Dr. Stephen Phinney | July 27, 2020 |
I clearly remember when Jane, my wife, was diagnosed with cancer. Speaking of having the "wind" knocked out of you. As I watched her battle this horrific disease, I saw just how courageous she was. She became one of my ultimate heroes.
One of our family members said, You are the cause of Jane's cancer. Logically I was able to dismiss this depraved accusation. But, honestly, it rubbed against a childhood memory that toured me for many years.
Life comes at you fast. I have been a professional counselor for more years than I can remember. It was easy giving advice to hurting souls. I somehow convinced myself that I understood their pain. I did not. Since I suffered many kinds of physical and psychological pains growing up, I truly thought I had the "empathy thing" nailed down. Boy, was I wrong. When I was faced with the pain of my wife, a new kind of pain arrived on my doorstep. Everything changed.
I can remember one other time I was forced to deal with the pain of another – when my actions killed my best friend.
Back in 2nd grade while living in Bangor, Maine, I was playing with my best friend next door. The house across the street was the home of another friend. We were playing "store" in his garage. I sent my best friend over to his house to get some "eggs." With the driveways being steep, off he goes on his trike down one drive into his drive. Both his mother and I saw at the same time a car coming toward him. I ran out into the street to stop this horrific event, but by the time I got to this friend, the car ran over him and "popped" his head right in front of me. With my friend's blood all over me, I sat there in the street, holding one of his tennis shoes – in a state of shock. The grief I saw unfold with his father and mother has marked my mind to this day. I recall a fireman picking me up off the street and putting me on the side of the road to sit on the curb. While sitting there, I can remember vividly saying to myself – I killed my best friend. I still believe I was responsible for his death, but the Lord used this experience to teach me many life lessons throughout the years.
One of these life-transforming lessons was as a teenager in art class, I painted a single tennis shoe – that won awards. My art teacher asked me what "inspired" me to do such a unique picture. With that, I told her the story and wept as she used the picture to help me resolve the grief and guilt. Before my art teacher passed, she told me this was her favorite moment in teaching me as an art student. Her family has this painting as a part of her teaching memorabilia.
My mother always said I was born compassionate. She called me her, Little Joseph. Well, I still have a hard time believing that, but what I knew at an early age is I hated to see other people suffer. When it came to dealing with my pain, honestly, I was clueless. Particularly when it came to rejection related to education – you know, feeling stupid.
More Childhood Memories
One of the most hurtful experiences living in Bangor was being passed from one grade to another and being put back into the 2nd grade on the first day of school. I speak more of this experience in later postings, but it was a horrific moment in my life that left its mark on my already established inferiority complex. Keeping in mind that I did not learn how to read and write until shortly after meeting my wife, who taught me how to read & write by way of the Word of God.
My father retired from the military while at Dow Air Force Base (Bangor, Maine), and this motivated my dad to move back to Kansas - Michigan Valley. However, my father's retirement did not come without a hitch. After 21 years of military service, my father was stripped of most of his rank – one of the worst things that could happen to a war vet who fought for his country and had earned some of the highest military citations. The following story was relayed to me by my mother.
While at the NCO Club, while intoxicated, he got into a heated discussion with a superior officer who happened to be black. That "heated discussion" turned into a fistfight, which resulted in my father assaulting a superior officer.
My father grew up in a Quaker/Friends church that believed that "black" people were the cursed generation and were not to be accepted by church members. Growing up, I have tons of memories of my father having a conflict with African American people, but after this happened, the bitterness he expressed toward this race was horrid. The Quaker's error in not accepting all races into the Kingdom of God formed prejudice modalities into their offspring. Keep in mind; my father became a man that would refuse to be served by an African American. I believe this limited teaching affected him in his adult years and certainly became one of the factors in being stripped of most of his military rank that he had earned over the 21 years of military service. It is no wonder why he was bitter at the government. He remained bitter until his 40th wedding anniversary, which was the time he was represented with his military honors by representatives of the Army and Air Force. None the less, the error of a church mastered his perspective of authentic Grace & salvation for all races.
After moving to Michigan Valley, Kansas, my father settled into a career of electronics, which he maintained most of his post-military years.
My life in Kansas also comes with mixed emotions. Still being in and out of this protective "bubble," due to my intense allergies, now 11 years of age, I decided that I was going to break out of this homebound prison. After announcing to my mother that I was not going to succumb to these allergies any longer, she said I would most likely die if I exposed myself to the things I was highly allergic. Letting her words go "in one ear and out the other," I began to do all those things that my allergies blocked me from doing and began playing freely. It was not long before I began to react to my environment and became quite sick.
My first death experience.
After exposing myself to the elements outside my bubble, and becoming deathly sick, my mother got a neighbor to rush me to the hospital for an injection that would restart my frail body, and within a few short moments of the shot, my world turned black – my heart stopped. I have vivid memories of being in one of the corners of the ceiling with a sensation of being pulled into a dark tunnel while watching the doctor push on my chest and a nurse comforting my mother. The next thing I knew, I was staring at the face of the doctor. I had thought this to be a dream most of my life until I brought it up at my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. My mother looked at me with this dead stare and then told me it was not a dream. She said I was certifiably dead, and the doctor brought me back.
After this death experience, you would think that I would have gone right back into that prison, but I didn't. I told my mother that I would rather have a short life "out there" than to have a longer life "in here." An allergist years later told me that self-proclaimed decision probably was the best decision I had ever made. It forced me to adjust to the outside world causing my immune system to increase.
It was after this experience that I started to attend school more regularly. It was a little late, for I did not know how to read or write, which caused immeasurable rejection for many years to come. I maintained that weakness until my wife taught me years later. This lifetime weakness maturated a learning style, through pictures, which formed a great gifting manifesting itself in being a pastel artist, digital graphic designer and love for studying the Pictorial Hebrew.
Until next time...
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