Archive for October 9th, 2014


if l should die before l wake


How much has changed since I was a child and was taught the common nighttime prayer:

……………Now I lay me down to sleep,
……………I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
……………If I should die before I wake,
……………I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Then began a long litany of people who I asked to “God bless”: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, even family friends. People, once so close, many of whom are now either dead, estranged, forgotten… little more than just names.

This is to be expected with people who were once just friends, but with family?

Several years ago, my best friend from high school–now an attorney–found himself across his desk from the daughter of a cousin (I don’t know which cousin nor the girl’s name). He began telling her about having known my grandparents–once prominent people in our city–and he quickly realized that she knew nothing of her great-grandparents and, what’s more, didn’t care. I was surprised and dismayed to learn this. Aside from my parents, my grandparents had been the most important people in my life.

Long before I began working with parricides, I had come to the conclusion that, despite all the fuss about “family values,” many or most of us in America have forgotten how to be families.

This was particularly driven home to me when a close friend was asked to serve on the Grant Committee of a family foundation. The Grant Committee was responsible for reviewing grant requests, researching the work of applicants, and making recommendations to the foundation’s board based on how good a “fit” there was between the applicant and the foundation’s purpose and values. The family in question was a particularly large clan which included a diverse number of individuals and views. Some wise family member created a huge pot of money and a structure for administering it in such a way as to require multiple generations of family members to work together for a common purpose. This example made the light bulb turn on for me. Say what you will about this particular group of people, this is a family that knows how to be a family.

Most of us do not have the wealth to create such a structure, but I believe that it does not take money to create family cohesion. I think it is enough to be explicit in defining what values should unite us into strong family units.

About seven years ago, when Derek King was still incarcerated and considering coming to live with me, the thought came that he (like most parricides) had never experienced being a part of a healthy family unit. So I did some research and wrote “The Healthy Family Model” for his review and reaction. He was impressed and shopped the paper around his prison. He said that the paper was well-received by inmates who had something going for them and met with indifference from inmates who did not.

I have asked Alex King to review the document, and I would like to ask you to do so, too. Please click here to access “The Healthy Family Model.” I am very interested in your feedback.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Hank Williams, Jr. performing “Family Tradition”