It was a beautiful morning in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. The sun was behind me just coming over the horizon as I drove through a subdivision to bypass traffic. The flowers were reaching to the sun as it approached them beyond the shade of the trees. I was praying as I usually did and it was not a normal day though its appearance would deceive you.
It had been a few days since my paternal grandfather was discovered in his apartment. He died alone; my father’s relationship with my grandfather had been estranged for many years. For just cause, I suppose. Everyone has his or her reasons. Visits were a courtesy, but in the end, he died a recluse. A fear I carry in my own heart. What will I turn out to be when I am old? Will I be a grumpy old man, will I even care? Will I want to be left alone?
Driving to work, praying I couldn’t stop thinking of my father and what he should do this day, the day of his father’s funeral. I knew in my heart of hearts, my father should forgive his father. I had plenty of years of recovery under my belt and the formula is, you must clear the wreckage of your past or the past will wreck you. I knew my father carried a lot of anger towards him and unresolved anger simmers just below the surface. My grandfather was a drinker and probably not one of sound character, so I heard. The last time I had spoken to him was right after my grandmother died. He called me to ask for my Social Security Number. That side of the family keeps to themselves mostly and lacks the warmth and tenderness many would like to experience in their lives, but don’t know how to attain it. It was a conversation, only now I remember as I write this story. He asked the question and then he was gone. I used to hear the stories about him growing up; his drinking, the car accident and I remember my grandmother, who I knew my father loved deeply but never really showed it when I was around even as a child.
As I was driving, I knew that I must call my father and tell him to forgive his father. No matter how bitter anyone can be to one person, forgiveness is a way to not forget but place you in a position where the poison that spreads from an angry heart can be removed. A solemn act that can put the anger to the side, send my grandfather on his way so my father might live in the freedom I enjoyed over relationship’s I mended.
I was on a mission! The speed of my truck increasing ever so slightly. My grip on the steering wheel more determined. I was thinking that as soon as I reached the office, I would shut the door, call my father at work and discuss it with him.
Out of nowhere, anticipating the conversation that should enlighten my father, I hear, “Shouldn’t you forgive your father?”
Rattled could hardly describe my initial reaction, but on the heel of that terrific jolt, the tears began to fall. My entire body shook with emotion. My chest felt as though two large barns doors flew open and as if a wall of water had been held back by the doors, the waters escaped with a velocity that toppled anything in its path. I started wailing uncontrollably in the cab of my small truck and my heart was pumping a flood of tears that held the anger that was bottled up inside of me for years. How could a simple sentence hold the key that had years of anger behind it? I would say at this point the soil was fertile, and the heart receptive.
Father, Son and the Holy Spirit had touched my heart. My heart had been pierced with a simple sentence. I had been angry with my father as well throughout the years. I never saw him as a person, only a man that should be better than everyone else. A man that should understand it all. He had let me down so many times and I was angry with him for it. I did not understand that he was just like me in God’s eyes.
By the time I reached my office, I was red-eyed and to the outside world, surely a blubbering idiot. I shut the door so no one would see me, embarrassed with my appearance. I took a deep breath. This call was now on a different level than I had planned. Still weeping, I called my father at work. His first response was, “What was the matter?” I told him that they were sort of happy tears, but for two men that have had only about 30 minutes of talk time in the past few years to get a call like that from me, surely he thought I was having breakdown. Emotions have always escaped me throughout my life, so as a hardened man, my father never quite understood me in this regard.
I told him that I had a strong desire inside to call him about his father. However, before we spoke about that subject, I expressed my love for him and said I knew he did the best that he could with all that he had to deal with. Though raising me wasn’t without incident, I said that I hoped he would forgive his father at the funeral and truly lay him to rest.
I heard the ever so familiar,” OK.” Meaning, I heard what you said and I am ignoring it. As quickly as the call started, the call ended with me sitting at my desk in silence. What he did with the message I’ll never know, because my job was to forgive my father that day at the prompting of God. I never heard what happened at the funeral and like these moments, they are meant only for those involved. I am sure everything was buried that day, whether figuratively or literally. However I heard God’s call on my heart and I moved.
That is all that God’s asks. From that day forward I could never look at my father the same way again, we are children of God, and everyone in my generation needs forgiveness just as much as I do.