On Keeping a Death Bed Promise

Nearly forty years ago, when he was on his deathbed, my father asked to promise him that I would save my five younger brothers from being utterly destroyed by our malignant narcissistic personality disorder mother. Because he asked me at the same time as he told me that I was the one he gave all his spiritual connections (and responsibilities) to, that request took on the weight of a geas. A geas (plural geasa or geases) is mystical vow, obligation or injunction, a compulsion placed upon someone to do or not do something, which typically brings harm if violated and blessings if obeyed.

That geas was complicated by the fact that the spiritual connections my father was passing down through direct transmission were those he had accepted when he was initiated in the duties of the casique, the spiritual and ceremonial leader of the pueblo, by my Pueblo Indian godfather. Their most intense focus was to find a way to heal themselves, their children, their people and the planet itself from the ravages of what my father described as ‘ the white man’s disease’, but most of us know as Western Civilization. And geas, by their inherent nature, are impossible t fulfill under the conditions in which they arise.

As a responsible big sister and as a compassionate daughter, how could I refuse? However, as a pragmatic adult, it was and remains clear to me that the desire to heal, transform and become genuinely mature whole human beings has to come from inside. If my brothers genuinely wanted to spiral into our mother’s borderline psychotic folie a famillethere was and is absolutely nothing I could or can do to prevent it.

What I could and can do is make it clear to my brothers that, at least in their interactions with me, they are making an active to choice to determine their own path or they are choosing to fuel and perpetuate the fundamentally destructive and all too often deadly ‘folie a famille‘. Now it is accepted that that ‘while the exact causes of ‘folie a famille‘ are unknown, the main two contributors are stress and social isolation. Long before equine therapy became popular, I integrated my seriously dysfunctional brothers into my horse business to make sure that they had the opportunity to learn the social skills and connections that would allow them to create a positive social persona that will allow them to function in their society.

My siblings still labor under the delusion that my mother had no contact with me after I walked away from my horse business. They also perpetuate the self-deception that they and my mother had anything to do with the founding or the first decade of operation of it. For the record, I also had a binding agreement with my mother.

Since she felt, and perhaps truly was, powerless to change her behavior, we agreed that her casting me as the scapegoat meant that the ‘folie a famille‘ stopped with me. And on her death bed, her last words, her stroke of illumination as the sun rose just before she died, were “In order to have a conversation, you have to listen to what the other person says!”

That might sound trite, but it is a huge and fundamental transformative realization for a malignant narcissist. While our mother was alive, her ‘folie a famille‘ also thrived. Upon her death, we all had the option to lay her delusions to rest along with her body.

Instead, my eldest sister, who lives in Oaxaca Mexico, who was executor of the estate during probate called on me to return to the family property in Agua Fria in the unenviable position of administrative assistant as the rest of my siblings appeared incapable of getting the utilities paid during probate, never mind settling the estate. Since I had accountability but not authority, it took me some time to clear up the paperwork to the point that assets could be distributed and all legal entanglements resolved.

Once I had accomplished this, the threat to the ‘folie a famille‘ caused such rage and resentment among my siblings that both legal and psychological counsel assured me that their behavior fit the textbook categories for domestic violence and stalking. I was informed I needed to always be alert, I needed make sure I had witnesses and an escape plan. And I needed to be willing to call on law enforcement, press charge and gain restraining orders if their behavior escalated from verbal harassment, embezzlement and petty vandalism into physical violence.

My physical safety and my mental health were and are my priorities. Nearly fifteen years ago I accepted the next phase of handling the assets of the estate on the condition that I personally was free from any legal or financial entanglements AND I had no contact with any of my siblings. Of course, my siblings managed to transfer the assets of the estate into a family trust with such a criminal degree of ineptness as to make sure that fifteen years later, the ‘folie a famille‘ still binds them together.

I knew the paperwork in question was faulty at the time. When the county clerk gently suggests that you get legal counsel because the title doesn’t look right, you know something is wrong. Unfortunately, my siblings insisted on proceeding and despite my best efforts, their actions left me with some unresolvable dangling entanglements.

I had hoped that after forty years my brothers would be sufficiently mature and self-aware to notice the results of the life- decisions they make.As it turns out, I am wrong. I have just now been dragged into yet another round of ‘folie a famille‘.

Now I have been approached with the expectation that I will be surprised, sympathetic and willing to fix their problems in such a way that the ‘folie a famille‘ continues not only through the rest of my life, but into their children’s. I wanted nothing to do with their ‘folie a famille‘ then. I want nothing to do with their ‘folie a famille‘ now.

I am making this whole process very public because the way that a ‘folie a famille‘ is perpetuated is through secrecy, lies. and misdirection. And my siblings’ long-standing campaign of malicious gossip and ‘business interference’ have ensured that I have nothing to lose by speaking out. In fact, I have everything to gain by sharing my experiences, motivations and feelings gained by decades of surviving being cast as the scapegoat, the stand in in for all of our mother’s insecurities failings, and transgressions.

When I first chose to confront my siblings’ behavior during probate, the one who had been bursting into my home threatening me in incoherent rages chose non-violent communication based therapy sessions that all the siblings would be engaged in. That sibling first demanded secrecy from me, then proceeded to spin an amazingly outrages fabric of lies in our sessions, which he then shared slanted aspects of with select siblings outside the sessions. The therapist facilitating assured me that I should not feel special in any way, that none of my siblings had any framework for or concept of a social interactions that required some sort of alignment between the words they said and the actions they took.

And my brothers have continued to persist in disregarding my request for no contact. In keeping with my previous position and promise to my father, I have had to offer them clearer and clearer choices and more and more public consequences. I got one, a therapist, to back off by offering to share his written adn recorded communications with the state licensing board. I had to get a lawyer to offer another the choice of changing his behavior or going to jail for six months and coming out with a restraining order and a gps locator anklet. A third began to stalk me on line, spouting a litany of crazed Q-anon conspiracy theories with my name substituted for Hilary Clinton’s.

My siblings and their lawyers have a choice to make now.

  • If they genuinely want my cooperation, they need to demonstrate that they are willing and capable of acting in good faith
  • If they genuinely want my cooperation, they need to demonstrate that they are willing and capable of correcting their past financial improprieties
  • If they genuinely want my cooperation, they need to demonstrate that they are willing and capable of releasing me from any and all legal and financial entanglements in perpetuity.
  • If they genuinely want my cooperation, they need to demonstrate that they are willing and capable of respecting my request for no contact of any kind.
  • If they genuinely want my cooperation, they need to demonstrate that they are willing and capable of respecting my boundaries.

So far that has not happened. I have not only had repeated harassment via phone, but I have had individuals hanging over my fence shouting at me. I have even had a gate left open that would allow other people’s animals onto my property as well as letting my own animals out. Sadly, this is a minor escalation in a long standing pattern of harassment. I have checked the perimeters of property pretty much everyday for nearly fifteen years because of the constant threat of petty vandalism, property damage and trespass from my brothers.

So how much more of this saga I have to share with you, my readers, is now up my siblings and their lawyers. They too can choose to listen and then too align their actions with their words.

Or not.

Either way, I will do my best to keep the spirit of the promise I made to my father even though the outer form of that commitment has and does change with time and circumstances.

2 thoughts on “On Keeping a Death Bed Promise

  1. Sara, I am sad this has befallen you. I want to acknowledge your courage in taking on this spiritual and physical task. The illness that was brought by those whose greed still threatens the Earth is strong, and your determination to live free of it is a bright light. Do be careful and well, and please let me know if I can be of aid somehow.

    Liked by 1 person

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