Author’s Note: I wrote this piece two years ago, when I facilitated a peer-based depression and bipolar support group. The artwork in the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community prompted me to share my thoughts about my father, who would have turned 87 today. He died 20 years ago on April 26, 1999.
If you are struggling with depression or other distress, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or attend your local Depression Bipolar Support Alliance chapter. Support groups are always free to participants.
My father, who would have turned 85 today, showed his love in practical ways. He grew a garden and its bounty he shared with others, he repaired lawnmowers for free, and he often gave rides to strangers who were down on their luck.
I inherited one of those three talents from my father. Giving rides for and toward strangers in unfamiliar territory is something I’m able and willing to do. So, I took the opportunity offered on my late father’s birthday to facilitate a depression and bipolar support group. I plugged in the GPS the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center.
My father studied the Bible, searching for answers to explain the pain and suffering he witnessed during his time on Earth. Had he not been a Presbyterian Jehovah’s Witness, I think he would have found solace in the Jewish faith.
At least that’s what I think if I work under the premise children are at least half and half of each parent. I think about my mother all the time, but I feel all the time the same way my father seemed to feel about many things in life.
The generational difference between him and I, though, is I was born at a time when tools became available to more peacefully cope with the suffering that surrounds us. My father, however, was born at a time when he dropped out of high school to enlist in a war. And when he returned, he responded the way anyone would who sees the powerful injustice of suffering. He raged at it. His favorite book in the Old Testament was Ecclesiastes: There is nothing new under the sun and everything is meaningless.
After the group, I studied the gallery of Jewish philosophy hanging in the community center and wondered what my father would have experienced had he been there with me. I like to think he would have realized how whole his broken heart really was. And that he would have found reassurance in that love is stronger than death.