“What am I doing here? I shouldn’t have come.” His words broke the hypnotic silence of the South Carolina rain outside.
“Today is your father’s funeral; this is where you should be, son.”
“My father? Maybe in a legal sense of the word, but I never knew a real father . . . it takes more than biology, Mom.”
“Well, that may be true, but still, he was your father and this is his funeral.”
“Why, of all people, are you defending him? Even you divorced him over twenty years ago. He wasn’t a good father and he most definitely not a good husband to you. I was old enough to remember him always being drunk and slapping you around. When he was around, he wasn’t there because he was drunk for every day I ever knew him. I’m surprised he lived as long as he did; he drank gin straight out of the bottle. And finally, it put him out of his misery.”
“Son, I’m not trying to defend him . . . it’s just that . . . sometimes life . . .”
“LIFE? He had a family that needed him, a son that needed . . .” He turned back to the window as he fought the back the tears he refused to shed. Returning to the refuge of his anger, he spoke through clenched teeth, “I will never be like him.”
“Then maybe that’s the blessing, son. He being such a bad example of a father and your determination not to be like him has caused you to become the good father and husband that you are today. But you must let go of all this hate and anger or it will eat you alive and rob you of life, just as that cancer did your father.”
“I can’t, it’s all I have left of my father,” he said as a tear finally escaped from his grip.
“He never told you, did he?” She said through her own tears staring at the back of her only son who stood in the window rigid with anger and hate. “I need you to see something.”
“Tell me what? Where are you going?” he asked as she silently disappeared down the hall.
Turning back to the window he closed his eyes listening to the rain, whispering, “God . . . help me.”
“Here, look at this.” She said holding a picture album. Sitting in the chair next to the window, he stared at a black and white photo of a shell of a man. Scraggly beard, clothes far too big. He seemed to be a walking skeleton.
“Who is this?” He said frowning.
“It’s your father.” She said sitting in the chair next to him. “That was taken right after he got out.”
“Out of what? A hole?” He said holding the album up in the light to see it better.
“Son, that was right after he was released from a Korean prison camp. He was a POW for nine months in the Korean War.” Looking into his bewildered eyes she knew he didn’t believe her. “He never told you, did he?”
“POW? No . . . He never breathed a word of it. But neither did you, for that matter.”
“Son, this was something he never talked about. But from the nightmares he would have, I knew it was a hell that I could not even begin to imagine. I figured he would tell you one day when he was ready. Why do you think I put up with all the drinking and abuse all those years?”
“Honestly, I thought you were crazy for staying and putting up with it.”
“I could choose to dwell on the hurt. But the blessings of this life are not found in the sad but rather in the glad. No matter what comes our way, we can be thankful for what we learn from it or we can allow it to affect the rest of our life. Then it becomes easy to use it as our excuse for our own shortcomings. As far as your father, I know for a fact that he confessed Christ as his Lord three days before he passed away. His nightmares have finally stopped. Now you must find a way to release him from your prison.”
Turning back to the window his tears matched the rhythm of the rain outside. Running his fingers over the photo he whispered, “The war is over, Dad. You’re free.”
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