“Let us hurry to love others, they depart so quickly.” (Fr. Jan Twardowski)
How is one to begin sharing, publicly I might add, about something personal, intimate, humbling, and dare I say, even embarrassing? Speaking about my relationship with my father has not always been easy for different reasons, the specific details of which are beyond the scope of this testimony. By God’s grace it has become far easier to do so and I believe sharing this story can be of help, a source of inspiration, if not to many, at least to some. Suffice it to say that my relationship with dad had its ups and downs, and at times, was very challenging, frustrating, complex and even hurtful. There are many things I wish I could take back; things I said and thought, the various attitudes, behaviours, and reactions that led most often to the experience of disappointment and sorrow, for both my father and me. I have come to realize, painfully so, the accuracy of the old adage, that time flies. It moves forward so quickly, in fact, that moments of grace and opportunity can pass unnoticed before our eyes, never to return again, thus leaving us potentially bound to feelings of regret, resentment, shame, guilt, unforgiveness, and sorrow.
My father immigrated to Canada in the 1960’s, had to learn a new language, assimilate to a new culture, and being the eldest of six, focus on helping his parents and the family survive. He showed discipline, espoused a great work ethic, and took on physically demanding jobs. Eventually, he met and married my mom, and I was the second in the line of 4 children.
Difficulties began to escalate between my dad and me during my adolescence. Me seeking my independence, my dad, ever concerned about our wellbeing, trying to control and ensure I’d stay on the straight and narrow. Long story short, I made a major life-altering decision that brought about a tremendous rift between me and my family, particularly between me and my dad. As I was finalizing my decision, my father was diagnosed to be at an advanced stage cancer which required immediate and invasive treatment. The surgery and follow up treatments were deemed a success, but due to the steps I had taken, our relationship seemed to have ended. What ensued was a two year period of no communication, filled, at least on my part with a lot of anger and resentment towards my family. Regrettably, two years into his recovery the cancer returned and this time the prognosis was bleak. My dad was given 6 months to live. It was at this point in time my father called me, informed me of the diagnosis, and asked me to come and visit him. As our financial situation was not the best I reasoned that I could start putting aside some money with each subsequent pay cheque until I had enough for a flight. Unfortunately, the doctor was wrong about the amount of time my dad had. My father ended up dying within a month.
Providentially for me and my dad, I had a spouse who would not allow me to put off the visit. She immediately contacted her own father for money to pay for my flight. Within a few days I was at home and with my dad. I spent a week visiting and it was the first time that I can remember, we spent together without any conflict. In fact, there were moments of great intimacy, where I was able to help to alleviate his pain by massaging his feet, of us talking and sharing about our lives, perspectives, experiences, and yes, getting to a place of reconciliation. I returned to Calgary on a Tuesday, telling my dad I would call him daily to check in on him. The next day, Wednesday, my mom called me at 4 pm to inform me dad had died. I cried, a lot. I was moved to tears that God would grant us such an amazing grace and that my dad waited for me to come home. Even now, 19 years since his passing, I tear up as I write this reflection. Things could have ended differently, very differently. Therefore, “Let us hurry to love others, they depart so quickly.”
In closing, let me share a few points for your consideration:
Whatever the situation, seek God’s grace, the guidance of a priest, and/or the help of trusted individual.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers