Like a scab ripped from the skin, my wound was exposed again. Why would I deliberately enter into that wound again? How could I think that it was really healed? A recent post, “I Forgive You,” by Catherine Lawton was the catalyst that prompted me to take another look. That, and the fact that I spent Holy Week last year caring for my 93-year-old father, sent my mind back to the months preceding his death.
Catherine’s post reminded me of how the words and actions of forgiveness were not something that was modeled to me when I was growing up. Tears weren’t allowed either. We were taught to ‘buck it up’ and move on. Reading that post took me back to the letter I had written my father a year before he died. My grief at that time was still fresh from my mother’s passing, and my healing was making me bold in things of the heart. After reading Catherine’s post I pulled out that year-old letter.
Re-reading the letter to my father brought the pain of the wound to the surface. Tears overcame me as I read the words I had penned to him about my inner healing. I knew he had worried about me in the past, concerned that I would develop mental illness like my mother. He had told me that he was ‘watching me’ for signs. So I wrote the letter to reassure him that I was okay.
I’ll share a part of the letter to hopefully inspire others to forgive their parents. I sent this letter with no expectations from him in return. I just wrote what I felt the Lord laid on my heart to tell him:
“I won’t know all God’s purposes until I am in Heaven, too. But here on this earth and in this time, I have received incredible healing and much peace…. That is what I want for you, Dad. I thought it was important for you to know that Mom forgave you [before she died]. I want you to know that I forgive you also. I know you did the best you could under the circumstances. Even if you do have regrets about any of these family things, I know that, as a Smith,* it would be incredibly difficult for you to admit it. We Smiths always think we are so right. I guess if I had one regret in my upbringing it would be that I didn’t learn how to forgive others and to say “I’m sorry.” Those words would’ve helped me let go of so much of my anger and resentments years ago…
“…It’s not too late for you, Dad. You can do this. You can release all your ‘rightness’ and no-regrets thinking to the Lord. You can leave this family with a legacy of forgiveness. I hope and pray the Lord will bless you and keep you in His love for all your remaining days.
“I love you.
My father never mentioned this letter to me or anything that was in it, but my stepmother told me he read and re-read it many times. I believe it sank into his heart, bridged the distance between us, and eventually gave him the ability to go in peace. Risking his rejection and ridicule by expressing my heart was worth it.
How about you? Is there someone to whom you need to say “I forgive you” while there is still time?
~ Ardis A. Nelson
*Surname changed to protect family privacy.
What a powerful post. Life is hard sometimes, and I know this was especially difficult. I’m sure the tear flowed, even as you wrote. Thank you for this. Juanita Nobles
Juanita, thank you for your words of encouragement and taking the time to comment. The tears did flow as I wrote this, but God is good to hold very tear and use it for our healing. Blessings to you, Ardis
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I never considered mercy one of my spiritual gifts. In fact, I’ve never felt called to feed the poor, go on mission to a foreign country or minister to the health care needs of the elderly or terminally ill. Which is why I believe the trips I made back home to care for my mother at the end of her life were so transformational for me. God was giving me a heart of compassion and helping me to put aside my needs.
Then last year, during Holy Week, I traveled 150 miles south over spring break to care for my aged father. God was opening the doors for more healing and preparing my father to go in peace. He passed away a few months later in a beautiful way with family by his side. He would’ve been 95 this week. I’m very grateful I had that time with him.
Rest in Peace, Dad. And in case you’re wondering, I’m doing just fine.
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