As all abuse does, it began subtly and slowly. The initial excuse for the attention and time spent together was to work on my back. With puberty, instead of getting spots on my face, I developed bad acne on my back. My father undertook an effort to cleanse and heal these wounds… at least that was the story. And my mother did nothing to stop it; she did not question her husband’s actions or intent. Having approached menopause and suffering from its effects, she just did not want to be touched herself. And so I became a surrogate.
Somehow I was unable to speak up, to protest. I was ashamed for I felt my body reacting to the attention in strange, pleasurable ways. I felt betrayed by my own body, by my parents and by life. I slowly developed severe tension headaches by keeping my emotions pent up and directed inward. I was living two lives, going to school during the day and being used during evenings and weekends.
And then I graduated from high school and my mother suggested that I get a job. I landed a job as a sales clerk in a local department store, working nights and weekends. Suddenly I was no longer available as a subject of my father’s attention. Between going to school and working, I had too much to do.
After a while my father’s attention turned to my younger sister. I knew what lay in store for my sibling but could not bring myself to speak up. My own shame, confusion, and yes, even some anger, prevented me from speaking, from warning my sister. Fortunately my sister was made of tougher stuff, for after one session, she abruptly left home and went to the home of a teacher, telling all. Suddenly, the dark family secret was out in the broad daylight.
My father was arrested, his name put in the paper, and was sent to court. He did not get a jail sentence. Sexual abuse laws were quite different in those days. Father only received a sentence of supervision and counseling for all of us. This was enough to sidetrack his career, to spread rumors around the neighborhood, to have friends withdraw from my parent’s society. A summer spent at counseling did not heal the wounds of the family; so much still lay hidden. My mother remained with her husband. My younger sister went to live with a foster family for a while. And at the suggestion of my mother, I went off to college out of state, far away from the gossip and whispers.
There was a darkness that lay heavily upon my heart during these years away. I could not speak of my pain; I was not ready. Sexual abuse was not treated as a huge crime in those days. And instinctively I understood that to speak up was to bring a variety of reactions that I did not feel capable of dealing with yet, so I remained silent.
Years passed and still I did not speak. I had boyfriends and then a husband, a good man. However there was a wall between me and the world; I had built up a high brick wall around my heart and could not feel any more. I was unable to connect fully with my husband and so the marriage languished. The marriage did offer me something, time to study new things. It was during this time that I embarked on my spiritual journey in a more outwardly conscious fashion than previously. It was the beginning of a healing journey for me, as a woman.
Many years passed and the relationship between me and my parents ebbed and flowed. During my marriage, I made my first confession to my husband of what had happened in my childhood. Naturally he was angry and thought that I should break all ties with the parents. I did so for a time, but the ties were too strong.
Then the marriage was over. Divorce was still relatively rare in those days, not as socially acceptable as it is now. I knew from experience what happened when a divorce occurred within the small close-knit group that my husband and I belonged; gossip, endless gossip. I wanted out, completely out, so I boldly moved to the other side of the state and started over. What I did not count on was the pain I would feel as a result of cutting all my roots. The first winter was devastating in its effects. Depression came as an after effect of divorce and the isolation I felt in a strange city. I was lonely, without family or old friends to count on.
One night out of desperation, I called out, “Oh, God, help me!” Suddenly, as I stood alone in the darkness of my basement apartment I felt warm arms enfold my in an embrace. I felt comforted and loved, even as endless cleansing tears flowed down my cheeks. I fell asleep feeling like a young child secure in its mother’s love, something I had never felt before in my life. I was to hold onto that experience through the dark days and months that followed.
Years later, after the adventures with a new age church, I had to make a difficult decision. My health was seriously awry; the doctors were giving me mixed messages and taking my limited money. I decided to visit my parents for the summer, hoping to move back in the autumn, but things did not work out. My health was more tenuous than I realized. I found myself going to holistic practitioners, but nothing seemed to work. There were accidents, slight motor vehicle accidents, but causing discomfort and pain. Chiropractors were next and then spiritual healers. All this time, my reading and searching for answers continued.
In time, my health began to slowly improve. One doctor presented me with a likely diagnosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, a new combination of symptoms that was met with resistance by much of the medical profession. Most doctors felt that depression was the cause of the syndrome. They did not realize that the body becomes depressed with so much else is going on. Today some of us know these “symptoms” as Ascension flu. You may have seen some of the lists, but here are a few of the symptoms that I experienced through the years — headaches, general feelings of toxicity, stomach irritability, and long-term diarrhea, sensitivity to foods, chemicals, smells, sounds and light; aches and pains throughout the body, especially in certain points in the connective tissue of the muscular structure. Swollen glands, long-term fatigue, depression, short-term memory loss, “fogginess”, having a need for lots of sleep, were some of the other symptoms. Lists have been developed now, but none existed when these symptoms manifested for me, some 26 years ago. To make things worse, I looked just fine. Except for being somewhat thin for a while and then gaining weight, I looked quite normal. There was no obvious disfigurement, no temperature or fever, spots or other signs of disease to indicate my discomfort. Again, I felt uncomfortably set apart.
As I said, these symptoms slowly began to recede, although I found that I lacked the stamina and endurance of previous years. I found myself becoming very sensitive to the moods and tides of my body, learning to give myself time to rest when I needed it. I turned to gardening and walking as gentle exercise, slowly getting stronger until I was able to begin hiking again. Having the ability to get out into the wilds really helped; I began to truly heal and grow stronger, inside and out.
While these things were happening, I was still living with my parents. Oddly enough, while I moved home in order to find a short-term refuge, I ended up taking care of my parents who were both experiencing their own health issues. So what was to be a visit of a couple of months, ended up to be a stay of nine years. In this time, I underwent some more healing of the wounds from childhood. I found my anger and my voice and was able to express myself to my mother and father. I found an inner well of fire and courage that helped to burn off some of the shame. I began to understand that I was not to blame for what had happened. Still there was a deeper level of healing that needed to happen but not just yet.
Before he died, my father was able to ask forgiveness. I was grateful to have the opportunity to undergo this healing act, as not many people are willing to take the step towards acceptance of an apology. My mother was unable to face her own guilt in the acts that had occurred. When asked why she had stayed with her husband, she replied that the counselor had suggested it. And my mother’s own fear of her ability to survive without a husband prevented her from striking out on her own or with us, her children. She was also fearful of what people would say. She grew up in a time when people just did not get a divorce, unless they were in some way “sinful.” Even when her own brother got a divorce from my aunt, she could not face the truth that people sometimes grow out of a relationship and there is no blame.
There was another thing that bound all of us together on unseen levels — love.
When my mother died my father went into complete dementia within two weeks of her passing; he had lost his anchor. My father and mother had been married for 54 years, not always a happy couple, but devoted to one another in their own way. My father suffered a series of tiny strokes, although Alzheimer’s was given as the cause for his deterioration. I feel it was really strokes and perhaps long-term exposure to powerful chemicals used in his work environment that destroyed his fine mind, for one day he collapsed to the ground outside the house. The next morning, at the hospital, he told me that he would give up driving. He knew it wouldn’t be safe for him anymore. This is not the reasoning of a man with Alzheimer’s. Up until two weeks before he died, we were able to have little conversations. We understood each other. He had forgotten my name, but he knew me still.
One day, I received a phone call at work from the nurse at the Alzheimer’s Unit where I had left my father. He had fallen out of bed and was unresponsive. Fortunately, the hospital where he was taken was a short walk away from the office. I arrived at the emergency room within a half hour and sat down beside my father in his cubicle in the emergency room. He was talking to me within twenty minutes of my arrival, responding to me just being there. And when I visited him at the Alzheimer’s ward he spoke about all the crazy people. He became more child-like as the months progressed. Who could hate a man like this?
Alzheimer’s or whatever my father was stricken with, finally attacked his body systems. He began to develop jaundice and then swallowing problems; aspiration pneumonia developed as a result. One day he fell into a coma from which he was never to emerge. I came to sit by his bed as he lay there, silent, not responding this time. It was late and I went home. Just near midnight, the night nurse called. My father had passed away. He had been given a tiny dose of morphine for comfort, and within minutes was gone. I dressed and prepared to drive back to the nursing unit. As I drove my car out of the apartment complex, I felt a Presence over-light me. In my heart, I knew that it was the Soul of my father. It thanked me for taking care of him during his illness and in the years before. Despite the pain I still felt, I was glad that I had done these things.
And this was not the end of the story. A couple of years later, I was reading a book, I think by Kryon, where there was an explanation of soul contracts. Suddenly I realized what had happened between my parents and me, during all those long years – a soul contract. The abuse, the shame and pain that I had endured and processed through the years was my offering to life, for coming into an understanding and finding forgiveness in my heart towards the perpetrator, I was able to transform the experience into Light.
I realize that there will be people who insist that I did the wrong thing to stay with my parents, to forgive, to love them despite what had been done to me. However, I have found that each one of us is a unique being, with our own way of coping with the world. Some of us find love and forgiveness through pain; still others attempt to escape through drugs, denial, alcohol, sex, work and other addictions. Each of us has our own journey, our own purpose, our own lessons that we are here to learn; one cannot judge another from our own perspective. We each have our own work to do.
Daily in my present job, I see people who made wrong choices. Some of them are in denial, some suffer from mental illness, some have found peace and redemption – all have been condemned by society for being criminals, yet they are human beings. Within myself, I have found a well of compassion and love that flows out daily, quietly to these forgotten ones. I know what it is to suffer, even at my own hands – I have walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and still live.
Truly as I have written these words, I feel the healing continue. I am coming to realize that we are all One. What one person suffers, we all suffer. What I went through, the healing that I have undergone, is healing for others, too. Together we will heal ourselves and our world and step forth into a New Day which holds Light, Love, harmony, beauty, peace and abundance for all. We will get there one step at a time, through the practice of forgiveness, for ourselves and for those who have trespassed against us, for the Creator and his angels love us no matter what we do or have done. Through my own experience, I have come to realize that humans judge themselves and each other more harshly than ever would an angel of God. Let us come together as One people and heal the wounds that divide us.
Be at peace, my dear brothers and sisters,
Elizabeth Ayres Escher