Eulogy or Effigy, that is the Question

His sanitized obituary might read as follows:

Alan Booth, 77, died September 17, 2010, at Oneida Extended Care Facility of congestive heart failure.

Mr. Booth was born May 5, 1933, in Brooklyn, NY, to Harold and Hilda (Squires) Booth. He graduated from Oneonta High School, served in the Unites States Navy during the Korean War, and then attended and graduated college at Syracuse. He moved to Annapolis, Maryland to work for Arinc. He retired in 1993 at age 60, moving back to his upstate NY home in Erieville, NY.

Mr. Booth was a member of and trained lay-speaker for the Methodist church. He enjoyed hunting, camping, hiking and reading.  He loved poetry, especially the chiefly Scottish dialect of Robert Burns. He was an avid member of the Robert Burns Society of Annapolis and recited many of Burns poems from memory at their annual meetings. He was a member of the Fenner Conservation Club and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)  Club in Cazenovia, New York. He is survived by 3 children and 10 grandchildren.

Cue the dragging-of-the-stylus-across-the-vinyl-record sound. The scathing obit might read as follows:

Alan Booth, 77, died September 17, 2010, at Oneida Extended Care Facility of congestive heart failure brought on by years of indulgent excess and gluttony. He loved his cholesterol-rich diet with a slathering of sugar and hard liquor. Well aware of his weight problems, Mr. Booth bought all the weight-loss programs advertised on TV over the past 50 years, including but not limited to: DVDs, Nutrisystem, ellipticals, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and a vinyl 78 rpm 3-record set claiming a Guaranteed Reduce Plan. All of these items may be found unused and, in many cases, unopened, in his home in Erieville.

Mr. Booth’s first 2 wives left him because he abused them. Information on his 3rd wife is sparse, although, she did abandon him as well. Mr. Booth had 3 children from his first marriage and deserted them when the divorce was final. During this time, he turned his brilliant mind to the realm of divorce and custody law, successfully minimizing the financial burden of being a father. Mr. Booth’s career never miss a beat through all this turmoil. He served in intelligence in the US Navy aboard the USS Witek during the Korean War. He went on to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

Mr. Booth loved dead poets more than his living children. And his poet of choice was Robert Burns, the 18th century Scottish Bard. Booth spent much of his time and money learning, reading, and memorizing Burns’ poetry and life.  On any given month, he would send the court ordered fifty dollars of child support and zero dollars in alimony while spending hundreds of dollars and multiple weekends on collecting antique poetry books and traveling to the latest Burns society gathering on various continents.

Mr. Booth would be remembered best as one who served his country; loved reading; valued education and learning; appreciated good poetry; enjoyed hunting, fishing, and camping;  and ate, drank, and made merry on every occasion possible. He will not be remembered as a devoted husband or loving father. As such, there are some in this world who will remember him as an abusive husband, who traumatized and abandoned his children.

Cue the dragging-of-the-stylus-across-the-vinyl-record sound.

Not because this is untrue but, rather, because it is unfinished. As with most things in this world, the truth of who we are lies somewhere beyond the sanitized and the scathing.

Yes, it is true, the two most organized areas of my father’s home were his library, where he attempted to quell his insatiable appetite for knowledge, and his liquor cabinet, where he attempted to quell the screams of his daemons.

Between these two rooms he would stop to rest in his living room. There he would take part in daily devotionals with a televised bible study leader. When both knowledge and alcohol failed to bring peace, Al, like many before him, turned to God. He did not arrive at the Christian God lightly, as his library boasted books from many, if not all, religions, including witchcraft and occult. Al arrived at the cross. Jesus met Al bearing much needed grace.

Al suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hands of his mother. Although he never called it sexual abuse. In this way, Al became stuck in grade school. Stuck is a word therapists and psychologists use to describe a psychological and emotional response to trauma (a.k.a, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Moving past such trauma is like voluntarily walking across a bed of hot coals. Children are especially susceptible to becoming comfortable with being stuck in a state of disorder for long periods of time. In Al’s case, that period lasted for the remainder of his life.

Becoming a functional, emotionally-balanced adult meant walking across that bed of coals. Becoming a loving husband and parent meant acknowledging and experiencing searing pain. Trusting anyone again, especially women, meant the impossible. Freedom lies on the other side of the bed of coals. Of course, the bed of hot coals works both ways, that is, anyone attempting to get too close to Al will inevitably experience the same pain.

It is on the dark side of this bed of hot coals, where I found Al — a cowering, weak, trapped, and traumatized boy who was too ashamed, too afraid, and too emotionally immature to show himself but for an few fleeting glimpses in his living room.

For example, there was the time, when we were talking about Christian theology in his living room, and he abruptly got up went into his library to retrieve one of the 14 different bible translations from his shelf. Opening it, he began reading aloud:

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Al’s emphasis, not mine.)  After flipping some pages, he continued.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As he read, tears filled his eyes. Jesus brought Al grace.

Then there was the time I wrote a poem for him for Father’s Day in 2005. As he silently read, what is probably his first home-made Father’s day card in over 40 years (and quite possibly the only one ever), he began trembling. Then crying. Then sobbing. He hugged me and then opened the card again and read the repeating verse aloud while sobbing: I was walkin’ in the dark in broad daylight.

Then there were the two times he insisted on me watching a taped episode of JAG with him. The episode, Second Sight, explores forgiveness. In Second Sight, Sarah MacKenzie’s father is dying and she must deal with the forgiveness of her abusive, alcoholic father. This worn VHS tape had obviously been played numerous times in Al’s living room. Here is a poignant clip from that episode.

But for these fleeting glances of the scared, insecure, little boy, Al’s life remained safely hidden in the dark while walkin’ in broad daylight. However, he was not cowering alone. It appears Jesus did the same thing for Al that he does for us all. He left his throne, walked across the hot coals, away from freedom and into darkness, to meet Al where he hid from the rest of the world.

Did my father, Al Booth, deserve such kingly treatment? Absolutely not. But then, this story is not about Al Booth. This story is about his rescuer, Jesus, who, in the early morning hours of Friday, September 17th, 2010, picked up a cowering, lonely child and carried him out of his dark world, across the hot coals, and into freedom.


Childhood Pleasures

The Father’s Heritage Journal Question of the Day:

What did you enjoy doing most as a child?
Did you enjoy doing it alone or with someone else?

Enjoy Most?? Its a toss up:

  1. Going to school
  2. Going to church with Grandma Smith (ages 5 – 10)
  3. Going to Aunt Harriet’s and Uncle Walter’s farm
  4. Building models of doll house funiture, ships, and rockets
  5. Reading SciFi novels
  6. Going to visit Grandma and Grandpa Booth

In school, I could be the teacher’s pet and often received praise for my accomplishments. The same held true for Sunday School.

Coming from “the city” (ages 5 – 12), Aunt Harriet’s and Uncle Walter’s farm was a great escape. When I visited, I would invariably wet the bed. I remember trying to hide it (just like home) by making the bed and putting my pj’s under the pillow. I remember being shocked when I discovered clean, dry sheets and clean dry pj’s folded and waiting on the bed in the evening. (This same bizarre behavior took place at Grandma and Grandpa Booth’s home.) I’d always cry in the backseat of the car leaving the farm (or grandma and grandpa’s).

I always enjoyed reading SciFi novels alone in my room. I also enjoyed, many hours building models in my room alone. My mother encouraged my reading and model building. My step-dad thought there was something wrong with me.

I never invited friends over. I never thought anything of this until much later in life.

Harriet R. Law, In Loving Memory

This is where I found myself and my bride sitting last Saturday. My Great-Aunt Harriet left this world at the ripe old age of 92. (well, 91.9 would be more accurate).

Aunt Harriet's Memorial Service

Aunt Harriet's Memorial Service

When I think of Aunt Harriet (& Uncle Walter who died in ’94) I think of dope, cows, snowmobiles, hay forts, ponds, kittens, maple syrup, silage, barn clothes, ice cream, tractors, Sunday worship, and manure spreaders.

These are a few of my memories with my Aunt Harriet and Uncle Walter. I would visit during summer and winter breaks from school. In the summertime, we would be involved with haying-it or picking-stone. In the winter, I would help gather sap and go to the sap house with either my uncle or aunt.

I will write more about these amazing people in the coming weeks.

BTW, dope is what Aunt Harriet called her pancake topping of fresh-real-homemade whipped cream with brown sugar gently folded in. In the 60s, the American culture changed the meaning of the word dope. Aunt Harriet never changed from the 30’s forward.

BTW, part 2: The 4 empty rows in front of us were reserved for her immediate family of 6 married children, (22 mostly married)  grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great grandchildren! About 100 fold…

Aunt Harriet’s obituary:


Today is a guest post from a young woman I am proud and blessed to call daughter. She follows my blog and Christ but not necessarily in that order.


Growing up I never thought about how secrets can affect families and relationships. We seem to accept the old adage: What they don’t know won’t hurt them. However, I think being secretive causes the most hurt. I believe we fear what revealed secrets might do to our comfortable relationships instead of what keeping our secrets can do to our children. Whether we are keeping secrets from them or making them keep secrets neither has a positive outlook on your child’s life. Now I am not saying that we should run and tell our young children details of our sexual or mental abuse. I do think we should tell them, as they get older, what happened and that we chose to end it with the truth before it could affect them. I remember learning in history classes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

As a child, I wanted nothing more than to be pleasing and to be accepted. I never felt comfortable coming out and giving up my secret. Not once did I believe that anyone in my immediate or extended family would accept me and my secret. I feared they would be angry or disown me, or worse that the attention would be on me. My father has felt some of this sting recently. You see he too held onto secrets — more secrets than me. And maybe because of his secrets – “his family secrets,” I never was comfortable to come forward with mine.

Everyone has different ways of dealing with pain/painful memories. Some can move on without a thought; some can talk about it once and move on; some need to talk it out over and over again; and then others hold on to this until they blow up. I was never taught to deal with pain – I instead picked up the behaviors of my father. I can honestly say I blew up! My outburst, I believe had a direct correlation to my dad’s reaction. Back to Physics class – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Reactions… depending on your actions your family can have several reactions. Some families believe that because they are related and today all is well, that should be good enough to get along and love one another. But the problem with this type of love is that it is an “only on my terms” kind of love. “When I want to talk to you…”, “when I want to see you…”, or even “when you make me happy…” we are the best of friends and I love you. But this is not the true love we all desire – God’s love – unconditional love. The love that says I can see you are having a rough time and want you to know that I love and support you. I want the best for you. I don’t care about secrets – you are more important. People make bad choices everyday… it’s our job – our responsibility to learn from them to stop history from repeating itself.

My parents were both abused when they were young, but they made it a point to stop the physical abuse from affecting their children. Now I am not saying they were perfect… but I know now that it was their BIGGEST fear to have any of their children to feel any abuse as they did. Unfortunately, they were unable to stop this behavior in their extended family.

I believe, however, if families come together and give up their secrets – they can and will become the family everyone longs for. Now for the challenge – its time to stop the pain, stop the suffering and begin the healing. I know, with God’s help, this can be done. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Hiding Place

New life worship Jared Anderson

Thanks D, this brought up so many images and memories and well, yes, tears.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Al BoothToday is my (biological) dad’s birthday. He is 76 today. I purchased the card on Saturday and forgot to mail it. My better half helped me out this morning and it is now on its way.  I will call later today and wish my dad well.

3 Things

My brother Bob tagged me with this meme on Facebook. Its pretty short so, here goes.

Three Names I go by
1. (e)Ric
2. (grand) Dad (dy)
3. Boo(ooooooo)th

Three Jobs I have had in my life
1. Farm Hand
2. Waiter
3. Satellite simulation programmer

Three Places I have lived
1. Cooperstown, NY
2. Gambrills, MD
3. Hartwick, NY

Three TV Shows that I watch
1. Criminal Minds
2. Heroes
3. CSI

Three places I have been
1. UK
2. Bavaria
3. Dundalk

Three of my favorite foods
1. Blueberry Pancakes
2. Peanut Butter & Jelly
3. Tenderloin steak…especially on the grill!

Three friends I think will repost
1. hmm…
2. well…
3. ahhh…

Things I am looking forward to
1. My next cup of coffee
2. Seeing my children and grandchildren
3. Seeing my wife later today

Three things you do every morning
1. hit the snooze button
2. hit the snooze button
3. grudgingly get up after wife complains about me hitting the snooze button

Three things you do every night
1. Play with my computers
2. Blog (yours and mine)
3. Kiss my wife like we’re on our honeymoon
… well ok, maybe not every night but I try to blog every night…

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