Letters to a Soldier: AFTERWORD


An account such as this requires a few pertinent remarks. My father wrote to me a few comments after reading of these events. It brought back some memories of things that didn't make him feel very good. That is a very real fear in families that really love each other. It wasn't terribly unreasonable for him to want to have these things remain buried. And it puzzled him why I would rehash such things all over again. So I wrote him back this reply.

Believe me I don't plan on rehashing every event that makes me cringe upon remembrance. Some I will let lay with me in the grave (or more accurately, since I want to be cremated, turn to ashes). But I am sorry that these things still bring you both pain. I do feel some of this as well when I again read the letters you wrote to me during some of those tumultuous times in El Paso and in Germany. And I again apologize to you both for who I was then and what I put you both through--there can be no excuse for those things. And I want to say so many other things along these same lines to let you know how differently today I see our relationship from those days so long ago. But, not being a talented writer, words fail me. I have, I believe, come a long way since then and I have made my peace with my history, and can look a little more objectively today at so many of these events and I accept my sole responsibility for them. And my objective and hope from the web posting is that some one individual will profit from the telling.

On the other hand, you pre-suppose that anyone is going to actually read these articles!

With all my Love, your (new) son, John

I should state for the record that when mentioning St. Augustine I certainly didn't intend to imply that I put myself in the same honored group in which he dwells, among the revered church fathers. I only draw the similarity that a description of one's former sins can serve to lay the foundation for building the framework upon which the reforming power of God's graciousness can be revealed. And I reiterate that this transformation can be read in my sketch of The Meeting. One can only wonder how Augustine's own family and friends might have felt when they read the vivid accounts he penned describing the degree to which he sank into reprobation. One can only imagine! And how do authors handle these types of issues when they write their great published stories that don't hide behind fictions and disguises? They surely grappled with the same questions about how their families and friends might react, would they have not? It's not surprising that a loving parent would feel somewhat dismayed by revelations such as these. After all these are the closest people to the author and have many reasons to protect him from all kinds of negatives and suffering. It may be considered for this reason that they are in some senses too close to the issue, if I may risk seeming insensitive, and That's as it no doubt should be. I feel I would think similarly were I in my dad's shoes. But I am thinking that those outside the family will not have such "distortions though spectacles of love" with which to view the subject. I suspect that others will read and think pretty much the same things I have thought through the retelling. And that is, "How could he have done those things, and what has been the fruit of this?"

I ask myself the same questions, how could I have treated people the way I did on occasions back then? The answer is pretty obvious. We all treat people at one time or another hurtfully, sometimes quite often, sometimes with great insensitivity. With some people the behavior is never even recognized. I have at times counted myself among them. And the hope is that a pricking of conscience may reveal the wrong done and the correction should follow. With me it took way too long, but it finally did come about. Sometimes one must be shocked into such awakening. It is a human frailty. Everyone suffers from it. The goal is to recognise it, in order for the change to occur. So I hold out hope that this story can be used to show others how not to go about one's life. Do I think that a few words from me will change someone's mind? I only have to remember, would I have listened when I was that age? My own answer is that, well, I didn't, did I? At least at that time. But then again the seed can be implanted and need only await the right conditions to germinate and develope fruit.

I love my parents and my family and certainly do not wish to cause them pain all over again. If the wounds bleed too much I will certainly be willing to remove these accounts. I hope that someone can learn from a description of some of life's more harsh realities than to expect that life is all roses and champagne. Time does heal a great many wounds. It has for me. My prayer is that it will for others.

John Schneider
June 12, 2000