Freedom’s Just Another Word is a hopeful memoir. It is about a spiritual journey of healing, hope and forgiveness, and is set in Houston, Texas, in 1987.
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Dan L. Hays, author
My life was spinning out of control. A force was at work I could not understand. I was walking around with many of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and didn’t know it. I was trying to put pieces together, to remember - something about my Dad, when I was young.
I was broke, unable to go look for a job, down enough to think about ending my life, mystified as to why it was all happening, and then I got the call; come home, Dad is dying. Freedom’s Just Another Word is a memoir, set in Houston, Texas, in 1987. It is a complex narrative of a spiritual journey; a compelling and uplifting perspective on self discovery, family dynamics, the grief process, and healing.
I delivered the eulogy at my Dad’s funeral. He was an alcoholic, but he had been sober and in recovery for twenty years. A number of people told me the week he died how much he had positively impacted their life. He and I had also had a lot of healing over the past several years, so I spoke from a warm and loving place.
But over the next several weeks as I struggled with his passing, I started finding an ugly, deep anger toward him. It felt disloyal to be feeling that way. I was conflicted, torn between deep sadness over my Dad’s death, and that awakening ugly anger toward him.
I discovered an old emotional wound, long buried but actively festering, a violent incident with my father when I was a teenager. As I struggled to comprehend this awareness, I began to embrace the journey toward forgiveness of my father. With themes reminiscent of The Great Santini, this manuscript will resonate with readers who have had a fragmented relationship with a parent, and who have tried to seek answers and healing.
“Hello, my name is Dan Hays. Ben Hays was my father.” I noticed in a detached sort of way that my voice was strong, calm and warm. “On behalf of my family and myself, I’d like to welcome you all here today. We are deeply touched that you join us here today to celebrate the life of Ben Hays.” I looked out and could see sympathetic eyes wherever I looked, all focused on me. A few tears were beginning to well up in the audience.
“The large number of people here today is a testimony to the number of lives my father touched. A number of people this week have told me how much my Dad had an influence on their lives. By this I know he carried the message.” I could feel my throat clutch up. “My Dad and I had a great deal of healing over the last several years of his life. By this I know he practiced the principles. If you ever saw my Dad out at his land, grafting pecan trees, or just sitting and enjoying the breeze,” a number of smiles at this, “you would know he had had a spiritual awakening. And if you’ve ever seen those checked tennis shoes he wore,” big smiles now, and a lot of laughter—the shoes were hideously ugly, “you know that he had learned not to take himself too seriously. My Dad had a lot of courage—at one point he lost it all, job, family, home, but he persevered and put it all back together. The songs we selected today were appropriate to my Dad, because he did do things his own special way. I’m very proud of my father,” my throat almost closed—edge of tears— almost lost it. “Peace be with you, Ben.” I sat down, not able to look at my family, instead staring at a spot above the crowd at the back of the church. The minister stepped up, made a few closing remarks, and dismissed the gathering to muted organ music.