Ive joked for a long time that among the reasons to be nice to your kids is that theyll pick the nursing home youll be in and youre always in jeopardy of winding up in Bedsore Manor where a 60 Minutes crew will drop by to ask questions like Have they fed you this year?
By KEN HERMAN
Heres another reason powerfully driven home recently by an Austin, Texas, area woman and her brother to be nice to your kids: Theres a good chance theyll write your obituary.
Perhaps youve heard about the recent Reno Gazette-Journal obit for Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick that said she died alone on Aug. 30 and is survived by the children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible.
While she neglected and abused her small children, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them, the obit said. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child, was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.
The obit said her children celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the afterlife reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children.
It ended with a call for a national movement that mandates a purposeful and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America.
The backstory about the deceased woman is that six of her children wound up in a Nevada orphanage after being removed from her home. The children had been estranged from their mother for 30 years.
Patrick Reddick of Minden, Nev., told me his sister Katherine, who worked with him on the obit, did not want to talk about it. But he did, telling me, We wanted to focus on child abuse more than our whole story, however the whole world seems to want to cut us up into bits and pieces and sensationalize certain things.
Hes pleased with the impact.
Even people who werent abused said they went home and hugged their children and said how much they loved them. And they told their mom, Thank you for being a good mom, Reddick said.
Odd, isnt it, how such negative words can have such a positive impact?
Along those lines, I was struck by a prayer I noticed in the new prayerbook used in my synagogue this year for the recent High Holy Days. The prayer, written by Rabbi Robert Saks of the Washington, D.C., area, is included as an option in the memorial service for deceased relatives. Its offered in memory of a parent who was hurtful and stands in stark contrast to the other prayers on those pages.
The parent I remember was not kind to me, the prayer says. His/her death left me with a legacy of unhealed wounds, of anger and of dismay that a parent could hurt child as I was hurt. Help me, O God, to subdue my bitter emotions that do me no good, and to find that place in myself where happier memories may lie hidden, and where grief for all that could have been, all that should have been, may be calmed by forgiveness, or at least soothed by the passage of time.
Saks told me he wrote the prayer more than a decade ago after a congregant who was a therapist told him she had patients who struggled with saying the traditional mourners prayer for a parent because they dont have good feelings about their parents. Saks also said his prayer had particular resonance when he became rabbi at Washingtons Bet Mishpachah (House of Family), a congregation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews. The prayer, Saks said, was particularly relevant for congregants especially older ones whose parents never accepted their childs sexuality.
Of course its sad, Saks said of the need for his prayer, but we all know not everybody has wonderful parents.
There are many prayers rooted in sorrow, but Im not sure Ive ever seen one any sadder than that one.
To reach Austin American-Statesman columnist Ken Herman, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.