So, today was good start to the month!
I started off this morning with my coffee and reading a chapter from Radical Acceptance that touched my soul so much it made me cry.
Tara (the author) talked about one of her clients whose mom was very clingy, needy, and needed constant reassurance that she was doing a good job as a mother. Her client grew up not wanting to be near his mom and feeling annoyed by her constant neediness. So, he ended up moving half away across the country to start a life away from her.
Throughout those years, she would call time to time and tell him that she was really sick and that she needed him right away. And he would go to her each time, and then all of a sudden she’d get better. But then, she’d break down crying and ask him to stay, telling him that she was afraid of getting sick and terrified of dying. He began to resent her, and that’s why he went to go see Tara because he didn’t want to feel that way towards someone he was supposed to love.
Tara told him to practice forgiveness and lovingkindness every day. To speak out loud to himself and his mother to wish her well, to say “Mother, may you be happy. Mother, may you be peaceful. Mother, may you accept yourself, just as you are.”
Eventually, he began to see the good in his mom: her sense of humour, the way she took care of him when he got sick as kid, the way she made everyone else light up, how happy she was for him when he married the love of his life.
After a while, the wishes he had for her became sincere. And one day, a call came late at night and she told him that she was critically ill and was certain to die in a few days. He wondered at first if it were true or not, but then he realized that it didn’t matter and that he genuinely wanted to be with her since she needed him.
So he flew across the country… and found his mom, riddled with cancer and immobilized by a broken hip.
I’m just going to quote directly from the book now, the passage that made me bawl my eyes out:
“On the fifth night, it hit him. This was it. His mother was really dying. She wasn’t going to be with him much longer. As he gazed at her pale and emaciated face and listened to her laboured breath, he saw not the needy person trying to get something from him, not the frightened person who demanded constant reassurance, but simply a being who wanted to be loved. She had been a widow for fifteen years. Who had really hugged her all this time? Who had held her, let her be vulnerable, let her feel embraced and loved? Now, outside all the roles and identities by which he had defined his mother, he saw the truth that all she had ever really wanted… was to love and be loved.
Taking down the railing of her bed, he leaned over her and gently surrounded her small bony body with his arms. “May you be filled with lovingkindess”, he whispered. “May you be peaceful, mama. May you be free from this suffering.”
With his face close to hers, he told her over and over that he loved her, that love was here. He kissed her forehead, and her whole being shone with the truth of her goodness. For several hours he held her, sometimes speaking softly, sometimes sobbing, always feeling the fragile thread of her precious life growing thinner. By the time he left, her breath seemed lighter and easier. She looked peaceful.
The next morning, he got a call from the hospital at 7 am telling him that his mother passed away. Slowly, he hung up the phone and sat unmoving at the edge of his bed. He knew that she finally felt free to leave. She had been released into death with the blessing of uncomplicated, pure love.
After a few minutes, the tears came. Through his sobs, he found himself repeating over and over, “everybody just wants to be loved.” That edge of resistance he had been living with all those years, the judgement and mistrust, had been replaced by a tender, gentle heart.”
This story, out of all the heart-warming stories in this book, hit me the hardest.
Lately, my dad has been relapsing a lot lately. He took more money out of our line of credit while we were on vacation, told my mom he had sent it to his brother in Sri Lanka, but it turns out that that was a lie.
My uncle (my dad’s brother) has had a massive heart attack. They ran some tests and found out that his major arteries are about 90% clogged – he could quite literally die at any moment. And, he doesn’t have enough money to do the immediate surgery that is required, so he’s been asking for money from everyone in the village, including some of our family friends.
When my uncle told this to my mom, she cried out of pity and sadness; not only did dad not send his own brother money, but my dad himself was so sick that he felt the need to lie about where the money went. She asked me to talk to him the next day (which was today; this all was found out yesterday).
I was panicking yesterday. I knew I’d be home when my dad got home but… I didn’t know what to say. But after reading that chapter in Radical Acceptance this morning, I knew what I wanted to say.
I had to tell him that I forgave him.
I realized, that in all of these years, I’ve never once told him that. I’ve never once extended to him the sort of lovingkindness that you would offer one with a physically-afflicted illness.
Yesterday was Bell Talk Day, a day for advocating mental health awareness and fighting against stigma. And for everything I said and retweeted, I realized that my actions weren’t reflecting my words or beliefs.
If we were to equate (metaphorically speaking) my dad’s addictions to having cancer, well… I would have spent more time in my life resenting him and blaming him for something out of his control, rather than offering him support and love. I would have spent more time trying to avoid him and shut him out of my life, than telling him how much he meant to me and how good of a father he was regardless of his illness.
My dad’s sick physically too – he’s got diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. And heart attacks run high on his side of the family. What if something happened to him and I never got the chance to tell him these things?
So today, (just about an hour ago actually), once he was settling in to make his coffee and prepare for his second job, I sat in the kitchen with him.
I asked him how he was doing. He replied that he was feeling pretty down about everything, and that he was sorry about his brother and sorry for lying about the money. He understood why mom was so upset, and he promised to pay her back. He promised to make it so that he was barred from withdrawing any money from the line of credit without her verbal and written consent.
I told him that he should start going to the program again, and he agreed and said that he would.
Once he started going off on one of his regular tangents, I interrupted to tell him everything I wanted to say.
I told him that I realized in all these years, I’ve never really told him that… I was sorry. I was sorry that he was sick, sorry that he was afflicted by something that was generally out of his control, and that he didn’t deserve that. I told him that I know he tried so hard to take care of us in his own ways, and that despite everything that’s happened over the years that he’s been a good father to Natasha and I. I told him that I know he’s a good person, deep down. I started crying, and then he started crying, and he came over to me to give me a hug and begged me not to cry. As he hugged me, I told him that we forgive him. I told him that we don’t hate him, and that I don’t ever want him to think that. And that despite whatever my mom says in anger, that she does care about him too.
Choked up, he promised to do better and to fight harder against his demons, for himself and for us.
Goodness, am I ever emotional today LOL.
Anyways, I’m glad I said everything that I did. My heart feels lighter. I don’t want to hold onto resentment against my dad – he didn’t choose this life, he doesn’t choose to be an addict. It’s not his fault. I know he can be more responsible for himself, but he does try and I have to give him credit for that. He’s not an awful person. I know he can be selfish sometimes, but he’s always loved all three of us deeper than anything else in his life. He told me he’d rather die in front of us than to have us leave him.
So, I choose love. I choose kindness, I choose forgiveness and I choose compassion. Because that’s who I want to be.
I don’t want to look back years down the line, and regret that I didn’t listen to my dad enough. That I didn’t tell him I forgive him, that I understand and that I too wish him peace and happiness.
I think that’s about all I’d like to say today. I recommended Radical Acceptance to Sera by the way! She was really glad; she said she’s definitely going to buy it because she feels like she’s lost all sense of emotional control lately, and that she could really use the help letting go of her past demons and present struggles. She thanked me and called me an angel, and I told her if she ever needed someone to talk to, that I’d be there.
Tomorrow I’ve got work, but I promise to write when I get a moment!
I’ve got to say, I know I won’t be seeing Nadia for a while, but man is she ever going to be proud of me.
I’m proud of me, too.