This is a story from my book, The Enneagram of Death. Tom’s father is a skeptical and mistrustful 6-Questioner personality type and is motivated to protect himself. He trusts his church and the afterlife but he’s pretty grumpy about life on earth. He’s Tom, however, is a 9-Peace Seeker who looks for commonality among people and is seeking the truth.
Death Will Be Graduation Day
By Tom Purcell.
My father died a month before his 94th birthday. He was a social subtype Questioner through and through. He often complained about “the powers that be,” yet enjoyed socializing with them; he was instrumental in the campaigns to re-elect our local Member of Parliament, yet refused to run for office himself; he was friendly with everyone he met, especially the underdogs of society. Yet he often said he was unable to trust anyone.
My loving father maintained his intellectual faculties until the last few months. During his last ten years, following a few minor surgeries, he experienced brief periods of memory impairment, but bounced back quickly. The official cause of death was old age.
He was a devout Roman Catholic with an unshakeable belief that he was going to heaven. His concept of heaven wasn’t elaborate, but he did expect to see predeceased friends and family members there when he arrived. He never disclosed to me what they were, but in his later years he expressed regret about mistakes he had made in his life.
Overall, he was accepting of his fate. He didn’t believe the world was such a great place with all the moral corruption, poverty, wars, and suffering. Life on earth was a test of faith, and death was graduation day.
In light of the current health consciousness and the focus on physical well-being, I found it interesting that my father ate red meat daily, drank alcohol, smoked, never exercised, carried at least 70 extra pounds, was always worried about something, had high blood pressure and cholesterol, and was never particularly happy or relaxed. However, he was proud of the fact that he never ever missed Sunday Mass. Perhaps he was onto something.
A major theme of his stories was a mistrust of authority figures and an inability to express emotion. He felt powerless to change any aspect of the world. As a skeptic, he believed politicians were skillful liars and the news media were the mouthpieces of rich and powerful interests, but he was loyal to his wife, his family, his employers, his religious faith and his political views.
He was afraid of losing his job, although he held the same position for over 23 years, and he often expressed suspicion of other managers at his workplace. His co-workers wouldn’t listen to him when he said their employer was headed for bankruptcy, but his fear of being out of work inspired him to seek out another job. Three months later he found out his former employer had indeed gone out of business. My father had landed a much better position, even though he was already in his mid-fifties. He attributed his success to prayer and God’s work—never giving himself credit for his own virtues. I wished he’d take pride in his reputation for scrupulous honesty and loyalty to his employer.
I questioned his blind faith in a belief system that had evolved through many centuries. In its highest expression, through the example of the loving kindness of Christ, it commands its followers to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” My father, however, divided the world into members of his club and nonmembers. It bothered me deeply as a young man when he spoke negatively about people who did not agree with his beliefs. I became even more frustrated when he refused to discuss religiously based beliefs at all. Now, however, I can understand my youthful desire to seek the essential truth in all religions as rather threatening to my dogmatic father.
When I was a teenager, I would try to engage him in theological debates about other religious traditions, but he would dismiss anything that didn’t conform to his own narrow and rigid interpretation of official Catholic dogma. Later in his life, he softened somewhat and relaxed his rigid views when he acknowledged, “good people of all faiths go to heaven.”
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there ~ Rumi
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