I originally wrote this in 2011 as a note on Facebook. Today would have been my dad’s 65th birthday, so I thought it appropriate to revisit it today.
I just don’t care enough…
What other people think of me. I’m going to be the one who speaks out loud, who says too much, who pushes “send,” who gets people thinking, who gets people talking, who invites people to touch their lives by touching mine. I’m not excited about putting this out there for public consumption, but I’m going to do it anyway, because that is what I do. I refuse to live with the notion that even one person could benefit from something I think or say, and I failed to say it. So whether this is for you or someone else…
My dad’s birthday was last week. As of this year, he has passed more birthdays posthumously than he did living. He committed suicide when I was 5. It was an ignominious act for which I struggled to forgive him for much of my life. It yoked my then 24 year old mom and 2 younger sisters with a tremendous weight, part of which I bore though it was not mine.
But over many years, as I have thought about forgiveness, I come to a full realization that forgiveness, though difficult, is, well, comparatively easy. What is difficult is honor. Forgiveness inspires us, but honor amazes us.
Many of you know the hymn “Amazing Grace”—Amazing is the right word. Here’s why: It’s comparatively easy for God to forgive—He’s in the right; He’s holding all the cards. But He goes beyond that. He honors us, gives us grace, prepares a place for us. It’s crazy, really.
But you know this more intimately than that. Even if you don’t believe in God, you know this. You’ve been wronged. You’ve felt pain inflicted deliberately by another. You’ve felt hurt by someone who, because they did not intend, would not acknowledge. You know what it is like to have someone who hurt you not be sorry for what they have done.
And you know what it feels like not to be sorry for what you have done, too.
It’s hard to forgive when any of those things happen, isn’t it? Crazy hard.
But honor. Think about it. Honor for someone who isn’t sorry, who doesn’t think they did anything wrong, who protests their innocence or ignorance, who remains unwilling to acknowledge the mere possibility… honoring that person goes beyond forgiveness. It’s harder. You don’t see it very much, but you remember it when you do. Because it’s extreme.
Because it’s God-like. It gives us a glimpse—dim, yes, but a glimpse—of what that honor bestowed on us will look like, what we are capable of because of the Spirit that dwells within us.
But then we feel guilty.
Because we fail to practice this. We don’t live up to it. We “can’t,” not with that person, at least.
But we can. It just isn’t fully up to us. Wasn’t, isn’t, meant to be up to us. I can’t honor on my own. I want to hold a grudge, to be pissed off, to lament and pout and cry and wish I had all the things that growing up with a good dad would have afforded me. I want to put my fist through a wall and turn it all to anger (oh, and I used to…) so I don’t have to feel the grief and pain of memory and forgiveness and honor. So just for the record—I didn’t do it. I couldn’t have. Not possible.
The truth is, honor surprised me as I was writing the words that follow. I intended to forgive (again), but I couldn’t. Because it wasn’t enough somehow. I’ve been doing that for years. I had to honor. In my novice way, incomplete and still somehow holding all the cards, I must, we must, honor.
So here’s the poem I wrote my dad. I’d love to hear from you if something in it is for you.
It comes when I expect it
And when I least expect it
It has marked me now
I know its touch
I hear its voice
It settles with me
Ignored at times for some distraction
Though not forgotten
For far too bright the light that shines
Making plain my shadow
A reminder to my heart
Of how I would have loved you
How I would have basked in the light of your prime
What I would have given
To have your life
A shield for mine
To see your steps from just behind
To see a way
To know a time
How you would have beamed with pride
At the toils and trophies of my life
And how I would have loved your smile
Yearned for it with all my might
I would have been your prince
I would have seen you king
The glory of your line
So many apples for your eyes
And were our lives not filled
With happier times
And if golden memory failed to shine
Eclipsed by a reality of something less fine
Still you would be enough for me
I think so
I do not know
I did not know
I will not know
And maybe you were prescient
And maybe I naïve
(How I wanted to believe)
I have forgiven myself only moments
And lonely moments conceive
The reign of an ill-fitted crown
Bequeathed before discovered means
But I have straightened it for you
In spite of everything, it honors you
I honor you