Friday, March 27, 2009

Legacy - Part 1

They say you never get over the loss of a child. No matter how old that child is. I haven't experienced this and I hope I never do. I can't imagine what the pain must be. My grandmother has suffered this fate though.. twice.

I had an uncle who died before I was born. I found out as a teenager he had committed suicide. I'm not sure how I found out and that detail is unimportant.

I found out a year ago that my cousins, who are all much older than me, did not know that he committed suicide. They had just found out about it. I was shocked that their mother wouldn't have told them the truth. She let them grow up with a lie. A lie she created and kept up with. I was completely baffled.

Until I thought about it, and I realized, she was following her number one instinct as a mother. She was protecting her children. Protecting them from the questions that would inevitably come - why didn't he want to live? Why didn't he want to be with them anymore? She was protecting them from the guilt they would possibly take on.

It's common for children of divorce to feel guilty. "If I was just good enough, if I didn't get time out and if I ate my vegetables, mommy and daddy would still be together" Would these children have wondered what they did that was so bad their father chose not to live any longer?

It must have been quite a surprise to find out as an adult that the parent you lost as a child took themselves away from you on purpose... and I wonder how their few memories and ideas of their father may have been changed that day. I wonder how their feelings of their mother may have changed.

It is such a delicate dance we do as parents - striving to do a good job. Taking pride in our children's accomplishments. Working hard to mold them into kind, caring, productive people. Viewing their actions and choices as a reflection of ourselves. All of our parenting choices, the good and the bad, shape the legacy we leave that is our children. Sometimes, that legacy turns out to be something all together different from what we intended.