Dealing with death creatively when my wife went home has been a major personal learning point. Creative people commonly think differently. I tend to think that most creative people understand this. Maybe I’m just strange—surprise, surprise. For example, I’ve mentioned before that I was pleased to discover that I cared enough about someone enough to grieve. That has been a completely new experience in my life. I told Pat all the time that I loved her, and I believed it. I’m overjoyed to discover the reality of that. Feelings are not something I keep track of. They are problems I get rid of—right? But this time, the Lord is not letting me put that feeling away—as I have so many times in the past.
One of my friends this morning told me he has learned that loneliness is a monster that can be defeated. His wife went home a little over a year ago. My reaction has been very different. It’s been a surprise to me. As with grief, loneliness is a new experience for me. I’ve never experienced it before. Loneliness has just been an irritant before. It kept me from creating.
Not this time: I am dealing with death creatively
The Lord is using Pat going home to continue the learning program He has had me on for the past decade. I needed to care for my wife more and more. I ended up as her full-time caregiver. I learned about love. This stoic old Norwegian [OK I admit it. I’m half Swede and a little more than a quarter Norwegian] learned a little bit about love. What an experience it has been. This is not something that anyone in my family did, as far as I knew. If they did love, they certainly wouldn’t talk about it in public. But the Creator knows that dealing with death creatively is my only solution.
Self-medicating offered some relief
All my life, social, family, and personal relationships have been a major (even the major) source of pain. Before I met the Lord [and while I was meeting Him], I stopped the pain of all relationships with drugs. When I was stoned I could relate with people. I enjoyed it. What a revelation that was! But what I’ve heard about those days I’m not proud of. Trying to look objectively into that drugged fog is not easy. I smoked a joint or more, every two hours for seven years. During that time, I took acid at least monthly, often weekly. I dropped out and refused to deal with reality. More accurately, I constructed my reality.
Dealing with the anger using poor solutions
Before drugs, I took care of those issues by retreating into the books I read. I read hundreds a year from the time I was nine years old. But that didn’t help at all as far as relating to people was concerned. The underlying rage which fueled me couldn’t have been pleasant to others. Again, I’m ashamed of many of the things I did and the countless people I hurt. I hurt them before they had a chance to do it to me. If I didn’t, they hurt me—every time. That was my experience—and my general operating solution.
My mother told me that I spent the whole year when I was thirteen talking about suicide. I have no memory of that, but before she rejected the Lord she was a truthful, religiously Christian woman. So I imagine I did that. I remember eighth grade as a nightmare. I was in such bad shape I got a D in Math. Math was my strength in high school. I was one of the top science students in the state, so you can see how damaged I became. What an arrogant schmuck!
I grew up in a family where I had no training in how to live socially. The idea that people lied hurt me. Like I’ve said many times, the sixties happened because of the pain of dealing with the fifties. Everything they taught us in school as I grew up turned out to be a lie. My reaction, evidently starting when I was thirteen, was to cut it all off to avoid being hurt. I dealt with the pain with anger. I have few memories of that. The memories I do retain as a boy, and then a young man, are incidents showing major anger surfacing in horrid ways. When I told those tales, they made me laugh. What a sicko I was. We won’t even talk about my military career.
The creative solution to deal with death and rejection
I became completely self-sufficient within my head. I tried music, but that didn’t work out for me. It all culminated in becoming “an artist”. By definition (at the University of Minnesota where I got my degree), an artist is a person who is compelled to share his internal vision. They taught me that artists are the prophets of mankind. That one screwed me up for decades.
But creativity was the first positive thing I did with my life. I learned to deal with issues creatively. This compulsion to share one’s interior vision is true of any worldly creative endeavor: writing, creating music, as well as all the various activities of a visual creator. The great ones were able to drag us into their vision. Van Gogh is a good example. John Lennon, Robert Heinlein are two others. When a believer does this, the result can be transcendent, as in Handel’s Messiah. But those examples are rare because the church normally rejects, out of hand, creative people. They are too unusual.
But I was not there yet. By 1974, I had boxed myself in. I was living in a cold water storefront, next to a Sioux Indian bar in the ghetto of south Minneapolis. Nothing was working. Somehow, I was aware of the evil in the neighborhood. My dad had told me he was an exorcist. I had no idea what that meant. Our relationship then was spent, on my side, in trying to convince him that any path would work as long as you got into it far enough. His response was to get me to promise that I wouldn’t quit looking for the truth until I was certain I had found it. I had no problem promising that. But then I knew nothing of Truth.
Allowing help into my world
As self-sufficient as I was, I saw no need for help. Maybe it would be better to say, I had no hope for help. It had never been provided—or even offered—except for drugs. In one of my acid trips, I found myself outside the universe in total blackness. I was so sick, it didn’t scare me. It was just reality as I understood it. So, dealing with death creatively has never been a problem for me. I never understood why people got so upset.
But somehow, in November of 1973, I called my father and asked him if he could clean out the evil in my studio. He seemed happy to do that. He came over and said some sort of strange prayers. But it worked. Peace entered my life a little. But not much. I was still smoking dope every two hours while I was awake, dropping acid nearly weekly. I had a close friend who held a good job and could buy all the drugs he needed. He was gay and, looking back, certainly attracted to me. Nothing happened other than a close friendship. I can no longer find anything about him. I have not talked with him since the summer of 1974.
But it wasn’t working. I lived on almost no money. I ate very little. None of that is important. The result was, seemingly out of the blue to me, I called my father on January 15, 1974, and said, “Dad, I need to get filled with the spirit.” It was his birthday. I had no idea. He said, “Of course, no problem. I’m going to a bible study tonight. Do you want to come with me? We can get it done there.” Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I replied, “OK.” I had no idea. He did seem a bit excited about it, in retrospect.
Radical rebirth slowly grew on me
I imagine I smoked a joint before he picked me up. I can’t remember. He drove me over to St. Paul, where a Roman Catholic charismatic bible study was meeting. My dad was trying to help them any way he could. He was going to a different prayer group/bible study every night of the week—just to help out, and teach where he could. Anyway, they asked me to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil. I said, Sure. They asked me to accept Jesus as the Lord of my life. I said, sure. They were very happy about all of this. Me? Not so much.
I remember writing into my large calendar/journal I kept on the wall in my studio three days later. “I feel strangely peaceful.” But the changes started coming, relentlessly, in a flood. I still read over 3000 words a minute [took speed reading in junior high]. So, Dad got me reading the bible, and bringing me piles of books from his library. They were all about this “Charismatic Renewal”. I had no idea.
But I discovered that dealing with death creatively only works when you know the Creator. Dad taught that you needed to accept your death and rebirth. By June I had read the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, two or three times. I’d read probably a hundred of Dad’s books. I went to every Bible study he was part of and loved it. We talked for hours. In June, my friend gave me several hits of acid for my birthday. I was still smoking and tripping. But the acid trips had become work because I was now aware of the demons and spent all my time fighting them off. On my birthday I flushed the acid down the toilet. I never talked to my friend again. My other friends cut me off. My second closest friend said, “If you won’t smoke dope with me, get out.” I didn’t even try with the rest. Like I said, I was used to that kind of rejection. So, I cut it all off to avoid the pain, I guess.
By March I had started working, day jobs. That summer, I met this extremely uptight woman who was attending seminary. Her name was Pat. We became very good friends. By early 1976, we were married. And we arrive on the journey that led to where I am today. What a woman she is!
The Lord used her to socialize me [often kicking and screaming]. She was the only person who would listen to my strangeness and help me understand it. He used it to teach both of us how to love. She knew much more about it than I did. But she had a lot of emotional injuries also.
So, now she’s gone home. I’m left dealing with death creatively. On my better days, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Jesus has done a good thing in me. Pat is no longer in pain. I was able to keep her home, out of a home. That’s enough for today. Jesus has things for me to do. I’m getting excited. Who knows what he’ll do next?