My dad and I have a rocky history. When I was 15 my parents went through a divorce, and us kids went through it too. It affected all of us differently. My dad did and said some things that pretty much severed our relationship. I didn’t know how to forgive him and the pain he caused me, or even the way he had treated my mom. It would do no good to recount those exact memories, those exact trespasses he did against me. Because I have forgiven him.
I read about forgiveness in the Bible. I learned about it in Sunday school. I said it in the Lord’s Prayer. But I don’t think I really understood what it meant to forgive someone until my brother Josh died. I had to make the phone call to my dad with the police man standing behind me, looking over my shoulder to the pictures of us on the fridge in the kitchen. I had to tell my dad that Josh had been rushed to U of M because there had been an accident. He had gone bridge jumping/swimming with friends and had gotten caught under the current of the water. I had to tell my dad that his son may have drowned. When was the last time I had talked to my dad before this moment? I don’t know. I was 19.
I remember arriving at the hospital and seeing Josh’s friends. There was an area, a small tent like room, set up for family members waiting for news. That’s where I found my dad. He was a blubbering mess. We hugged. The doctor came and asked if we wanted to see Josh. I don’t remember him being connected to anything. I think he was in a trauma room. I remember seeing him lying on the table and hearing my dad’s cries. I remember my dad’s vulnerability. His humanness. I remember his fear. His sadness. It was in that moment that I forgave my dad for everything he had ever done to cause pain in my heart. I forgave my dad because at that moment, as my brother lay dying on the table before us, I realized what is important. It was not keeping my father at a distance from me to rob him of knowing his only daughter as she grew into a woman. I forgave my dad and I put away the things he did which had caused my pain because they were no longer important.
Since then I have created a new relationship with my dad. We never talked about the things that happened. We didn’t need to. We accepted each other back into our lives and moved forward. I try to call him every couple of months. At first it was hard, knowing what to say. But as time went on the conversations became easier and more natural. Now I’m surprised when a half an hour goes by before we get off the phone. We share our lives with each other now.
When Ali and I had our wedding celebration in Mi, we drove down to Kentucky, where my dad now lives, and he met my husband. And they had a fabulous time together. We never talk about my brother (which is different to my mom and I who talk about him often), but the day before we left my dad got out a box of things he had long ago packed away. After my brother had died, he sold everything and moved out west to Nevada. The pain from the loss of Josh had been too great and escaping the memories in the home we grew up in was all he could do. Now in Kentucky, the boxes had traveled back with him. He opened up a box in which many things from my childhood remained. Old stockings from Christmas. And pictures that I had not seen in years. He gave me the stockings and many of the photos because he thought I would do something with them rather than keep them in the box. It was an emotional time for my dad and me. We shared the grief from the loss of Josh, as well as the loss of the years we had between us before forgiveness, ten years later.
Now my dad even calls me sometimes. When Sebastian was born, he was calling every other day to make sure that I was doing ok. He prayed and stayed positive but I know that he was also hurting because I was hurting because now my son was in the hospital.
I have a picture of my dad and Josh sitting on my dresser. In it my dad is holding Josh up in front of a mirror. My dad is young, with a full head of jet black hair and a big beard. Josh is a baby, maybe a month old. My dad is a beaming, proud father.
When I was faced with the loss of my brother, I realized that life is short and that the people in my life are important. There is no time for grudges. There is no time for pain to fester into something ugly that blackens all who come into contact with it. I loved my brother tremendously. And writing in the past tense about him will always be difficult. I didn’t get to tell Josh that I loved him before he died. I didn’t get to tell him the I forgave him for being a little punk teenager. And it took me a long time to forgive myself for that.
But I realized that life can be short for some. And that I need to hold the people in my life close to me. And love. ‘Love is all you need’. And forgiveness. I wasn’t reading about it in the bible anymore or listening to someone preach its importance. I was living it. I was feeling it. And I was free. Free from the pain. Free from the heartache. And all that was left, was love.