At nineteen years old, my father walked out of my hospital room with the excuse that he was going to buy flowers. At twenty-three, I saw my father for the first time since he left for those flowers.
Let me back up a little. I was in a serious car accident at eighteen, having a traumatic brain injury, breaking all the bones in my face, damaging my right eye, breaking my back, my neck and my left wrist. To say I was not looking pretty is an understatement. My mom had to bring in my senior picture so the plastic surgeons had an idea of how to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.
When I woke up after three weeks of being in a medically-induced coma, my dad was sitting beside me in the hospital room. I had no recollection of what had happened, still don’t remember, so he filled me in briefly, then fled for flowers.
Later, my mom told me she didn’t think my dad could handle seeing his baby girl so mangled. In the moment, when my emotions were already wrecked, having my dad walk out on me was devastating. I thought I would look like a monster and scare small children for the rest of my life.
Not quite four years later, I had my first child. I wrote a letter to my dad, my grandmother gave me his address, and told him about my daughter, his first grandchild. I told him I was happy, doing well and would like him to see this sweet baby. He drove down to Georgia from Oklahoma almost immediately, as if he had been waiting on that letter.
I wish I could say everything was sunshine and roses afterward. It wasn’t. Our relationship continued to hit speed bumps. But I will never regret reaching out to him, especially since we only had a few years together before he passed away.
The entire experience taught me a few fundamental life lessons:
Life is short. We hear that constantly, I know. It wasn’t until I was faced with death, both my own and my dad’s that I realized how short.
Life is precious. My daughter taught me that. Holding her for the first time made me realize our capacity for love….and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is key. If love is the answer, forgiveness is the key. It’s not easy. But it is imperative for our own sanity. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV
As we approach the holidays some families remain estranged – for good and for not so good reasons. For some families there is no hope of reuniting because of abuse. Some families are estranged because of a wedding or a funeral. And some families simply due to the passage of time and space.
If you are estranged this season, could it be time to reach out? Reconnect? Start with a letter or an email. Don’t over-promise. Try not to expect sunshine and roses. Reach out in love and forgiveness. You may be surprised at how quickly your family member responds.
And yes, I did finally get those flowers.