Monday, March 30, 2009

Remembering Without Bitterness

I don't know Rev. Douglas R. Baker, but I would say he's remarkably smart based on this thought, "Forgiveness is not forgetting; it has more to do with how something is remembered. It's not remembered with bitterness."

I'd like to shake his hand and thank him. Because he's very wise. If you follow regularly, you know that my mind has frequently touched on this topic. I've written about it several times, like in Forgiveness- Part of Letting Go ... I seem to be fascinated or obsessed depending on how you view it.

I suppose it's because of all the things I've struggled with over the years, it's how to really give this blessing to others, and through them, give it back to myself. I will admit that I absolutely do have a much better understanding of it. I practice it more. I freely give it quickly. But, it will always need fine tuning. How about you? Where are you with this critical life skill of forgiving and learning to live justly with forgiveness?

Here's a great example of remembering without bitterness. Like most of the wondrous life lessons I've had, this one takes place with The King, or Jimmy, or Dad, however you've come to know him from my stories. But, like all good stories, it starts with me. (Yes, that was sarcasm you heard.)

When I was a child, I was very sick. Life-threateningly so. The doctors didn't know what it was or why. Nothing so dreadful now that we've come so far in medicine, but back in the day, it was truly something difficult to manage.

Each winter, I would develop pneumonia. I've had it about nine or ten times. When I wasn't struggling with that, I'd have severe bronchitis. I was painfully put through lots and lots of scratch tests to determine if I had allergies. Sweat tests. You name it.

Turns out I was pretty much allergic to everything, perhaps even breathing. Who knows. What I do know was being so sick, I couldn't even hold my head up. To this day, when I'm really feeling crummy you can tell. You'll see my head drooped over to my right shoulder; like an old rag doll.

I remember one Christmas morning being so sick and unable to breathe, that I couldn't even open my presents. I heard Dad say to Nanny, The World's Meanest Woman, "Mom, I'll take her later today. I just wanted her to have Christmas morning."

I remember hours held down in oxygen tents. I remember crying because I felt trapped inside and I hated it. I remember being held hanging over the side of a bed so that the nurses could rhythmically slap my back in an attempt to break up the killing congestion.

I remember how thrilled I was to receive cards, and when my Dad slowly made it through the door on his crutches to visit with me, there was nothing, nothing better in terms of medicine. And, I cried when he left. Man, I can only imagine how heart-breaking it was to walk away from your child who is crying and pleading, "Daddy, don't leave!" How awful. For both of us.

This went on until I was 12. They gave my father the news that they suspected I had Cystic Fibrosis. Whatever that was. I certainly didn't care. It was spring and I was home and feeling better.

Luckily for me, by then, they had newly developed diagnostic tools like broncioscopes. So, I went through that very unpleasant experience. Turns out, I simply have a bum lung- not C.F. Of course, you probably guessed that by now, as I wouldn't be sitting here talking with you. I would have been dead by the time I was in my late 20's or so.

I've stayed more or less healthy since. I had a scare with 'you have lung cancer,' about a year ago. That's a story for another blog. Maybe. I'm pretty much over the whole frustration of that one. Unless I talk about it.

So, here's how all this background goes back to Dad and what Rev. Baker said. You know I always eventually get back to the point.

Toward the end of my father's life, he had done what all wise parents do, slowly turning over parts of his life for me to manage. I was his power of attorney in person and property which made it so much easier for me to attend to his business. And, to help guide him through the hideously complex medical system. I can't thank him enough for demonstrating his trust in me, and for giving me the ability to work smoothly on his behalf.

One afternoon, I was sitting next to his bed and we were going through the bills so I could write the checks. Most of it was an amazing mass of junk mail. But, he insisted that he know what each envelope was before I tossed it. I called them out. He'd say, "Pay" or, "Pitch." We got into a rhythm and we were down to the last piece of mail, which I simply pitched into the can. He asks, "Hey, what was that?" "It's a request from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. They want money from you."

He commands, "Don't throw that away. Write them a check for $25." "What the hell for, Pop? No one has C.F. in the family."

He looks at me and says very quietly, "I have sent them money for the past 25 years. I remember how heartbroken and scared I was when those doctors told me that you probably had C.F. I don't ever want another parent to feel that way. So, I send my money so that shitty disease is ended. So that Cystic Fibrosis disappears."

I sat there holding that envelope like I was frozen. Overwhelmed by all sorts of emotions. Imagine, doing that for all those years and I never knew! "Sure, King, I'll take care of it."

Here's the thing: Dad keenly remembered the heartache that comes from being a parent to a critically ill child. And decided to remember in a different way. A way without bitterness. A way that could work to everyone's benefit. More amazing, it turned into a blessing to benefit people he did not know and who would never know him. He decided to forgive the lesson and grow his sense of gratitude through it. It's just one of the many reasons that The King makes me proud to be his daughter.

Can we do the same? Follow the example of remembering without bitterness?

Namaste' Till Next Time,


cinner said...

Oh my gosh Holly, sounds like you have been through alot. It also sounds like you had a very special relationship with your dad. that is special as I am sure you know. I agree that we never forget bad things that happen to us, but usually we can get past them. Once any bitterness is gone then we can get beyond. I checked out reiki and an gonna see what I can do with it. Thanks for letting me know about it. I wish you great health and happiness. Cinner

Samantha said...

Oh god, Holly, I don't think I've ever read a blog before that made me cry, but you've actually done it. What an amazing man your father was.

Such a good topic to pick. So much I want to say about forgiveness, but not here, not now. Thank you thank you.

Blessings for your week.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful thing your father did....he was an angel in disguise.

Ann Marie said...

Very special blog,Holly. Frogiveness and lack of bitterness sure do go hand-in-hand. I just finished reading The Shack--what a beautiful handling of forgiveness. My own experience is that truly forgiving a serious wrong is not something I can do alone--I have to place it in God's hands. I can usually forgive pretty easily but I remember one time when I was so hurt that I felt I couldn't forgive. I just happened to be reading a book on forgiveness (how fitting is that!) by Doris Donnelly. I remember copying a passage in my journal and then writing "That's as much as I can do, God. If you want more, you'll have to do it." And lo and behold, God did!

Opie said...

That was a fantastic story, thank you for sharing. As for forgiveness, I must say I am a rare breed, forgiveness comes very easy for me. Although, as it is with most things in my life, it's easier to give than to receive.

Erin said...

Once managed to poke me with the emotional stick!

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