My Father’s Chair: Forgiving, Releasing and Blessing My Father (Part 1)

My friend Judy, her then-boyfriend-now-husband, Clarence, and I seated ourselves in the back of the Queensway Cathedral for the David Meece Concert. We were bending church rules slightly to be there, but it would be worth it.

On every front it was a day for bending and breaking rules, it seemed. I had spent my day in the sun, with peroxide sprayed generously through my hair, to keep it from turning a mousy brown/blonde colour. Church rules forbade us to get our hair coloured or dyed in any way, so this was the next best thing. Peroxide, I determined, was a healthy product and it did the job. I had no idea how unhealthy it was for my hair.

Being the third wheel on a date was a first for me and I had anticipated an awkward evening out, but it wasn’t. We had a great time, talking and laughing on the drive.

I was going for the ‘party’, to bend the rules a bit, but little did I realize that David Meece, and his testimony, would have a powerful impact on my healing journey. More than seven months had passed since Howard and Alice asked that life-altering question and I had made progress, but it was still a long road ahead.

I had attended few concerts in my life, Christian or secular, making David Meece’s concert one of the first, if not the first, ‘real’ concerts I attended. The smoke, the flashing colours, the other effects, all drew me in. It seemed quite a show, to me as a young Mennonite, who had again become accustomed to all things simple, conservative and humble. Not a culture shock, really, as I had done my time in the bar scene in my mid teens. I had seen loud secular bands in action. This had a different spirit entirely, a different message from that of the bar scene. A message of hope. But it was very different from the Mennonite world I had returned to, three years earlier.

David, a child prodigy, is a highly gifted musician and I wished I was closer to the stage, so that I could see him play the piano. It was out of this world the way his hands moved. He sang a few songs, talked a little, sang a few more and talked a bit more. That’s how he did his concert.

As he told bits and pieces of his story, emotion stirred deep within. Here was a man with a dreadfully painful story, doing something with his life. And telling his story publicly, without shame. Just telling it, like it was. And sharing the love of Jesus in the process. Lifting up the One who carried him through it.

The night was powerful! He sang The Man with the Nail Scarred Hands, We Are The Reason, Seventy Times Seven and other great songs that touched me. But it was Once in A Lifetime… My Father’s Chair and When I Was Seventeen that broke me. In a good way. I felt understood. As though God was speaking directly to my heart through these songs, and David’s story.

Two stories had an impact that remain with me even now, twenty (plus) years later. The first one was tragic, yet created mental image that had the audience in stitches. I laughed and cried at the same time, when he told how his grandma stepped in when his father threatened him. I believe his dad’s intent was to kill David, but those details are vague now. She jumped onto David’s father’s back, and, if my memory is right, started beating him and fighting for her grandson.

I identified with the trauma so powerfully that I wept, while laughing at the image of Grandma piggybacking on her son’s back, fighting him down to protect her grandson. That level of risk and protection touched a place deep inside of me. I was an emotional mess, as it drew out of me much buried pain, bringing release from some of my own journey of abuse and trauma.

The second story that made a lasting impact was the night David’s father died. He told how he was in a hotel room, either that night or soon after, filled with anger for his dad and hurting deeply. Lying on the bed, God showed him an image of his father, not as an abusive adult, but a hurting little boy. He shared how something broke in his heart and he was finally able to forgive his father.

I left that concert with renewed commitments….

I would forgive Dad, Seventy Times Seven, for abusing me and not being there… for My Father’s Chair being empty when I needed someone to father me. I would give God the Rest Of My Life and live my Once In A Lifetime. It was almost as if the titles of songs he sang, and the songs on the albums I purchased, were a message written for me, to keep my focused on healing.

There was no way I could have known how that night would impact me, and how, one year later, I would see my father the same way David saw his father in that hotel room, but under very different circumstances.

And that moment, of seeing Dad differently, would make all the difference in the years to come….

To Be Continued….

© Trudy Metzger

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Completely Understood & Unconditionally Accepted

When Wil and I arrived at the family gathering I spoke to my older brother, Cor, with Wil as my support. Cor is the fifth oldest sibling in our family. He’s the fourth son, and my mother’s firstborn. Dad had four children when he married my mother, having lost his wife and youngest son only months apart. Together my parents had twelve more for a total of sixteen children, and that doesn’t include the over half-dozen they lost through still birth and miscarriage.

With Cor being ten years older than me, and the oldest at home for most of my years there, it felt natural to go to him and explore what we could do to help dad.

Like Wil, Cor was compassionate and understanding, but agreed that without more memories, specific times and locations, nothing could be done. We could not confront Dad until something more concrete surfaced, or other victims came forward.

It was about that time that bits and pieces of conversations started to replay in my mind, from when I was nine years old. One of my cousins on dad’s side, who was thirty years older than I, had contacted my mom. I had heard this cousin’s name before, and remembered her parents, my Uncle *Jake and Aunt *Helen, who came to visit us in Mexico. I didn’t know *Maria well, having only seen her a few times in my life. After Maria contacted my mom, I overheard conversations that made no sense at the time. My mom seemed upset with her. It had something to do with my dad, but just what it all meant, I didn’t understand.

As I confronted memories and betrayal in my life, these conversation bits resurfaced, with no meaning at first. And then it all began to fit, like pieces of a puzzle. Maria must have told my mom that dad abused her. That was it… I was certain of it.

I had been at Maria’s wedding when I was twelve and knew her husband’s name, so I called Canada 411. This was back when we didn’t have internet to do a quick search, so I called and asked them to search every town in the general area where they had moved. There were no guarantees that I would find her, but if she was my one shot at validating what I was already certain was true, then I would search the ends of the earth to find this woman.

It took some time before I remembered the name of the small hamlet where they lived. I worked my way from there, and found Maria. I called her. Out of the blue. Told her who I was—her twenty-one-year-old cousin. Could I come see her? Maybe on Sunday?

Maria was thrilled to hear from me and welcomed me for a visit. Would I join them for lunch? Her husband was good with the barbecue and would be thrilled to show off a little, she was sure of it.

That Sunday I did the one-hour trek to Maria’s home. I felt bad. I had not told her the purpose of my visit. I wondered how awkward it would be, or if I’d have the courage to follow through. Maybe, once there, I would lose my courage, and leave well enough alone. What if questioning her stirred up old pain and destroyed her?

True to her promise, Maria’s husband served up a delicious steak. The meal was wonderful. Her young son was quite taken with me, so I spent some time with him.

Mid-afternoon Maria and I were alone in the house, chatting. I hesitated, then jumped in. “Maria.. I have a question… You don’t have to answer, if you don’t want to, but I have to ask….” I paused. “It seems to me when I was about nine years old, maybe ten, that I overheard something at home about you… that you had called mom… It didn’t make sense at the time, but now, when I think about it, it makes sense…. I’m sorry to ask… Did my dad sexually abuse you when you were a little girl?”

“Yes.” Maria said calmly. No anger. No shock, as I had anticipated.

Even truth that you suspect, is shocking when confirmed like that. So it’s all true… That’s who dad is… it’s what he is capable of…

I felt I needed to explain. “I ask because I’m sure he abused me too. My memories are vague… all broken up. But I know something happened. Would you be comfortable telling me what happened?”

She hesitated only for a moment before the story spilled out. She had worked as a ‘helper’ for my dad and his first wife when she was only eight years old. Dad’s first wife, a sweet woman, was pregnant with baby number five, and not well. She was bedridden, over the time of the birth, though I don’t recall how long leading up to or after. She died after giving birth, due to haemorrhage, but not before giving Maria permission to tell. To say it accurately, she made Maria feel obligated to tell, even guilty if she kept the secret, but her heart was to protect Maria and truth.

After dad’s first wife’s death Maria returned home to her family, where she told a sister, not much older than her, what had happened. Her sister told Uncle Jake and Aunt Helen.’

Whether they had confronted Dad or not, or whether he came on his own, Maria was not sure. But one day, not long after, my dad rode up in his buggy and her parents went out to meet him in the lane. Maria and her sister had listened at the window, wanting to know the purpose of the visit.

My dad had apologized to Maria’s parents, telling them what he had done, and taking ownership. It had helped, but the scars remained for life, leaving Maria with emotional and psychological struggles for life.

On my way home I had an hour to cry. Even though I was not one for country music, I turned on my radio and listened to country music. Within minutes the song started to play… “I’m seeing my father in me… I guess that’s how it’s meant to be… and I find I’m more and more like him each day…” (Paul Overstreet)

I wept as I cried out to God. I asked Him to be the Father who I grow to be like more each day. That I would see Him in me, and people would see Him in me too. The one thing I didn’t want is for generational sins to scar my children. Those chains would end with me.

In that moment with God I felt understood. Truly. Deeply. And completely. My Father was making me more like Himself in my journey of disappointment and pain. He understood suffering, and emotional and mental anguish. And He would walk me through this, fully embraced, unconditionally accepted

© Trudy Metzger

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Fragmented Memories, Unbroken Hope

Am I just making this up? Am I living a horrible nightmare that I will one day awake from and realize I went insane for a time? What if it’s an imaginary world that I’ve created, that is slowly destroying people around me? What if nothing ever happened? What if no one abused me and my mind is actually sick?

Questions raced through my mind, forcing me to reconsider what was truth, what was reality. When I began to question, my heart grew restless, and darkness settled deeper in my spirit. A calm quiet voice would whisper Alice’s words, “The truth will set you free… if it does not bring you freedom, it isn’t truth”

As freedom fled, with the invasion of the questioning voices, I knew the truth was not in the questioning.  I returned to the ‘confident knowing’ that, while memories remained fragmented, like pieces of shattered glass, that would never be fully restored, the memories were truth, and with time things would come together.

Still, I longed to be understood. Howard and Alice and their family were ‘understanding’, but that is a different thing than being understood. I wanted someone in my family to tell me I’m not crazy. That they had seen, or knew somehow that it was true. I don’t think it ever consciously occurred to me that possibly other siblings had been abused, either by my father or some other family member. I wasn’t looking for identification but I feared if all fifteen siblings told me I was crazy, imagining things, that I would actually go mental… That I would lose confidence in truth and reality.

I tested the water slowly, by talking with my brother Wil. We were en route to a family event one weekend when I broke the news to him. His initial response was gentle, but somewhat disbelieving. Not in the sense of ‘not believing me’ but in shock at the realization. He was supportive but, like me, had no idea what to do with the information.

I was concerned that Dad carried this horrible secret and may not have repented. Dad was a religious man but I had no idea if he was a born again believer or not. I had no way of knowing what he had done with the abuse and violence, and sins that had probably followed our family for many generations.

I was seven years old when I had the dream…

The eastern sky lit up in a profusion of beautiful, bright colours. Red, white, yellow, orange… a fiery explosion of light, but not terrifying. Then Jesus burst through the white centre of the light, surrounded by countless angels.

My only fear in the dream was that I would not be fast enough to get to Jesus. I wanted to hold His right hand, to know I was safe, that I would be with Him in heaven, not stuck on the left side, and cast aside. I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me, and clutched His right hand firmly in my own, relieved. I had made it.

When we arrived, heaven was much more like the world in which we live than I had imagined it would be. I had expected castles and mansions, streets of gold and a surreal world. But it wasn’t like that. I saw some of my family, here and there, and when I could not find him, I started to search and ask for my dad.

I was told that my dad could not be in heaven because of something he had done to his girls. I was devastated! I woke up from the nightmare, so happy to have made it, but crushed that my father was not there. Without him, heaven was not ‘right’ in my young mind.

In later years, when memories of the abuse resurfaced, that nightmare haunted me, over and over. What if…

I determined to make it my life mission to know that my father was a saved man and that he had repented for all the sins he had committed, especially the abuse and violence in our home.

When Wil and I spoke about it, we agreed that the time was not right. We would have to wait until God either revealed more than the broken bits of memory I had, until other victims came forward, or when God opened doors in other ways. This would require time, patience and prayer.

Until then I would hold out hope that God had a good plan. Through tears, depression, anger and confusion, I would hold on. Come hell or high water, I would stand firm on that unwavering truth.

© Trudy Metzger

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