Making amends to my dad brought priceless gifts

My father is in the living room, sitting on top of the piano. Well, technically, his ashes are.

I’m always looking for the gifts in any situation, particularly in situations that frighten, disappoint, or hurt me. I always find them, even though sometimes it takes a little while. In this case, the gifts were immediate and abundant. My father and I had always had a very difficult relationship. That I can refer to him as “my father” today and that he, or any part of him, is welcome in my home are truly gifts, as well as signs of a great healing in my life.

Fifteen years or so ago, I decided that I just couldn’t be around him anymore. I didn’t want to deal with his drinking and bad behavior. I didn’t want my children exposed to that. I had always been terrified of his rage and was tired of being afraid of him. I figured he had never done a very good job as a parent so I fired him. From then on, until just recently, I referred to him as “my former father” or by his full name.

Over the last several years, I’d gone to see him periodically, as he struggled with health problems. Prior to that, I had not seen him for eleven years or so. When I had last spent time with him, the week before Christmas, he was in a very bad place. He was very bitter and he was cruel. I was there to be of kind and loving service, acted as such, and prayed my way through. It was so painful, though, that I didn’t think I would ever choose to put myself in that situation again.

I did choose to go see him when I learned he was back in the hospital and gravely ill. That I would go to the hospital to be with him is another gift of recovery. I’m so grateful that I did. I was able to thank this man for all the help he had been to my children and me. I was able to tell him that I didn’t want him to have any pain or to be afraid. I told him that I loved him.

I was able to make amends to him for the ways I had hurt and disappointed him. I had not been able to do that before because it wasn’t safe. When I had my opportunity, he was still conscious, knew I was with him, and could understand what I was saying—and he couldn’t speak. My Higher Power provided me with a safe environment to say the things I needed and wanted to say.

That brings me to the finest of the gifts—my heart was broken. It was horrible to see my father in such pain, and struggling for breath for days before he died. I did not know the depth of the love and compassion that I felt for him. I honestly didn’t know I had it in me. It was as if my heart broke and started to heal at the same time. My fear and anger are gone. The heartache I feel is the most unexpected and valuable gift I could have received. So, my father is in the living room, sitting on top of the piano.

By Doon R., California
The Forum, September 2012