“One of the greatest things that happened with my relationship with my father was when he was approaching death. I finally allowed him to be who he was instead of trying to make him into who I thought he should be. And he stopped trying to make me into who he thought I should be, and we became friends.”
– Ram Dass
Growing up my father wasn’t there for me. But I decided to have him walk me down the aisle at my wedding based on the thirty-two year old I was at the time, not based on my younger self who was so hurt from the sharp edges of his words that I wanted to bleed him out of my life. I believed people needed love the most when they deserved it the least. Even though my father wasn’t there for me, that didn’t mean I couldn’t be there for him. I had become bigger than my father’s faults.
I wanted to start my marriage surrounded by love and reaching out my hand in forgiveness let that happen. I invited my father back into my life. He didn’t have to change in order for that to happen – I’m the one who changed.
Five years after he went blind, my eighty-four-year-old father was falling into himself. Along with dementia he had lung cancer, emphysema, a pacemaker, and his hearing was almost gone. A survivor of colon cancer and a stroke, he never thought he’d live so long. I called him Eveready, like the battery, because he just kept on going and going.
On the last day of my final visit, a priest came to give my father the Sacrament of the Sick. Ava Maria played on a portable CD player in the background. A crucifix hung over the bed where he lay in his favorite green flannel shirt, hands crossed on his chest with rosary beads webbed through his fingers. Seeing him in that moment I understood that forgiveness really does set our hearts free. My father’s parting words to me were, “I love ya. Whatever you do knock out a good life.” Those words are held tightly in my heart, and I’m doing my best to knock out a good life.
We all do the best we can (especially parents). We all make mistakes. We all wish we could hit rewind. I’m glad I took a chance on forgiveness so my father and I could finally become friends. My last words to him were, “I love you too, Pop.”