My copy of your book finally arrived in Friday’s mail, and I finished reading it yesterday afternoon. What a very sweet book, and so insightful! It reminded me of the importance of our relationships with those first people in our lives and how they can transform even after we experience the physical separation of death.
My parents have both been dead for many years now, although it feels like only yesterday I could call them on the phone or go over to visit or take a trip with them. I miss my father’s daily telephone calls, I miss being able to call my mother for a reminder about a recipe (at the conclusion of those calls she’d always tell me not to mess with her recipe, which is my invariable habit). My father died in 1998 and my mother passed two years to the day later in 2000. Our relationships held challenges both for them and for me, as must be invariably true with parent-child relationships.
On my father’s birthday a few years ago (after my mother’s death) I invited him to come for “lunch”. To my great surprise he accepted the invitation! I’ll always remember that day. A friend had come over for a visit and as we sipped our coffee, she looked over my shoulder and asked me if I knew a man wearing a military uniform. I asked her what she meant, and she responded by telling me that he was standing right behind me and she thought he was my father. That turned out to be true. She left me alone to spend my day with him.
His presence felt so normal and very loving. I asked him a lot of questions, he reassured me that “everyone” – my mother, my brother, who died many years earlier at the age of 29, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends – was fine. One of my questions involved his relationship with his own father, which had been from my perspective a very abusive one. My grandfather had singled my father out for exceedingly harsh treatment, both physically and emotionally. I asked my father if he had forgiven his own father for this. My dad answered that the experience of forgiveness lives in the body and dies with the body; he said that they were together and that forgiveness was unnecessary.
My father stayed with me the entire day. Of course I neither saw him with my eyes nor heard him with my ears but merely understood the things he wished to impart to me. Much of the time I merely felt the comfort of his presence, so different from our earthly relationship, which had been characterized, especially in my teen years and 20s, by a great deal of conflict, perhaps because we are so much alike. When I went to sleep that night, I almost felt he was tucking me in as he’d done when I was a small child. I slept peacefully and when I awoke in the morning his presence was with me no longer. Even though I miss him, I feel incredibly close to him, as if I can speak with him any time I need his reassurance. Whatever wounds we’d inflicted on each other as parent and child have healed utterly, and, as he pointed out, there is no need for forgiveness. I feel I understand him far better than I did in life and that our relationship is free of judgment and fault finding; it is only love and respect and the deepest gratitude.
Mother hasn’t visited me in the same way. But I feel greater closeness with her as well (greater even than when she was alive, and we enjoyed deep mutual understanding), greater appreciation for her individual sweetness, greater compassion for her path.
My relationship with my parents seems to have deepened and sweetened because I have been blessed with remaining open to their presence, and their goodness; I feel they regard me in the same way, free of all the old fears and demands. In their last years, we had become far closer than we had been, and I treasure that our “time” together will never end but will grow ever richer.
Thank you, Lorrie, for your wonderful book and your exceptional presence.