Long after I estranged myself from my parents, I heard through the grapevine dad was moving to an assisted living facility.  His mortality hit me like a brick and  a mixture of anger, guilt and loss washed over me.     We might not ever reconcile.  He’s the only dad I’ve got.  We might not ever reconcile.  This strong, menacing man was fallible after all.  We might not ever reconcile.

I needed to do my part…

Since my initial estrangement from them, it was my heart’s desire to eventually reconcile.  I knew part of this process included me forgiving them.  It’s very hard to forgive while still hurting and it’s even harder when there is no apology.   With God’s help, though, I did have a journey of forgiveness.

It’s evident now there was a pattern to this journey.  I made progress when I thought about how badly he must have been hurt in order for him to hurt others.  My heart would ache for the little boy he was and I would be sad for him.  Having understanding in my head would give leeway in my heart.  Then I’d have more flashbacks of his atrocities and lack of taking responsibility and my forgiveness meter would dip backwards.  It was an ongoing and exhausting battle.

Forgiveness preceded by Anger…

It was hard not being able to stop the clock.  It wasn’t the right time for him to die.  We weren’t ready to reconcile, and I wanted a daddy.  I wanted to help care for him through his final days.  I wanted to pray for him in person.  I wanted to talk and cry together and make up for what we’d lost.  I wanted another chance, Dammit.  It didn’t seem fair I was doing all this work trying to heal and forgive him at the same time while he just sat around getting taken care of.  I was angry with him for what he’d done and angry with God for not making it easier.  Thinking of dad dying pained me, though, and that longing for reconciliation tugged at my heartstrings. 

No Hallmark Cards made here…

I strongly considered flying the 2000 miles to say goodbye in person.  My emotional state was still too fragile, however, and just thinking about seeing him precipitated more panic attacks and nightmares.  It became obvious taking this trip would be emotionally disastrous.  It felt critical I offer what forgiveness I could, though, so I made the decision to write a goodbye letter instead. 

By this time, I’d finally admitted to myself I wasn’t going to get a Hallmark Card version of closure.  It wasn’t ideal and it sure wasn’t what I’d envisioned, but it was something.  I told him I’d forgiven him to the best of my ability. I said it was ironic his heart was killing him when all I’d ever wanted from him was his heart.  And, I said I wouldn’t be coming to see him; that the letter was my goodbye.

I never heard back from him and he died without us ever seeing each other again.

In order to continue healing, I’ve had to allow the entire range of emotions free access.  Anger, grief, fear, guilt, and loss have all had their turn.  Although there is no magic wand, God continues to mend my heart as I fumble to do my best.  Me and this forgiveness thing…we’re still a work in progress as my journey continues.

How about you?  What does your journey of forgiveness look like?