Farewell To My Father – Funeral Talk

by Keith Turner on April 3, 2018

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Farewell to my Father; to my Demon; to my Salvation; to half of my Creation.

To the man I called Dad, sometimes enemy, sometimes friend, Good Bye! Our relationship was complex, sometime angry and hateful, sometime loving and beautiful. There was nothing simple about it.

To better understand how I wish to speak about my father you should understand that I am a Queer Pagan. I can no longer speak and often struggle to understand the religious and spiritual language of my birth. As I speak to you I have no desire to offend anyone but to speak sincerely about this man and a small part of what he has meant in my life.

In 2002 the façade of this person I identified with as myself was completely fractured. As 2003 started I will ill prepared for the complete destruction that was about to happen in every aspect of my life. On January 18th I called my father along with various other members of my family and said, Dad I am gay. There was silence on the other end of the phone. I sat there for a couple of minutes before I said. I love you I will call you in a few weeks.

As I understand things the first week he pulled into himself and hardly spoke. The second week he started talking to Lori. By the end of the second week he said I do not understand, I will never understand, but he is my son and love him. Two weeks later he called me back “I just called to see how you are doing, make sure you are ok. For the next three years he would call me every couple of days and say about the same thing.

During those three years my life completely unraveled. Due to the unlucky circumstances I lost my emotional functionality to deal with this destruction. At the end of 2002 I was put on anti-depressants by my Navy Doctor. A few months later I was discharged from the Navy, living in Utah and assigned a new psychiatrist at the VA Medical center in Salt Lake City. He had just finished his residency and I was his first unsupervised patient. I was on the maximum does of paxil. I explained to my psychiatrist that I was having the exact opposite side effect of everything that was listed in the information about the drug. His response was to add another anti-depressant which just amplified my reaction. It wasn’t until much later and with the knowledge of a psychiatrist with two decades of experience that I understood what happened. There are a small percentage of the population which anti-depressants push into a manic/depressive state.

As my life unraveled I became extreme manic and depressed. I said and did things many of which I only vaguely remember. I have clear memories of my life up till the end of 2002. I have clear memories of my life from the beginning of 2006 until now. Between 2003 and 2006 is like trying to remember a dream I have just woken up from. I remember how dark life felt and how deeply I wanted to kill myself. But I knew that in a couple of days my father would call me to check in on me. I survived that dark period a couple of days at a time.

In 2005 I met a man visiting his family in Utah and followed him back to Atlanta. The next available appointment for the psychiatrist at the VA medical center in Atlanta was six months. When my anti-depressants ran out I stopped taking them. A couple of months later I woke up one day and I felt like myself again. I had just woken up from a three year nightmare. I told my father for the first time last year that his phone calls were one of the main reasons I did not kill myself during that time.

Over the years as my life had been rebuilt into a much different life there have been many areas where we had big difference like religion and politics he would often tell me “It is not my place to judge.” It was his example that helped me navigate the relationship I have with my own daughter, Mary. There were times in her life when it was challenging to have a queer pagan father. I had experienced how it felt to be on the receiving end of its not my place to judge and extended that to my daughter. We weathered the challenges. Her college application essay was about how having a queer pagan father and a Mormon mother was the best of both worlds.

Brad Fell was a complicated man. For some he was more imperfect than others. As a child he was the source of my demons. As an adult he was the source of my salvation.

This is how he explained his life to me, he was a person of the dark who was told all his life he had to exist in the light. I do not mean this in the terms of good and evil. In nature some plants thrive and depend on the dark. They will only bloom at night. He was a plant blooming under the moon being told he should bloom under the sun. His example of non-judgement came out of his own experiences. In my own way I am a person of the dark. He is one of the many people in my life that have helped me to be comfortable blooming under the light of the moon.

Wandering through my memories of him for me is like finding a wild briar rose. They are covered with thousands of thorns and if I get too close blood is drawn. But from the right distance away I can enjoy the beautiful flowers of the roses and their intoxicating scent. Sometimes I just have to get close and other times I have to see the bigger picture.

I feel that it is important be able to speak our truth about Brad both the good and the bad and find our own peace with him. He was both the saint and the sinner. He does not need to defend himself or speak for himself anymore. He has now passed to the spirit world where he sees the bigger picture of love and salvation. If confession and speaking out loud is your path to that same love and salvation that is all that he will ever want from each one of us.

Dad, this new journey you are on, may it be filled with peace, joy and grace. Now as you would say in the name of Jesus Chris, I say Blessed Be.