May 24, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Monday, 21 December 2009 10:49
A few months before Christmas, my father and I had a bitter argument about my mother, who was dying of cancer and had Alzheimer’s. I got so angry I stopped calling and visiting him.
Our family always had Sunday dinner at my parents’ house, where my four daughters would spend the afternoon watching cable TV, reading my mother’s Star magazine, eating Twinkies, and doing everything we never let them do. But we hadn’t gone there in weeks.
On Christmas Eve, we were driving to New Hampshire and decided to drop off my parents’ gifts before we left. I didn’t want to go in the house, but knew I had to.
When we arrived, my daughters kissed and hugged their grandparents, and my wife placed the presents under the tree. I kissed my mother but walked by my father and went into the kitchen.
A few minutes later, he came and sat beside me.
“How are you, Son?”
“Okay, Dad,” I said without looking up. He asked me about work and the kids, and while we talked, my anger slowly melted away.
As we were leaving, he said, “I love you, Son.” I answered, “I love you, too,” and in that moment, my heart was suddenly set free of a terrible resentment.
When we got to New Hampshire, it was snowing, so we lit the woodstove, decorated the tree and tried to enjoy a pleasant evening. But peace is a rare commodity in our family, and fights erupted at dinner after my daughter — a Martha Stewart in training — put the lobster in the microwave and turned it into a Michelin tire.
To escape the bickering, I went into the bedroom and fell into a deep sleep, but around 11, someone was pounding on the door. When I opened it, my daughter, Dana, was crying.
“Grandpa died!” she said.
My first thought was selfish, “Christmas is ruined.” My second thought was selfish, “You really messed up, God.” My third thought was selfish, “What am I going to do?”
We’ve all shared that suffering, and sometimes you think you’ll never get through it, but God has a way of bringing good out of everything.
Only later did I learn my parents and sisters had a wonderful dinner before going to see my nephew’s Christmas pageant. It was the first time my father had been to church in years. When they were driving him home, he said he was tired and closed his eyes but never woke up.
A young minister saw my sister, Kathy, alone in the emergency room late on Christmas Eve and sat down beside her. “What a wonderful gift,” he said, “for your father to celebrate Christmas in Heaven.”
It was a wonderful gift and so was mine. It was the gift of forgiveness. What would my life be like if my last moments with my father were tainted by anger and resentment?
If someone in your life needs forgiveness, reach out now because this is the time to forget old wrongs. And Merry Christmas.
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