Young people, especially males, never truly consider their own deaths, for inbuilt into their minds is a lack of appreciation for the frailty of the human condition. If they were as conscious of death as we older people, then they would probably never do anything daring or exciting.
But older folk do consider death. Middle aged parents do stop to consider what would happen to their children if they, the parents, were to die. Usually the concern is financially related. Old aged parents, especially those whose kids are still struggling, have a concern for the future wellbeing of those kids.
But there is another group of older parents that one usually does not consider – parents whose relationships with their kids are not the best. I am one of those parents and in my book ‘Finding Myself in China: A Politically Incorrect Story‘ I devoted Chapter 19 to discussing my relationship with my kids. The chapter is called “Trouble on the Home Front: Dark Clouds Rising” from which I will now quote:
[Unless otherwise stated, I do not wish to imply nor wish it inferred that any or all of my following statements specifically applies to my relationship with my children. But given that this book is about finding myself I must make some attempt to explain not only what happened in summer of 2007, but why it was necessary.]
I had in fact deliberately set out to upset my kids in the hope that we might be able to clear the air so to speak. Did I succeed in upsetting them? Absolutely! And it took them sometime to realize that a very substantial change had occurred in our relationship. That change, to put it simply, was that I no longer “needed” them.
I have been told that that statement and the sentiment it expresses is absolutely horrible – but I disagree. Before I came to China I needed my children but didn’t often see them. I had nothing to live for but my children and they didn’t need me. Today I am no longer needy. I don’t need my children in order to live a happy and worthwhile life.
Whilst it is true that I don’t NEED my children, which is to say that my self-identity is not derived from my relationship with them, I do constantly worry about them, precisely because they do not have an unclouded relationship with me.
For the last three years I have constantly considered the question: ‘What if I die tomorrow?’ Or more specifically ‘How emotionally devastated would my children be if I died suddenly?’
I am, like most people, glad that I was in good standing with my parents when they each passed, but my children’s relationships with me have two negative forces constantly at work to prevent open loving parent-child relationships.
One negative force is their mother’s objection to them having a relationship with me. It was pretty much fine while I lived in China, but now that I am home there is a lot of pressure being put on my kids whose ages range from 34 to 46 years of age.
I recently and for the first time since I arrived back in Australia in August of 2017, was visited by my youngest daughter and her kids. She requested that I not mention her visit to anyone because of the trouble her mother is giving her and her siblings.
The other negative force at work relates to the way in which my children communicate, and this of course is something that they learned from their mother. They are the type of people who like to win an argument or disagreement at any cost, even if it means lying and even if they have to cut off their noses to spite their faces. They have been raised to constantly think that when I left their mother that I ABANDONED them. They were raised to blame me for everything.
I came to turns with all of this years ago and when I returned to Australia in 2017, I advised my children of my new telephone number but did not call any of them. I figured that as and when they were ready, they would reach out to me. Three of them did.
If I were to live the rest of my life never seeing or hearing from my children, I would not be overly disturbed. What does disturb me is that given the emotional blackmail and coercion that they have had to endure over the years, what would happen to them if I died suddenly.
When I do die there will be no funeral and no one will be advised of my death until after I am cremated. I have no wish to have a funeral to which my ex-wife would show up making herself the center of attention and proclaiming that she actually did love me.
[I know it seems quite selfish of me but I don’t like the idea of her turning up and being put in her place in front of my kids by some of my relatives. A funeral is not the place for a fight and I have no doubts that a fight would take place at my funeral if my ex turned up.]
I’ve often thought of making a video to be given to my kids after I die but everything I can think to say will I am sure be twisted by them or their mother and only fuel their latent anger. The last thing I want them to be is angry.
The fact is that I am going to die and hopefully before any of them do. The day is coming when they will be confronted by my death and unless they have dealt with all of their baggage they will suffer. In 2013 I published an article at Magic City titled “Get rid of your Baggage People” on the issue of carrying your baggage around with you, and when I republished it at KingsCalendar, I did so under the title My Dear Children from which I will now quote a little:
Life is too short to spend bemoaning all the opportunities missed; all the injustices done you and all the mistakes you intentionally or inadvertently made. Life is also too short to spend your time trying to justify yourself to people who only want to find fault in you.
If and when you have an opportunity to restore a relationship that was once foolishly or accidently broken – then you should do so. But you also need to avoid insanity.
When you keep suffering because of certain people or certain behaviors, it is time to board the train and go see the sights elsewhere – and leave your baggage back at the train station.
We all think that there will be time for us to ‘sort things out’ with certain people, but we can never know just how long we have to live. The bible advises us not to let the sun go down on our anger, and it is appropriate advice.
When those we truly love but with whom we are somewhat angry die suddenly, we are left unable to clear the air. We can’t resolve our differences. We can’t say ‘sorry!’
For me as a parent, the only thing I fear about my own passing, is that my kids will not by that time have come to a point where they are ready, willing and able to sit down with me and talk honestly about their issues. And until they are ready, it is quite useless for me to force the issue.
So I am left wondering: ‘What if tomorrow I die?’
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