My immediate family spent a Thanksgiving meal at noon in 1977 with my parents on the farm. Later that evening, while celebrating Thanksgiving with my wife's parents, I received a phone call from my mother saying my father had just passed from a heart attack. We rushed back home. Immediately upon arrival, I was ushered into the living room. My mother shared details about my Father's life that were foreign to me. A long discussion that lasted several hours unfolded a World War II saga indicating that my father was in charge of a secret group of individuals who were assigned to seek out and eliminate Nazi spies operating in a specific geographic region of the U.S. Her desire was that I see my father as a hero. He in turn did not want me to know, feeling that actions necessary for this activity would offend or otherwise negatively affect how I felt about him. Situations and scenarios were explained in great detail. The stories continued for hours. As preposterous as they sounded, remarkably, many of the stories seemed to be confirmed in my mind as I remembered observances and events over my lifetime as a child. As she shared with conviction, I was convinced her information was credible and trustworthy. Looking back, I believe those stories had some merit but were distorted by a power that was not of God. This was, unfortunately, the beginning of a long 25-year ordeal dealing with my mother's disease that was to be diagnosed many years later.
As an only child, my father, my mother, and I appeared to be, and in my judgment were, an ideal family. We were very close. My pain, therefore, was deep and prolonged by events I will share with you. These events were very hard for me to endure, but going through all this as an only child was so difficult for me, especially when I saw the breakdown of what I experienced as an ideal childhood; it took its toll on me personally. There are too many events to discuss here, but suffice it to say it was a very complex situation to manage, living 230 miles away from my mother.
After my father died at age 52, I was not able to observe much of my mother's behavior except that she became distant while sharing more bizarre stories from time to time. Emotional phone calls came from those observing her who were concerned about her behavior. She was becoming a total recluse. Eventually, everyone was alienated in her life. One day while visiting her, it happened. She said I was not to see her any more. She needed her "space."
The calls from family and friends continued. "Your mother is now wearing a revolver strapped to her side," one said. I finally decided to intervene. I went to visit the county mental health office n her area. The local mental health department could not assist me. They said an individual had to observe an act of behavior where my mother demonstrated a threat to cause bodily harm to herself or others and report the occurrence within three days. I was living hundreds of miles away and received reports from individuals that were close to her. I just could not convince them to call the mental health department. Nobody back home would "get involved." Unfortunately, the mental health department did not consider my reports valid because I was not a direct observer and therefore had no credibility in the law's eyes.
Finally, Mother stepped over the line. Her first arrest for threatening a neighbor with a pistol landed her in a mental facility. The police found several guns in her home. I learned later that she was admitted with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Her first admittance lasted six months in a mental hospital and then later for a year.
One day my cousin asked, "Do you know if she has a boyfriend? A truck has been seen there frequently." I responded by saying I did not know but expressed that it would be a blessing if she brought someone into her lonely life. Later I determined she had hired a night watchman to protect herself from me. Among other things, she thought I was trying to sneak into her bedroom and poison her bed sheets in an attempt to kill her. I learned that this watchman was encouraging her by training her to use a pistol. He introduced her to an attorney in a large metropolitan city who apparently wrote me out of her will. In addition, a private investigator was hired to investigate me. One night about 3 a.m., I received the call. I said, "Hello." She screamed, "Don, this is your mother. I want you to know, I curse the day you were born. You will never know when or where, but know this. I WILL KILL YOU!" She then hung up.
The second arrest occurred in a large city 150 miles away from home when she was in front of a convenience store out of state. The police found a gun in the car and charged her for carrying a weapon without a permit. Jail time was thirty days while awaiting her trial. While there, she was raped. OH MY LORD, WHERE ART THOU?!!!!!! I was not allowed to see her, as she would not give me permission due to the delusions she had about me. She was committed to the same mental home and became a patient for one year.
Although much heartache occurred in this 25+ year saga, there were many victories also in this walk. One night I was praying at my personal altar, the woodpile behind my house. As I was weeping that night, I heard that still soft voice, not audibly, yet saying the name of an individual from back home. I will call him JD. The name kept getting stronger in my mind, JD, JD. He was a family friend who I had known on a first-name basis for most of my life. I needed to travel back home for some personal business. Before departing, I called JD and asked if I could speak to him. He invited me to come to his house one evening. My pastor was supportive through this long ordeal, and I invited him to come with me back home for the trip.
At JD's door, we were invited into his kitchen. I asked him if he was aware of the behavior my mother was exhibiting in the community, and he acknowledged. I then asked if he had any information about her. He said, "No, I have not had any contact with her except for that time last fall, and ..." I did not catch the reference of the incident, but my pastor quickly placed his hand on JD's forearm and said, "Tell us about last fall."
JD started to unfold an experience at his house. One night my mother arrived on his doorstep, frantic. She indicated that she had been racing down a secondary road, "running away" from the FBI, Nazis, or some other adversary, and ended up on his porch wanting to come in. She spent an extended amount of time sharing with him about what was going on in her life, or what she perceived. For me, it was the "mother load" of information. She told him about her then-current scenario, as she understood it. Names, locations, and other details regarding her life were shared. I now had a wealth of credible information that shed light on the darkness she walked in for years. Information was now provided that when researched, enabled me to discover facts about her well-being, or lack thereof. The Lord had orchestrated this whole scenario. He miraculously led me to JD who helped me to move on to the next step of her ultimate healing.
Another intervention unfolded years later. My mother was then in the state mental hospital. While there, in another leading, the Lord maneuvered me into her presence at the hospital. "Patient rights" prevented me from seeing her, as she would not agree to see me. However, the Lord miraculously opened a door that enabled me to walk in the hospital and have dialogue with her. While in prayer in my office, I heard that same voice, not audibly say, "Call the hospital. Tell them you are an only child, that you have not seen her for years, and that you insist on seeing her, AND you don't have to be too nice about it." This in itself is amazing as my temperament has always been rather mild. This activity eventually evolved to periodic visits and a slow reconnection with my mother that led to the next scenario.
With our relationship somewhat re-established, the professional staff at the hospital gave her leave to accompany me on day trips. With the farm having been sold, we would drive slowly by the fields and buildings to reminisce, go to dinner, and then enjoy a nice leisurely drive back. That and other excursions helped to strengthen our worn and torn relationship. Without exception, before I drove in to meet with her, the Lord would instruct me to do or say something that would contribute to her healing. On one occasion, He told me to say something specific to her. I had no understanding of its significance to her mental state, nor do I now recall what it was. I do remember it was something that should be said in a quiet setting. There was no opportunity all day. Late in the afternoon, we arrived at her favorite restaurant. I turned off the car and saw the opportunity to speak just what I heard. Immediately she placed her hands in her face and wept. This statement opened up a guarded area of her mind that enable me to talk in detail about issues in her life. After decades, I was now able to speak to my mother. This power moment in our relationship enabled her ultimate healing. One day as I was leaving the mental hospital building, a staff member followed me outside, asking me to stop. As I turned around, he introduced himself and indicated he was a caseworker assigned to help Mother. Then he said these words. "Mr. Claycomb, I have been in the mental health profession for 17 years. I have never, in my whole career, seen anybody rooted in their delusions as deeply as your mother. Frankly, we cannot do anything with her. However, every time you come, we see improvement. We don't know what you're doing, but keep it up." I took the opportunity to share how it was the Lord's intervention in her life. I hope others heard the same story as he went back into the building.
"The rest of the story" is this: Mother was released from the hospital with ongoing care from the local county mental health clinic. Ironically, the same person that initially told me they could not help her became her caseworker. She involved me in my mother's treatment. She and the staff enabled our relationship to be strengthened. In 2005, my mother moved 230 miles away from her lifelong community to our town and lived only one mile away from our house. She needed her medication regularly as there was a chemical imbalance in her brain. However, in the last several years of her life, the Lord gave us total restoration of relationship and an even greater bond than we ever had before. He restored her sanity and ultimate freedom from torment. She passed on to be with my father and the Lord in July of 2008. As for the stories about my father, I feel most are rooted in truth. Unfortunately, the distortion of mental disease blurs them to a point of little clarity about which I hope to ask Jesus when I go on home.
This, one of my wilderness experiences, tested me far more than I ever thought I could endure. It did, however, provide a depth of knowledge and understanding about wilderness experiences. The Lord has laid a message on my heart now, possibly to share in the church community. The message's primary focus is on Jesus' walk down the road of His wilderness experiences. Hmmm!
Words cannot express the emotional pain I endured, nor demonstrate the fear that welled within me for years. Words cannot shed a glimpse of the helplessness and hopelessness I experienced. Months turned into years. Years became decades. Thank God for an understanding and supportive wife who walked this same path with me. Thank God for power, love, and anointing in healing my mother from her torment, along with restoring our relationship. I had the privilege of ushering her on to our Lord's arms as she took her last breath. Our God is truly amazing. This was one of my wilderness experiences.