Catherine O’Kane has been hurt and frustrated by some of her husband’s choices. But in her eyes, his strengths far outweigh his failures.
This year you are the same age as your Dad was when he committed suicide, and I am aware that you are contemplating your life right now to some extent through that perspective. And I’m wondering what it must have been like for him to have made a decision like that, and measuring your life against his, wondering how you are the same and how you are different.
I am aware that in your worst moments you have some of the fears your Dad must have had, around whether what you have contributed makes a difference, or whether it all adds up to being a failure, or insignificant particularly to those closest to you.
I’m writing this to you publicly even though I have said most of this to you already in pieces here and there, because I want to turn up the volume on my message. I know you know how important you are to me, and I also know there depths in you where my words haven’t reached. My intention is to reach those places. If you were to die tomorrow, you would leave a huge, gaping hole in my life. Many people have been profoundly touched by you, and would feel the loss if you were gone.
I would equally have immense gratitude for you. You are a talented, creative spirit who is committed to believing the best about others and finding the best in yourself. I appreciate your humor, your dedication to your vision, and your willingness to do what it takes to get there, with integrity. I admire your ability to hold onto the highest thought in the middle of difficult situations.
You live your life with courage, you take risks, and you are willing to throw yourself into the deep end so that you can learn how to swim. You are energized rather than scared and defeated in the face of challenge. Those qualities are rare, and precious.
In some moments, I am frustrated by you. In some moments, particularly in the first few years of our relationship, I have felt tremendously hurt by you, and the choices you made. But I am grateful for all that too.
When I first met you, I also met a possibility I hadn’t considered about who I am and could be. I looked in your eyes, and glimpsed the person you fell in love with. I fell in love with you, and also with who I might become with you. I have become more of that person than I might have imagined back then, and that is partly because of your faith in me.
It is also partly because you love me through all the messes we have made, and handle yourself with integrity, even when you make mistakes. You are my soft place to fall.
I am saying all of this so that you know that even your apparent failures aren’t failures. I would never have discovered what love really is without the hard times, and I like the person I have become.
I love who you have become, and are becoming. You are doing okay, Duane O’Kane. If there is a balance sheet (which there isn’t), your contribution side is over the top. I am proud of you, and I think your Dad is too. I love you.
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Photo: Courtesy of author/Catherine and husband Duane