(Eleanor Jane Mair, our daughter, died on the 21st April in Ninewells Hospital, as result of trauma caused by alcoholism. She was a beloved and loving person, who cared for everyone except herself, bringing joy through what she was but also sorrow through what she was doing to herself. She is with God.)
Yes, I believe you are with God, and maybe that should be sufficient comfort. You are of course presently in my dreams, vital and strong as you were once. I know that such dreams are the product of my own mind rather than supernatural information, but even so can they point beyond themselves to something more substantial. I don’t think you had an orthodox view of life beyond death, and you would certainly have been sceptical about my dreams, but if there’s anything in the classic Christian view of resurrection, tell me this: where shall we meet?
Maybe we can meet in the places that mattered to me, where I succeeded and where I failed, where I conquered and where I was wounded, where I was loved and where I was abused, where I had hope and where I felt despair, where I was myself and where I had to hide.
Did I hear you correctly? Remember, my dear, that all this is coming through my mind, which has its own agenda.
Maybe your own mind, like your own existence, is not as unconnected as you think.
OK but where to start? They say the basis of personality is formed by the experiences of the first three years of life. If so, we can go back to Dumbarton, where we lived from 1969 to 1975. You were born in 1971, to Janet who took leave from teaching, and to me, who continued full-time work as a minister. At the time I suffered the delusion that I was the Messiah. My task and my way of doing it was all-important and absorbing, so much so that I neglected you and my wife for at least the first year of your life. She however was your constant companion and carer. Soon however it became plain that our budget demanded a second income, so she returned to work, part-time initially, then full-time. This meant that at first I had to look after you mornings, then deliver you to and fetch you from nursery school.
That forced me into knowing you as my daughter, and enjoying the astonishing pleasure of being with you. I would like to say that this cured me of my arrogant male obsession with my important calling, but it did not; and I am sure there were subsequent times when I neglected you. I know this behaviour put unfair burdens on my wife, but doubtless it impacted you as well?
You think I’m going to answer questions now that you never bothered asking me in life? Still, confession of your messiah complex is new and overdue. It must have damaged many more people than your immediate family… your first congregation, your second, your last? Your friends?
How come you can’t answer new questions but you can ask them? Still I’ll try to answer. The complex itself was a desperate device to bury the sense of being a failure and a shit which was the outcome of my upbringing. And yes, it must have damaged the congregations I served. But it stayed with me for a long time until your mother’s capacity to see something better in me, wore it away. More or less. So I guess you like me, were damaged by parental defects, but there, in that sweet and dangerous place, we can continue to meet. Please.
“They fuck you up your mum and dad
They do not mean to but they do.
They give you all the faults they had
And add some others, just for you.”
The great philosopher Philip Larkin, maybe we could read him together….