I woke this morning to a crisp breeze carrying the sent of pittosporum blossoms and the song of birds in my bedroom window. I felt a flutter of joy in my heart, followed immediately by a remembered sadness.
Spring has always enlivened my soul. Twelve years ago, however, it also brought me my greatest sorrow.
It was a fine spring morning. I was working as a hypnotherapist at a local clinic. To ready myself for the day and to bring my best self to my clients, I enjoyed a morning practice of writing and meditating on my back porch under an umbrella of pittosporum (Australian mock orange) blossoms. I would listen to the birds and connect with Source.
Feeling grounded and full of life, I went off to work with a skip in my step. That’s easy to do in Santa Barbara where the days are almost always sunny. I had an amazing first session, which always sparks my spirit. I so enjoy when I witness a client’s breakthrough to a new level of freedom and self-acceptance.
I was between clients when I noticed that my sister had left a voice mail. Instead of listening to it, I phoned her back. Laughing, I thought the call was in reference to her grumpy neighbor complaining of the sprinkler system. My sister and I had just installed sod in her front yard and it required frequent watering to support the roots in establishing. (SB wasn’t in a drought at that time) To my shock, my sister informed me that my father was dead. Just like that, “Dad’s dead”.
And my body dropped! Just like in the movies. I always thought that was over dramatized, but no… my legs literally gave out beneath me and I collapsed right there in the reception area of the office.
My mom had been on vacation with her girlfriends, my brother was in San Diego, my one sister and her family were in Hawaii, so my other sister was staying at my parents’ house taking care of our elderly grandmother. When my father wasn’t out with his coffee and newspaper in the morning my sister started to wonder. Her intuition told her something wasn’t right, but she didn’t want to believe it. On the phone with her best friend, who also happens to be an EMT, she shared her concern and her friend insisted that she go in and check on him.
“But what if he’s just asleep… and he sleeps naked”
“Don’t joke. Go check on him and I will wait on the phone”
He was gone. Died in his sleep.
I got to the house before the coroners so I was able to see him. I walked in the room and there his body lay, cold and lifeless. It wasn’t him. I could feel his spirit had already left. I waited for some dramatic emotional outburst, a wailing grief, an ‘if only’ regret to fall upon me. But it never came. There was just love, grace and gratitude.
My father was an alcoholic and growing up in that house under that disease was not easy or pleasant to say the least. But fortunately I found recovery and began my healing journey long before this day.
I found acceptance for my father’s illness. I stopped blaming and found compassion for him. I understood I was an adult now and it was my responsibility to care for myself, to heal and to continue to move forward in my life. I learned how to spend time with my dad without putting myself in the line of fire, for when he drank he was not nice.
Aside from the disease, my dad was a good man. He was smart, creative, helpful, and he loved his family dearly. He didn’t always know how to show it, and when under the influence, was incapable of showing it. But underneath it all he did the best that he could and he always provided and cared for us. He had a sense of humor that I most related to. He and I got along well. I enjoyed spending time with him.
I started going to over to my parents’ house on my morning break from work to share coffee and chat. It was safe then. It was enjoyable. He was sober in the morning. I learned I didn’t cause his alcoholism, I couldn’t control it and I couldn’t cure it. What I could do was accept it and find ways to get my needs met around it. I had a need to connect with my father, so I chose the morning. It is worth it to be flexible. It is so freeing to forgive.
In the wake of his passing I felt a deep grief… but never a regret! I was free. I had truly forgiven him for not being able to be the father I thought I needed. I accepted him for his strengths and weaknesses, his love and his anger, his support and his criticisms. I spoke up for myself. I told him I loved him. I told him I was afraid of his alcoholism. I told him I respected him enough to not tell him what he should do. I thanked him for being a good father and for loving me. Most people do this on someone’s deathbed… but we didn’t get that chance. I am forever grateful that I didn’t wait. I had these conversations while he was still living which afforded me the opportunity to live in peace with him before his passing.
Is there a relationship in your life that could use healing? Do it now! Find a way to forgive. Not for the other person, but for yourself. It is so freeing!
Forgiving doesn’t mean you condone whatever the hurt was. It doesn’t even mean you have to have that person in your life. It does mean, however, that you accept the fact that it happened, that there is nothing you can do to change the past, and you are now willing to let it go. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness. You are worth it. The results are worth it.Share