A complicated man, my father William Jerry Cushman lived a life disciplined in his quest to find a closeness to God. As long as my siblings and I could remember, our father asked us to say nightly prayers in front of a statue of the child of Prague. The Prague prayer we recited included this excerpt from Mathew 7.7. "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." He taught us through his everyday actions later in his life to pursue our best selves, to carry the light of God in our hearts and show this light in each gesture. He taught us, by deed, to seek to comfort others, to teach, to doctor, to help others pursue their goals, to make gifts, to work hard--- to seek ways in which we could help make this world and those around us better.
Dad infused his spirituality with a "waste not, want not" attitude. He enjoyed fully and gave thanks daily for the wonders of God's grace: from the amazing view at the top of a hill, birds he could name by the dozen, a savory cookie made by a dear friend or daughter, a good cigar with his sons, ribs with a friend. He understood these to be blessings, each and every one.
My father's devotion to the teachings of the Catholic church were everywhere present in his daily actions. Perhaps this devotion was both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. It certainly was his greatest struggle. Catholic doctrine seems to have played some role in his troubled relationship with women. With daily reflection, prayer, and thoughtfulness, he tried to do unto to others, to find peace, to let go of the things he could not control, to accept those things beyond his control, to forgive, and to figure out how to love women. The more I reflect on his life and the meaning it has for me, the more I begin to make sense of his struggle.
Just before his stroke, my father, perhaps knowing his time on this earth was short, asked me what it was he taught us kids. I reassured him he had taught us much. But taking Mathew 7.7 together with my dad's waste-not-want-not attitude, I begin to see the path my father took as he asked and received, sought and found, knocked and entered:
Models of change, change agents, teaching, learning, expressive tools, and everyday struggles for dignity, resources, respect, and cultural perseverance.