Laying my Mother to Rest, and processing forgiving my Father

Farewell Mom:
When I wrote my last blog before my mom’s death, on September 25, I didn’t know that only two days later I would stand by her bedside as she stopped to take her first breath of eternal life. One deep breath of the eternal, and she slipped away from us.

It is a strange and sacred thing to have been birthed from her womb, with my grandmother coaching her through the encounter, and to now stand beside her fifty years later, coaching her through her birth into an eternal world we cannot grasp. A world we feel inside, but are not privileged to preview. “You’re almost home. Soon you will rest,” I whispered

I wished for one moment that I could see through her eyes, the glorious world beyond, as her final heartbeat faded… I felt it, the dichotomy of a ‘farewell’ and a ‘welcome here’ happening all in one sacred moment as we watched her slip away, while in another place I imagined past heroes cheering at her entrance….

“She’s gone”, we whispered, as those in the Great Beyond cheered, “She made it!”

The last heartbeat lingered on my fingertips. Mom was asleep.

And then I stepped out of the hospital room, and doubled over weeping. Weeping for the loss of that moment. And the loss of a lifetime.

I will write more one day, I expect, but not right now. It is raw. It is sacred. It is broken… this story of my life with her. Above all, it is redeemed.  And when the time is right, I will tell that part of my story, because forgiving her was the right thing to do and brought healing to my heart.

For now, “Rest in peace, Mom. I’m glad you discovered the real Jesus and could say with confidence that you are ready to go Home.”

***

Trigger Alert (Forgiveness):
Forgiveness has been used and abused in religious communities as far back as I recall, and no doubt long before that. For people who have been traumatized and had their suffering disregarded, and then are guilt-tripped into ‘forgiving’, it is the Christian F-bomb. (Keeping in mind that what some teach forgiveness to be is not what forgiveness actually is). Therefore the warning. The following is a snippet of my story, involving my dad, which I usually tell at training.

My dad spent his life abusing his family emotionally, spiritually, and physically, at least into his late 50’s to early 60’s, and blatant sexual assault into his 40’s. There was one incident in his mid-50’s of crossing boundaries without blatant sexual assault.

That’s the backstory.

As he aged, in his late 60’s, dad mellowed out. And somewhere in there he was diagnosed bi-polar and put on meds; a detail most of his children only learned after his death. In his 70’s diabetes got the better of him and dad ended up in hospital, eventually having his leg amputated.

During his hospitalization, I chose to drive the 90 minutes once or twice a week, to sit by his bed. I usually went in the morning when no one else would be there. I had learned that when it was just the two of us we could go deep. Sometimes I sat and held his hand. He wept on numerous occasions, a broken old man (not that old, really, at 71, but older than his years), discovering God’s grace. Always I gave him a goodbye hug and told him I loved him.

When dad asked me to forgive him, I told him I’d forgiven him many years ago. I had done so for my freedom, not wanting to pass on the generational cycles to our children. (I broke many chains, yet failed our children deeply with my anger and emotional disengagement). The violence, death threats, name-calling and sexual abuse were never part of parent-child relationships. The cost of my failing still huge for my family.

Even though I had forgiven my parents, Tim and I made the choice to keep our children safe. None of our children had a relationship with my parents. We attended gatherings and tried to watch them closely. (In hindsight we wonder if we did enough). It never felt right to put them at risk. Even so, I chose to have relationship with my parents. I talked often on the phone with mom – especially after dad passed away – and occasionally chatted with dad. He wasn’t one to spend time on the phone with us. And I chose to pursue his heart in the hospital in his 70’s, and when he was arrested for uttering death threats in his 60’s. That was my choice. But boundaries for our children remained to the very end. With no apology, and no regret. I know with confidence my father never had access to our children.

Having shared this snippet at one of our training events recently, a delightful young woman contacted me not long after. She was happy for me, that I had been able to forgive so completely and sit there holding dad’s had. She’s not there yet, she said, but hopes one day she will be. 

Here is the thing, by the time I held my father’s hand, I had spent more than ten years healing from the damage he did to me, and had been away from home for over 15 years. By that time he was a vulnerable old man, broken by his own sin. I extended forgiveness many years earlier, but he remained a trigger for me at every family event we had while he was strong and healthy. I never trusted that he wouldn’t grab a gun one day and shoot us all. That fear never left until he was old and frail, and the nightmares haunted me even after his death.

Holding his hand had nothing to do with forgiveness, in and of itself. It did not make my forgiveness complete, though I could not have done it if I had not already forgiven him. It merely said, “I now feel safe enough to do this.”

Did it potentially help him grasp my forgiveness? That is possible. Even likely. But I was just as forgiving when we set up boundaries protecting our children, as I was when I hugged him and told him I love him, and when I held his hand.

Boundaries are not at odds with forgiveness. They should be part of it. That includes protecting our children from evil, and not putting ourselves in unnecessary harm. To force myself to hold his hand when I was in a place of trauma would have been a dreadful disservice to Tim and our children. They paid a high enough price for my journey. 

We all walk the path to healing differently. To be truly free from the offender’s grip, forgiveness must be part of that journey. Not the forgiveness taught by too many religious folks. The kind that looks the other way. That allows abuse to continue unquestioned and unchallenged. That silences victims and shames them. Forgiveness that lends a free pass to offenders, while sentencing victims to a life of bondage and guilt. Bondage to secrecy, and guilt if they dare to speak.

Not that kind of forgiveness at all. But the kind that says, “Your crimes/sins will not dominate my mind and my life. I choose to take back my ‘being’. I choose to heal. I choose to believe I have value, and the thing you did against me will not define me. So I forgive you, and set myself free. Free from your crimes, and free to speak truth without apology. And I leave you to stand accountable before God and the law.”

To forgive, when you go back to the original text in Matthew 6:12, means “send away, discharge, release, a separation…”

It’s time to reclaim forgiveness. The real kind.

 ***

UPCOMING EVENT, ELMIRA ONTARIO:
November 28 and 29
Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira Ontario

To see details and register visit: Generations Unleashed Events Page or print flyer (below)Thanks to donors, we are able to offer this training at discounted. If you have questions, please contact Generations Unleashed.

To read more about what to expect on Training day, click HERE and scroll down to the Elmira training announcement.

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 11.55.12 AM

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

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