my own life is a testament to Jung’s notion.

Why? At forty, I married my wonderful husband, Mason O’Neal

and inherited a beautiful family consisting of ten new

children which included my mother-in-law, beloved and now

deceased since April 8, 2006. Father Harvey of St. Augustine’s
parish in NYC spoke these kind words about her in his

beautiful Eulogy: “Hattie lived her life close to the altar.”

He was referring to her many years of service on St.

Augustine’s Altar Guild and her work maintaining clergy

vestments and Church linens at Trinity Church in NYC.

I mention this personal reflection here to answer the

question: Where was God during my marriage to Mason? God was

strongly operating in my life at that time and I came to

understand God’s unconditional love through living with my new

family and enjoying the close family relationships, but

especially learning to be more loving by the example of my

loving mother-in-law and husband. Being with these two

beautiful people, I learned to relax and be happy.

In addition, I believe I was inspired by Hattie to also live

my life “close to the altar” as she did. I have realized her

influence upon me very strongly after her death, as I had a

chance to reflect more, particularly on Father Harvey’s

words: “she lived her life close to the altar.”

My life began at forty in the sense that I was confirmed in the

Episcopal Church during my early 40’s as well.

In my early adulthood, I had the misfortune of two early

divorces which I will elaborate upon later in this narrative.

My thirties were a period of self-actualization and continued

growth as I developed my career as a teacher and finished my

Post graduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing

Program. I also struggled as a single mother. I say struggled

because I attempted to be both Mother and father to my son.

Later, I learned it was an impossible task to undertake.

Only God posses the qualities to be our Father and Mother as

St. Julian teaches us: “As truly God is our Father, so truly

God is our Mother.”
A human mother cannot encompass the wisdom and insight that the

unenviable role of mother and father requires, hence by

combining some of the rigidity of my own parents with nurturing

and protection that came naturally, this did not produce the

best balance, or help me to be a tranquil mother. Why? I was

overwhelmed trying to be all things to my son. And he too,

was overwhelmed equally with my drive to do and be everything

all at once.

Luckily, I was young and resilient and had enough time to

bounce back and learn to do my part only and allow others to

help. I was doubly fortunate to marry Mason when my son was 23

and allow Mason to take on the role of father. Since then my

need to have all the right answers and do all the right things

in connection with family, has been greatly alleviated. I

enjoy now the collaboration we share as parents to 11

children. Since I did not have positive early marriages, this

element was missing during my early years.

Let me now move on and elaborate. I have been asked to

write my lifestory to reflect on the key events of my life

seeking to explain and understand the total picture. In

addition, considering the questions: Where was God? What have

I learned through the hardships or some of the difficulties

and the triumphs as well.

Were there times I was shutting God out? How has my image of

God changed? How will my marriage be used as a witness to the


I would like to begin by reminding you again that I have been

married to Mason O’Neal for the last 8 years. When I married

Mason, he was the father of ten children, so he embraced my

son, Shem as his 11th child. We are now a loving and blended

family brought together by God’s love.

I am the mother of 11 children. The oldest is 44 and the

youngest is 18. When I married Mason, we lived together with 3

of Mason’s boys and my son- that equals 4 sons- they are all my

sons. I raised those four boys- the rest of the children were

already grown and living on their own. I usually proudly

discuss my four sons: Matthew, Michael, Kirk and Shem. I

directly influenced and raised them, lived with them, went

through ups and downs with them and we have grown very close

over the years. As far as my son Kirk is concerned, I am the

only mother he has since his mother passed away when he was

five. Where was God? I believe the Lord brought all these

beautiful children ages 18-44 into my life to show me concrete

examples of His love and to allow me to care for others each

and every day. In addition, to serve Him in the role of

mother. I also have been given the great honor of being a

grandmother of 20. The family is growing. I know the Lord

wanted me to put my mothering skills to work in my family. God

was instrumental in orchestrating my unique and wonderful

position as a mother of a large family- a true matriarch!

I’m happy to say, I deal with many situations all the time:

graduations (three of my grandchildren are now in college: Sean

at Purdue University, Assantua at The University of

Pennsylvania, and Nicole at The University of Indiana) new

births, marriages and so forth. I joined a service where I

can send out cards online because we have events just about

every month and it helps us stay organized and not leave anyone

out. Just recently, two of my daughter-in-laws had a

birthday on the same day! I feel Mason and I have done an

outstanding job with our family because first of all, Mason is

a trained therapist and this helps to iron out any problems

when they occur in the form of misunderstanding s and so

forth. I am highly organized and probably run my family like a

business using tools I pick up like the Send Out Cards that

helps me reach out more expediently. I also set up a family

toll free number should anyone get stranded somewhere without a

cell phone and need to get a hold of us. I originally set it

up when my mother-in-law fell ill so the rest of the family

located in four different time zones, could get updates easily

and I wanted to save them money too. We believe in staying

touch, so I love to find new ways to do that in the most

expedient way possible. In large families, these kinds of

actions are important and I have to say, I enjoy working with

large groups. I come well trained with my experiences as a

classroom teacher teaching a roster of 150 students for nearly
10 years. I believe it must have been my training ground.

The Lord provided many early experiences for me to prepare for

my life’s work as the mother of many.

I am expected here to reflect on the difficulties I may have

encountered in raising four boys as I said earlier- the sons

that lived with us; Matthew, Kirk and Michael. I learned never

to give up no matter how hopeless a situation may seem. There

is always hope and light ahead. I learned not get stuck and

move on fast. Sometimes the boys did not all get along, but

with enough pep talks and nurturing eventually, they learned

to be more tolerant of any “creative differences” they may have

had. I’ve learned to be present in the lives of my children

to offer input when needed, or help them get over rough spots.

For instance, my sons always needed my input in being more

organized and they learned from to stay on top of things, not

give up.

Now, returning to my early marriages, I had two of them- one of

them – the first resulted in the birth of my son, Shem. The

first marriage gave me family. The second marriage was an

attempt to form a new family after my first divorce. As a

young, dedicated, hardworking parent, I wanted to find a

suitable father figure for my son. That hardship taught me to

persevere and not lose hope. I did not lose hope because I

re-married at age forty and finally settled into a beautiful

marriage. I felt God was actively leading me forward

inspiring me to continue to work hard and accomplish my goals

in finishing my Post-graduate work, and continuing my teaching


I enjoyed caring for my young family, but sadly my first

husband had a serious substance abuse problem and refused to

get help. I was devastated, but needed to move forward for the

sake of my son and my sanity. I experienced God as a friend

throughout it all- someone I could talk to, ventilate even if I

had to. My earlier images in childhood may have been more of

a faraway and inaccessible God- up in Heaven somewhere, but

that image has radically changed for me as I see God as a dear

friend I can talk to about everything in my life.

I’ve been to asked to explain how my marriage will serve as a

witness to the Church. I’d like to clarify something very

important you need to know- in case you are under the

impression that my marriage is interracial. I did a lot of

research on this at The Schomburg Center in Harlem, NYC and

explored my African roots through research and many documents

and books I read. I even ran into Al Sharpton while I was

there! It was very exciting. I learned through my research

that many of the ports in Argentina { my birthplace} were huge

slaves ports which brought in slaves from Nigeria. I did an

extensive amount of research to learn that I am a descendant of

Nigerian slaves that were brought to Buenos Aires. I have

established my African roots and identify very strongly with

African-American life and culture.

My marriage can serve as a witness of hope, love and strong

family values to the Church. We are a loving, dedicated

couple and empathetic with families and many diverse cultural

groups by virtue of the composition of our family’s ethnic

identity. Some of my children and grandchildren are Muslim.

I believe God is a creative God- who gave me many gifts and a

creative approach to my life.

I’ve learned to appreciate the diversity of God’s people.
Genetically, I represent the world- African, European and

Indigenous roots. To me, the total picture encompasses seeing

and appreciating the family of man.


Jackie O’Neal

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