I don't think she has even a clue. It's quite possible that she does not realize just how much, how grateful I am for her. When no one else cared, when I'd been, deservedly, kicked to the curb, she still showed me love, unconditional love. She was and is the finest example of a true Christian; Love the sinner, hate the sin. And I know she prayed for me even when I never deserved those prayers or her love. And worst of all, she bore such pain alone. Yes, Teri was my step-mom but all these years later, I see that she has loved me like her own.
My Father, her husband died years ago of Cancer. In the midst of all that was going on at that time, near the death of my Father, I was in a relationship with an extremely abusive man. Long story short, I can not blame him for everything that went wrong in my life and at that time but he led me down the path to hell. I can not blame him for the fact that as my father lay dying, he ran from the situation as he had been close to my Dad. He loved and respected my Father. Amusingly, after he had beat me and blackened my eye, my Father came and put the fear of God into him. He knew that my Father allowed him to live, it was that simple.
He drug me with him and I allowed it. I didn't see that I had a choice. Maybe it was easier to let him tell me what to do, where to go, etc.? But the fact remains that all these years later, as I sometimes grieve for my Daddy, the man who held me close and made everything alright, the man who I know would have died and killed for me, I have the realization that it was Teri who lovingly and with great sacrifice, a sacrifice not known in words, let my Father know it was ok for him to leave. It was Teri who stood by his side, by his death bed. She faced it all alone. I was too immature to accept the finality of it all, too cowardly to look my Father in the eyes as he passed.
I never said good-bye and my last words to my father are not known except that I do remember simply saying that "Dad we are Fighting Irish, remember that." No, I could not accept that this man could die. Hell, he was bigger than life, stronger than steel and even though he wasn't a big man, he was huge to me. He was and will always be my Hero. Hero's don't die, do they? How can a man who I watched run into a burning building and carry out a child, singed but alive, how could he die, this man who carried two guns at all times and was never afraid, who taught me to "face my fears, head on" how could he die?
He had helped me climb the entire length of the fire departments ladder truck telling me, "Don't be afraid, I am right here. Now face your fears," as I climbed and climbed for what seemed like forever. When I finally reached the top, like climbing Mt. Everest, it was almost dusk. He smiled like he had a secret and told me, "Now look how beautiful it is up here. You've faced your fears and look at the reward," and he pointed out at the landscape of the city, lit up and just awesome. I no longer had a fear of heights which, much to his dismay, I was then busted after I'd climbed the water tower behind the yards across the street. Yes, I was in deep poo poo as I tried to get out of it. It was rather difficult to dispel when he pointed out to me, my name so boldly spray painted all over the water tower. But he was secretly smiling the whole time as he scolded me in front of my mother, sending me to my room.
What he taught me about facing my fears, I had applied to everything but his death.
I happily introduced Teri to Jim, that night, so many years ago. Oddly enough, actually, it's not odd at all but I feel that Jim was heaven sent, my own Father picked him to pick of the pieces he left behind in his death. I see now that my Father asked God to intervene on her behalf as she was so devastated at the loss of my Father. It had to have been a rather lonely period of time for Teri. God sent this hand picked fella, who became Teri's husband and father to my brothers, a package deal. Jim has raised my two brothers, Brian and Steven. My brothers have grown up, gone to college and have become productive members of society, guys that I am proud of. I just know that they will be alright, they'll make it. I realize that Teri and Jim's influence made all the difference.
If I never said it before I am so truly grateful that Jim has been there not only to raise my brothers but as a good husband to my Fathers wife. Teri loved my Daddy, took care of him and was there when he died. No, it was not me, who held my Fathers hand and looked into his eyes, lovingly as he took his dying breath. It was Teri, my wonderful, caring and unselfish to a fault, step-mom who bore this alone.
My daddy, even though he was stronger than life, must have been scared when he could no longer breathe but I believe with all the fiber of my being that it was Teri and Jesus that made it alright, that gave my father the calm assurance and permission, that it was ok to go and that we had the faith that all would be well. No, I was not there, a pain I have carried for more than a decade.
Although it may have taken me all these years, you know to mature enough to realize, I do see how much of a blessing Jim has been, it truly is an act of God. Yes, stuck in my own pain, with the loss of my Father and then my own husband and with all that was going on at the time, all the horror that was my life, my mind, my life was so clouded and I could not see.
My Step-Mother, through all these years, has been so supportive. Even in her busy life, you know the dredge of a working mother and wife, she has always managed to creep into my life in my moments of despair. How does she do it? Even this little email gave me hope...
I needed to read this...
We complain about the cross we bear but don't realize it is preparing us for the dip in the road that God can see and we cannot.
Whatever your cross, whatever your pain, there will always be sunshine, after the rain.... Perhaps you may stumble, perhaps even fall; But God's always ready, to answer your call.... He knows every heartache, sees every tear, a word from His lips, can calm every fear... Your sorrows may linger, throughout the night, But suddenly vanish, by dawn's early light... The Savior is waiting, somewhere above, to give you His grace, and send you His love.
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle!