To Read on the Journey

Thursday, April 26, 2012


michael and i sat in a courtroom for 5 hours yesterday.

my dad, who had requested a trial by jury because he hopes to be released from his confinement at a state hospital, was seated a few rows ahead of us in the defendent's seat.  he was dressed in a borrowed gray polo shirt, black suit jacket, and slacks.  it's the first time in 14 years that i've seen him not wearing a state hospital or jail imposed jumper.

i was in a room with him for 5 hours. i've never been in a room with him for 5 hours. 
i sat behind him thinking about how dark his hair is.  noah has his dark hair.
i noticed his posture and how much he looks like his father who raised me.
i thought about a lot of things for those 5 hours.
i missed him. 

it was the second time michael has seen my dad.

my dad noticed us in the courtroom.  he waved and smiled.  

we spent a majority of the day listening to his psychiatrist and psychologist answer questions about my dad and his mental illness- schitzoaffective disorder/depression.

they shared about the symptoms of schitzoaffective disorder/depression: paranoia, delusions, auditory hallucinations, disorganized speech and thoughts, and clinical depression.

they shared about my dad's daily life in the hospital, and about how the symptoms of his illness manifest themselves through him.

i wasn't surprised.
i'm not a stranger to his illness.
i wish i was.
i wish he was.   

it is sad.

mental illness stole my dad from me.
and not just from me, but from my siblings, my grandparents, his sisters.
we mourn the loss of him everyday.
we were robbed of what could-have-been and should-have-been.

because he lives in a state hospital (in a controlled environment) i have a gift i never hoped to have  when his mental illness was intensified by 27 years of drug abuse.
i now have the ability to on rare occasion (when he agrees to take his meds and the illness is being managed) speak with him and even visit him.  

on those rare occasions i experience brief moments in conversation of "normal."
for a moment he is glad to see me or hear my voice, and especially glad to see and hear the voices of his grandchildren.  for a moment he delights in and expresses his love to all of us.  the moment passes too quickly as the symptoms of the illness swoop in and consume him again.
but for that moment i have the gift of  my dad.
i have a moment of should-have-been.

yesterday both the psychiatrist and psychologist testified that my dad is mentally ill, that he is not in remission, and that if released he poses a threat to others. 

this morning a jury will decide if he is to continue residing at the state hospital for treatment, or if he is eligible for release.

it is my prayer that he is not released.
it is my prayer that he continues to reside at the state hospital and receive treatment and care for his mental illness.

after court the psychologist commended my strength to be there for my dad.  she recognized my tear-stained state and acknowledged how emotionally difficult it is for family members who have lost a loved one to mental illness.
it is hard.
it is not fair.
there is a void where my dad is suppose to be.

but God.

He really does fill the void of father with Himself.
"Thou my Great Father, 
I Thy true son (daughter), 
though in me dwelling,
 and I with Thee one."
from the hymn, Be Thou My vision)

And just like a Father should, He comforts,
He speaks truth into the questions, fears, and lies,
And He causes me to Hope in Him for my dad, who my Great Father loves.

*UPDATE*  Good News- my dad will not be released from the state hospital this year.


Deb Colarossi said...

I want to leave and return with something as profound as your grace.
I understand. And don't.

Sending love and courage and prayers.

Bill said...

Denise, my friend..... My heart aches for you and I'm awed by your courage to share as you have.... I've visited a number of people who live in "physical confinement" and while never in "such physical confinement" having been hospitalized for 3 months in traction and living aboard ship at times during my military career I think I have a small taste of what such a life must be like for the confinee and family.....
You, your Dad and your family have been in my thoughts over the years many times and I will continue to hold good thoughts for each of you....
I'm proud of you and glad to share a "friendship"....
Shalom amiga.....

Jennifer @ Studio JRU said...

Oh Denise... wishing I could reach out and surround you in a hug. I am sorry this illness has taken your dad from you. You are in my prayers. He is in my prayers. Praying you will receive more of those wonderful moments when you have the gift of your dad. ♥

Sarah Markley said...

i'm so sorry for this whole situation, denise. i have no more words than these. so very sorry.

Linda Z said...

Tears fill my eyes, friend. I just keep staring at the photos, saddened for your loss. I wish he had the ability to fully know you & your sweet family... he would be so blessed by you all.

I'm sorry that you had to go through such a difficult day. I'm glad that Michael and the Lord were there to carry you through.

Love you. Hugs.

Denise said...

Wonderful and insightful post, however, the pain of what was (is) lost is palpable, but then again, so is the love and grace Abba has clothed you with, my friend.

Chrissy said...

So happy to hear that your prayers for him staying there longer have been answered. So sad that things are the way they are. Praise God for the grace He has given you in this situation!

{cuppakim} said...

but God.
God is so good.
He knows.
He has a perfect plan.
He is clearly working all things together.

What was meant for evil, He meant for good.

The enemy does not have a grip, the Lord does.

Praising HIM for what he has done IN and THROUGH this whole situation.

I see you and your kids in those eyes of his. What a beautiful gift your father - by way of the Heavenly Father - has given to you guys!

Laura said...

The pictures are so beautiful.
And sad.

just so hard.

You are such a special woman. Really. I was drawn to the light you shine the very first time I visited you here. No doubt that the suffering in your life...the void of a father...the pain of what should have been...has provided you with the wings needed to soar above the pain and feel Gods grace. To BE Gods grace.

I love you for all that share and bring into this world.
Your ability to thank God for small moments is truly the works of a Saintly person.


Anonymous said...

(((hugs))) and so much love to you.

Joy Kinard said...

I read this at work this morning and thought about it all the way home. My grandmother suffered from mental illness. She missed out on much of her life because of it. Often even in a catatonic state. Mostly in a state hospital. My Dad and his siblings really suffered from the situation, and it is obvious in their lives.

I see it now in my own mother. Things I did not see as a child, that I better understand as an adult. She is not severe, or hardly even noticeable to strangers. But, we know. We see. We feel the strains of it. It is a daily hard.

I have you in my heart today. Thanks for sharing.

Kathleen said...

as always, I'm so impressed by how you give everything over to the Lord and let your Father handle things in ways we can't. Praise Him for giving you that ability to surrender and embrace His will.

Thea Nelson said...

I saw the pics and kept thinking how much you resemble your father.

And then I realized how much you resemble your Father. Your grace resembles His, Denise. Your love for others reflects His.

I am so sorry about all of this--my heart hurts for you, friend.

forever folding laundry said...

Denise, you are just a living, breathing
example of God's forgiveness and grace
and what kind of fruit the Spirit produces.
I am praying for more of those rare
precious moments
between you and your earthly dad,
all the while knowing that our Heavenly Father
knows exactly what we need,
and when.

"...but God."
Love you friend!


The Every Day Extraordinary said...


What you write opens a door into the heart of my husband who has lost his mom to a mental illness that requires her to be a patient at a state run facility as they have given up conservatorship of her. It is difficult for him to see him mom in this place, as she is now--when his heart simply wants to remember the mom she was before they lost her to this disease. Prayers and blessings.

The Writer Chic said...

While my heart hurts for you, I'm thankful God saw fit to answer the prayer of your heart in the manner you wished. Praying for your entire family tonight.

Lisa said...

Is your dad in California? How much do I love you? I praise God that you have been protected as much as possible by his hospitalization. So many people (I include myself) have mentally ill parents that continue to remain untreated.I agree with you... your father and your family are safest if he remains in treatment. God is so faithful.

Simply Sara said...

oh sweet denise...i wish i was there right now to just be with you.
not with any words. just there. to hug. listen. be.


thanking God for answered prayers...and continuing to pray for His comfort & peace to be yours and your Dad's. it is my hearts cry that one day your relationship will be made whole and all those "should have beens" will be restored.