Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness
(c)2014 Nancy Virden
Glued to the scene, I watched as item after item of my childhood home was handled and appraised by strangers. I was eighteen years old, and as the youngest in a family of divorce, my arrival at adulthood marked the time everything had to be sold so my parents could split the proceeds. For sale were much-used gardening tools that had helped us plow, plant, prune and harvest acres of fruits and vegetables, including an apple orchard and peach trees. Rabbit cages were all the semblance left of what had been a curious mix of structures for cats, dogs, chinchillas, chickens, and bunnies. Other outdoor items joined myriad household appliances and furniture. In the interests of making a quick buck, I had thrown in a few of my own prized possessions, most regretfully fifty-two hardback volumes of Nancy Drew novels—a complete set at the time.
My adult brother, Steve, had been gone for three years, a singer in a band traveling the country. My father had permanently moved out two years before, and left my mom and me to the home, the animals, and the beautiful land.
Topper nuzzled my hand. The old Border Collie was the only one left of all the dogs and puppies that had roamed our country property. She had been the first to join us when we moved there nine years earlier. The house was also being sold, and as there was not one of us in a position to take animals, soon she also would be gone from my life, given away to the care of the new resident family. I rubbed her fur hoping she would be all right and would not miss me too terribly.
This had not been a happy home. Naturally, the children paid the greater price, each one’s formation of a sense of self and personal value threatened, if ever existent in the first place. Neither of us knew any other life. Hostility and constant fighting mixed with violence was the atmosphere that had forced me to flee to the outdoors—to the gardens, the creek, and the trees. My animals had been my confidants when I sobbed into their fur.
Following the auction and clean up, I was riding away with my dad in his car. Pulling far from the property for the last time, I whispered an internal goodbye to the leafy paradise, my greatest refuge. Then I spoke wistfully aloud, “I will miss this place.”
“Why?” my dad said.
“Because I loved it here.” I replied in a rare moment of vulnerability.
“It’s just land,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Besides, it’s not about a house, it’s about family.”
The incredulous and obvious question burned on my tongue. What family are you talking about? I stifled it.
Thirty years later found Jerry and I the parents of two young men. Hard work and determination to break my family legacy had been my focus for over two decades. My husband had landed a new job in Philadelphia, and the move was days away. I stood in the bedroom of my pleasantly chatting twenty-one-year old son as he was packing books, old toys, and clothes into boxes in preparation for the sale of our home.
“I walked around the property earlier today and said my goodbyes,” Jon commented with sentiment. “I figured I may never see my childhood home again.”
I nodded, remembering the feeling, hurting for my son in his loss. Then he continued with a content smile. “But I realize it’s not about a house. It’s about family.”
Even while doubting whether my choices were the right ones, God was still working behind the scenes. All the years I strived so intensely to make a better environment for my sons, I had questioned my effectiveness. Yet it was here, one of the most poignant and affirming moments of my life.
My perfect Heavenly Father had given me my season of family, one step at a time.
*Excerpt from Always the Fight: A Living Testimony of What Only God Can Do
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*picture from qualitystockphotos