My father died on Friday, December 29, 2006. It was much more painful than I expected.
My father and mother divorced when I was very young. My mom soon married again to the man who raised me, the man I have always considered and referred to me as my dad.
I was raised to respect and care for my father. While I grew up in Wisconsin he lived and worked in Louisiana. Generally, I saw him once a year, though sometimes it was less often. He made regular phone calls while I was growing up and I’m sure he did the best he could to build a relationship. But as you might expect it was never as close as I somehow thought it should be and always hoped it would become.
I grew up, married and had a family of my own. My father continued to call fairly regularly and to visit when he would be in the area. As he had been raised in northern Wisconsin he made visits to the Milwaukee area most years.
This was always a tough relationship, looking back I think it was tough for both of us. There’s no doubt that I could have and should have tried harder on my end. I always thought that he could have and probably should have tried more as well. Sadly, when I think about it now, I realize that I had no idea how to bring about the relationship I desired or if I even knew what I wanted. I always just sort of felt that there was something missing. Frankly, I don’t know even now if he was satisfied with the way things were either, or if he thought there should be more as well.
My father’s two younger brothers died a few years before him. After their deaths, I had the strong feeling that he was much more aware of his mortality. He definitely made more of an effort to connect with me and my grown children than he ever had before. He spent a few weeks at a time in Wisconsin and made much more of an effort to connect. While I appreciated this effort, and we had some very good times, the truth is that it was often very strained. Still, it was progress.
The phone call came in September of 2006. My father told me that he had terminal cancer. I knew it was now or never. We kept in touch much more frequently and I drove down to Louisiana to spend a few weeks with him. I’m so glad that I did. Still, in the manner of people who have full hearts but do not feel comfortable expressing their emotions to one another, we left much unsaid.
When I learned of his death I thought that I would be able to close that particular chapter of my life. We had cared about one another, but truly not known each other as well as we probably could have. I really believed that it would be a matter of shedding some quiet tears and saying goodbye. Wrong.
What I found out was that I cared much more deeply than I knew. I relived and experienced feelings of loss and grief from my childhood on. I thought about the experiences that we had missed out on, the fact that he hadn’t attended my wedding and had never held any of my children when they were babies. I had to acknowledge the anger and resentment that I had felt at never feeling like I was a priority in his life. I had to acknowledge these feelings and allow myself to truly feel them before I was able to let them go. Of course, that meant that I also had to acknowledge my feelings of shame and guilt, I had to honestly take ownership of my part in this relationship. The finger pointing and blame game was not acceptable anymore. It was important to acknowledge and apologize for not making my feelings clear to him while he was still here.
Reiki helped me so much as I went through this process. After I went through the blame and anger I was finally able to acknowledge that someplace deep inside I had always known that my father really did love me very deeply. He simply did not demonstrate it in the manner I had somehow expected. Receiving Reiki on a regular basis and practicing life coaching skills helped me to move into a place of love and forgiveness, for both of us. To be honest, it took an awful lot of thinking about him, praying and meditating to be sure that he was aware now in the afterlife that I had always had very deep affection for him as well. Eventually, I was able to come to a place of peace.
So, here I am. More than two and a half years later I am now able to think about my father and smile. The bitterness, anger, and hurt needed to be allowed, acknowledged and finally released. Now there are the feelings of forgiveness and acceptance for both of us. There is the acknowledgment that few people live storybook lives where emotions and feelings are demonstrated to the expectation and satisfaction of all involved. Most of us feel that others should say or do things in a different manner to be most effective, but emotions and feelings are complicated and the should of, could of is irrelevant in the end. That’s just life.
I have no doubt that some of these feelings will resurface from time to time. Occasions of one sort or another may make me think about the way things actually happened or the way I wish they had been. But now they are much easier for me to deal with. I realize that while we both had our shortcomings, we actually did the very best that we could at the time. I have no way of knowing what was in his mind or heart in the past, but I am sure and always have been sure that he only wanted the best for me. That makes memories and resurfacing emotions much easier to allow and to move through with love, forgiveness, and blessings.
For me, it’s very important to remember that my memory is selective at best. My thoughts and emotions at the moment have always colored my memories and they always will. I can’t change the past, so I choose to appreciate and be grateful for the lessons I have learned. I choose to live in the moment. At the moment I choose to feel good. I choose to forgive myself and others. I choose to love. I choose peace at last.
I wish you a day of forgiving and allowing yourself to be forgiven. I wish you a day of love and blessings. I wish you a day of peace.