Sunday, April 17, 2016

Roses and Wildflowers and Love Sweet Love: Merle Haggard's Last Years

Famous country singer Merle Haggard died on April 6th, his 79th birthday. I'm not a great country fan but I like some of it sometimes. I don't listen to much music as a regular thing, and I hate any kind of music as background because it imposes its own atmosphere on everything, but I will sometimes binge-listen for many hours or even days to a particular musician or kind of music, and then not listen to anything again for months.

Since Merle Haggard's death I've listened to more of his music than I ever did before, even got interested enough to read his autobiography, My House of Memories. He's a riveting character, a true original according to most experts on country music, "the real deal" who sang honestly of emotional experiences most people would try to gloss over.

He also sang gospel songs as many country singers do, and claimed a Christian faith despite a lifetime of over-the-top sinfulness that as far as anyone could tell from the usual publicity about him he never repented of. I did have to read his autobiography to consider the possibility that maybe he did, maybe he did die a Christian in true faith and repentance. I hope so of course. I can't know for sure but there's more there than you could tell from the publicity about him in general.

Most of his autobiography is about his bad-boy days of running away from home beginning at age fourteen, riding the rails, car-stealing, burglary, escape from seventeen penal institutions, ending with time in San Quentin at the age of twenty, before he determined to turn his life around, gave up crime and became a successful singer. After that came the more standard noncriminal sins, four marriages that ended in divorce, adulteries, gambling, drunkenness and drugs.

As he says in his autobiography most men want to know about his music and his background, most women want to know about his music and his ex-wives. Well, I'm true to the portrait of the women, but it's not easy to find out about his ex-wives, just bits and pieces here and there. There's more about his second wife, Bonnie Owens, because she remained his backup singer and a friend until she died, but it took a while to find out about the others. There is a documentary about his life at You Tube, Learning to Live With Myself, that I didn't see until after I'd read his book, that does cover more of that information than other sources, and finally gives some sense of the women he married; also of other people in his life that he talks about in the book, including his sister.

But the most interesting one is his fifth and last wife, Theresa, who was in her early twenties when he met her in his late forties. There are pictures of them together at Google Image but you can't tell a lot about a person from such pictures. Still, the fact that they were married for twenty-three years (and had been together for a total of something like thirty-two years altogether) says a lot in the context of so many failed marriages. I had the thought that she must have dedicated herself to making him happy, and guess what, that comes through in the autobiography but even more so in the documentary Learning to Live With Myself. Of course he was a lot older by then, which may have something to do with his ability to stay married.

But a lot of credit has to go to Theresa I think in the end. In the You Tube video she even says that when she met him she saw him as a man who had everything but wasn't happy, and had the thought that she could make him happy. In his book he says of her that her every thought was to attend to and please her family. She comes across as a very sympathetic person and I'm glad I found out more about her. She sounds like a true Proverbs 31 wife, the kind scripture describes as more valuable than rubies.

In his book he describes a life of unusual happiness with his wife and family since he married Theresa, in a "homey" home of family life with her and their two children, in a house surrounded by "roses and wildflowers" where they homeschooled their children, fished together for bass in ponds he had dug on their land, and she grew a vegetable garden. A life without the stress of the other marriages, a place he wanted to be instead of always wanting to run.

It was also a life where they prayed every day and read the Bible together as a family.

And that part is most of what I wanted to know. He finally reveals that bit near the end of the book. He says God took away the drug addiction that had plagued both of them before they had their children, and I can only hope He also gave them repentance and faith to eternal life.

I am very glad he found such happiness in the last part of his life, and I wish a blessed eternity to Merle Haggard and all his loved ones.

No comments:

Post a Comment