My father died today. Well, more accurately, on this date four years ago. Our family affectionately refers to it as The Day Dad Got His Motorcycle. I didn’t often tell Dad that I loved him—just often enough so that I … Continue reading
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2016 brought a summer of surprises to my hometown, Baton Rouge: a black man killed by police, sparking a local and national firestorm; six police officers shot by a black man, three fatally; floodwaters engulfing the city without warning. And, somewhere in … Continue reading
They lined up early today. I can see them, though right now I’m a thousand miles away. An eagerness shines in their eyes as they clutch their purses and wallets and try to peer in the windows, lured by the siren call of Craigslist and the newspaper ad, though a privileged few were on the private list of the organizer. Estate Sale Time.
Today is the day when most of the material possessions that my parents amassed in their 60+ years together are being offered for sale. The four of us kids have already gone through and selected the few items that we couldn’t live without (and that would fit in our respective houses), but there was still so much left over. Until today.
The view from the pulpit at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Flour Bluff, Texas, has gotten a little too familiar of late. For the second time in the space of 17 months, I found myself there to bid farewell to one of my parents. This time it was my mom, Gerry Kisling, who left this world without much notice, a few hours after suffering a massive stroke in early February. I was in LAX, waiting for a flight to San Francisco, when I got the call.
How to sum up the life of your mother in a few paragraphs and minutes? The short answer is, it can’t be done. This was my feeble but heartfelt attempt.
She smiled at me. “Sure. Go ahead.”
She was a lovely, petite woman–about my age and quite open and outgoing. We had been engaged in a lively chat for the past 45 minutes, efficiently solving the world’s pressing problems. An engineer, she had related her passion for creating opportunities for other young women to enter and thrive in male-dominated professions. In turn, I told her about a counseling training I was headed to and mentioned that I was particularly interested in helping people heal from emotional trauma. So often, we are busy dealing with unfinished business—blocked energy—from unprocessed, unhealed trauma that gets retriggered in the present. Usually, we don’t even realize that we’re nursing old wounds. Over time, the heightened tension or stress becomes part of our baseline, our new normal.
Eulogy for my father, Col. Richard D. Kisling, on Thursday, October 2
One of my anchoring memories of Dad takes place in a building like this, a Catholic Church, more than 40 years ago. I remember during (what seemed to my young self) an excrutiatingly long sermon (Father, I’m sure you never do that)—I remember sitting next to him, resting my head against his arm, feeling the cloth of his suit, breathing in the everpresent scent of Old Spice, sensing his steadiness, and closing my eyes. I was safe. Everything was taken care of. And he let me do it, without objection. I even think that he enjoyed it, too. Continue reading