Sunday, April 17, 2011


This phrase came to me soon after I heard the news that someone I was close to had died.
The news was a shock.
She was only 45 years old.

I am not sure how we came to meet her or know her situation.
It was 1984 or so.
She was 15 at the time and having family problems, personal problems, and, not surprisingly, spiritual problems.
There were problems with drugs and sex and alcohol – serious issues for a fifteen year old.
Things that I was not sure I knew how to help with.
I also was sure God could help her, but it would take her cooperation.
That was not a sure thing at the outset.

With the permission of her mother, and the girl's consent, we agreed to take her in.
I do not know how we came to this decision.
She lived with us for about two years.
Soon after she moved in she received salvation and began living the strict way we followed.
About the same time, God gave me a father's love for the girl.
This was misunderstood by nearly everyone around us – including my wife.
But it did not matter to me.
I knew what God had given me, and I knew how it shaped my relationship with the girl.
There was never anything inappropriate in me toward her.
I loved her as my daughter.
I did my best to build a relationship with her.
I wanted her to have a father that she could trust and respect.

We went through several emotional and spiritual episodes with her in those two years or so.
She ran away once.
Only to be found by that evening.
The question to her then was, “do you want to go home to live with your mother, or do you want to continue to stay with us?”
She elected to stay, even with the understanding that the relationship would now be different.
She stayed and blossomed again.

At one point we even considered adopting her.
This was discussed with her mother.
I do not remember why we did not follow through with the idea, but it was never pursued to completion.

Time passed.
Circumstances in her family changed and finally, the girl felt that she needed to return to her mother.
We understood.
It was hard to see her go.
It would be a spiritual challenge for her, as well.
Minutes after she had driven off with her mother, I remember sitting on her bed with my oldest son, who was about eight years old at the time, crying.
He wanted to know why she had to go.
I had no answer that could ease his tears or mine.
That was around 1985 or 1986.

It was not long before she stopped coming to church.
For part of the time she was with us I went through a clinical depression that lasted about two years, I gradually recovered.
To this day, I do not understand exactly why this happened to me.
It was one of the most bizarre times in my life.

About thirteen or fourteen years later, because of some (more) personal problems, she moved in with us for a couple of weeks.
She had a daughter then, who was about 12 or so.
This meeting was different for several reasons.
She was less pliable spiritually and less inclined to conform to the same strict standards we still followed.
She was an adult now.
She was not the confused, scared girl we had known before.
My wife and I, were having our own problems.
We were both interested in helping her, but the help we could provide would be different than our last encounter with her.
When she left us this time, it was the last time I would see her alive.

Then came the news this week – she was dead.
Seemingly without a cause.
It had been years since I had seen her. (12?)
And I had gone months or years at a time without thinking of her.
But as soon as the sad news came to me, my mind flooded with memories of her and her time with our family.
I was surprised at the strength of my mental and emotional reaction to it.

That is when I realized the concept of Emotional Investment.
I had given her my heart – in a fatherly way, and she, in turn, had loved me and respected me as a father.
My wife had done the same, I am sure.
My wife and I had stood up to her when she had disobeyed, showing her the unconditional love she had failed to receive from her natural father.
She had submitted to the rules of the family.
Our children had loved and adopted her also.
The Emotional Investment was shared among us.

It had come from time spent with one another.
Sharing, opening up, giving, receiving, growing – individually and together.
And even though you separate and even forget about the person, you never really get away from the Emotional Investment you have made.
It is true of parents and children.
It is true of husbands and wives.
It is something that can sleep as if dormant, but just the mention of her name, and the depth and magnitude of the Emotional Investment comes alive again.
And you feel the love and commitment you gave and shared.

I felt it as I looked at the body of the woman in the casket today.
I never thought I would be in this situation.
But I was.
Looking at a woman that I had given my heart to as a father, so many years ago. (25)
Part of me did not want to look.
It was too painful.
I did not want to see her like this.

Another part of me wanted to see her again.
To rip the scab off my heart and feel the blood flowing and the pain again.
And tell her that her “other” daddy still loves her.

Her life did not turn out to be the one I had prayed for.
She never found happiness with a man, that I know of.
She continued to have problems with alcohol and drugs off and on, I heard.
And she never returned to the spiritual peace she once had, that I know of.

While some of this can be attributed to the traumatic events of her early teen years, much of it is the result of decisions she made.
She chose this life.
She chose a life that would end this way.
In spite of what the preacher said today, I do not believe she was saved.
I wish I could say otherwise.
And I hope I am wrong.
God knows for sure.
But just going on what I know about her life in recent years, I see an unhappy, unfulfilled life.
I wanted something better than this for her.
And that is part of what I did not want to see today.
An Emotional Investment is costly.


Mari said...

I understand your pain. May God bless you for what you tried to do. Free will, while God's greatest gift, is often destructive. As parents, we can only guide and lead by example. The rest is up to the child. I feel the same frustration with Cameron, and I fear where he will end up. I pray my fears are just that, and not premonitions. Thanks for sharing, and I hope it helped you.

Paw said...

Thanks, Mari.
I think every parent with any spiritual sense feels the same way.


April 15 th of 2013 was my last year to work for HR Block. I disliked the corporate pressure to make us call customers to try ...