Today is my dad's 71st birthday. He would have been 71.
It's weird not having him around anymore. It's emotional, but more strange than a heartfelt, longing emotional feeling that one would experience in a more normal father/daughter relationship. I have broken down a few times when he first past away, but now I really am at peace with "us" and muster up my mind to remember what good times we did have together and the good he did do.
When he was struggling with his cancer our relationship was as strained and loveless as ever. I tried to be helpful, encouraging and concerned, but it was met with anger, irritation and lack of interest. My brother called me and let me know that the end of his life was nearing, he was getting worse. He told me that if I ever wanted to see dad again that I needed to come soon to see him. I was so hurt, filled with pain, that the thought of seeing him, even under the circumstances, made me afraid to get near him. I was angry enough, too, not to let go of even the present past.
Why would I ever, ever want to see him again? My abuser, my high priest of pain, the author of my religiously diluted brain, the brow-beating pastor, the maker of my insecurity and cornerstone of the making of much I was to become as a grown woman.
I wrestled with the thought of visiting him. I didn't really "know" what was going on with him, even though I was being "told". The reality of my own pain definitely trumped his reality...his horrid reality. His fight with cancer. I had many, many people tell me that I would regret not seeing him again despite all that he had done to our family. I was told by others that they were able to make peace with their parents before they died and that it was the most amazing thing that could have happened to them. I kept these thoughts in my mind for weeks and then finally decided to come at literally the last minute.
I showed up three days before he past away. Was he waiting for me, I wonder? Did he really even want to see me? Why?
Three days. I learned more in three days than I had in a long time.
Nothing could have prepared me for the way he looked on that December day. My dad was wasting away, a shadow of a man. His spirit, his restless, anxious, angry spirit seemed completely broken. He heard me first and then he squinted open his eyes. He looked relieved that I was there. Every. Bad. Feeling. I had for my dad completely faded away. In that moment of complete clarity, I felt like a completely heartless person for not understanding HIS pain. He had pain, TOO.
He moaned with pain, he could barely sip a little water, he refused to eat, he couldn't eat. His body couldn't put forth the energy anymore. I sat silent by his bed many hours. He couldn't speak well, so he didn't speak at all at first. Then on day two when I went into his room to check on him *it* happened.
The most amazing, life-altering thing.
He spoke. He asked me in his ever-faltering, stammering, weak voice to pray for him. I prayed and began to turn to leave the room. I heard softly...
I thought he was calling my prayer insincere so I asked him if he thought it was. He continued to say insincere. insincere. insincere. Then he finally got out the words he used to describe himself, "I was insincere. I was rotten."
This first time admittance overwhelmed the room. Acknowledgment almost knocked me down. Confession took my breath away and reminded me how rich this process is and necessary for humanity to live in peace together.
He continued to say how wrong he was, that he was wrong for how he treated all of us. He wanted to know if God could forgive him. He asked me if God could forgive him and if I could forgive him. He asked, humble and broken, he asked and I said yes.
I said yes to a better ending. I said yes to making peace with my dad. I said a resounding yes.
And in tears, his tears, mingled with mine, the kind that roll down endlessly with total regret and the strength of every sad day overwhelming the soul of the one causing all this harm, he prayed. He asked. He received. Forgiveness from God and from me.
He failed. In life he failed. Miserably. He acted out upon all of us the way he was acted out upon. He was overrun with bad habits.
SO was I. Some of my own making and some made out of the life I endured. But it was BOTH. My doing and his.
So was I. Aren't you, too? Aren't we all struggling with something? Isn't the way people treat others the very result many times because how they were treated themselves? Can we understand this? I could not understand this before my dad died. My dad endured his own sad reality as a child and the trickle down effect was definitely overreaching. Can sin over take a soul, any soul? It can. Can a person mindlessly harm others? Yes. Can I mindlessly harm others? I have.
Who are we? Who was I?
And I am glad to come to grips, a tight hold upon peace. Peace knowing my dad is in heaven with a resolved heart and mind. There is an aftermath, there will continue to be what is left in our hearts as we deal with the people in our lives, the insecurities can siege my soul once more, but I have such a feeling of understanding now. My dad was struggling with his own demons, past and present. He was a man and he was weak even on his strongest day without God's forgiveness and help. He died in his physical weakness, but his prayer to God and his confession to me made it his strongest day spiritually. He was made whole that day. His pride died that day. Death to pride. To MY pride.
Let's admit, let's acknowledge, let's confess, with one another, let's make wrongs right, so we can go on in our lives with peace in our own minds. Join in with me, will you? Sometimes it can seem like an insurmountable task, but we *can* do it, with God's help. He is our Strength. My dad was hated by his family, he was an abuser, he had done unspeakable things to us and in the eyes of many he was unworthy to be forgiven, especially by us. If you only knew how insurmountable this event with my dad seemed to be my whole life. I never thought it would *ever* happen, despite my endless prayers for resolution. I never thought it could be a reality.
But it was. God gave a beautiful gift that day and I am truly grateful.
I am coming to grips with the fact that with God, there are none thrown away by Him, but He must be allowed to do His work.
Happy birthday, Dad. I love you. Thanks for letting God do His work in you. Cheers to you and to a better ending.