As time neared to put together this edition of Convergent Streams news of two deaths came to my attention. One was of Bishop Gus Howard Thompson. Bishop Gus was a kind and thoughtful individual. His struggle with cancer was short, but he battled hard and with dignity. I hope to have a memorial article next edition for him.
The second death was much closer to home. My cousin, Ellen Stites, a mere 19 years old died in a horrific car accident. She came upon a horse and buggy on the road in Kentucky and managed to swerve enough to keep the occupants of the horse and buggy from being injured or killed. However, she lost control and flipped her car several times. She was ejected and died on the scene.
I had not seen my cousin since she was a little tyke, but this strange feeling of loss overwhelmed me. I was puzzled and angered that this was causing me difficulty when I had so much to do. With the help of several good people in my life, I was able to understand that part of this pain was mourning. It was not just normal mourning of a loss, it was also mourning the loss of possibilities. You see, I had not seen or spoken with my cousin in years. I have been distant from that side of the family for years due to the fact that I married the wrong person, left the Roman church and picked the wrong side in my parent’s divorce.
Ellen’s death signaled the end of possibilities. I can never get to know the young lady she became. I can never talk to her about what we had in common and what we had as differences. I can never patch up the relationship that dissolved before she was old enough to know what was going on. In many respects, I have only myself to blame. I could have reached out. I could have called, written, or messaged her or any of my family. I chose not to because of issues from years ago.
Many of us today carry with us the pains and scars of years ago. Those pains, scars, wounds keep us locked away and rob us of possibilities. We allow them to keep us from experiencing life, making new friends, or keeping the friends we have. Some of us have let those things keep us from God, church and religion. For some of us, we have allow them to make us jaded, cynical and hateful. We allow those things to build walls around us to keep out the possibility of pain or hurt. We allow our interactions with each other to become condescending and mean. We think that if we strike first, we are less likely to be hurt in the long run.
For me, my solution was to wall myself off from others. I learned to keep my feeling hidden. I learned to keep people at arm’s length. I covered my pain with humor, mostly self-deprecating humor, but humor nonetheless. I pushed things down until they were ready to erupt like Mount Saint Helen!
There are healthy ways to deal with our past. We do not have to buy into the stigma that reaching out for help, professional or otherwise, is a sign of weakness or insanity. Even the strongest people in the world need help sometimes. That is not weakness, knowing when you need support and help is a sign of great strength.
Reach out today to those around you. Seek help from trained professionals if you need to. Do not wait until it is too late to deal with your past. Regret is a terrible master to serve. And what is even worse is that you do not have to be its slave.
May God continue to richly bless you all,
The Right Rev. Gregory Godsey, OSFoc is the Managing Editor of Convergent Streams. He is the Presiding Bishop of the Old Catholic Churches International and the Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (AL, FL, GA, and SC). He is also the Director of the Office of Communications and Media Relations for the OCCI. He lives in North Augusta, South Carolina with his wife and son.