Gary found it in his heart to forgive Tom. This courageous act inspired Shawne to develop this project so that others could share and explore the power of forgiveness. I will be traveling to Los Angeles in December to see the screening of the Documentary.
Before traveling to California I knew that I needed to go to Connecticut to visit my Father. I purchased a roundtrip ticket and boarded in Harlem on 125th St, heading for New Haven. My brothers were meeting me so we could see for ourselves how far gone he was. My sister had just flown to Paris. My eyes hurt, my mouth was dry and tears were stalling in my throat.
I texted my husband to tell him that I didn't miss the train, but I was interrupted by distorted sounds of vibrational chanting in Arabic. I looked at the guy across the aisle and mouthed, “What is that?” He shrugged and looked around. I stood up, searched for the source and spotted an old man wearing a grey suit, squeezed between two sleeping women. His mouth was moving as he was holding a metallic device against his throat. There were no plugs in his ears. I don’t know if he was talking to himself, to the women, or simply praying. Devout Muslims often pray five times a day, but this was 10:30 am, long after sunrise.
This man didn’t care who heard him. His prayers traveled through the train car all the way to Westport.
My daughter texted me as I was frantically searching for my pink headphones.
“Thinking of you Mommy, good luck with Grandpa today. I love you.”
I texted her back.
“Thanks sweetheart, I love you more!”
I was anxious, but I knew this visit had to be different. I tried to meditate, but praying felt more comforting.
Today I will accept everything that is presented to me. I am letting go of all expectations. I know in my heart that my Father loves me. I’m not going to judge him or question him. I don’t know if he’ll live another month, a year or whether even he cares. It doesn’t matters anymore. Maybe today he will understand that his children never stopped loving him. I just miss him.
My brothers and I waited in the car for our father. In a distance we saw a frail man limping with a cane. He looked so small, so fragile. When he reached the car I could feel his fear. I just wanted to wrap my arms around him and make him well again. I hugged him and helped him into the front seat. He told us that his knees were in a alot of pain (he usually has to ride on a scooter). The chronic alcoholism had wiped out every last drop of vitality and belief in himself. Over the past twenty years there have been two interventions and family therapy, and my father had been in rehab three times. The week before my baby brother’s wedding, my Father spent the night in a half-way house. My brothers had dropped him off.
During lunch my father recounted stories of our childhood. It was as if life stopped happening after 1995. I felt such love for my bothers as I watched them listen respectfully to him. I can't imagine what was going through their minds as they witnessed the man who coached them in baseball and helped them with their homework, shaking uncontrollably as he tried to hold his fork. We discussed difficult topics. My younger brother raised the question about my father’s wishes for after he passes. He wants to be cremated; no service or memorial, unless, of course, we want to arrange that. The focus of the moment softened. As painful as it is to imagine my father gone, I felt held by my brothers and their ability to honor his wishes. The three of us were paying our respects to our ability to let go and begin again. I'm no longer held hostage by how our father’s addiction has harmed or disappointed me. My intentions have changed. I forgive my dad and I have more room to love him.
Forgiveness is a tricky subject for all of us. It requires a great deal of maturity and the ability to let go. Personally, I have found that when I genuinely forgive, I feel a profound release and a feeling of grace. This deep letting go is almost a small near death experience. I am a new person and somehow you too are a new person. No more lacerating guilt, blame or stored resentments. Through forgiveness we develop a greater understanding of life and compassion for others as well as ourselves. The first step should be small and make sure you feel ready.
“Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” --Rainer Maria Rilke.