Thursday: I drove 300 miles alone to my parents’ home in southeast Nebraska.
Friday: I awoke in my old bedroom refreshed and excited to visit with family and friends. After breakfast, I took advantage of the quiet surroundings of my childhood home while Mom and Dad ran their errands.
I sat at a wobbly card table immersed in my Bible study, when Dad unexpectedly appeared at the door.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s on revival,” referring to my lesson.
He pulled up a chair and sat down. “What does the Bible say about grudges?”
“Well, we need to let them go.” I wasn’t ready for such a question.
Then, he asked. “What about sixty years of anger?”
I prayed silently, “God give me wisdom to speak,” as I listened to Dad pour out the pain of his heart,
“Since my dad died when I was twelve," he went on, "the high school principal decided I needed a man to discipline me.”
His sad blue eyes pleaded for answers. My heart broke. I listened. I prayed.
“Your mom doesn’t understand why I sometimes wake in the middle of the night angry. This man still haunts me.” He wrapped one hand over his clinched fist.
Growing up, I saw his outbursts of anger. I’d seen that same clinched fist bang on a table or against the car dashboard without explanation.
“Dad, you need to forgive this man. Ask God to help you forgive him. The anger in you has turned into a cancer. Forgiveness is the only way to let go of it.”
We talked a few minutes longer until Mom returned home. The conversation ended.
* * * * *
Saturday: Keeping with tradition, Dad and I watched our beloved Nebraska football team go against arch-rivals, the Oklahoma Sooners.
Monday: My sister and her husband came to the house for supper. We played the family card game.
Tuesday: Mom took a Polaroid snapshot of Dad with his arm around his dog.
Wednesday: Mom and I went to visit a few family friends, on this seasonably warm October afternoon. Dad went for morning coffee with the friends.
He also stopped at the local truck stop for lunch and found my over-the-road truck driver brother. Dad shared his plans for the day with my brother, and then headed home to work on our old Ford tractor. He drove it up to the corner hill of their acreage to drain the hydraulic fluid.
Mom and I returned home shortly after. As we walked into the house, Mom looked up the hill and Dad waved at her. She sorted the mail, and then went to see how he was doing. Within a few short minutes, Mom was back in the house, reaching for the telephone, “I think you dad is dead.”
While she called 911, I hurried up the short hill. “O God, he forgave that man, didn’t he?” Tears ran down my cheeks. I began to sing, “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder…” Very soon, I reached Dad's motionless body.
Mom joined me on the hill where we stood and waited for help to come. She looked at me. “You’re here."
* * * * *
I had no idea when I decided to go home for a visit it would be Dad’s last week, nor of the important conversation we’d have.
I wish Dad had forgiven this man many years earlier so that he could have experienced a more peaceful life rather than one of torment. Yet, I do believe he passed into eternity knowing the peace which passes all understanding, the true meaning of Rest In Peace.
This happened October 2001. Whenever I think about that week, I acknowledge God's hand in it all, feel blessed beyond measure, and remember to forgive.
“Pray in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven…forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ ” Matthew 6:9-13
By Merrie Hansen, Christian Writer