106 and counting…

Dad & me, Tuesday, 7-29-86, Charleston Int'l Airport

Note: Today would have been my dad’s 106th birthday. William John Abernathy (August 7, 1911-April 27, 1996) and I had a difficult relationship; one fraught with the daily tension and enduring mutual resentment of the clash between his irresistible force of an alway-authoritarian, at times, arbitrary disposition and my ever-immovable object of adolescent rebellion (which continued well into my adulthood). O’er the years and o’er many trails of solemn reflection and trials of sober regret and sincerest repentance for my great part in our brokenness, I’ve come to understand, love, and respect my father. Today, the thought occurring (Why? I’m not entirely sure) to leaf through one of my journals, I found this forgotten (and astonishingly dated) twenty year old entry…


Thursday, August 7, 1997: On Sunday evening, August 3, Pontheolla and I attended a Healing Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral. At the time worshipers were invited to come forward, we went and knelt at the altar rail. I asked “to be delivered from my long held bitterness against my departed father so that I can be free and so that he might be free!” I was anointed with oil and received the laying-on-of-hands by the celebrant, Ted Karpf, who prayed a prayer for my healing. I experienced then and continue to experience an ever-deepening sense, spirit of relief and of release. I wept a single, slow-moving tear of thankfulness as I sat with Pontheolla, holding hands, praying my healing would abide.

Ironies, painful and heart-rending, abound…

Ted had preached a homily, speaking eloquently and provocatively of the human condition, which finds self-worth in work and does not (cannot!) hear and respond to God’s gracious word of worth in being…simply being. Ted couldn’t have known that he was speaking so directly to one of my life’s issues, hurts, questions! (I pray my healing will abide.)

Moreover, the service was held in the War Memorial Chapel. Perhaps what I perceive as the irony of setting a service of healing in the place memorializing those who have died honorably in defense of country in times of war, if not intentional, was, at the least, purposeful. Verily, those who have endured the wars of acceptance and rejection in wounded, broken relationships need healing, for they have died a 1000 deaths and perhaps have killed others a 1000 times in those recurring mental scenarios of vengeance. (I pray my healing will abide.)


Photograph: Dad and me at the Charleston (SC) International Airport, Tuesday, July 29, 1986 (one of the few pictures of my father and me in which we are more or less smiling)

2 thoughts on “106 and counting…

  1. This is so profound and true. I resonate with what you say about how “those who have endured the wars of acceptance and rejection in wounded, broken relationships need healing, for they have died a 1000 deaths and perhaps have killed others a 1000 times in those recurring mental scenarios of vengeance.” This Palm Sunday, our pastor preached about how God’s peace is sometimes not what we envision. Certainly, Jesus did not fulfill the expectations of those who strew his path with palm fronds. Our pastor then encouraged us to take our palm leaves, and lay them at a place in need of God’s peace. And we recited the Prayer of St. Francis. I distinctly felt the Holy Spirit tell me that I should send my palm leaf to my sister who has broken off relationship with me over politics (she cannot abide that I will not heed her alt-right call to be a “freedom fighter” and join her in her hatred of Islam and liberalism). I literally said, “Holy Spirit, you must be kidding me!” But I wrote a note to my sister, explaining why she was receiving my palm leaf, and including the Prayer of St. Francis. I’ve never received a response, but I am assured that God’s peace is not dependent upon anything else but trust in God, and a willingness to follow When the Holy Spirit calls. I will include you in my prayers when I pray for peace with my sister. In the meantime, peace be with you, Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My dearest Caroline, thank you for sharing this poignant and powerful vignette of the life of your relationship with your sister. Thank you, too, and bless you for hearing AND heeding the summons of the Holy Spirit, in league with your pastor’s supremely gospel-centered counsel, to share your palm leaf in a place and, in your case, with a person with whom peace is a necessity.

      Though your sister did not reply, I believe that you, in acting on such godly direction, fulfilled the promise of that divinely-generated word. There is blessing in your faithfulness, irrespective of the response or its lack.



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