I found this letter while looking for something else. Does it matter when I wrote it? I don’t think so. Does it matter whether I wrote it to one of my children or just in a fit of maternal imagination? I don’t think it does. If you are the parent of a struggling child, this is your letter.
Preamble: If I had a son or a daughter who could not see their own nobility, who was lost in the brambles of deception, believing lies about themselves, and who constantly imagined that others were seeing only their flaws (which every mirror magnified), I would say this:
There are a few things I know for certain. One of them is that we are meant to be a family. We are meant to provide essential vision for each other during the inevitable times when one of us goes blind. Right now, it’s my turn to guide you through a dark time in your life, and the time will come (sadly but probably inevitably) when you will guide me. I won’t lie about what I see in you, but I will use more than my eyes to transcend the obvious and find the essential, and then to describe it to you and help you remember.
I won’t waste time bemoaning what this disorder has stolen from you and from our family, but will simply remind of a few honest truths.
We are all jerks, you know, and we are all miracles. We are blundering fools, and we are radiant saints, screwing up royally and then discovering that we have managed to find a royal throne anyway. We are given to each other so that we have somebody’s arms to blunder into, and somebody’s gentle nod to acknowledge the treasures we all bring with us. I know for certain that you and I belong together in our sometimes unsteady, often undulating family circle.
King Lear, after spiraling into insanity, stunned by his daughters’ abhorrent behavior, awakes from his nakedness to find himself dressed in new clothes. His daughter, Cordelia, who had refused to give him flattering lies, and who he has disowned, is with him. As he opens his eyes, he says,
“Pray, do not mock me.
I am a very foolish fond old man,
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Methinks I should know you…
Yet I am doubtful for I am mainly ignorant
What place this is…
Do not laugh at me;
For, as I am a man, I think this lady
To be my child Cordelia.”
She answers, “And so I am. I am.”
There’s the pattern. We learn to see each other, and then to teach each other who we are. In our family, we parents try to use the light of Christ to illuminate any dark corners where doubt might be growing like mildew. It’s a burning but transcendent light.
That particular scene in Lear is called “The Reconciliation,” and culminates with Lear and Cordelia kneeling to each other, blessing each other.
If I had a son or a daughter who was suffering in blindness and considered himself/herself foolish and unworthy of anyone’s love; if they thought they had offended me and everyone else beyond repair, I would take his or her hand and say, “No cause. No cause.” I hope they would do the same for me.
We are all about learning to remember, and learning to forget. Remember the miracles; forget the failings. See with our souls.
I often visit a dear old friend who once spoke from the Tabernacle pulpit just about every April and October. He no longer recognizes me. I have to tell him who I am. There are moments he seems angry with himself as he rakes his memory to find my name, which has apparently disappeared. (I knew that would happen eventually.) So I sing to him. I sing songs about Jesus (including one he composed). Sometimes, just for a moment, he remembers the lyrics and sings along with me.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.”
If I had a son or a daughter who had been blinded by a mirror’s flash, I would sing the songs we sang in our childhoods, songs of love and redemption. And even if they didn’t sing with me, I would be assured that they still knew the words.