What is it like to fear that you and your spouse will both die and leave your kids?
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson and his wife recently faced devastating health crises at the same time, something Erickson has written about on The Resurgent.
“I have to tell you that American politics really does not matter when you have kids and are dying,” Erickson wrote earlier this month. “You begin to seriously ask yourself what you want your kids to know if you’re gone. My kids, were they to learn about me from Google, would really only know what people who hate me think about me.”
Late last year, Erickson wrote a piece styled as a letter to his young children titled “If I Should Die Before You Wake,” calling them to a life of purpose and joy. He has since expanded the project into 10 letters that became a book. “Before You Wake: Life Lessons from a Father to His Children” was released earlier this month.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.
GLENN: In the midst of twin medical crisis, the 2016 presidential campaign was in full swing. And I was a conservative who didn’t support Donald Trump.
Protesters showed up at our home. People sent us hate mail. They called my office daily demanding that I would be fired. Everybody was convinced that I had destroyed my career. Our house had to be protected by guards. My two children were yelled at in the store by an angry man, who was angry at me for not supporting Donald Trump. At school, other kids made sure that they knew that their dad was not liked in their household.
Some of them wondered aloud if something bad was going to happen to us.
These are the words of Erick Erickson.
STU: Erick is, of course, radio host and commentator. And the book is called Before You Wake. And he joins us now.
GLENN: Erick, you’re one of my heroes, brother. How are you?
ERICK: I’m well. Thanks for having me. Appreciate that.
GLENN: So, Erick, tell me — first of all, for anyone else doesn’t know, tell us about the twin health care crisis you were facing.
ERICK: Oh. So I just assumed it was the stress of last year, back in April, having protesters at the house and my kids yelled at, at the grocery store. And I was having a harder and harder time breathing. My chest was tight. Went into the hospital. And got wheeled into an ICU unit, not expected to make the night. My lungs had filled up with blood clots. Blood oxygen less than 90 percent dying. And, literally, as they’re pushing me into a CT scan to scan my lungs, the doctors from the Mayo Clinic called my wife and told her, they think she might have a rare form of cancer. She needed to come out with a lung biopsy. And sure enough, she has a rare, incurable genetic form of lung cancer. And so we’re going through all of that, as we’re having protesters at our house. Armed guards protecting us. My kids coming home from school, crying with other kids, saying I’m going to get shot for not supporting the president. Their parents hating me. It was a — 2016 was a rather miserable year in the Erickson household.
GLENN: So you started to write this book because you didn’t die. And you wanted your kids to know the truth about you.
ERICK: Yeah, I did. And I really did think for a while, what happens — if Christie and I, if something happens to us. I remember walking into the bedroom one night and told Christie, I just did not know that I would survive the week. And she just burst out crying that she had made a deal with God, one of us had to survive for the kids.
And I thought I need to actually sit down and write to my kids. What do I want you to know about your family, about God, about faith, and what are your favorite recipes, in case something happened to your parents? How would you make the cinnamon rolls I make for you? And it all wound up being a book that’s prat book and part life lessons and part biography.
You know, I’m mindful, if my kids were to Google me tomorrow — there’s a joke in our kid’s school, that I’m the one parent they’re not allowed to use as an example for Google. Because God knows what they’ll find on me. I want my kids to know the true things, the bad things I’ve done, the good things I’ve done, and why I want them to believe in God, so on the other side of eternity, we’ll see each other again.
STU: Erick, what did going through all this teach you about prioritization?
ERICK: Oh, you know, my life involves politics, on radio, on the Resurgent. On TV. And I want my kids to understand that I think it is far more important for them to have a relationship with their next-door neighbor. Whether they agree politically or not, than to be online yelling people about the politics of the day. There’s so much more to like than politics.
GLENN: You — you actually — you actually wrote something. I’m trying to find it here. I read it this morning again, about how you just — the social media thing is just — you feel is a real problem.
ERICK: Yeah. You know, I think Twitter, in particular, brings the worst out in all of us. Myself included.
You know, there’s that scene in the Bible where Jesus — I’m actually in seminary right now. We studied this two weeks ago, where the possessed man comes to Jesus. And he says to the demon possessing, what is your name? And the demon says, Legion.
And Christ throws the Legion into the swarm of pigs, which runs down the bank and drowns in the lake. And I think what the Bible leaves off after that, is that after the pigs have drowned and the demons get out of the bigs, they all got Twitter accounts. And you see that so much online. I mean, it brings out the worst in all of us. And I swear hell’s army is on Twitter.
And I want my kids to get their sense of self-worth by being ethical people created in the image of God, not because they got a bunch of retweets or likes on Instagram or Facebook.
GLENN: I want to quote a couple of things. I always try to forgive. As I’ve gotten older and dumber, I’ve come to realize how much more I need forgiveness and how often people refuse to forgive.
First of all, give me that.
ERICK: Well, you know, there’s a lot less grease in the world today. And I’ve done dumb things in my life. Things I regret. And I find ten years later, people still want to throw them in my face of, you’re no moral authority on this because look at what you did ten years ago.
And I — I can’t tell someone to get over that, but I can get over it myself with other people. I can show forgiveness to other people who have done good and not still define them by the bad things they’ve done.
I think more and more in this world, people want to define you by the worst thing you did, no matter how long ago it is. And if we do that to each other, we have no incentive to improve as people, because we’ll always be defined by that.
GLENN: So, Erick, I was up in Nantucket, in a conference, at a summit. And I was —
STU: Popular? Is that the word you were looking for?
GLENN: I was pretty popular up there.
ERICK: That’s one for Nantucket.
GLENN: Yeah. And so I was up there for three days. And it had been a horrible, horrible experience. And there were other things that happened in my life at the time that just — I mean, it broke me. It broke me in half. That weekend was just a really hard weekend for me.
And I had to speak on Sunday. A second time to this crowd.
And I’ve never — I got up in the morning, and I was — it was — I was in the bathroom. In front of the mirror. And I was on my knees, when my wife came in.
And she said, honey, what’s wrong?
And I said, mercy. I don’t believe there’s mercy anymore. And I’ve never understood the plea for mercy more than I do right now.
It’s — it’s a remarkable gift that I think Facebook and Twitter — you’re exactly right, will never allow you to move forward.
ERICK: Yeah. I think that’s true. And I think that’s why we have an obligation to do it. And, you know, I — I decided a couple years ago. I kept getting asked to give Sunday sermons in small churches around Georgia. I talk about culture and faith on my radio show. And decided I probably ought to go to seminary, which was the greatest thing I did. Although, the moment I went, I stopped getting the invitations to preach, when I found out where I was going, to seminary. But I love it.
And we spend a lot of time on this topic. And one of the things that’s made me appreciate it is that, our ways aren’t their ways. And we need to be a light in the world. And whether you’re a person of faith or a conservative, however you view yourself, you need to be a light in the world. And you start by showing grace and extending mercy to people who don’t do it to you. And show that your way actually is a way forward. And I — I don’t know that there’s enough of that. And I fear that as conservatives who look more and more towards political solutions to spiritual problems, that they’re going to be to become more tribal as well and not show grace and mercy the other way. And those of us who do, I think, stand out more and more. And that’s not a prideful thing. It’s a humble thing, knowing that you’ve got to be willing to extend the hand to people who don’t want to extend the hand to you. But you still got to make yourself do it.
GLENN: It’s amazing. It’s almost — if I ask a crowd of Christians how many believe in the gospel of Christ. They’ll all raise their hand.
GLENN: If I say, will you really follow it, they’ll all raise their hand. But even Peter denied Jesus three times. Even Peter.
Worse. You know, Judas sold him out.
GLENN: I’m not sure how many of us are even at Peter’s level because it’s not that hard to offer mercy and forgiveness to people who are saying and doing horrible things to you or to your country or whatever. And trying to have compassion and forgiveness — and empathy for them.
And yet so many Christians see that as a sign of weakness.
ERICK: Well, you know, one of the things I wrote in the book for my kids. And I hope one day they will read this. Is that my wife has a very hard time with grudges. And she will admit it. And I have told her, as I wrote in the book, that if you can’t forgive someone, you are saying that your conscience was pricked more than Jesus’, who having been beaten, tortured, bloodied, and nailed to a cross, on a cross, before he died, said, “Forgive them.” If you can’t forgive someone for slighting you after what they did to him and he said forgive them, you’re saying you were — you were abused more than he was on the cross.
GLENN: She must love that when you say that to her.
ERICK: Oh, yeah. Well, let me tell you, it puts me in the doghouse. But sometimes you got to make your wife feel guilty. Because she’s making me feel guilty every day. I mean, she guilted me into buying her a Harley. She said, I’ve got cancer. You have to buy me a motorcycle. So I had to.
STU: Erick, God forbid something does happen to you. You know your kids will obviously read this book. But if everything goes okay, at what point do you become angry at them for not reading it while you’re alive? What is the age?
ERICK: Maybe when they’re in their 20s. My 12-year-old has tried twice. And she can’t get past the introduction.
STU: Okay. That’s a good line. At least they know where their line is to be a good kid.
GLENN: So, Erick, I’ve been concentrating lately on what matters most in my own life. And I think we can all get to this point to where you say, this is garbage. I mean, what I’m doing maybe is garbage. What I’m thinking is garbage. What I’m pursuing is garbage. Whatever. And you start to look and say, “What matters most?”
GLENN: You’re in a political position. What matters most?
ERICK: I always fall back on the first question in the shared catacysm of the Catholic and Protestant. What’s the chief end of man? To glorify God or enjoy him forever? And it doesn’t matter what I do in life. As long as I think I’m glorifying God, then it’s okay. And I’m in politics. And I spend a lot of time trying now to write about conforming my politics to my faith instead of my faith to my politics. And it’s made it much more difficult in life to have that realization, I have to do that. But I think as long as I’m doing that, I’m okay. And people might hate me. They may stop listening to me or stop reading me. But I think I’m in the right place.
GLENN: How has that manifested itself with you?
ERICK: It makes me much more difficult for me to find the easy solution. Whether it’s on immigration or crime or anything else. There’s lots of easy solutions when you abandon your faith. And when you have your faith, there’s a more difficult balancing act. But I’m also challenged by that. And I like that challenge of doing it every day. And honestly, I sleep well at night. And there is an art to sleeping well at night. And part of it is understanding there are real priorities, and policies isn’t one of them.
GLENN: Erick Erickson, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
ERICK: Thank you.
STU: Erick Erickson. Of course, he started the Resurgent, the website. You definitely should be reading, as well as Before You Wake: Life Lessons From a Father to His Children is the new book. We’ll tweet that out, @worldofStu. And @GlennBeck.