“Dad, I forgive you, and I love you”

After a great mental struggle, I knew I had a choice: to continue feeling hurt or to radically love and forgive my dad.

My dad and I had always had a loving relationship. We usually saw eye to eye, so when I was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I thought he would support me. This, however, was not the case.

I was tired and afraid, but with Easter a week away, I reached out to my family to say that I wanted to proceed with festivities, which included an Easter egg hunt and a brunch. All my family members responded yes except my father. All I received from him was a card that said, “I will not make the Easter brunch this year.” It was signed “Dad.” He gave me no explanation, even though he knew I was going through a rough time. I was hurt and confused. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I thought that if he would just speak to me, we could fix whatever had happened.

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My efforts to talk with him after the Easter celebrations were fruitless. I was a busy mom and wife and needed time to study and pray. I wanted my dad to have my back and help me out. But he ignored me and my calls for help. I had no idea that this would go on for six years. 

The twenty-third Psalm was my guiding light in the darkest hours, when I felt misunderstood and unloved.

Although my feelings were hurt, I knew in my heart that resenting him was not the answer. I instinctively knew that anger and resentment would not help me heal. After a great mental struggle, I knew I had a choice: to continue feeling hurt or to radically love and forgive my dad. I chose the latter, and I’m grateful I did. 

After I chose to love my dad, my health improved, and I started regaining my energy. I called my dad a couple of times a week to share the progress, but my calls always went to voicemail—even after my health was fully restored some months later (see “Gratitude and the healing of cancer,” Sentinel, November 25, 2013). 

After a year, I called him only when the children and I drove near where he lived, and I’d say things like, “Hi, Dad. The kids and I are stopping for dinner in a restaurant near you. We’d love to have you join us. The kids would love to see you as well. I love you, Dad. There’s nothing we can’t discuss.” But he never once picked up the phone. 

Although I had seen him treat my mother this way before their divorce, I never thought that I would get the same treatment. During this period, I relied on Jesus’ words and works to guide my prayers. On the cross, praying to his divine Father, he requested for his enemies, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). 

When I felt discouraged and deeply offended, I prayed to understand my true worth in the eyes of God, our divine Father. When I was tempted to lash out in hurt, I allowed myself to be comforted by God as divine Love. More and more, I realized that I hadn’t done anything wrong and that I must go on growing closer to God. 

The twenty-third Psalm was my guiding light in the darkest hours, when I felt misunderstood and unloved. I especially appreciated Mary Baker Eddy’s interpretation of the psalm, which illustrates that divine Love is our Shepherd and guide. It reads:

“[Divine Love ] is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
“[Love ] maketh me to lie down in green pastures: [Love ] leadeth me beside the still waters. 
“[Love ] restoreth my soul [spiritual sense]: [Love ] leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [Love ] is with me; [Love’s ] rod and [love’s ] staff they comfort me. 
“[Love ] prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: [Love ] anointeth my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [Love ] for ever.” 
(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 578)

One day six years later, the phone rang. It was my dad. He said, “Hi, honey. I’m flying to your town; why don’t you come by and see me?” My jaw dropped even as I heard myself say, “Sure, Dad, I’ll be right there.” When I arrived, we hugged as though no time had passed, and although we didn’t talk long and shared only small talk, I continued my prayer, forgiving him and loving the true man of God’s making. 

After I chose to love my dad, my health improved.

My dad called again two weeks later and asked to meet at a local coffee shop. As I drove to meet him, I prayed about how to proceed. I knew I had to say something and not just chat about nothing, so after we hugged and were seated, I lovingly explained how much I had missed him and how I felt about not hearing from him for so long. He didn’t respond. Instead, he looked away and changed the subject, without acknowledging the prolonged silence.

That’s when I realized that it didn’t matter whether my dad understood me or not. I didn’t have to explain what I had endured while we weren’t talking. I had cultivated a relationship with God as my true Father, and He knew me; God had been comforting and companioning me all the years that my dad had not. This understanding enabled me to change the subject and continue small talk with my dad. 

I was feeling “the divine energy of Spirit, bringing [me] into newness of life and recognizing no mortal nor material power as able to destroy” (Science and Health, p. 249). I knew that God was washing all hurts and hard feelings from me. He was cleansing and purifying me “through flood-tides of Love” (Science and Health, p. 201). I felt buoyed by divine Love and knew that the hurt and resentment—which had once been overwhelming—had left me. Forgiveness and Christly compassion had taken their place.

When my dad walked me to my car after breakfast, I was so filled with compassion that I looked into his eyes and said, “Dad, I forgive you, and I love you.” He fell into my arms and cried uncontrollably. He held me tightly for a long time. I could hold him for as long as he needed, because I had grown and been healed: I had learned to love when others were unloving; I had learned to forgive when others were unforgiving; best of all, I had learned that my dad’s love might wax and wane, but my Father, God, as my true Parent, will always love me unconditionally. 

From that day in the parking lot until the day my dad passed, he called me daily to tell me that he loved me and was proud of me. Our love was strong because it was rooted in divine Love. I felt the truth of God’s words from Joel 2:25: “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.” God had restored the lost years between my dad and me. God gave me the strength to persevere when I was hurting most, and unselfed love and genuine forgiveness wiped away not only the emotional pain but the physical illness. The valley had been dark, but divine Love lit my path. I am forever grateful for the spiritual growth I gained from this experience. I am forever humbled by God’s grace and infinite love for all of His children.

Prayer is in the listening
June 13, 2022

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