Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The importance of forgiveness

What a difference a day makes.

Over the last few days, together with my brother, I performed my duty in dealing with the remaining effects of my father after his recent death. In my last blog I stated I would not attend the funeral, and I didn't, but I was there, waiting outside, supporting my brother and my aunt.

We then travelled to his apartment, which was within a sheltered housing block. I was very aware that as I turned the key in the lock it would be the first time it had been opened since he left 2 weeks ago. As I entered, in the hall hanging up were his coat and a cap.

From there it was into the living room. This was a surprise. For all his 79 years there was little to show for it. Some faded prints on the wall and a scattering of small ornaments, mostly with a Royal Air Force theme, for he had served his national service in his younger days. There was an old black & white photograph of him from his RAF days, and it is this that I have kept in his memory. I didn't think that I would want anything, but I'm glad now I kept this.

There was a small bay window which looked out over a thick wood, shimmering in the days sunshine.
At the window was a table and a seat, and on that table was a newly started jigsaw. His glasses lay at one end. I could picture him sitting there, his favourite spot, enjoying the view as he clicked the pieces together. Jigsaw making was his favourite pastime for as far back as I can remember, and all around were finished jigsaws mounted in frames. This was one he would never finish. This sight overwhelmed me with compassion for him.

Various other residents called in while we were there and we learned of how he would take his powered mobility scooter into the local town to pick up newspapers and bits and pieces for them. One resident said, "he couldn't do enough for them". It pleased me that despite what he had put me through in my childhood he had created a new life that entailed helping others. Apparently he was their weekly bingo caller.

I learned that this past year had been a tough time for him. Last year he had lost someone dear to him, and coincidentally it had happened on the day of my mums birthday. He died just before the anniversary of that, and I wonder if his demise was partly due to that, for he had not looked after himself recently and he had abused his body to an enormous degree over the years.

We were on a very limited time window to clear the apartment of his belongings, and due to it being very far away from where we live, there was next to nothing we could take back. The Salvation Army benefited greatly from all the furniture, pictures and larger ornaments, which I thought was fitting. However, as I went around disposing of odds and ends, little tiny trinkets that meant nothing to me but represented either a moment in time or a person to him, made me think about my own possessions. I have various items in a similar vain, that when my time comes and someone is clearing my effects, will wonder why I kept such things. I have a couple of broken items that I can't let go of because they were either a gift from someone special or were from a special time shared. But I can imagine someone lifting those broken items and wondering why I had kept them. We all have things like this, and they are so precious to us. One of the most precious would no doubt be photographs. Those snap shots of time. Happy times. It has always upset me that 20 years ago following my mums death my father dumped every last photograph my mum had collected. Thousands of photographs going back generations. That was probably the most insensitive thing he had ever done. Barely a half dozen survive.

Then I opened a drawer. It was full of junk, but at the bottom of the drawer were just a few old photographs. A number were of my brothers son, and two very small ones, one of my brother and one of me. But then I found a picture of my old deli. I was moved that despite our mutual lack of contact my achievement with the deli had meant something to him. I don't think he knew that last year I had cycled across the USA.

Within 24 hours the entire apartment was empty, right down to the carpets. Only outline marks on the wall remained where once he had hung his pictures. It was sad that it had been cleared so quickly, his presence erased from this earth forever.

Today, back home, I find myself sad that I had not forgiven him for the past. He was too proud himself to ever have called me up to say sorry. He was indeed very stubborn and selfish, but we can all be like that at times. Not to forgive someone can create feelings of bitterness and frustration with life that can affect your own personality and affect those around you that you hold dearest, especially those we love. I know this has happened with me.

After all is said and done, he was the one who earned the money that had clothed and fed me, and despite his abuse of me in the past I never went hungry or cold. I have missed my opportunity to visit him and forgive him face to face, but I find that today, I feel compassion for him, and I'm sad that he died alone. I no longer feel angry with him.

More importantly I find that today, I can forgive him.

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