Schizophrenia has manifested in one person in my family per generation for years, so they say. My Grandmother’s aunt had it, they like to recall. She chased one of the kids ‘round the kitchen with a knife after lunch, clear out of the blue. She had been doing the dishes, and just snapped. They also say my cousin had it, and that they knew she had it long before she was willing to admit it. But it seems they all agree Billy was the saddest case.
I’d have to dig through my files to know if I’ve ever written about Billy, but—ugh, tears are already forming at the inside corners of my eyes—I care deeply for him.
Billy is tall. He has a scruffy beard situation happening, and he laughs a lot. His hygiene tends to suffer, but if you can stand being close to a man who smells like he has been cutting the grass on a hot summer night, then you are in for a treat. Billy was many things before he was just ‘a schizophrenic’. Before he was ‘a man who needs to take his medicine’, he was a son. And a husband. And a father.
He wrote books. Books-sssss, as in, more than one. He traveled. He had a favorite song. He took care of his mother and his hometown of New Orleans.
I think about Billy more often than I should, but not often enough. But mostly, I think about Billy when I am with my gym partner, who happens to be a lesbian.
I think about God’s love for us, and my love for Billy. I ponder how unique our life pathways are, and what leads us to make the choices that we do.
And I think of how wrong it would be if I simply boiled this woman – this woman who brews funny things to say the way others do their morning coffee, who is thoughtful, who has an ear for good music, who is smart, who is strong—down to nothing more than her sexual orientation.
It would be cruel. As cruel as forgetting how special Billy is, somewhere, deep down inside. And how despite his imperfections, he is still absolutely perfect in his spirit.
Would I change Billy – circumstances – habits – other people if I could? Perhaps.
But I don’t wield this power on the outside. Only on the inside. Only through the One who guides me through delicate conversations, steadying me to be brave about what I believe while being kind above everything else.
I am looking past it all, and looking at the spirit and the heart of people. I am doing exactly what Jesus would do.