Subconscious Reality – Oxymoron or Good Theology?


Important dates stick in your mind whether you want them to or not. I have had days when I was out of sorts only to finally realize that it was the day that Uncle Homer died. You know, stuff that’s literally buried deep in the subconscious, but bubbles up for good or ill. Now, I know that it’s hard and maybe more than a little morbid to carry around a calendar with all the important dates marked, but whether we do it or not, our minds know. Maybe the calendar will help the emotions at least be recognized quicker, and maybe even dissipate without too much spillage. In Family Systems Theory one knows that cross-generational transmission of certain things is more than inevitable, it happens. So, it’s good to talk to the elders who remain, get their story, ask all the questions, make sure the secrets see the light of day.

For instance, tomorrow would have been my Daddy’s 94th birthday. I’ve been thinking about him all week. I have pictured and participated in memories, little vignettes, with him for days: driving in his lap on the way out to his homeplace in Red Hill; feeding the cows; fishing in the john boat on the pond with crickets; him daring to camp at Lick Fork Lake with me; not killing me when I drove his car down the lawn and hit the fence post; and so much more.

I have also thought about his last 2 weeks dying at Providence Hospital; his waking from his coma and asking me if he was going to die and I had to tell him “yes.” I was always honest with him. He could read me and see right through me anyway, so I always told him the truth. He was a good father. He taught me all that he could, and I find myself more and more like him. Even more weird in the approach of this date is that maybe a month ago I put his ring back on my finger, no reason, but I guess it was the subliminal way of remembering or of him saying “Hello!” This ring has gone from youngest son to youngest son for at least 4 generations.

This cross-generational transmission stuff is real. I went yesterday to get a light haircut and beard trim. I don’t have much hair, and the beard is only there until I get back from Africa at the end of August. Nevertheless, I got buzzed. My beard, though trimmed, has more hair than my head. I had no idea until the barber turned me around to face the mirror. Too late to ask for your hair back, but my mind once again went to Daddy taking me up to the Bartley’s Barber Shop on the Edgefield town square, having to put my feet up on the extender on the barber’s chair. I could hear Daddy saying to Mr. Bartley, “Give him a buzz cut.” Well, Daddy, I hope you’re happy, got one yesterday.

Another for instance: I thought Cindy and I got married December 20th because we were too enthralled with each other to wait until summer – which was true, but then lately I got to thinking about all the other family wedding anniversaries. My mother’s parents, Will and Milbria Jackson, lived with us. They got married on December 25. My Mother and Daddy got married on December 23. I checked others in the family tree and there’s a bunch of December weddings. Uncanny. I cannot remember thinking about that being something we did in our clan, but it happened. The unseen tug.

But here’s what’s really on my mind. I’m still at Emory teaching – three more classes and grading papers, and I’m done, but last night I went out to see a movie: “Charlie St. Cloud.” Corny name but it sure fits the movie’s theme. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but you’ve probably seen enough of the movie’s trailers to give most of it away. Charlie keeps seeing his dead brother 5 years after the accident, plays catch with him every evening for an hour. The whole time I was sitting there I had my own flashbacks to long-ago days with Mother and Daddy.

I remembered (re-membered) the vignettes, put them back together, and thought of one of the most important parts of the Apostles’ Creed for me: “I believe in the Communion of Saints.” I believe that those in the Church Triumphant co-mingle with the Church Militant, those in heaven with those duking in out on earth, and they’re our cheerleaders, prayer warriors, trail-blazers. They’re in another mysterious dimension but if you’ll look just long enough at the periphery of your vision, there they are – not ghosts or phantasms – more like sacred memories, memories of God being made incarnate to help you out.

They are God’s gift and a vital witness of His faithfulness through all generations. Knowing this gives me peace for the past and hope for the future. Happy Birthday, Daddy! Thanks for the memories and still being there for me.

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