March 26th, 2008
For many years, all my life, really, I have lamented the lack of relationship with my father. I’ve written about it, ranted about it, cried about it. What I’ve never written about was the man who was, in many ways, my father.
He was not a man with whom my mother had any sort of romantic relationship. He was a spiritual guide and advisor. It’s the sort of thing you hesitate to write about, because to refer to him as a pastor would be incorrect, but to refer to him in any vaguer sense implies cult.
There was nothing remotely cultish, although those unfamiliar with the more traditional religions of Africa might disagree out of ignorance and a reliance on Hollywood’s scary and extremely incorrect portrayals replete with zombies and scary shit being done in graveyards under a full moon. What they wouldn’t know is about the reverence for God – not a god, but God – and the desire for good, that really all religions aim for. (Well, most.)
I grew up without my biological father’s influence, but Emmanuel Cadet I knew from the time I was two. He worked diligently to help me outgrow a nasty fight with childhood asthma, a disease so serious to me that during a particularly serious hospital stay, my mother was told that I was not expected to live. As I got older, navigating the ways of high school and then college, it was he to whom I turned when life got crazy. It was he whose omniscience kept me on the straight and narrow. I look back at my life and realize at how many points I could have turned left instead of right, could have made some wrong decisions that would have impacted me tremendously.
Thanks to him, I did, for the most part, what was right. I say for the most part because I, like all humans, have a will and a mind, one that doesn’t always take too kindly to influence from the outside world. Like most fathers, he knew what I should be doing. Like most children, I knew he was right but sometimes – not often – did what I felt like doing anyway. I heeded his advice often enough to be here today, relatively happy and sane. The times I didn’t heed his advice, well, let’s just say I know better now. Sometimes life is about experiences.
I lost touch with my spiritual godfather recently, in no small part due to seeking out a new path for myself. That came about mainly because I was trying to find ways to help my mother. He was telling me she could not be helped, but I felt that I had to keep trying, if only to satisfy myself and the universe that I had done all I could.
Sadly, about 4 years went by with no contact. A mistake on my part, definitely. Eventually, however, my path came full circle and I was led right back to him. He welcomed me with open arms, accepted my apologies and explanations with grace and a wave of the hand, and all was well.
I was glad because in many ways, I trusted him the way I’ve trusted no one else before or since. I knew that his advice was dependable. He had proven himself time and time again, not only to be right, but to be sincere in his quest to find out what was right for me. So many people give advice that is based on what they would like you to do. His advice was never self-serving. As a matter of fact, he never gave his own opinion without praying on it first. He wanted to be sure that he was doing the right thing. I think God answered his sincerity with truth.
This morning at 3 a.m he passed away. He’d been having failing health in recent months. Because of the car troubles I’d been having recently, I didn’t see him as often as I would have liked, but we spoke often. I was very glad that he got to meet Punksin, although she will never truly understand his place in my life. He never got to see Pudding. I so wish he could have.
I know how much work and prayer he put out into the universe on my behalf, and on my family’s behalf, and I know there were hundreds of other people who sought his advice and help over the decades. I hope that now, he is reaping the rewards of being selfless, tireless, and good. In a world of scam artists and empty words, he was a good person who believed passionately in the power of God, and who showed that power in his own work.
We miss him. I will miss him. The name Emmanuel means “with us is God” and that was how we felt, that God’s angel was right here with us. Already we feel lost – to whom do we turn when we need grounding, when things seem a little off-kilter and need righting? Yes, we know we can pray to God ourselves – and we do. But it was reassuring to have answers and concrete solutions, and to get them from someone who had invested himself in doing not just Good Work, but Work For Good.
If life is a long journey, then I’ve lost my compass. I can make guesses about the direction I’m headed in, but I no longer have the certainty I used to have. The person I relied on to show me the way is gone, and now I’ve got to make it through the jungle on my own, taking my children with me, hoping that I do the right thing for myself and for them and my husband. The frightening part is not thinking about getting lost or misdirected – that’s bound to happen. The frightening part is that now, if I lose my way, there’s no one to point me in the right direction again, no one to say go left or go right. I have to rely wholly on my good sense now.
He did tell me that I had some of that, and like a good father I think he tried to get us to be more self-reliant and less dependent. He knew he wouldn’t be here forever – and that even if he were, we’d never reach our full capacities if we were always running to him with our problems.
And I didn’t. I tried to make my own sense of things, to take his teachings and his hopes for me and form some sort of Plan For Life out of them. The thing was, I was still working on that…
I guess now it’s sink or swim time. In recent months he was weary – that weariness that you see people get sometimes when they’re close to the end, a spiritual weariness that runs deeper than any mere physical fatigue can do. When you recognize that you know you’ve got someone who is close to leaving. I’ve seen it before, and although I didn’t see him myself recently, I recognized all the signs in the descriptions I heard from those who did. When I last talked to him, I heard it in his voice.
God bless you, Emmanuel. I wish I had been as good a daughter as you were a father. I thank you for taking the place of my biological father, giving me the guidance and putting in the work that he never did. I wish…I wish so many things. I wish I had appreciated you more. I wish I could have done more for you towards the end. I wish I had seen you more often, and I wish you had just once laid your eyes on Pudding. Most of all, though, I wish you the peace and rest and light and love you deserve. May God bless you a thousandfold. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.